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Hack Wilson: the hard-living Chicago Cubs star whose epic 1930 endures

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With over 40 home runs, nearly 100 field goals and over a third of the season yet to be played, Aaron Judge is poised to end the best season of his mighty career.

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However, the New York Yankees slugger will have to pick up speed to match Hack Wilson, one of the greatest and most violent hitters in Major League Baseball history and one of the sport’s most unassailable records.

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the judge joined exclusive club last month when he hit over 40 home runs by the end of July. With a strong summer ending, the outfielder could surpass Wilson’s career-best 56 home runs set with the Chicago Cubs in 1930 when he was 30—the same age Judge is now.

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But it’s impossible to imagine that anyone – not Judge, not Pete Alonso, not Jose Ramirez, not one modern striker – would not break Wilson’s record of 191 runs. This, too, was achieved with the Cubs 92 years ago. August 1930 was a monstrous month for Hack: 113 throws, 45 hits, 13 home runs, 53 RBI.

Wilson finished the year with 146 runs scored and a .356 batting average to go along with that mind-blowing 191 RBIs. 56 homers was a National League record that stood for 68 years until surpassed by Mark McGwire in 1998.

Lou Gehrig had 185 runs for the Yankees in 1931, which remains the second-highest RBI in a single season. Wilson was initially credited with 190, but a rather belated review determined that the RBI due to go to Haq was erroneously issued at the time to a teammate and his score was reinforced to 191 in 1999.

Driving in hordes of teammates is an old-fashioned habit now that on-base percentages and average runs per game are generally lower than they were before the war. Among 30 largest In just one year of the RBI, only five occurred after 1949, all in the “steroid era.” Since Alex Rodriguez (156) with the Yankees in 2007, no one has gone over 150 runs.

Wilson certainly took drugs, although not the kind that increased performance. Born in the steel country of Pennsylvania, his parents were alcoholics, and Hack followed suit. He always insisted that he never took the field drunk. During a hangover? It was different.

“I’ve never drunk on game day after 11 a.m. in my life,” he once said. For Clifton Blue Parker, author of Wilson’s excellent biography Fuled Away, he “was the epitome of a Roaring ’20s baseball player primed for an age of American excess.”

Hack’s mother died of a ruptured appendix when he was seven years old. He left school at 16 and worked 12-hour days at a print shop before signing with the minor league Martinsburg Blue Sox in West Virginia. He broke his leg on the opening day of his first professional season, prompting him to move from catcher to outfield after his recovery. Wilson worked as a label stapler in socks factory off-season and married at age 23 Virginia Riddleberger, a divorcee 12 years his senior.

Wilson made his major league debut with the New York Giants in 1923, acquired his nickname (his real name was Lewis), and drew comparisons to an out-of-town batsman named Babe Ruth in appearance, batting prowess, and enjoyment of extracurricular activities. classes.

His unusual physique fascinated modern sportswriters, while later analysts suggested that it was caused by fetal alcohol syndrome. Hack was only 5 feet 6 inches tall, but heavy, with a large head, tiny feet, and small arms and legs. Baseball writer Lee Allen wrote in 1961 that Wilson was a comic figure, “a chubby Goliath, a gorilla in the shape of a red-faced man” who “looked like a circumcised Babe Ruth”.

Acquired by the Cubs in late 1925, he thrived in the Prohibition-era bedlam of Chicago, where, Parker wrote, he “was on friendly terms with Al Capone.” One day he was arrested when the police ransacked a bar. The story goes that he tried to escape through the window, but got stuck halfway through. “A few days later, standing in line,” Parker recalled, “he got into a fight with two policemen. On charges of disorderly conduct, he was taken to the police station, where the captain, a baseball fan, dropped the charges and effectively ordered the cops to apologize.”

Early intelligence report Haq is said to have been described as having a “killing propensity”. Parker wrote that Wilson once drunk trashed a hotel room in Boston and shoved a judge. He hit one Cincinnati Reds pitcher during a game and knocked out another at a train station later that night. The Chicago Tribune reported that during a game at Wrigley Field in 1928, Wilson rushed into the stands and “strangled” a screamer. Wilson was fined $100 by the National League and a fan. milkmansued Hack and the Cubs for $50,000.

Although he hit 39 home runs and hit .345 with 159 RBIs in 1929, Wilson’s season was defined by blunders in Game 4 of the World Series that helped the Philadelphia Athletics overcome an eight-run deficit and win the title.

Injured by mistakes, Wilson bounced back in his record-setting 1930 campaign to become the highest paid player in the National League with an annual salary of $33,000 (equivalent to about $650,000 today). He seemed to be the National League’s ingrained answer to the American League’s Ruth, with little media attention given to Baby, but his downfall was swift.

His drinking worsened and he fell out with tough and teetotal new player-manager Rogers Hornsby and was suspended after being accused of instigating a teammate who beat up a couple of reporters at a train station. In 1931, he hit a measly 13 home runs and 61 RBIs before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, who immediately sent him to the Brooklyn Dodgers. A strong season proved to be only a temporary return to form, and Wilson played his last major league game for the Philadelphia Phillies at the age of 34.

He returned to Martinsburg and opened a pool hall, but his life took a spiral. Wife filed for divorce accusation contract a “disgusting venereal disease”. He quarreled with their son. And the money is gone.

“Hack was a warm, jovial and full-blooded man, well malted and seasoned with life,” recalled Bill Vick, Jr., son of the Cubs president and team owner, quoted by Peter Golenbock in Wrigleyville.

“Hack’s only problem was that he was overly generous. He gave everything he had. Is always. His money, the shirt off the back and things like that. In those days, Chicago was a city for kids. Hack’s drinking buddies, a noisy crew of two dozen Chicagoans, were waiting for him after the game and hobbled to the taverns on the north and west sides. Hack got every check.”

Broken and broken, he tried to work as a bartender, but was mocked by the customers. He found work at an aircraft factory in Baltimore, then as a park laborer and pool locker.

Penniless, Wilson died of an apparent alcohol-related illness in Baltimore at the age of 48 in 1948, three months after Ruth succumbed to cancer. Although he was inducted inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, he is remembered for both his mistakes and his triumphs.

A week before his death, he gave a sad interview to a radio station. Parts were deciphered, framed and published on the wall in the Cubs club as a cautionary tale. “There are a lot of kids in and out of baseball who think that just because they have some sort of natural talent, they are holding the world by the tail,” Wilson said. “This is not true. In life, besides talent, you need a lot of other things. Things like good advice and common sense.”


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