DePaul Part of World Series History Thanks to Wilhoit
CHICAGO - Just imagine a student-athlete from DePaul making it to the Major Leagues and ultimately playing in the World Series.
Most folks can't remember or may never have realized that back in the early 1900s DePaul actually had a baseball team.
There was an extraordinarily talented three-sport athlete named Joe Wilhoit who starred on the baseball team as well as competing on the DePaul's track and football teams.
Yes, DePaul had a football team back in those days. Wilhoit played baseball in the 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1911seasons.
At 6-foot, 2-inches and 175 pounds, Wilhoit was a well-proportioned combination of speed and athleticism back in an era when athletes weren't anywhere near the physical dimensions of today's players.
For his professional baseball accomplishments that included four seasons in Major League Baseball and two at-bats in the 1917 World Series---against the White Sox no less---Wilhoit is being posthumously inducted into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Wilhoit's most remarkable achievement might be the 69-game hitting streak he put together while playing for the Wichita, Kansas minor-league team in the Western League during the 1919 season.
The longest hitting streak in the history of professional baseball began innocuously enough with a single on June 14. Wilhoit would go on to hit safely for the next 9 ½ weeks, finally going hitless in a game on Aug. 19.
The second-longest hitting streak in pro baseball history was Joe DiMaggio's 61-game mark while playing for the Pacific Coast League's San Francisco Seals, foreshadowing his Major League record 56-game streak with the New York Yankees.
Wilhoit's hitting streak is actually the longest in all of organized baseball (Major League Baseball, minor leagues and college) and is featured in the popular anthology "Ripley's Believe It Or Not."
During that streak, the left-handed hitting Wilhoit went 153-for-297 for a .515 batting average with four home runs, nine triples and 24 doubles. Nicknamed "The Wichita Wonder," Wilhoit had two or more hits in 50 of those games.
Let's remember this took place long before expansion had watered down the big-league landscape, and minor-league baseball was played at a pretty high level.
It happened at the tail-end of his career as Wilhoit finished up playing six games with the Boston Red Sox that season and shared a clubhouse with a fellow named Babe Ruth.
Wilhoit came up to "The Show" in 1916 as a 30-year-old back-up right-fielder with the Boston Braves, playing in a career-high 116 games with 383 at-bats and 426 plate appearances.
He batted .230 that season with 13 doubles, four triples and two home runs among his 88 hits while stealing 18 bases. In addition, he had 38 RBIs and scored 44 runs.
The DePaul alumnus suited up for the Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Giants in 1917, playing in a combined 97 games with 70 hits in 246 at-bats for a .285 batting average.
Playing for MLB Hall-of-Fame manager John McGraw, Wilhoit pinch-hit in games two and six of the 1917 World Series won by the White Sox in six games. He walked in one appearance and in the other, Wilhoit lined into a double play on a shot caught by Buck Weaver who would later be banned from baseball for failing to report the infamous Black Sox scandal to authorities during the 1919 World Series.
Wilhoit played in 64 games for the Giants in 1918, batting .274 in 135 at-bats with three doubles, three triples and 15 RBIs. He had six hits in 18 at-bats with the Red Sox in 1919 after that memorable hitting streak in Wichita.
He finished with a career batting average of .257, and among his 201 hits were 23 doubles, nine triples and three home runs. Wilhoit scored 93 runs in his career, drove in 73 runs and stole 28 bases.
Wilhoit was born Dec. 20, 1885 in Hiawatha, Kansas and died on Sept. 25, 1930 in Santa Barbara, Calif. His baseball uniforms can be viewed on a Baseball Hall of Fame on-line exhibit called "Dressed to the Nines."
His great-nephew, David Wilhoit, has created a website called Joe Willhoit.com with information and photos of his great-uncle's baseball career.