Filling in the Blanks—”Wee Willie” Wilson

21 Sep

Baseball Reference includes listings for “H. Wilson,” “Herbert Wilson,” “W. Wilson” and another  “W. Wilson”, all playing at various times during the 1920s.  All four listings are actually for the same player:  Herbert Emanuel “Wee Willie” Wilson.

Born in Florida in 1896, Wilson began his professional career in 1920 after serving in World War I and playing semi-pro ball.  He was a member of the inaugural St. Petersburg Saints in the Florida State League along with Dexter “Legs” Rambo who I previously profiled.

Herbert “Wee Willie” Wilson

Wilson was 5’ 10” and said to weigh no more than 150 pounds and as little as 125 in various newspaper accounts.

Wilson was a pitcher and middle infielder during the Saints mediocre seasons in 1920 and 1921 (he was 12-20 for the ’21 Saints).  In 1922 the Saints hired veteran minor leaguer George Block to manage the team (Baseball Reference does not cite Block’s time with the Saints, but does have an unrelated listing for a “Block” with the ’22 Saints).

Block kept very few players from the previous Saints teams, and built a formidable ball club.  Wilson was one of the few players who remained from the earlier team.

Led by future Major Leaguers Bunny Roser (the 20 year old earned his short 1922 shot at the major with the Saint Louis Browns after the Saints season), Elliot Bigelow (who hit .343), and manager Block who hit .411, the 1922 won their first Florida State League championship.

Wilson contributed a 13-10 record to the championship team.  Wilson followed with a 12-11 record in 1923.  In 1924 he broke out as star for the Saints, going 26-7.  The financially troubled league didn’t finish the season, however; and Wilson ended up with the Scranton Miners in the New York Penn League for the remainder of 1924 (the Herbert Walker listing on Baseball Reference also shows 7 games for Little Rock Travelers in the Southern Association that season, I can find nothing to indicate it’s the same player).

Where Wilson spent 1925 is uncertain.  Contemporaneous newspaper accounts seem to indicate he was back with the Saints, but no records are available for that team.   Some later accounts put him with Scranton but there are no records for him that season with the team.  He was in Scranton from 1926 to ’28 posting 14-7, 12-10 and 7-7 records.  Wilson finished his career with the High Point Pointers of the Piedmont League, where spent the last two months of the 1928 season.

Wilson returned to St. Petersburg after his playing days.   In 1942 The St. Petersburg Evening Independent reported that Wilson, despite being 46 years old, had volunteered to serve in the US Navy and was due to report to Norfolk, Virginia for training.

Wilson passed away in St. Petersburg in 1956.

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