Wilson feared on and off the field

Wilson feared on and off the field

The book on Jud Wilson said that he was a madman who could hit a baseball as well as anybody who ever played the sport.

The book was accurate, baseball historian James A. Riley said.

"A savage, pure hitter who hit with power and was at his best in the clutch, Wilson hit anything thrown to him and would have been an ideal designated hitter," Riley wrote in "The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues." "So intense was his disdain and lack of respect for pitchers that he actually dared them to throw the ball."

Few hitters in the history of black baseball were as consistent as Wilson was. His 23-year career earned him the praise of Hall of Famer Satchel Paige and perhaps every other pitcher who had to face him.

It is his ability to hit that has made Wilson a candidate for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A panel of 12 historians and Negro League experts are reviewing the credentials of men like Wilson, and the panel will announce Feb. 27 whether Wilson will join Paige, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson and 15 others from the Negro Leagues who have their busts in Cooperstown.

As a hitter, Wilson had a career that looks worthy of induction.

Wilson, a third baseman, led the Baltimore Black Sox to the South championship in 1922, largely on the strength of his hitting. His batting average stood at .522 midway through August.

Wilson proved his rookie season wasn't a fluke. He followed it with a .373 average in 1924, .377 average in 1925 and a .469 average in 1927. In six Winter League seasons in Cuba, he won two batting titles and recorded a lifetime average of .372. He hit an impressive .442 in exhibitions against Major Leaguers.

In the field, Wilson played third with hands of stone. His play was characterized by his blocking the ball with his chest before picking it up to throw out runners at first.

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"He was not a good third baseman, but he could play enough third base not to hurt you, and he could hit everything in sight," said Pittsburgh Crawfords outfielder Jimmy Crutchfield in Robert Peterson's book "Only the Ball Was White."

And how Wilson could hit. A career .345 hitter, he was known for hitting everything in sight -- baseballs, opponents and umpires -- with equal fury.

One of a quartet referred to as the "Big Four of the Big Badmen" -- Charleston, Chippy Britt and Vic Harris were the others -- Wilson, fearless and ill-tempered, displayed on-field conduct that bordered on the antisocial. He wasn't above physically attacking an umpire, an opponent or a teammate.

According to Riley's "Biographical Encyclopedia," teammate and roommate Jake Stephens learned to fear Wilson on more than one occasion.

Playing the unusual position of peacemaker, Wilson planted himself between an irate Stephens and an umpire while the pair were playing for the Philadelphia Stars. Unsatisfied with mere verbal jousting, Stephens reached around Wilson and hit the umpire in the face. Startled, the ump tossed Wilson from the ballgame, thinking he was the one who delivered the blow.

An infuriated Wilson went berserk, and three club-wielding police officers were needed to haul him off to jail. While in jail, Wilson threatened to kill Stephens when he got out. A frightened Stephens left town.

It was probably a good idea, because Wilson, his friend, once held him outside a 16th-floor window in Chicago after an inebriated Stephens woke him up at 2 a.m. after the East-West All-Star Game.

In addition to his years with the Black Sox (1922-30) and Philadelphia Stars (1933-39), Wilson also played with the Homestead Grays (1931-32, 1940-45) and the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932).

He played in three Negro League World Series for the Grays, who completed a run of nine consecutive Negro National League pennants. He retired after the '45 season.

Wilson, who died June 26, 1963, left behind a legacy as one of the hardest hitters that black baseball ever produced.

"The black leagues produced some excellent hitters -- Josh Gibson, Chino Smith, Oscar Charleston, Turkey Stearnes, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell, Mule Suttles, and many, many more," wrote baseball historian John B. Holway in his book "Blackball Stars: Negro League Pioneers." "But when old-timers get together to argue who was the best of all, a surprising number ignore the legendary sluggers. To them, the greatest of all was a squat, foghorn-voiced left-hander, Judson 'Boojum' Wilson."

Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. MLB.com staffer Brian Wilson contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.