December 18, 1900: Birth of noted Duluth athlete Wally Gilbert

On this day in 1900, future Duluth athletic stand-out Walter John “Wally” Gilbert was born in Oscoda, Michigan. According to Chuck Frederick’s Leatherheads of the North, “At Duluth Denfeld High School, Gilbert was dominant on the football field, basketball court, and baseball diamond. His reputation as an athlete grew when he and a couple of buddies went to Valparaiso University in Indiana. He was a halfback on the football team, earning All-American honors his senior year. He was a guard and forward on the basketball team and a third baseman on the baseball team. His senior year he captained the football, baseball, and basketball teams…. [In the 1920s] During the winter Gilbert played professional basketball on touring teams that included the Buffalo Germans, Duluth Tank Corps, Denver Tigers, and the Two Harbors All-Stars…. In the spring and summer, Gilbert played baseball. A third baseman, he worked his way through the minors playing in the North Dakota League for Bismarck, in the Western League for St. Joseph in Missouri, in the American Association for Minneapolis, and in the Southern Association for Atlanta. In 1928, he was sold by the New York Yankees to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Over five major-league seasons, including a 1932 campaign spent with the Cincinnati Reds, Gilbert batted .269, including .304 in 1929 and .294 in 1930. One season his fellow Dodgers named him “most popular.” He also played football in the fall, starring for the Duluth Kelleys and later the Duluth Eskimos. There’s a lot more to Gilbert’s story, and you can read about it here.

Wally Gilbert. (Image: Zenith City Press)