White Sox: The Mount Rushmore of Sox closers

Keith Foulke of the Chicago White Sox. Mandatory Credit: Tom Pigeon /Allsport
Keith Foulke of the Chicago White Sox. Mandatory Credit: Tom Pigeon /Allsport /
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Mount Rushmore of White Sox closers: Hoyt Wilhelm

Hoyt Wilhelm came to the Chicago White Sox in a six-player trade with the Baltimore Orioles in January 1963, but no one could have predicted a pitcher that would turn 41 during the season would give the White Sox six terrific years out of the bullpen.

Wilhelm saved 99 games from 1963-68, including 27 in 1964, when he had a 1.99 ERA in 131.1 innings out of the bullpen (it was a different time, to be sure).

In October 1968, the White Sox left Wilhelm unprotected in the expansion draft and he was selected by the Kansas City Royals.

Wilhelm got a late start in the majors. He didn’t debut until April 1952 in what was his age-29 season, following seven years in the minors interrupted by a three-year stint in the Army, seeing combat in Europe and receiving the Purple Heart after he was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge.

He spent his first four seasons with the New York Giants and also played with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians before going to the Orioles during the 1958 season.

After leaving Chicago, Wilhelm pitched with the California Angels, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was released by the Dodgers July 21, 1972, just five days shy of his 50th birthday and was the first pitcher in major league history to appear in more than 1,000 games.

In six seasons with the White Sox — his longest stay anywhere during his career — he posted a 1.92 ERA and 0.935 WHIP in 675.2 innings over 361 games. Not a power pitcher — his No. 1 pitch was always a knuckleball — he struck out 6.9 batters per nine innings for Chicago, walking 2.2 per nine.

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He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, his eighth year of eligibility, and became the first pitcher used primarily in relief to earn that honor. He died in August 2002, just after his 80th birthday.