Houston Buffs: Ted Wilks.

Right hander Ted Wilks broke into baseball with the 1938 Houston Buffs. His 3-5 record with an ERA of  2.74. He pitched well enough that rookie season to earn a promotion that same year to Rochester, where he posted a 4-2 mark with an ERA of 3.94. A subtle difference in how he was used at Houston and Rochester was nothing less than a career harbinger on things to come. Here in Houston, Ted was primarily a starting pitcher; at Rochester, Wilks saw most of his mound action in relief.

The following three seasons saw Ted Wilks back in Houston for more seasoning. He went 14-15 with a 2.60 ERA in 1939; 13-10 with a 2.51 ERA in 1940; and 20-10 with a 2.50 ERA for the 1941 Buffs. All three Buff clubs (1939-41) finished in first place; the ’40 club also won the league pennant playoffs; and Ted Wilks was a big part of that Buff era of success.

After going 12-9, 2.41, for the ’42 Columbus Redbirds and 16-8, 2.66, for the same club in ’43, Ted Wilks finally joined the big club in St. Louis in time to help the 1944 Cardinals take another world Series crown with the streetcar series win over the same hometown Brown of the American League. Wilks was used pretty evenly in 1944 as a starter and reliever (21/15), going 17-4 with another sub-three ERA of 2.64 on the season.

In his eight seasons as a Cardinal (1944-51), Ted Wilks won 54 games against only 20 losses, posting a sub-three ERA on three separate occasions. It was early during this period that he moved from split duty as a starter-reliever to recognition and exclusive use as one of the top relief pitchers in the game.

On June 15, 1951, the Cardinals traded Ted Wilks, Bill Howerton, Howie Pollet, Joe Garagiola, and Dick Cole to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for pitcher Cliff Chambers and outfielder Wally Westlake.

Wilks went 8-10 in two seasons with the Pirates (1951-52) before he was again dealt away, this time  to the Cleveland Indians on August 18, 1952, along with shortstop George Strickland for infielder Johnny (General Hospital) Berardino, minor league pitcher Charlie Sipple, and $50,000 cash. By this time, Wilks was was pretty much out of gas for major league ball. He posted no decisions in his two partial seasons with Cleveland (1952-53) and he finished his major league career working only 15 1/3 innings in the American League city.

Ted Wilks finished his total career working four poor seasons of minor league ball (1953-55: Indianapolis; 1956: Austin) before retiring for good. He finished up with a career minor league record of 91-65, 2.70 for 10 seasons – and a career major league record of 59-30, 3.26. Ted wilks posted 46 saves as a major leaguer. The “save” stat for his minor league work is not readily available.

Like a number of ballplayers whose careers passed through Houston, upstate New Yorker Ted Wilks adopted Houston as his post-career home town. He died here in Houston in 1989 at the age of 73 and he is buried in the East End at Forest Park Cemetery on Lawndale. His final resting place is only two miles from where he first took the mound as a Houston Buff in 1938.

Rest in Peace, Prince Ted, but stay ready to come into the game whenever old St. Peter dials your number.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: