Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Happy Birthday Hack

~Hack Wilson 1900 (Cubs 1926-1931)
Hack led the league in homers four of his six seasons in Chicago (Photo: 1928 Baseball Card), and is still remembered for his record 1930 season when he drove in 191 runs. That year he was so fearsome at the plate, he inspired this poem in The Sporting News. (author unknown)

“How do you pitch to Wilson?”
Asked the rookie up from the sticks,
“I’m up to learn the hitters,
And know their little tricks.”
“I’ll tell ya,” said the veteran,
who had pitched for many years,
“When ya dish up Hack yer fast one,
You’d better watch your ears.
“He’ll drive that agate at ya,
Like ya never seen before
He’ll learn ya in a jiffy,
Not to show him speed no more.
“N’then y’ll try to curve him,
N’he’ll crash one off yer shins:
If ya keep on throwin hookers,
He’ll tear off both yer pins.
“N’then ya’ use year change of pace,
He might strike out on that;
N’perhaps he’ll ride the ball so far,
You don’t know where it’s at.
“I’ll tell ya son,” the veteran said,
“When ya see that sawed-off squirt,
Just flip one towards the platter,
N’take care ya’ don’t get hurt.”

But during his Cubs days Hack was known for more than just slugging the baseball. He was known as a notorious hellraiser. Wilson had several run-ins with the law, his teammates, opposing players, and even fans. For instance…

*In his first season with the Cubs (1926), Hack Wilson was arrested and charged with drinking beer in violation of the Prohibition Act. Four cops arrived at his friend’s house, and he tried to escape out the side door. While he was attempting to escape, his friend (a woman named Lottie Frain) threw a bookend at the cops. Wilson was caught and arrested.

*One night Wilson and his teammate Pat Malone were walking down the hallway of their hotel, and Wilson laughed. Someone in a hotel room mimicked his laugh. Wilson and Malone broke into the room and beat the hell out of four men, until all of them were out cold. One of the men was still standing and Malone kept punching. Wilson pointed out that he was already knocked out. “Move the lamp and he’ll fall.” Malone moved the lamp, and the man fell to the ground.

*In 1928, Wilson charged into the stands to fight a milkman who had been heckling him throughout the game. 5000 fans stormed the field during the melee. Gabby Hartnett and Joe Kelly had to physically pull Wilson off the milkman. Hack was fined $100 for that.

*In 1929, Wilson got into two fistfights with players on the Reds, and was suspended for three games. In the first fight, he charged into the Red’s dugout to punch Red’s pitcher Ray Kolp…after he had just gotten a single. He was tagged out in the dugout. The second fight happened that same night at the train station with Red’s pitcher Pete Donohue—who was trying to stop Wilson from attacking Kolp again. Hack punched Donohue in the face twice.

*Joe McCarthy knew how to handle Hack Wilson and keep him functioning. He once took a worm and dropped it in a glass of whiskey. The worm quickly died. “Now what does that prove?” asked Joe. Wilson thought about it for a while and replied, “It proves that if you drink whiskey, you won’t get worms!”

Near the end of his Wilson’s life he appeared on a network radio show where he spoke about the effects of “Demon Rum.” This was just a few months before his death from an internal hemorrhage on November 23, 1948. He was only 48. His body was unclaimed for three days before National League president Ford Frick paid for the funeral.