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

Chicago Cubs: A season for the history books

1930 marked the thunderous peak of Hack Wilson’s career, in what is still considered one of the best offensive seasons in Major League history. By mid-July, Wilson had accumulated 82 RBI and by September 15, he had 176, already breaking Lou Gehrig’s single-season record of 173 that was established just three years before.

He ended the season with an astonishing 190 runs batted in. However, in 1999, an error was discovered in a box score from a doubleheader and was officially increased to 191. It remains one of baseball’s most enduring records that seems untouchable. Only Lou Gehrig (185 in 1931) and Hank Greenberg (1984 in 1937) ever came close to reaching the feat. The most recent best effort came in 1999 when Manny Ramirez drove in 165.

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Wilson also ended the season with an NL-record 56 home runs, a league-leading .723 slugging percentage, a .454 on-base percentage, and a .356 batting average. Wilson’s home run total of 56 persevered until 1998, when it was broken by both Sammy Sosa (66) and Mark McGwire (70).

His 1930 success only fueled his drinking habits more and, by spring training the following season, he reported 20 pounds overweight. Major League Baseball also introduce a heavier ball after the entire league batted over the .300 mark. MLB also raised the stitching to allow pitchers to gain a better grip and throw sharper curveballs.

Along with his struggles adapting to the new ball, Wilson also complained to new Cubs manager (and former teammate) Rogers Hornsby for not allowing him to “swing away” as his old manager Joe McCarthy did before leaving the team to pilot the New York Yankees. He managed to hit his 200th career home run that season at his old stomping grounds, Ebbets Field, becoming only the fourth player to ever accomplish that feat behind Babe Ruth, Cy Williams and Hornsby.

However, his prolonged slump continued and he was benched by late May. William Wrigley began to express interest in trading the depleted slugger. After a physical tussle with Cincinnati reporters on Sept. 6, he was suspended, without pay, for the remainder of the season. At the time of his suspension, he was only hitting .261 with 13 home runs in 112 games, which was the production he had in the month of August 1930 alone. In addition to his suspension of that season, he amassed nearly $6,500 in fines throughout the year.