Duane Lewis Wilson was born in Wichita, Kansas on June 29, 1934. Even as a lefty pitcher at Wichita East High School, he had a knack for racking up strikeouts. In an American Legion game on July 14, 1950, he struck out 19 as Wichita rolled over Salina 7-1. In 1952, he set a Kansas tournament record with 17 strikeouts, as East defeated Wyandotte 4-3. He also threw a no-hitter against Planeview that year.
Duane was signed by the Boston Red Sox shortly after graduation, and his pitching skills carried over to the minors quite well. The 18-year-old won 9 games for the High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms of the North Carolina State League to wrap up the 1952 season, and then he won 13 games in 1953 and ’54.
He made it as high as Triple-A Louisville in 1955, where he worked mainly as a reliever. His young age (21) and prior heavy workload have have led the Sox organization to ease up on his usage that season. He returned to starting in the lower minors, and while he repeatedly picked up double-digit win totals, his walk numbers were alarming.
He joined the Red Sox in spring training in 1958 and ended up spending the early part of the season with the Double-A Memphis Chicks of the Southern League. He won 9 games with a 2.50 ERA and was rewarded with a promotion to the major leagues that July.
Duane’s major-league debut came in a start against the Baltimore Orioles on July 3, 1958. It qualifies as a quality start, as he allowed just one unearned run in 6 innings. However, he battled out of trouble the entire game, putting runners on base in five of those innings via 8 hits and 5 walks. He was relieved by Leo Kiely, with the Red Sox leading 2-1. Unfortunately, The Orioles rallied and won 7-5 in 15 innings, leaving Duane with a no-decision.
His second start on July 12th against the Chicago White Sox was a short one. He quickly loaded the bases in the first inning. Ray Boone brought in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Al Smith followed it up with an RBI single. That was enough for manager Mike “Pinky” Higgins, who pulled Duane out of the game. He was spared a loss when Frank Malzone tied the game at 5 all in the fourth inning with a 2-run homer. The White Sox then scored 8 unanswered runs to cruise to a 13-5 win. It was Duane’s last appearance in the majors.
Days later, the Red Sox optioned him to the Minneapolis Millers. He struggled there, with a 6-5 record.
Duane’s two games with the Red Sox resulted in a 5.68 ERA in 6-1/3 innings of work. He allowed 10 hits and 7 walks, while striking out 3 batters. He had two plate appearances, striking out once and laying down a sacrifice bunt once. He spent 1959 with the Minneapolis Millers as a swingman and had a 3-3 record and 3.00 ERA in 8 starts and 16 relief appearances. It was his last year in pro ball; he had an 85-70 record in eight minor-league seasons with 730 strikeouts in 1,216 innings.
He stayed in Wichita starting in 1960, pitching for the champion Kansas squad Weller Indians in the National Baseball Congress Tournament. He continued to play on baseball and fast-pitch softball teams over the next several years, and his hitting was almost as potent as his pitching. He also found a career in finance, working for Interstate Finance Co. and Aetna Finance Co., both located in Wichita. He became manager of the finance loan department at Stockyards National Bank in 1966. By 1979, he was vice president of the United American State Bank of Wichita.
Duane Wilson was inducted into the Kansas Baseball Association’s Hall of Fame in 2005, along with Gene Mauch, Jack Banta and minor-leaguer Jim Thomas. He died on November 9, 2021 at the age of 87.