The Baltimore Orioles have a storied history that includes some of the most iconic names in baseball.
But one name they may not know is Hoyt Wilhelm, and on this day, 61 years ago, the knuckleball pitcher one-hit one of the Orioles biggest rivals: the New York Yankees.
Wilhelm pitched in the MLB for 21 seasons. Throughout his lengthy career, he pitched in 1070 games, starting in 52 and finishing 651. He held the record for pitching in the most games until Dennis Eckersley broke it in 1998. Wilhelm was the ERA leader in two season, his first and in 1959 with the O’s.
Wilhelm is best known as a relief pitcher, and especially for being the first relief pitcher inducted into the Hall of Fame.
What is most surprising about Wilhelm is that he didn’t start pitching the MLB until he was 29 years old. In his final season in 1972, he pitched in sixteen games for the Los Angeles Dodgers; he was 49 years old.
He pitched for the Orioles between 1959 and 1962. During this time, The Orioles used him as a starting pitcher in 1959, which earned him a spot on the All-Star team. He returned to the bullpen for his three other seasons. During his time with the Orioles, he went to three All-Star Games. Interestingly, his brother Gary Wilhelm pitched in the O’s minor league system. In 1959, Wilhelm pitched in 226 innings – quite an accomplishment for a relief pitcher in any era.
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The notable one-hitter was on May 22, 1959. This was his fourth complete game in the 1959 season, and his sixth win. By the time the game was over, his ERA after eight games was 1.28. It was his first shutout of the season, and six days later on May 28, he shut out the Yankees for a second consecutive time. He had a third shutout in June against the Kansas City Athletics.
The Yankees roster include Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, but neither of them earned a hit against the Wilhelm. The only batter who reached first on a hit was the third baseman, Jerry Lumpe. Wilhelm did walk six batters, including Norm Siebern and Mantle twice.
By the time the game was over, Wilhelm faced 32 batters. He struck out two of them: Gil McDougald and Berra. Wilhelm himself had four plate appearances with a walk, two strikeouts, and one RBI. Yankees pitcher Bob Turley loaded the bases, then walked Wilhelm in the bottom of the first.
Wilhelm’s toughest inning was the fifth. In it, he walked two batters. Siebern earned a free base on a passed ball, and the other two batters put the ball in play.