Ted Wilborn

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Thaddeaus Inglehart Wilborn

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Biographical Information[edit]

Ted Wilborn was in the majors at ages 20 and 21, but never played in the big leagues after that. Born in Waco, TX in 1958, his older brother Chuck Wilborn played for a number of years in the San Diego Padres organization. For his part, Ted was selected by the New York Yankees in the 4th round of the 1976 amateur draft out of high school and began his career with the Oneonta Yankees of the New York-Penn League that year.

Wilborn struggled at first in the minor leagues, hitting only .188 in 28 games at Oneonta. In 1977, he went up to the Class-A Fort Lauderdale Yankees of the Florida State League and only hit .215 in 84 games. He started 1978 with the same team, but continued to struggle, hitting only .186 in 41 games as a back-up. In desperation, the Yankees sent him back down to Oneonta to get some playing time, and he responded well. In 65 games, he had a .428 on-base percentage while stealing 57 bases with a .309 batting average. He started switch-hitting (he was a natural left-handed hitter). His performance in short-season A ball was enough to convince the Toronto Blue Jays to select him in the 1978 Rule V draft that winter. As a result, he needed to start the 1979 season on the Jays' major league roster, even though he was nowhere near ready to play in the big leagues. As required by the rules, he spent the first three months of the season with the Jays, going 0 for 12 while playing 7 times in the outfield (only twice as the starter). He was used as a pinch runner 15 times, scoring three runs and being caught stealing once. As soon as the mandatory three months were up, he was sent down to the minors, in this case the AAA Syracuse Chiefs of the International League, where he hit .247 with no power in 61 games. It's clear he would have benefited from playing at a lower level, having yet failed to master full-season Class-A, but the Jays saw a potential star in the making and wanted to speed up his development.

The Blue Jays were not alone in seeing great potential in Wilborn. After the season, the Yankees pried him back from Toronto, as he was included in a blockbuster trade that sent catcher Rick Cerone and pitcher Tom Underwood to the Bronx in return for 1B Chris Chambliss, 2B Damaso Garcia and P Paul Mirabella on November 1, 1979. Wilborn went to the AA Nashville Sounds of the Southern League in 1980 and played much better than previously. He hit .270 in 121 games, with 15 doubles and 14 triples, scoring 70 runs. He stole 27 bases, but was caught 20 times. He was recalled to the Yankees in September, going 2 for 8 with an RBI in 8 games. He got his first major league hit on the same day as Roger Holt.

Ted continued to play well in the minors, but his major league career was already over. He led Nashville in at-bats with 553 in 1981, playing in the outfield alongside Don Mattingly and Willie McGee. He scored a league-leading 106 runs that year, and his base stealing improved dramatically to 43 out of 57 attempts. He hit .295 with 21 doubles and 12 triples, driving in 85 runs in what was his best year in professional ball. He played 26 games at second base that year, without embarrassing himself. However, he did not get a call-up that season, but was traded to the San Francisco Giants at the end of spring training in 1982, on March 30, joining pitcher Andy McGaffigan in a deal that netted the Yankees veteran starter Doyle Alexander. With a chance to impress a new organization, Wilborn regressed in 1982, seeing his batting average fall to .257 in 132 games for the Phoenix Giants of the Pacific Coast League. His on-base percentage was decent at .322, and he did steal 34 bases, but he did not see the big leagues again. In 1983, he hit .288 in 125 games for Phoenix, then in 1984 played 122 games for Denver, in the Chicago White Sox organization, hitting .258. He became a minor league wanderer at that point, spending time in AA and AAA in 1985, then in A-ball and AAA in 1986, while continuing to regress slightly. He was in the Baltimore Orioles' organization at that point and no longer a starter, and in 1987 was released after just one game with the Rochester Red Wings. He then joined the unaffiliated Miami Marlins of the Florida State League, but hit only .224 in 19 games and called it quits.

The only other major leaguer with the last name Wilborn (through 2010), Claude Wilborn, played in the majors in 1940.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Clifford Blau: "Leg Men: Career Pinch-Runners in Major League Baseball", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 38, Number 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 70-81.

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