George Leroy Wiltse was born on September 7, 1879 in New York City. Wiltse earned the nick name Hooks, due to his hooking curveball, he was one of the few pitchers of the dead Ball Era to use a curve more effectively than his fast ball. He began his career, pitching in the New York State league for two seasons with the Troy Trojans winning twenty games. In 1904 he joined the major leagues and pitched for John McGraw’s New York Giants. He set a record that stood for 73 years by winning the first 12 decisions of his career. He would go 13-3 with a .813 winning percentage, and posting a 2.84 ERA.
Hooks went on to two consecutive 15 win seasons from there, with the best strikeout per nine inning ratio in the league. The Giants won the World Series in 1905, but Hooks did not pitch, due to the fact Christy Mathewson had thrown three shutouts & the other three starts were made by Joe McGinnity & Red Ames.
On the Fourth of July in 1908 he had a perfect game going until he hit the last batter in the 9th inning with a pitch. He ended up pitching a ten inning no hitter instead winning it 1-0. For the season Wiltse pitched in 330 innings posting a 2.24 ERA with 118 strike outs.
He was 23-14 second on a staff with 37 game winner Christy Mathewson. He & Mathewson combined for 60 of the Giants 98 wins on the season. Together the righty lefty duo, combined for 435 Giants wins over an 11 year period. Together they would win four pennants & one World Series title. He followed that up with another 20 win season (20-11) posting a career low of 2.00 ERA.
Over his first six seasons his ERA gradually had gotten lower.
He also made relief appearances, and although his number of what we today call saves, were very low, he was still atop the league’s best each season. He saved a career best six games in 1906, and would total 33 in his career. He would put in two more winning seasons with the Giants (1911-1912), completing an 11 year career in New York.
In 1911 he pitched two games of relief in the World Series but allowed seven earned runs in just three innings. Over the next few seasons he was used as a relief pitcher & in 1915 went on to pitch in the Federal League going 3-5. He finished his career at 139-90 with 965 strike outs posting a 2.47 ERA pitching in 357 games & 2112 innings pitched.
Retirement: After his playing days he was a player manager in the minor leagues. Wiltse lived until 80 years old, passing away in Long Beach, New York in 1959.