02/17/2011 12:59 PM
- The Colts are involved in a six points of separation to celebrate Black History Month. It begins with Negro and Minor League great Artie Wilson (point 1). Artie who began his career in the Negro Leagues became a star in the minors and would eventually reach the bigs (point 2). Wilson, who reached the majors a few years after the color barrier was broken, began his career by first being signed by the Cleveland Indians (point 3). Doc Edwards was also with the Tribe as both a player and manager (point 4). Edwards also a minor league player and manager in affiliated as well as independent baseball (point 5), is currently set to begin his sixth season, half the life of the franchise, as the Colts Skipper in 2011 (point 6).
Arthur Lee Wilson was born was born on October 28, 1920 in Jefferson County, Alabama. He holds the great distinction of being the last professional player to hit .400 on a high level; doing it for the Negro League Birmingham Black Barons in 1948 when he hit .402. The last player to hit .400 in the majors was Ted Williams who in 1941, hitting .406, seven years prior. In Birmingham that year Artie had a 16-year-old phenom join him as a teammate that you may have heard of, a kid named Willie Mays. Artie was a well-established player who served as a mentor and surrogate authority figure for the young Mays. "He was one of the guys that made sure I didn't get in any trouble, I owe a lot of debt to him", said the former Giants great.
After Jackie Robinson integrated baseball in 1947, it opened the door for Artie Wilson and he was signed two years later by Cleveland in 1949, at age 28. He went straight to Triple-A, where he acted as a speedy leadoff hitter collecting 211 hits his first season in affiliated baseball, hitting .348 and stealing 47 bases. Wilson was a minor league star for more than a decade, spending his time almost exclusively at the top level of the minors playing mostly in the PCL. Artie played for six different teams in the Pacific Coast League and is regarded as one of the most popular players in that league’s history.
George Sisler, who originally held the single season hit record with 257 in 1920, had it recently broken by Ichiro Suzuki during the 2004 season when he had 262 hits. In 1950 Artie Wilson had more hits than both Sisler’s and Suzuki’s professional record when he collected 264 hits that year, while playing for the Oakland Oaks of the PCL. That season Artie Wilson had 848 at bats, 931 plate appearances and scored 168 runs. They always talk about baseball not being a sprint but a marathon, well that glorious season was an incredible 196 games. Now that’s a long season, considering the current major league season is only 162, meaning Wilson played a regular season over a month longer than current format. Overall during his minor league career Wilson had more than 200 hits five times, collecting 1,609 career hits and had a .312 lifetime average.
Artie did make it to the major for a short time spending part of the 1951 season with the NY Giants. During his time there Wilson met up with a familiar face who was a rookie once again, a 20 year Willie Mays. Wilson would play in just 19 games that season and although it would be the only time he would spend in the major leagues, he does have four big league hits to boast about.
From 1956-57, while still playing he also managed during the winter in the Mexican League. Although Wilson spent the rest of his career playing in the minors he played until the age of 41. His last season came in 1962 playing for Portland, the Kansas City A’s Triple-A affiliate at the time.
After his baseball career was over he remained in the Portland area becoming a car salesman at Gary Worth Lincoln-Mercury in Gladstone, where he worked until he was 85. Artie was a much-requested salesman and a consummate businessman. "It wasn't unusual to see somebody in the dealership that had sought him out, maybe even from out of town, who wanted to come by and get an autograph or talk baseball with him," said Mike McManus, who grew up listening to Wilson's stories at his father's dealership.
Even as Alzheimer's robbed him of his memories in his final days, Artie Wilson remained constantly aware of one thing: baseball. "That was his whole talk. He had a television and he'd watch the games," said his wife of 61 years, Dorothy Wilson. The former NY Giants player watched from his hospital bed in Portland's Hawthorne Gardens Senior Living Community following his beloved Giants. In 2010 San Francisco won their first World Series Championship since 1954, as they made an unexpected run to the World Series. Maybe they won it just for him; after all it was a little scary as Artie Wilson died at age 90 on Halloween October 31, 2010. The Giants won the World Series the next day.