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Wilbur Forrester Wood Jr. (born October 22, 1941) is an American former professional baseball player. He was a pitcher in Major League Baseball for seventeen years and racked up 164 wins. All but one of those wins came with the Chicago White Sox. A knuckleball specialist, he threw left-handed and batted right-handed, stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and was listed at 180 pounds (82 kg). He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
|Born: October 22, 1941|
|June 30, 1961, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 28, 1978, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Earned run average||3.24|
|Career highlights and awards|
In 1960, Wood was signed out of Belmont High School by the Boston Red Sox. He pitched on-and-off for them for a few seasons before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in late September 1964. After two seasons with Pittsburgh, he was traded to the White Sox after the 1966 season. When he arrived, knuckleball specialist Hoyt Wilhelm advised him to use his knuckleball exclusively. Taking Wilhelm's advice, Wood's career took off, first as a relief pitcher, and then as a starting pitcher. With the White Sox, Wood became well known as a durable workhorse, and one of the last pitchers to consistently throw well over 300 innings in a season.
As a relief pitcher in 1968, Wood set the major league record (since broken) of 88 games pitched in a season. He converted to a starting pitcher in 1971, and continued to display unusual durability. During the years 1971-74, Wood averaged 45 games started and 347 innings pitched, winning a total of 90 games, while losing 69. He led the American League in games started in each year from 1972 through 1975, and he was the league leader in both wins and innings pitched in 1972 and 1973. Wood finished second in the 1972 voting for the American League Cy Young Award, losing a close vote to Gaylord Perry.
Wood's resilience, which was attributed to the less stressful nature of the knuckleball delivery, led to some unusual feats of endurance. On May 28, 1973, while pitching for the White Sox against the Cleveland Indians, Wood pitched the remainder of a 21-inning carryover game that had been suspended two nights earlier, allowing only two hits in five innings to earn the victory. He then started the regularly scheduled game and pitched a four-hit complete game shutout, earning two wins in the same night. Later that season, on July 20, Wood started both ends of a doubleheader, making him the last pitcher to do so. He lost both of those games. The knuckleball is also difficult to control, and in 1977, Wood tied a record by hitting three consecutive batters in the first inning.
Wood's 1976 campaign was cut short on May 9 when a line-drive single hit by Ron LeFlore fractured his left kneecap in the sixth inning of a 4–2 White Sox victory over the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium. He had surgery the next day, but the outlook was bleak. Many predicted that he would never pitch again, but after considerable rehabilitation, he did some pitching for two more seasons with the White Sox. However, he showed few signs of his former mastery. He retired in 1978, moving back to his native New England.
In a seventeen-year major league career, Wood compiled a 164-156 record with a 3.24 ERA in 661 games played. He had 1,411 strikeouts in 2,684 innings pitched. He compiled 24 shutouts and 114 complete games in 297 games started. He was also the last pitcher in American League history to win and lose 20 or more games in the same season (24-20 in 1973).
Wood was a below average hitting pitcher. He posted a .084 batting average (27-for-322) with only two extra-base hits (both doubles) and just 13 RBI. He was better than average defensively, recording a .977 fielding percentage which was 26 points higher than the league average at his position.
- 3-time All-Star (1971, '72, '74)
- American League The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award winner in 1972
- American League The Sporting News Reliever of the Year Award winner in 1968
- Led the league in wins twice (1972, '73)
- Led the league in games started four times (1972, '73, '74, '75), with his career high coming in 1972 (49)
- 2nd in the league in shutouts twice (1971, '72), tied with Mel Stottlemyre in 1971
- Set the single-season record for games pitched in 1968 (88, including 2 starts), since surpassed by 12 pitchers through 2005
- "Wilbur Wood statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- Pirates peddle Wood to Sox
- "1972 American League Pitching Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "1973 American League Pitching Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "1974 American League Pitching Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "1975 American League Pitching Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- "1972 American League Cy Young voting". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
- Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Figures, 2008 Edition, p. 136, David Nemec and Scott Flatow, A Signet Book, Penguin Group, New York, ISBN 978-0-451-22363-0
- Preston, JG. "A thorough account of pitchers who have started both games of a doubleheader in the major leagues". prestonjg.wordpress.com. Retrieved 30 January 2017.
- Rogers, Thomas. "Wilbur Wood Out for Year With Broken Knee," The New York Times, Monday, May 10, 1976. Retrieved July 27, 2018