In 1982 Willie Wilson became the first switch-hitter to win a batting title since Mickey Mantle in 1956, batting .332 with a league-leading 15 triples. It was one of six times he hit over .300 and the second of five times he paced the American League in triples.
Wilson was perfectly suited for the fast artificial turf of Royals Stadium, where he played his home games for 15 seasons from 1976-1990. Wilson was generally regarded as the fastest man in baseball during his prime – his speed from first to third was remarkable. Growing up in New Jersey, Wilson was an amazing high school athlete, starring in four sports: baseball, football, basketball, and track. As a first round pick of the Royals, Wilson quickly moved his way through the system, using his speed to steal bases and also accumulate dozens of infield hits each season. By 1978 he was squeezing his way into the KC outfield, alongside Amos Otis and Al Cowens. Though he frequently spelled Otis when the center fielder was injured, Wilson started as the Royals’ left fielder before replacing Otis in center for most of the 1980s. He was the leadoff hitter for Kansas City on the 1980 and 1985 AL pennant winning teams. In all, he hit .289 with nearly 2,000 hits as a Royal and his 612 stolen bases are a franchise record. His best season on the base paths was 1979 when he pilfered 83 bags. His career stolen base percentage of more than 83% ranks in the top 15 all-time.
Wilson spent two seasons each with the Oakland A’s and Chicago Cubs at the tail end of his career, serving as a capable fourth outfielder and platoon player. He retired after the strike-shortened 1994 season with 2,207 hits, 147 triples (the highest mark for a player who debuted after 1955), and 668 stolen bases.