Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday School: History Lesson 35

Jimmie Wilson spent 10 total years with the Phillies, from 1923-1928, then from 1934-1938. Initially, Wilson was just a catcher with the Phils, but later became manager of his hometown team.

Wilson grew up in the Kensington section of the city. He grew up playing soccer but was convinced to try baseball as well, around age 20. He played both sports until he was moved from New Haven of the Eastern League to the Phillies in 1923.

At first, Wilson shared the Phillies' catching duties with veteran Butch Henline, but Wilson's superior offensive performance gradually won him the starting assignment. Wilson batted over .300 in both the 1925 and 1926 seasons. His true value was behind the plate, however, and he was regarded as one of the era's best signal callers. In 1927, he played in a career high 128 games, but his batting average and OPS dropped, as did his value to the team.

On May 11, 1928, Wilson made baseball history when he was traded by the Phillies to the Cardinals, for young catcher Spud Davis and outfielder Homer Peel, during a game between the two teams. According to one account, "Wilson was a Phillie for two innings, then darted into Redbird regalia, and sat on the St. Louis bench, for the remainder of the game."

With the Cardinals, Wilson played 6 solid seasons, helping the team win 3 NL pennants over 4 seasons. In 1929, Wilson had his best season, batting .325, scoring 59 times and driving home 71 runs.

In the 1933-1934 offseason, the Phillies and Cardinals reversed the 1928 deal, by trading Wilson for Davis again, this time with infielder Eddie Delker going over to St. Louis. Wilson was named player/manager of the Phillies for the 1934 season, and he stayed in that role until 1938.

Wilson played parts of the next two seasons with the Reds, while serving on their coaching staff. He was active in the 1940 postseason and went 6-for-17 (.353 avg) in 6 World Series games that year. His stardom in the Series helped get Wilson another managing gig with the Cubs in 1941. He would manage and coach till 1946, when he retired from baseball and soon after passed away due to heart problems.

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