Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Uncommon commons: Red Wilson, two-sport star

In 2006 I purchased a complete set of The Sporting News and The Sporting Life newspaper microfilms from 1886 through the early 1970s. I figured they would be a great source of entertainment when I eventually retired.

Over the years I had used the films to research feature articles and columns that appeared in SCD and Baseball Cards magazine. In that process I discovered that each issue of those venerable sports weeklies had many tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figured that if I found those items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors, so from time to time I compiled my notes into columns that I called "Uncommon Commons."

I've decided to continue that tradition in this forum because a blog is tailor-made to host these short pieces and because it is easy to share images of some great old cards that may not be worth a lot of money, but that have an appeal to veteran collectors.

Opportunities in pro football weren't as attractive or lucrative during the early 1950s as they would be in later decades, so many college gridiron stars opted to try their hand at professional baseball.

One such player was Robert "Red" Wilson. Playing college football for the Wisconsin Badgers, Wilson was the Big 10 Conference's MVP in 1949. He had played "offensive end" and "defensive center" for 5-3-1 Wisconsin.

Wilson played 10 seasons, batting .258 as a catcher in the American League. Originally signed by the White Sox he debuted in 1951. By the time the 1954 Topps card shown here was issued, he had been traded to the Detroit Tigers. In July, 1960, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians.

In the post-season MLB expansion draft, Wilson was chosen by the Washington Senators, returned to the Indians, then drafted by the L.A. Angels who also returned him to Cleveland. All that maneuvering was moot, however, as Wilson left pro ball before the 1961 season.

Among mainstream card sets, Red Wilson appeared in Topps sets from 1953-54, and 1956-60, and was in the 1961 Post cereal set.

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