Snake Wiltse

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Lewis De Witt Wiltse

  • Bats Right, Throws Left

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Biographical Information[edit]

Lewis "Snake" Wiltse is one of three Snakes - the others being Snake Deal and Snake Henry. His real name was Lewis DeWitt Wiltse, and he won 29 games in his first two years in the majors, along with an above-average batting average in those two years.

Wiltse was born in Bouckville, NY, in upstate New York near Syracuse, NY. He did not break into the majors until age 29. In 1899-1900, immediately before coming to the majors, he played for Toledo and Syracuse.

Snake was not successful in his initial foray into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1901, going 1-4. He was released in June and was signed a month later by the Philadelphia Athletics of the new American League. He went 13-5 for the A's, helping manager Connie Mack (Mack was then only 38 years old) to finish above .500.

The following year, 1902, Wiltse went 8-8 for the A's in the first half of the season and was sold to the Baltimore Orioles, for whom he went 7-11 the rest of the way. On back-to-back games against the Chicago White Sox on August 23rd and August 25th, he hit a triple and a grand slam as a first baseman, then pitched a complete game victory while getting four hits, as the O's won both games, 14-8 and 21-6. It was a rare highlight for Baltimore, which had a terrible year and almost saw its franchise be dissolved when the majority of the team jumped to the National League in mid-season at the instigation of manager John McGraw; in fact Wiltse was one of the replacement players brought in from teams around the league to ensure the Birds could finish the season. He had been exclusively a pitcher until being acquired by the Orioles, but they were short of decent players and used him regularly at first base and in the outfield in addition to his pitching. He batted .295 for them, and .278 for his career. He finished up his major league career appearing in four games with the New York Highlanders in 1903 following the Baltimore club's relocation to New York.

Snake spent most of 1903 going 19-12 for the minor league Baltimore Orioles, and then in 1904 went 20-8 for them. Wilbert Robinson, who had managed him as a player-manager in 1902, was with the team in the minors in 1903 and 1904. Robinson became a major league coach in 1905 while Wiltse stayed with Baltimore for part of the season and then jumped to York.

Snake continued to pitch in the minors through 1910. His most notable later year was 1908, when he went 13-9 split among two teams.

His brother Hooks Wiltse pitched 12 years in the majors, beginning in 1904.

Sporting Life in 1900 reported that Lewis lived in Ilion, NY and was employed "in the typewriter works".

The SABR biography of Snake Wiltse says he had an unusual delivery which was twisted out of shape. (Presumably, that's how he got his nickname.) He started in semi-pro ball in 1894, along with his brother George (Hooks), and brother Arthur also played. The biography details Snake's battles with baseball front offices over the reserve clause and over his jumping from the Orioles in 1905.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (1902)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1901 & 1902)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1902)

Related Sites[edit]