Hoyt Wilhelm is honored for his long-lasting baseball career, the uniqueness he brought to his playing with his famous knuckleball, and his service in the United States Army during World War II.
Wilhelm was attracted to baseball at a young age and was specifically interested in the knuckleball. His interest in learning how to throw it made him stand out to scouts and coaches growing up. He left high school in 1942, joining the Mooresville Moors of the Class D North Carolina State League in order to kickstart his baseball career.
He put baseball on hold when he entered the United States Army in November of 1942. He was initially stationed at Camp Croft in South Carolina and later served with the 395th Infantry Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division. While with the 395th, he saw combat in the European Theater of Operations and participated at the Battle of the Bulge. His baseball career nearly ended before it started when he was struck by shrapnel in the hand and back from a German artillery blast. He received the Purple Heart for his actions and went on to pitch for the rest of his career with that piece of metal still lodged in his back.
In 1946, Wilhelm returned to baseball with the Mooresville Moors before being drafted by the New York Giants in 1947. He played in their farm system until making his Major League debut in 1952.
Wilhelm played in the Major Leagues for 20 years, compiling a 143-122 record with 227 saves and a .252 ERA for nine different teams. He was an All-Star in 1953, 1959, 1961, 1962, and 1970, and pitched a no-hitter against the New York Yankees in 1958. He was also the first relief pitcher to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.
The Foundation recognizes Wilhelm for his courage in combat at the Battle of the Bulge and for his commendable military service and baseball career.