September 7, 1958: Death of Wally Gilbert, “Duluth’s Greatest Athlete”

On this day in Duluth in 1958, Duluthian Wally Gilbert, then considered “the greatest athlete ever developed in Duluth,” died of lung problems associated with his work at the U.S. Steel plant in Morgan Park. Born in Michigan on December 18, 1900, Gilbert moved to Duluth with his family four years later. He attended Denfeld High School, lettering in football, baseball, and basketball, and afterwards Indiana’s Valparaiso University, where he again played all three sports. He returned to Duluth to join the NFL’s Kelley-Duluth team in the fall while playing professional basketball on national touring teams. While he played on the legendary Duluth Eskimos squad and was also said to be an accomplished curler, his true talent was baseball. He played five seasons in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds, retiring in 1932. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957, The Sporting News named Gilbert the starting third baseman on its all-time Dodgers team. He later managed the Lumberjacks of Wausau Wisconsin, a Cleveland Indians farm team, and in 1942 went to work at the steel plant. There is much more to Gilbert’s story, and you can read it here.

Wally Gilbert. (Image: Zenith City Press)bert

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