NO. 99: TED WILKS
Joe Garagiola nicknamed Ted Wilks “The Cork,” because when a game was on the line and the Cardinals needed a stopper on the mound, there was nobody the local boy-turned-catcher would rather have throwing to him.
Before saves were a recognized statistic, manager Eddie Dyer frequently turned to Wilks to preserve a win or keep a narrow lead in check. Twice Wilks led the National League in game appearances, including 1949 when, in 118.1 innings across 59 games, the 5-foot-9 native of up-state New York earned 10 wins without the benefit of a start. He even carried a few votes for MVP that year.
But Wilks wasn’t a stopper from the start.
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In 1944, as a rookie, he crashed a deep Cardinals’ rotation that included five pitchers with double-digit win totals. Wilks had 17 of them and, with just four losses, led the National League with a .810 winning percentage. The Redbirds went on to defeat the Browns in the all-St. Louis “Streetcar Series,” the last World Series played entirely at one ballpark.
Arm trouble was the culprit in Wilks’ conversion to “The Cork.” After winning just four games in 1945, Dyer limited Wilks’ innings, but not the gravity of the situations into which he was thrown. Wilks started just four games in 1946 and none in ‘47, but successfuly secured the last out in 37 games over those two seasons. Along the way, he picked up 12 wins without a loss.
And he earned a second World Series ring.
SEASONS IN ST. LOUIS: 1944-’51
51-20 (.718) | 3.25 ERA | 29 Saves| WAR 13.9 |2 WS rings
TOP 100 SCORE: 1.84