Robert James Wilson
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 200 lb.
- School University of Wisconsin-Madison
- High School Washington High School (Milwaukee)
- Debut September 22, 1951
- Final Game September 24, 1960
- Born March 7, 1929 in Milwaukee, WI USA
- Died August 8, 2014 in Fitchburg, WI USA
Stocky Red Wilson spent ten seasons in the majors, most of them with the Tigers. He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where he had been an All-American as a center in football for the Badgers. He had been named the 1949 MVP of the Big Ten Conference. He appeared in the 1950 College World Series.
Wilson passed up a chance to play in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles to sign as a catcher for the Chicago White Sox. He had brief trials in 1951 and 1952 before backing up Sherm Lollar in 1953 and hitting .250 in 71 games.
The scrappy Wilson was then traded to the Detroit Tigers early in 1954 and shared the receiving duties over the next few years with Frank Houseand Matt Batts. Red became Tigers ace Frank Lary's personal catcher in Detroit for several years. Lary, who was the "Yankee Killer", had a record of 16-3 against the Bronx Bombers with Wilson behind the plate. Red also hit for a .354 average, nearly .100 points above his lifetime .258 mark, in those games against New York.
Wilson hit the first ever home run at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, MO, off Alex Kellner, on April 12, 1955. He hit for a career-high .299 in 103 games for the Tigers in 1958 and was behind the plate for Jim Bunning's no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox that season. Red commented, "what I recall the most about Bunning's no-hitter was that in the 7th and 8th innings he began talking about it, which you just didn't do. He hit Jackie Jensen with a pitch enabling Ted Williams to bat, but he got him to fly out to Al Kaline in right field for the last out."
Wilson was with the Tigers until July 26, 1960 when he and Rocky Bridges were traded to the Cleveland Indians for Hank Foiles. He finished out the season with the Indians. He was then left unprotected in the expansion draft and was selected by the "new" Washington Senators with their 24th pick, but the pick was later nullified by American League President Joe Cronin, because the Indians had lost too many players, and he was replaced by Pete Daley of the Kansas City Athletics on the Senators' roster. However, Wilson's draft saga was still not over, as the other expansion franchise, the Los Angeles Angels, then exchanged one of its picks from the Indians, P Ted Bowsfield, in order to bring the veteran Wilson on board. After all that, he decided that ten seasons behind the plate in the majors was enough and that he would retire, and as a result, back he went to Cleveland on February 1, 1961, and Bowsfield went back to the Angels, in effect nullifying the post-draft trade of the two. Wilson finished out his pro baseball career with a .258 hitting average with 24 home runs while appearing in 602 games. He also fielded the catchers' spot with a .988 career percentage. In addition, his "Caught Stealing" ratio was a stellar 45 percent - although this was at a time when few baserunners attempted to steal bases.
"Red" had lasted 10 years as a catcher with the White Sox and Tigers mostly. He did not have a season with 300 at-bats, though as a platoon player he was effective, hitting .299 in 1958. He had an unusual bottle-shaped body, which must have helped him block the plate. Wilson had also spent parts of three seasons (1950-1952) in the minors, where he hit for a .309 average with 22 home runs while appearing in 304 games.
Wilson is a native of Milwaukee and later retired in Madison, WI, where he was the president of the Madison Bank and Trust Company.