On January 5, 1975 – Houston Astro Pitcher Don Wilson died at the house he shared with his wife, daughter, and son in Houston’s Fondren Southwest community. Wilson’s wife, Bernice, found him in the passenger seat of his Ford Thunderbird, parked inside the garage, with the engine running. The garage was attached to the house, and the carbon monoxide gas fatally asphyxiated his son, Donald “Alex” Alexander (aged 5), who was sleeping in the master bedroom above the garage. Wilson’s daughter Denise (aged 9), was found unconscious in another bedroom and hospitalized in a coma. Bernice was treated for carbon monoxide gas inhalation and for a jaw injury that she could not remember incurring. On February 5, 1975, Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk, the Harris County medical examiner, ruled the deaths of Don and Alex Wilson accidental. Dr. Jachimczyk’s autopsy report showed that Wilson had a blood alcohol content of 0.167%. well above the .10 legal limit in Texas. “For purposes of driving he was over one and a half times drunk or under the influence,” Jachimcyzk reported. “He would have been booked for driving while intoxicated.”
One theory is that Wilson drove into his garage, activated the automatic door closer, and then passed out. However, it was ruled a suicided which seems inconclusive based on what I was able to read.
Wilson’s daughter, Denise, finally awoke from her coma and recovered, but even though her father’s death was ruled accidental, not everyone was buying it. “Wilson’s death is still steeped in controversy,” wrote the Chicago Defender. “But there are some who still have their doubts.”
Wilson’s uniform number was retired by the Astros on April 13, 1975, and a black circular patch with his number 40 in white was worn on the left sleeve of the Astros “rainbow jerseys” the following season.
When his nine-year career ended, “Big D” had compiled a 104-92 record with 20 shutouts, two saves and a 3.15 ERA. During the expansion era of the franchise, Don Wilson was one of the brighter lights in the organization. It can only be speculated what sort of heights he might have achieved.
There is a lengthly piece by Mike Lynch that really details his entire career and goes deeoer into the event on Sons of Sam Horn.