John “Chief” Wilson played nine seasons of Major League baseball. Six for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1908-13) and three for the St. Louis Cardinals (1914-1916). Born August 21, 1883 in Austin, Texas, Wilson made his way to the majors after minor league stops in Fort Worth, Austin, and Des Moines. Never in serious contention for an MVP award (finished 8th once, 1912), and given teammates the likes of Honus Wagner
and Max Carey
, rarely counted among the top talents on his own side, Wilson holds an MLB record cemented in 103 years (3rd longest standing record) of league history and possibly beyond reasonable approach. As memorialized by a staff writer working for the Sporting Life
(Sept 7 1912)
(Chief) Wilson’s three base shots are entitled to be credited as one of the wonders of 1912. Best of it all, few of the smashes have struck in front of fielders. They have been over the their heads or between the fields, all juicy jams.
All told Wilson notched 36 “three base shots” during the ’12 campaign, which accounts for 32% of his career total (114), and established a mark never seriously challenged (Sam Crawford
, 26 in 1914) in the 100+ years to follow. Almost as eye-popping as the triples mark, Wilson managed
to score just 80 runs in 1912. Subtracting his 11 HR, Wilson managed to score just 69 runs despite his record setting visits to third base. Benefiting from the triple-friendly confines of Forbes Field (360 to Left field, 462 to Center, 360 to Right) Wilson logged 24 of the record setting 36 at Home. He also orchestrated a yet unmatched stretch of 5 consecutive games with a triple to include three three-baggers during a June 20 2012 double-header. It is also fair to say the ground-rules of the day worked in Wilson’s favor. Fans, and the occasional marching band, attending games in the early 1900s were often allowed to mill about in the deeper sections of the outfield. A batted ball traveling beyond a grouping of fans was often deemed a “ground-rule triple”. Park dimensions and ground-rules aside, Chief Wilson led by 10 the next closest contender to the ’12 triples crown, Chicago White Sox famed batsman, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson
, and has staved off all comers for more than a century.
John “Chief” Wilson
“Shoeless” Joe Jackson
John “Chief” Wilson surpassed the 100 RBI mark once (107 in ’11), twice hit .300 (’11 and ’12), and was as durable as they came (missed 24 games over 7 year period). After nine productive years as a major league ball player Wilson retired to and ran the family ranch in Bertam, Texas. On October 24th 1954, at the age of 70, Wilson passed away of “natural causes”. Nicknamed “Chief” by Pirates teammate Fred Clarke, Wilson was neither of Native American decent, nor was he ever in the armed forces. Tall for his time (6’2), Wilson was said to have looked like the “Chief of the Texas Rangers” by Clarke. The nickname, as the record, persevered.
John “Chief” Wilson