Dan Wilson

Wilson being congratulated by his teammates after his East-West home run. From left to right: Ted Strong, Parnell Woods, Wilson and Neil Robinson.

...half of the Western team had gathered to greet and hail him as a conquering king. They took him on their shoulders like the hero of dear old Truxton, and carried him over to the box occupied by boxing champion of champions. And it was here that Joe Louis personally greeted Dangerous Dan and congratulated him on bringing home the bacon for the West."
--Pittsburgh Courier, quoted from
"Black Baseball's National Showcase" by Larry Lester

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

August, 2011

Dan Wilson
Position: outfield, second base
Bats: Both, Throws: Right
Height: 5' 10 ", Weight: 200 lb.
Born: September 13, 1913
Died: December 23, 1986 in St. Louis
Career: 1937-1947
Teams: Pittsburgh Crawfords, Claybrook Tigers, St. Louis Stars, Homestead Grays, New York Black Yankees, Philadelphia Stars, Monterrey Industriales (Mexico), Puerto Rico

Dan Wilson had a roller-coaster life, rising to the top of his trade, then dying tragically at age 73.

Wilson played semipro ball in St. Louis but could draw no interest from his hometown St. Louis Stars, so he signed with the 1936 Claybrook Tigers managed by Double Duty Radcliffe, then the ’37 Pittsburgh Crawfords where he was mostly a utility player.

In 1939, the St. Louis Stars were finally interested in the budding star, signed him, and he rewarded the team by becoming an All-Star and for one afternoon he was the top star! In the ’39 East-West Game, with his West squad down 2-1, Double Duty Radcliffe singled in the seventh inning, then Wilson blasted a homer that gave the West the lead and the win.

In the winter of ’39, Wilson played in Puerto Rico and batted .349, behind only Perucho Cepeda (father of Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda), Josh Gibson and hard-hitting pitcher Roy Partlow.

Wilson led all outfielders in voting for the 1941 East-West Game, but he went hitless in two at bats. Wilson moved to the New York Black Yankees in ’42 and played in the East-West Game again, getting two hits and scoring three runs in a 5-2 East win.

Wilson returned to the St. Louis Stars, who played some of their home games in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, before finishing his Negro League career with short stints with the 1946 Homestead Grays and ’47 Philadelphia Stars.

At age 34, Wilson still had some gas left in his tank and he played semipro ball before venturing north in 1952 where he joined the Winnipeg Giants of the Manitoba-Dakota League and played under former manager and teammate Double Duty Radcliffe who recruited him and his brother, Emmett. In 48 games, Wilson batted .255 with six doubles, a triple and homer. His best game came against eventual league champion Minot, when he singled, doubled and homered.

Most people might not be aware of it, but Negro Leaguers received no pensions or benefits after retiring, and many of the greatest players who ever lived spent their twilight years struggling to make ends meet; Wilson was one of those players. Wilson spent his final years as a homeless man in St. Louis, and he died tragically from a fire than he had started to stay warm.