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Willie Wilson was South Bend's hitting coach in 2001. This was Wilson's second MWL stint: In 1975, he led the Midwest League's best team ever to a championship.


The Royals paid Willie Wilson a reported $90,000 to sign a contract after high school in 1974. This was a large bonus; Willie was being recruited to play college football. KC assigned him to their Gulf Coast team, where he led the league in stolen bases.

The next summer the Royals promoted Wilson to Waterloo, where he won Most Valuable Player and Prospect of the Year awards with this unlikely stat line:


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   G  AB  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI  AVG SB
 127 486 92 132 18  4  8  73 .272 76

The hits and steals figures led the league. Willie also led the league in outfield assists, with 17, and got hit by 13 pitches.

Willie spent 1976 at Jacksonville in the Southern League, with a short Kansas City callup. 1977 was mostly at Omaha, in the American Association, with another KC appearance. In '78 he reached the big leagues for good. Over the next dozen years Wilson was the leadoff hitter for the great George Brett Royals. His best season was 1980--133 runs scored and 230 hits, with a .326 batting average. He played four seasons near that high level, winning the American League batting title in 1982 (.322), then recorded many KC and two Oakland seasons that echo his Midwest League stat line.

Willie played with the Cubs in 1993 and 1994, then retired.

Year after year he was among the league leaders in steals and triples. Wilson owns a major league record: 705 At Bats in 1980.

After retirement, Willie coached in the Toronto system, then went into private business after the 1997 season. The South Bend post marked his return to baseball.


The 1975 Waterloo Royals won 93 games (a .727 won/lost percent) and swept an excellent Quad Cities Angels nine in a 2 game championship playoff. This team had no outstanding hitters; they had terrific pitching.

I'd always assumed that the 1975 Waterloo squad was an early version of the 1980s Kansas City Royals, but that assumption was wrong. Only Wilson and Dan Quisenberry went from this team to notable big league careers; the other big leaguers on the roster were German Barranca, Charlie Beamon, Joe Gates, Luis Silvero, Roy Branch, and Mark Souza. Not a memorable name in the bunch. But they had a glorious summer at Municipal Stadium.

By 1975, George Brett, Hal McRae, and Frank White were already with the big league Royals. Bud Black and Charlie Leibrandt were in college, Steve Balboni was in high school, and Bret Saberhagen was in grade school. U.L. Washington? Playing Triple-A ball. Dennis Leonard, too.

Willie Aikens? Losing to Waterloo, at QC.


Willie Wilson's major league career.


Sources:

  • The Silver Hawks' 11/16/2000 press release.
  • Bob Hoie and Carlos Bauer, The Historical Register.
  • STATS All-Time Major League Handbook.
  • STATS All-Time Major League Sourcebook.
  • The Sporting News Official Baseball Register (1987).
  • Johnson and Wolff, The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball.
  • Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Players Database.
  • 1995 Midwest League Yearbook.

This profile originated as the November 18, 2000, Midwest League Tidbit on the Midwest League Mailing List.

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The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

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