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Don Wilson – 1973 Topps #217

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Donald Edward “Don” Wilson(February 12, 1945 – January 5, 1975), was a Major League Baseball pitcher for nine seasons with the Houston Astros. Wilson was known as one of the hardest throwers in the National League. On June 18, 1967, Wilson no-hit the Atlanta Braves 2-0 at the Astrodome. The no-hitter was the first ever pitched either in a domed stadium or on artificial turf. Along the way, he struck out 15 batters, including Hank Aaron for the final out. In 1968, Wilson set the Astros club record for single-game strikeouts with 18 against the Dodgers. On May 1, 1969, the day after the Reds’ Jim Maloney no-hit the Astros 10-0 at Crosley Field for his second career no-hitter, Wilson returned the favor and no-hit the Reds 4-0 for his second career no-hitter. The back-to-back no-hit feat was only the second in MLB history, the first having been accomplished just the year before by Gaylord Perry and Ray Washburn. This second no-hitter was vengeance for Wilson: in his previous start against the Reds nine days earlier, he had given up seven runs in five innings and was the losing pitcher in the Reds’ 14-0 drubbing of the Astros at the Astrodome. That year, the Astros finished .500 (81-81) for the first time in club history, and Wilson struck out 235 batters (his career best in a brief career) in 225 innings in fashioning a 16-12 record. That season, the Astros set what was then a big-league record for strikeouts in a season by a pitching staff. Two other Houston starters, Larry Dierker and Tom Griffin, also struck out at least 200 batters that season, with Dierker’s 232 in 305 innings leading the way. The 1971 season saw Wilson make the National League All-Star Team as well as earn Astros MVP honors. Wilson’s last game was a two-hit, 5-0 shutout against the Atlanta Braves on September 28, 1974. On January 5, 1975, Wilson died at his Fondren Southwest Houston home he shared with his wife, daughter and son. Wilson was found in the passenger seat of his brown Ford Thunderbird inside the garage with the engine running. The garage was attached to the house, which caused his son, Alex, to die also and his daughter and wife to be hospitalized in a coma. The official cause of death states that Wilson’s death was accidental. 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.

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