Hack Wilson is remembered today as baseball’s all-time single season RBI record-holder. His 191-RBI campaign in 1930 is still the most prolific the game has ever known.
Wilson was born in 1900 to two alcoholic parents. His physique – an outsized head, small feet, short legs, and a flat face – are symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Before his temper and bad habits diminished his skill, Wilson was one of baseball’s best. For a five-year period starting in 1926, Wilson hit .331, slugged .619 and tallied a .419 on-base percentage. He averaged 35 homers, 142 RBI, 338 total bases. Wilson led the league in homers in four of those five seasons.
Hack’s 1930 season was one for the ages. He led the league in homers (56), RBI (191), walks (105), slugging percentage (.723), OPS (1.177), and OPS+ (177).
He also had 423 total bases – a figure surpassed only 7 times in baseball history. The only players to push past Wilson’s total are Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, and Sammy Sosa.
After Wilson’s career year, temper, heavy drinking and fighting led to a sharp decline in in 1931. Though he joined Ruth, Cy Williams, and Hornsby as the only big leaguers with 200 career homers his production fell drastically.
From his age-31 season in 1931 until he retired in 1934 he hit .272 and averaged 13 homers, and 67 RBI. He was out of the game by age 34.
After he left the game, the outfielder bounced from job to job. In 1948 he suffered a fall that rendered him unconscious. Six weeks later he died of internal hemorrhaging just 48 years old.
Shown here is a cut signature of the Cubs great who was elected to Cooperstown in 1979.