A solid southpaw, Hooks Wiltse made an immediate splash at the Major League level, setting a record by winning his first twelve Major League decisions. A native New Yorker, Wiltse spent the bulk of his career pitching in the same rotation as the legendary Christy Mathewson. Hooks once carried a perfect game into the final inning when he lost it when he struck the 27th batter with a pitched ball. He nevertheless retained the no-hitter.
John McGraw brought Hooks up to the Major Leagues in 1904 and the lefty enjoyed a great rookie campaign, posting the second best winning percentage in the National League: .813. The Giants became World Champions in 1905 with Wiltse winning 15 games. With each passing year, Hooks steadily got better, trimming his ERA every season. He lowered his ERA to 2.28 in 1906 while completing 21 games and winning 16 for McGraw’s Giants.
For the fourth year in a row, Hooks took the clippers to his ERA again in 1907, trimming it down to 2.18. But through it all, Hooks was always in the shadow of Mathewson. The spotlight finally found Wiltse in 1908 when he became a 20-game winner for the first time, nailing down 23 victories for the Giants. The southpaw notched seven shutouts, posted a 2.24 ERA and teamed with Mathewson to give the Giants 60 wins between the two of them.
In what was arguably his career year, Hooks won 20 games in 1909 on a brilliant 2.00 ERA. He possessed the stuff that missed bats that season, coughing up an average of just 0.848 hits per inning. Hooks also owned fine control, issuing an average of just 0.209 walks per inning in 1911 while Hall of Fame peers Pete Alexander (0.351) and Rube Marquard (0.381) didn’t have the marksmanship of Mr. Wiltse.
As Hooks reached his 30s his playing time began to dwindle. Pitchers from The Deadball Era rarely enjoyed lengthy careers unless they were made of iron like Cy Young or rubber like Mathewson. Despite his shortened mound time, Wiltse fashioned an amazing 1.55 ERA in 1913 as McGraw’s relief ace. But when the upstart Federal League began play, Hooks remained with the Giants for a year before joining the ill-fated league in its last season. The Federal League’s last year, 1915, was also Hooks’ last year.
W 138/L 90/PCT .605/G 357/CG 154/IP 2,111/H 1,892/BB 498/SO 965/SHO 27/ERA 2.47