Mar. 03, 2017
Chicago Cubs Star Hack Wilson
Hack Wilson was a hard drinking, hard hitting outfielder, quick with his fists, that made for one the most colorful players of his day. At only 5-6, he would display power not seen in the National League at that time. Wilson broke in the major leagues in 1923 with the New York Giants. In his official rookie season of 1924, the Giants would win the pennant, but Wilson struggled in the World Series hitting only .233. In May of 1925, Wilson was slumping so badly he lost his job in left field. His slump continued most of the season, and was sent to the minor league Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association.
The Chicago Cubs wallowing in last place would claim Hack Wilson that winter on waivers when the Giants failed to protect him. The Giants right-fielder Ross Youngs at the time offered the prophetic words "They let go the best outfielder I ever played beside, and they're going to regret."
Getting claimed on waivers by the Cubs Wilson would win the center field job, and is his first season on the north side of Chicago, he hit a league leading 21 home runs with 109 RBI. The Cubs went from last to fourth place finishing 10 games over .500. Over the next three seasons he would hit 30 or more home runs including leading the league in 1927-1928. The 39 home runs he hit in 1929 would help lead the Cubs to the National League pennant. In 1930, Wilson would have an offensive season for the ages. He would hit 56 home runs, a first in the National League with a major league baseball record of 191 RBI. The RBI record is believed by many to be a record that will never be broken. He finished the season with a slash line of .356/.454/.723.
After the great season of 1930, Wilson's drinking became very heavy. He reported for spring training in 1931 twenty pounds overweight. He went into a long slump during the season, and the last straw for the Cubs came when he got into a fight with reports on a train in Cincinnati. He was suspended by the Cubs for the rest of the season. He had hit only .261 with 13 home runs. In December the Cubs shipped the troubled outfielder to the St. Louis Cardinals. They in turn traded him the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He bounced back in Brooklyn during the 1932 season hitting 23 home runs with 123 RBI. His career like his drinking was spiraling out of control. He would retire from baseball in 1935. Wilson died broke in 1948, National League President Ford Frick paid for the funeral when Wilson's wouldn't claim the body. Wilson would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979 by the veterans committee.
In his final interview with CBS Radio Wilson left us with these words of advice: "Talent isn't enough. You need common sense and good advice. If anyone tries to tell you different, tell them the story of Hack Wilson. ... Kids in and out of baseball who think because they have talent they have the world by the tail. It isn't so. Kids, don't be too big to accept advice. Don't let what happened to me happen to you."