Thursday, January 29, 2009

# 20 -- Don Wilson

Don Wilson

I like to see Don Wilson smiling. You see baseball gave him a lot to smile about. He was the ace of the Astros staff. He threw 2 no-hitters and was working on a third in 1974 when lifted for a pinch-hitter trailing 2-1 (walks and an error in the 5th). After that game, Don only pitched 4 more times, his last start a 2-hit shutout over the Braves.

There are some cards I hate to write about. This is the first. That's because Don's career ended when he was found dead in the passenger seat of his Thunderbird in the garage with the engine running. Cause of death was officially listed as accidental. As if this isn't enough, another tragic note to the story is that the garage was attached to the house and the carbon monoxide killed his son and put his daughter in a coma. Their bedrooms were above the garage. He was one of the first ballplayers I was familiar with that died during his career. I remember thinking the 10-11 year old equivalent of "Damn."

Don had several more good years left. One can only imagine what the Astros could have done if Don had been around to tandem with J.R. Richard through the late 70's and early 80's........There would have definitely been a lot of smiling.

1972 Feature
Harry Truman may be the most famous person from Missouri, unless you're a big fan of Yogi Berra, Samuel Clemens, Walt Disney or Bob Barker. He's certainly had the most historical significance of any Missourians. He ended World War II by having the guts to make a tough decision to drop the A-bomb on Japan, forcing their surrender.
He was the last President who didn't have a college education. Can you imagine that happening now. His education came in working under a political machine in Kansas City and rising through the ranks. There would usually be two reasons you'd rise through the ranks. One would be because you were talented. Just like today, the other reason would be because you were an obsequious butt kisser.
Truman died in 1972 at his home in Independence, Mo. The Truman Library is still a big tourist attraction in the K.C. area. I've been there and heartily recommend it to anyone in the area with even a passing interest in history. I do have to admit it's not as cool as the Ronald Reagan Library, where you can tour an actual Air Force One.
I remember watching Truman's funeral when I was a kid and listening to the commentary. Lyndon Johnson died in early 1973, so there were two big state funerals in a short time, but after that we didn't have any presidential funerals until President Nixon died. However, watching Truman's funeral fascinated me and the memory of it was enough to make me want to tune in to watch the funerals of Nixon, Reagan and Ford. When the next happens (it could be a while...although we have 2 ex-Presidents in their 80's, both Bush and Carter appear to be very strong and active. Clinton may be the most vulnerable, but that would be more because of a jealous husband's shotgun instead of his heart), tune in and watch, not just for the fawning and respect shown to whatever that President did, but to see the pagentry and respect given to the Office of the President of the United States.


  1. Seeing cards like this is almost upsetting. His death certainly could have been an accident. I don't know the facts around his death, but I do know that depression causes people to do irrational things. Money gets tight or you have a fight with the wife, and it doesn't take a whole lot when you're so close to the edge already.

    Look at Donnie Moore. Looking at some of his cards, I have to fight back tears sometimes because of how haunted the man looks. He always had a smile on his face but his eyes just weren't there. There was something else on his mind. I see the same thing in Don Wilson's eyes in this photo.

    But again, I don't know the circumstances leading up to his death. So I'm just guessing, but you can learn a lot from people's eyes.

  2. For me, I get that feeling when I see Lyman Bostock's cards. He was the first ballplayer I was ever aware of who died too early and tragically. Man, what a career he could have had.

  3. Yes...the 1972 set was my favorite and seeing Roberto Clemente and Don Wilson brings back sad memories. When I was at that age in 1972 ( 9) I thought baseball players never died..cardboard heros.

  4. I always thought Don Wilson looked a bit like Bill Cosby on that card...

    I remember Truman's last days quite well--I was eight at the time and really beginning to learn about history, and HST fascinated me. He'd been in the hospital nearly a month, and it was like a nightly vigil on local TV news as the end got near. I remember riding on a shuttle bus from the Arrowhead/Royals Stadium parking lot with my father and brother to the Truman Library to stand in line for over six hours in freezing weather to pass by Truman's casket lying in state. Six hours was an eternity for an eight-year-old, but I'm grateful to have witnessed a little history firsthand.