Friday, November 8, 2013

Hack Wilson

Hack Wilson: Prohibition Era Slugger
I'm working on a short biography of this guy for SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. He's Hack Wilson, a Hall of Fame outfielder who played for the Giants, Cubs, Phillies, and Dodgers during his short  career in the major leagues. He had one of the greatest five-year stretches of seasons from 1926-30 (when he played for the Chicago Cubs) in all of baseball history, and it's largely on the basis of those seasons that he's in the Hall. During that time he averaged 35 home runs a season, 142 RBI, and slash stats of .331/.419/.612--that's batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage. He holds a record that most baseball people think will never be surpassed. In 1930, he had an astonishing 191 RBIs. He also led the league with 56 home runs, a National League record that stood for 68 years until the steroid-juiced cheaters of the late 1990s and early 21st century, You can peruse all of Wilson's career numbers here.

But he's a tragic figure who drank himself out of the game after these magnificent achievements and died a penniless alcoholic at age 48. Guys from bars he frequented in Baltimore had to pass the hat to get enough money up to bury the guy, and the undertaker donated the grey suit in which he was laid to rest. Like every single one of us, his life story is inherently interesting. When I get through writing the piece, I'll post a link to it here.
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