Jud "Boojum" Wilson


"He was not a good third baseman, but he could play enough third base not to hurt you, and he could hit everything in sight!"
-- Negro Leaguer Jimmy Crutchfield in
Robert Peterson's book "Only the Ball Was White."

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
June, 2006

Ernest Judson "Jud" Wilson

Born: February 28, 1894 in Remington, VA

Died: June 24, 1963 in Washington, D.C.
Ht:5'-8", Wt: 200
Batted left and threw right
Position: third base, first base
Years: 1922-1945
Teams:Baltimore Black Sox, Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Philadelphia Stars

Satchel Paige, the greatest pitcher who ever lived, once named the four hitters who he thought were the toughest ever. In the Major Leagues, there was Charlie Gehringer, and in the Negro Leagues there were Josh Gibson, Chino Smith and Jud Wilson. Smith died very young, and Gibson also died before his time, but Wilson gave pitchers--even Satchel--trouble for a quarter century.

Wilson grew up in a poor section of Washington, D.C. called "Foggy Bottom," and, after a stint in the army during World War I, started playing professionally in 1922 with the Baltimore Black Sox.

Wilson was short and built like a professional wrestler, much like a Major League star of his era, Hack Wilson. But Jud wasn't a home run hitter like Hack, he just seemingly hit line drives whenever he wanted. In fact, his nickname "Boojum" supposedly came because that was the sound the outfield walls made when he smashed line drives off them. Wilson was very similar to Major League star Tony Gwynn, who rarely struck out, and always seemed to hit the ball hard, regardless of the pitcher he faced. In his prime, Wilson batted over .400, and had a lifetime average of about .350. He batted well over .400 versus Major Leaguers in exhibitions.

Wilson played for several teams, but is most associated with the 1931 Homestead Grays, the team some believe is the best in black baseball history. Besides being a great hitter, Wilson was also one of a group of Grays known for their willingness to brawl.

It was said that the Grays "tough guys"--Jud Wilson, Oscar Charleston, George Britt and George Scales--would fight at the drop of a hat, with opponents, umpires and even teammates. The only Grays player who was completely immune to their roughhouse tactics was Josh Gibson, who was so strong that no one wanted to test the young player's fighting prowess.

Wilson was a third baseman for most of his career, and was known to play the position like a goalie; he'd get in front of everything, let it hit off his chest, then throw the runner out. He wasn't considered a very smooth fielder, but usually got the job done.

On the '31 Grays, Wilson usually batted cleanup, following Josh Gibson (Oscar Charleston usually batted leadoff, with Vic Harris batting second). The Grays won more than 80% of their games during the season, and whipped a Major League all-star team in a series in October.

Wilson was voted as a starter in the first three East-West game (1933-35) and batted .455 in those classics.

Wilson became a manager later in his career and was as hard-driving as a skipper as he was as a player.

In 2006, Wilson was named to the Hall of Fame, more than 40 years after his death. Wilson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

XXX

 


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