The word “distinguished” may not immediately come to mind when considering a player known to players and fans alike as “Hooks”, especially when he had a brother known as “Snake”. Yet George “Hooks” Wiltse, the great New York Giant hurler of the first decade of the 20th century, was as distinguished as any player could possibly be. Most importantly, he was known as a gentleman and was popular with both teammates and the general public. Anyone that could labor under the feisty J.J. McGraw for eleven years –even befriending him—had to be a man of tact, patience, and humor. George was all of that, and more.
Joining the Giants in 1904 as a 24 year-old southpaw, the 6’, 185 lb. Wiltse immediately became a smash-hit in the big city. He won his first twelve starts on his way to a 13-3 slate as the Giants demolished the rest of the league, finishing with a scorching 106-47 record.
The next five seasons saw his importance grow to the Giants, with Hooks eventually being considered the team’s number two starter after Christy Mathewson. Of particular note was 1908 when the then 28-year old turned in a 23-14 result, including a stunning ten inning no-hitter against Philadelphia. The 330 innings that he pitched that year likely took a lot out of his arm, however, as it was over 130 more innings than he had ever handled before. While he still won 20 the following year, it was evident that he was on the backside of his career.
All told, Wiltse finished with a 139-90 record, pretty distinguished for a man nick named “Hooks”.