In the years before Major League Baseball selected players through an amateur draft, players had to do everything they could to pique the interest of scouts – especially to attract them to rural communities.
Former Bolivar High School pitching standout Tom Wilson did just that, as he turned several successful seasons into a contract offer from the Detroit Tigers.
Now Wilson’s career is being remembered again as the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame will recognize the former pitcher with a Diamond 9 award, to be given during the Hall’s upcoming Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company.
The luncheon is at 11 a.m. May 18 at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield. (Ticket information is below.)
“The men I looked up to throughout my career are my high school football coach, Doug Potts, and my junior year Legion coach, Randy Brashears,” Wilson said. “Coach Potts taught me more than just football. He taught me life. Coach Brashears was as competitive as I was, but he didn’t mind taking you down a notch ‘when you were too big for your britches.’”
Wilson will be among elite company on May 18.
The Hall is naming former Missouri State University baseball coach and athletic director Bill Rowe a Missouri Sports Legend – his bronze bust will be unveiled – and will induct three individuals: former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, longtime Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs groundskeeper George Toma and Mansfield High School baseball coach Doug Jones.
Wilson is among the Diamond 9, a group of former high school, college and professional players who made contributions in baseball or softball.
Wilson was an All-Central Ozark Conference and All-State selection for Bolivar High School before graduating in 1973. A pitcher whose favorite player was St. Louis Cardinals fireballer Bob Gibson, he compiled an impressive, 28-3 record in his final three seasons.
Along the way, Wilson helped the 1972 team to the state quarterfinals and the 1973 team to the district championship game. He also played for Humansville American Legion as a junior and Buffalo’s American Legion team as a senior.
It was during that senior year when Wilson no-hit Everton, striking out 20 of 21 batters. In Legion ball that summer, he suffered three losses – two to mighty Hillcrest, which was en route to its third consecutive Legion state championship game.
He received athletic scholarship offers from Southwest Baptist University and Northeastern Oklahoma State but instead signed with the Detroit Tigers in the spring of 1974. He suffered a shoulder injury, however, cutting short his career.
“My favorite memories were actually all my experiences on a ball field,” Wilson said. “The relationships that you have with your teammates will last a lifetime.”
Among those experiences was Wilson being asked to use a rubber-coated baseball in a rainy game against Stockton.
“And me, with my ultimate wisdom, thought I could throw a breaking ball to Terry Chambers. He hit it 450 feet,” Wilson said with a laugh. “Note to self – you cannot throw a breaking ball with a rubber-coated baseball. I got beat 1-0.”
Wilson did go on to play more than a decade in the American Softball Association slow-pitch circuit. He managed and played for the Bolivar MFA Oilers that won the Missouri state men’s major in 1985 as the Oilers qualified for the national tournament. He has been a longtime employee at Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company.
Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company
When: 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 18
Where: University Plaza Convention Center, Springfield
Honorees: Missouri State University baseball coach/athletic director Bill Rowe to be named a Missouri Sports Legend; Inductions of St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Chiefs groundskeeper George Toma, and Mansfield High School baseball coach Doug Jones
Diamond 9 awards: Marin Whorton Cooney (Ozark High School/Missouri Southern), Sophia Alexander Denning (Strafford High School/Drury); Bob Detherage (Hillcrest High School/Kansas City Royals); Bill Helfrecht (Glendale High School/Missouri State), Brent Maggard (Sparta High School/Crowder/Southern Arkansas), Kristen Marshall (Glendale High School/William Jewell), Troy McMain (Willard High School), Christian Overstreet (Nixa High School/Missouri State), and Tom Wilson (Bolivar High School/Detroit Tigers).
Tickets: Individual ticket is $40. Head table ticket is $100. A table of eight is $400 and includes an autographed print along with associate sponsor recognition in the printed program. Congratulatory ads and other sponsorships are available. Call the Hall of Fame at 417-889-3100.