Chicago Cubs: The Heroes of Wrigley Series presents Hack Wilson

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Brawling, partying – Hack had his demons

He was in the midst of what would be the best seasons of his career and during these glory years, Wilson was known for his combative streak and initiating fights with opposing players and fans, never the one to duck away from a confrontation.

On June 22, 1928, a near-riot broke out in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field while the Cubs were taking on the St. Louis Cardinals. He jumped into the box seats to attack a fan that had been heckling him over the course of the ballgame. An estimated 5,000 spectators in attendance flooded the field until the police were able to separate the combatants and restore order.

The following season, he took offense at a remark made by Cincinnati Reds pitcher, Ray Kolp. Wilson reached first base after a single then charged the Reds dugout, punching Kolp several times before they could be separated.

In late 1929, he signed a contract to fight Art Shires of the Chicago White Sox in a boxing match. He reneged on the deal only after Cubs president William Veeck, Sr. dissuaded Wilson with the help of Hack’s wife. “You have nothing to gain by fighting a defeated boxer,” Veeck added. Shires eventually lost that fight to Wilson’s replacement, George Trafton of the Chicago Bears.

Along with his frequent brawling, his penchant of festivities was also well documented. During the Roaring ‘20s, his love of drinking and partying did not endear him to Cubs owner William Wrigley, who abhorred alcohol consumption. Cubs manager Joe McCarthy acted as Wilson’s guardian angel, frequently bailing him out of trouble and stating his case to Wrigley. Wilson would insist that he never played drunk. “Hungover, yes… but never drunk,” he would tell the owner and reporters who led the exposes of Wilson’s personal life.