Those of us fortunate enough to be friends with Johnny Wilson are well aware that he has a gifted and talented brother.
We know this because Johnny has never been bashful about speaking up for Gene with pride and admiration. This is also how I learned of a recent honor bestowed on Gene — Johnny called me.
Gene made a trip to Kansas, the state where he excelled as a college athlete. The purpose was to be inducted into the first class of the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame.
For 37 years, Wilson was an umpire there, much of that time spent in American Legion games.
“I am proud and blessed to be given such an honor,” said Wilson this week in a phone interview. “I am blessed to have so many friends there and to have those people show me so much respect.” He was one of eight people honored in this first group.
“I enjoyed the experience of being an umpire for all those years,” said Wilson. “I was able to keep myself in top physical shape.”
His labor of love took him to much of the country. “I went to Oklahoma, Tennessee, Montana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Arkansas. I umpired in four American Legion World Series,” he said.
He has some definite ideas about what makes a good umpire at that level.
“You have to be consistent,” said Wilson. “You need to concentrate on the game. You also need to have a good rapport with the youth and the coaches.”
One of his favorite ways to deal with an upset coach coming onto the field to discuss a call with him was to tell that coach, “Thank you for coming out and sharing your anger with me.”
Another aspect of the American Legion experience was satisfying to Wilson.
“They really encourage families to come out and follow the players,” said Wilson. “So the parents really invest their time. It made you really want to do a good job for them and to earn their respect.”