Garry Wilson played only three games in the major leagues, within a three-day stretch of late September in 1902. The three games were for the Boston Americans, in the middle of 13 seasons of minor-league ball, with all but 22 of his 1,084 games played for New England teams.
In April 1897, only recently 18 years of age, he was added to the roster of the Bristol Braves in the Connecticut State League. We lack statistics for many of the team of this era, but Wilson did play second base for Bristol until sometime in August, when he joined the New England League’s Brockton Shoemakers, if only briefly at the end of their season. In December, he let it be known from his home in Baltimore that he was “open for engagement.”i
James Garrett “Garry” Wilson had been born in Baltimore on January 12, 1879. He was a right-hander listed at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds. He was taken up on his offer and signed with the Derby Angels in 1898, moving over to the Meriden Bulldogs after the Derby club disbanded on July 26; both clubs were in the Connecticut State League. Wilson played with Meriden again in 1899 (reportedly hitting .397 in 95 games with eight home runs) and for part of 1900, though he also is listed as playing for Bristol. Confusing the issue is that there was another second baseman named Wilson – Harry Wilson, not Garry Wilson. And the comings and goings were sometimes difficult to track. Consider this note in Sporting Life: “New London has released second baseman Wilson, and Norwich has signed him, although Derby claimed him.”ii
The New London Whalers signed Wilson to play third base in 1901 and he appeared in 104 games, batting .260.
In 1902, after not signing until late May, it was Nashua in the New England League for 98 games and a .259 batting average. After Nashua’s season ended on September 11 and Wilson attended a banquet for the players at the Tremont Hotel, he joined the Boston Americans.
His debut came on the next-to-last day of the season – September 27, 1902 – when he started at second base and played both games on a road date doubleheader in his home town of Baltimore. Batting seventh in the order, Wilson was 1-for-4 with a single in the first game and 1-for-3 with another single in the second. Boston got off to an 8-0 lead after 2 ½ innings by Orioles pitcher Jack Katoll, but former Oriole Tom Hughes, pitching his first game for Boston, gave up three runs in the bottom of the third, two more in the fourth, and another two in the sixth. Four errors by each team helped bump up the score.
Wilson drove in two runs in the first inning of the first game, but only as a result of a ball misplayed by Baltimore second baseman Tom Jones, he of four errors on the day. Wilson was almost as shaky in the field, with two errors in game one and one error in game two. He did take part in turning two double plays.
The Boston Globe boxscore says he hit a home run in the second game, but it also shows him with just one total base, while Baltimore’s Hal Wiltse has five total bases on two hits. Wilson’s hit did help win the game. Baltimore was leading 2-1 after four innings. In the top of the fifth, Wilson led off with a single to center field. He advanced on a sacrifice bunt, though the bunter was safe, too, when the pitcher failed to cover first base. After Boston pitcher Bill Dinneen struck out, Patsy Dougherty bunted to load the bases, and Chick Stahl doubled to right field to clear them. Boston won both games that day, 9-8 and 4-2. The first game was one hour and 20 minutes long, and the second game 1:35, played for 1,072.
There was no game on Sunday. The final game of the 1902 season was played Monday, September 29. Wilson was 0-for-4 and made another error, along with two putouts and one assist. Boston beat Baltimore this game, too, by the score of 9-5. It was the last game ever played by the Baltimore team, which relocated to New York the following year and became the New York Highlanders (later the New York Yankees). The total attendance for the final game: 138.
Apparently, Wilson wasn’t impressive enough to be invited back to the 1903 Bostons; he played the full season for Nashua again, batting .277 – and improved on that to .284 in 1904.
In 1905, it appears as though Wilson may have originally signed with Sioux City, but somehow wound up in Manchester, New Hampshire. The Manchester team transferred to Lawrence, Massachusetts, playing their first game there a day after the franchise move, on July 21. Wilson was 4-for-5 on the day, scoring five runs – but making three errors. Sporting Life commented on Lawrence’s pitcher Jake Volz: “Games which Jake Volz wins for Lawrence are under suspicion, as Jake is supposed to be property of the Sioux City Club in exchange for Gerry [sic] Wilson.”iii
For the franchise, 1905 was his best season, with a .309 average. After the season, he took a job handling freight in Baltimore (or, as Sporting Life put it, “baggage smashing for the Adams Express Company.”)iv He was apparently plagued with errors from time to time. In the September 6, 1906, game against Worcester, “Wilson’s errors alone were responsible for three of the visitors’ runs.”v He committed two errors, and Worcester – that year’s New England League pennant winners – won, 6-4.
Wilson was the only player on the 1907 Lawrence team who had been with the team in 1906.
Transactional questions often abound in the early years of the century. In late July, Wilson was sold to the Jersey City ball club, but never played for them and was back again with Lawrence in 1908.vi
Wilson began the 1909 season with Lawrence, but then was traded to the New York State League Albany Senators (his only foray out of New England.) After 22 games, he was only hitting .181. Traded on to the New Bedford club, he arrived in time to hit a three-run double in the June 11 game for a 4-2 win against visiting Lowell. In the latter half of July, New Bedford released Wilson.
Wilson’s last year in pro ball was with the New Bedford Whalers again in 1910, where he hit .233 in 123 games playing under manager Tommy Dowd and seeing his team win that year’s New England League championship by 7 ½ games over second-place Lynn. It was a good way to wind up a career.
Wilson worked at baggage smashing after baseball, in the freight department of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, until his retirement in 1958.vii He died on May 1, 1969, in Randallstown, Maryland at the age of 90.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame lacked any material for Wilson’s player file. In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author consulted the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.
i Sporting Life, December 4, 1897.
ii Sporting Life, August 18, 1900. The reference was to Harry.
iii Sporting Life, August 19, 1905.
iv Sporting Life, January 17, 1906.
v Sporting Life, September 22, 1906.
vi The sale was reported in the August 3 issue of Sporting Life.
vii Bill Lee, The Baseball Necrology (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Co., 2003)