He was just 5’6, a tightly wound ball of combustible power who still hold the record for most runs batted in during a single season. Hack Wilson was a household name during his heyday, a Prohibition era slugger who slugged baseballs and hecklers with equal enthusiasm.
While he made his name primarily with the Chicago Cubs during the late 1920s early 30s, he was a rookie from western Pennsylvania in 1924 when a photographer captured an image that captures his elevation to baseball’s biggest stage.
The 5×7″ photo of the New York Giants’ 24-year-old outfielder is making its auction debut in RMY Auctions’ August catalog.
While he would was born “Lewis Robert Wilson” he would forever be known as “Hack.” Well, maybe to everyone except the United Press International caption writer, whose copy on the back refers to him as “Whack.” Considering his propensity for knocking the stuffing out of the baseball, either one certainly fits.
The caption remains attached to the back of the photo, with a date of 9/29/24.
Wilson recorded 100 RBI in six different seasons. He made his debut with the Giants late in the 1923 season and hit .295 during that rookie season. It was on June 10 that the first documented use of his nickname was printed in the New York Times.
He was acquired by the Cubs after the 1925 season and in 1930, drove in 191 runs, a record that still stands. His 56 homers remained a National League record for 56 years.
His drinking and a tendency to brawl probably led to a premature end to his Cubs career in 1934.
Wilson died poor at age 48 after a fall at his home. His hitting exploits were finally recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee, which elected him in 1979, many years after his death.
The photo is one of more than 500 in an auction set to close this weekend at RMYAuctions.com.