Hack of a Record
Lewis Robert Wilson was born on April 26, 1900. He was five foot six and a stocky 190 pounds. In the year 1930 he set the RBI per season record at 191, he will forever be known as “Hack.”
Wilson was an ornery beast of a man, he often started fights with spectators. He started his career with the New York Giants in 1923. After three lackluster seasons in New York, he was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs. In his first year as a Cub, he blossomed when he hit a league-leading 21 homers. He also drove in 109 RBI’s and finished with a stellar batting average of .321 and he led the league with 69 walks. That year he placed fifth in the MVP voting. The next couple of seasons his power numbers increased. Though, he finished 12th and 7th in the MVP voting. Even though he led the league in homers in both seasons. Then, in 1929 he drove in an astonishing 159 runs; only a handful of players had ever driven 150 in one season. Yet, Hack finished 8th in the MVP voting.
The 1930 Chicago Cubs were an exciting and rebellious team. They entered the season as defending National League Champs after losing the 1929 World Series in five games to the powerful Jimmie Foxx and his Philadelphia Athletics. They were redemption seekers and Hack was the bulldog in the middle. This was a team that boasted three 120 RBI guys. Catcher Gabby Hartnett and outfielder Kiki Cuyler drove in 122 and 134 runs respectively. Kiki also lead the league with 37 stolen bases. Then there was Hack who crushed 56 homers. Only the Sultan of Swat had ever hit 50 in a season at that time. The big number however, was the 191 RBI’s which is still a record to this day.
How exactly does one go about driving in 191 runs in a single season? Would you believe after logging one RBI in the season opener, Wilson went without another one for the next five games? He was on pace for a 26 RBI season. He would go on to have two separate streaks of six games without an RBI during the season. At end of April, after 57 at-bats Wilson had just 11 RBI’s to his credit.
In May he did not produce an RBI in either of the first two games, but at the month’s end he driven in 33 for season total 44. He also never went back-to-back games without an RBI after those first two.
June started out in vicious fashion as Hack plated 11 runs in his first six games. The month ended with one of his six-game droughts and he only managed a meek 29 RBI’s. That was his lowest full-month total of the season.
July featured his other six-game RBI-less drought, yet he still managed 31 RBI’s thanks to 11 homers. That brought his season total to 104 in 370 at-bats.
August was thee month for Wilson. He produced 45 hits in 113 at-bats for a .398 batting average. He also had slugging percentage of .788, such beastly totals would have made preacher swear. Wilson walloped 13 homers and drove in a disgusting 53 runs in just 30 games.
September saw Wilson blast a measly 10 homers with 34 RBI’s, but the record was set. In 585 at-bats he scored 146 runs and had 208 hits. He finished with a modest 35 doubles and six triples. His batting average of .356 did not even crack the top ten. The 56 homers were seven more than anyone else and 191 RBI’s were 17 more than Lou Gehrig’s meager total of 174. He finished 5th in on-base percentage (.454), 2nd in slugging percentage (.723) and 3rd in OPS (1.177.)
And so, history will forever look up at the name Hack Wilson. The game is far too different now for such a record to be broken. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak will fall before this one.
Manny Ramirez drove in 165 in 1999 and Sammy Sosa drove in 160 in 2001. Before that though the last player to plated more than 160 runs was Jimmie Foxx in 1938 when he drove in 175. Hank Greenberg drove in 183 in 1937 and Lou Gehrig drove in 184 in 1931.
Hack did not win the MVP because there was not one given out that season due to financial constraints. One would think a player that led the league in homers and RBI’s would be a lock. Yet, in 1931 Lou Gehrig tied for the league lead in homers and produced the second highest single season RBI total with 184 but he did not win the MVP either, a pitcher named Lefty Grove did? It has been reported that the Baseball Writers Association of America unofficially named Hack the 1930 MVP. Other reports have some writers giving the honor to Bill Terry of the New York Giants who hit .401 in 1930. It can be argued that no one could have known that 191 RBI’s would still be a record today. Also the relevance of hitting .400 was probably not talked about like it is now.
The official BBWAA MVP ballots started in 1931. So that’s means every year prior to 1931 there is not an official MVP on record. MVP’s were handed out from 1922-29 but it was not necessarily legit or official and they were often met much controversy.
The Chalmers award (another controversial award) was created in 1910 when Hugh Chalmers of Chalmers Automotive promised to give a Chalmers Model 30 to the player with highest batting average at seasons’ end. After allegations of fudged box scores involving Nap Lajoie and Ty Cobb, it was reworked a year later and awarded to the most useful or valuable player. That award lasted till 1914 but it petered out because players were not able to win the award twice.
I would like to challenge the MLB and the BBWAA to give Hack Wilson his due by officially honoring him as the 1930 MVP or give it to Bill Terry. I just want it to be official. Also why stop there, let’s rework the history books and backdate all kinds of awards. We can even give Cy Young the Cy Young award!
Categories: FOR THE FUN OF IT!