Chief Wilson Essentials

Bats: L Throws: R
74 Weight: 185
Born: August 21, 1883 in Austin, TX USA
Died: February 22, 1954 in Bertram, TX USA
Debut: April 15, 1908
Last Game: October 1, 1916
Full Name: John Owen Wilson


One of baseball’s most untouchable records is held by former Pirate Owen “Chief”  Wilson, who totaled an unbelievable 36 triples in 1912.  Wilson’s three-baggers actually are also the record for any professional baseball league and his record keeps his name alive among trivia specialists, but he was a very well-rounded performer for the Pirates from 1908-1913, twice hitting .300 and driving in 107 runs in 1911 before knocking in 95 more in 1912, very impressive figures for a Deadball era player.

Wilson was purchased from Des Moines after hitting .323 in 1907.   Winning the rightfield position, the strong-armed, left-handed hitter had a poor rookie season, batting only .227 with a .285 slugging percentage.  Manager Fred Clarke nicknamed the young Texan “Chief,” when he referred to him as “Chief of the Texas Rangers.”  Some thought that Wilson had a Native American ancestry, but he did not.  He was a quiet individual and Clarke thought he was too passive.  The skipper tried to light a fire in Wilson by verbally abusing him, but Wilson saw through his boss’s motives and just laughed off the insults.

Developing as a hitter, Wilson raised his average 50 points and his slugging percentage by 90 as a sophomore to help the Bucs capture the 1909 pennant.  The World Series, however, did little to showcase his talents as he hit only .154 (four for 26) and was thrown out trying to steal third as Ed Abbaticchio struck out to end Game 6, a 5-4 loss for the Pirates.

Wilson hit .276 and set a new career-high with 13 triples in 1910.  In 1911, Wilson enjoyed an excellent year, batting .300 with 34 doubles and a dozen triples and home runs.  His 107 rbi’s was second to Chicago’s Wildfire Schulte in the NL.  With a livelier ball in play in 1912, Wilson set his seemingly eternal record while setting a career-high with 175 hits.  Wilson’s 36 triples surprisingly surpassed his highwater mark for doubles, 34, established the year before.  It is also noteworthy that while Wilson was obviously not a slow runner, he was not one of the game’s true speedsters and never stole more than 17 bases in a season.  Of his 36 triples, 24 were hit at Forbes Field with it’s 360’, 462’, 376’ dimensions and twice that year he hit three triples in a doubleheader that year.

Wilson’s numbers declined notably to .266 with 14 triples and 73 rbi’s the following year and he was packaged with Dots Miller in a trade with the Cardinals which netted the Pirates Ed Konetchy, Mike Mowery, and Bob Harmon, none of whom distinguished themselves as Pirates and Konetchy and Mowery jumped the team to play in the Federal League in 1915.  Wilson had a decent year for the Cards in 1914 but played less the next two years before leaving the big leagues.