Hack Wilson was an outfielder
in the 1920s and 1930s best known for setting the single-season major league
record for runs batted in
He was born Lewis Robert Wilson in Elwood City, Pennsylvania, in 1900. He broke into organized baseball in 1921 as a catcher, and in 1922 and 1923 tore up the minor leagues and earned a promotion to the New York Giants.
In 1924, he batted .295 with 10 home runs, and had won the starting centerfielder's job by season's end. The Giants won the National League championship, and went on to lose to the Washington Senators in the World Series.
In 1925, Wilson didn't hit, and was sent to the minors. At season's end, the Chicago Cubs claimed him as a minor-league free agent. The Giants complained to the commissioner's office, to no avail.
Wilson immediately made a name for himself in Chicago, becoming a fixture in the middle of the lineup. In 1926, Wilson batted .321 with 109 runs batted in. He also led the National League in home runs with 21. Wilson led the league in home runs in 1927 and 1928, with 30 and 31, respectively.
In 1929, Wilson stepped up his offense, and hit 39 home runs and drove in 159 runs while batting .345. However, Wilson was the goat in the Cubs' World Series loss to Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics. In Game 4, with the Cubs leading 8-0 and on their way to tying the Series at 2-2, Wilson lost two fly balls in the sun, and the Athletics scored ten times in the seventh inning for the win and a 3-1 Series lead.
In 1930, Wilson came back with a vengeance and enjoyed his career year. In 155 games, he scored 146 runs, and batted in either 190 or 191. Either way, he set a major league record that hasn't been broken, or even threatened, in recent years. Wilson also hit a career-best 56 home runs while batting .356.
Wilson's numbers took a nosedive in the 1931 season, probably as a result of his alcoholism. He batted .261 with only 13 homers, and was dealt to the Brooklyn Dodgers at season's end.
In 1932, he enjoyed a brief renaissance with Brooklyn, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 123 runs. He slumped again in 1933 and 1934, and in mid-1934 was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he ended his career.
After leaving major league baseball, Wilson continued to play in the minors for several years. Beset by alcohol problems, he died in 1948 of an internal hemorrhage.
Wilson, in his prime, was one of the National League's most feared hitters. He stood only 5-foot-6, and weighed close to 200 pounds. One probably untrue story claims that he got his nickname because of his physical resemblance to a taxicab.
In a 12-year career, he hit 244 home runs and drove in 1062 runs, and batted .307. Despite his miscues in the 1929 Series, he was known as a good outfielder. He never hit a World Series home run, and ironically only drove in 3 runs in 12 Series contests.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.
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