Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Can One Great Season Get You Into The Hall Of Fame? It Did For Hack Wilson
His name is Hack Wilson. He played 6 full seasons in a career spanning 12 seasons. He ended his career with 1461 hits, 244 home runs and 1063 RBIs. Oh and by the way, he's a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many would argue that even 12 seasons is too short a career for Hall of Fame consideration. Only very special players, the likes of Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax or Kirby Puckett make the Hall of Fame with condensed careers. And these players put up Hall of Fame numbers throughout their short careers, which were cut short by forces beyond their control. Wilson put up Hall of Fame-caliber numbers in only 6 of his 12 seasons.
So how can Wilson play only 6 full seasons and parts of 6 others and get enshrined, when guys like Tony Oliva had similar short careers and been overlooked?
The answer is simple--1930.
In 1930, Chicago Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson, had what is probably the greatest season in National League history and one of the best ever overall. That year, he hit, a then-National League record, 56 home runs and drove in, a major league record, 191 runs. Yes, that's correct--191 RBIs.
His NL record (56) home runs, stood until 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa made it look minuscule. But his ML record, 191 RBIs, has remained untouchable. In 1979, the Veterans Committee found these numbers and their significance, hard to overlook and elected Wilson to the Hall of Fame.
What made Wilson's 56 home runs so special, was that prior to his feat, only Babe Ruth (54-1920; 59-1921; 60-1927; 54-1928), had ever hit more than 50 home runs in a single season. Wilson, can be argued, put the National League on the home run map. Today it may not seem like much, but in 1930, it was a monumental accomplishment. The National League finally had an answer to Babe Ruth. And Wilson obliterated Lou Gehrig's, then-RBI record (175 in 1927), which made it even sweeter.
There will always be debates about who should get elected and who shouldn't. The one thing, Hack Wilson's election has taught us, is that some numbers are bigger than others. For example, former Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder, Luis Gonzalez, once hit 57 home runs in a season, but his 57 are microscopic compared to the significance of Wilson's 56.
Even though the career numbers weren't there, with a name, like "Hack", and an eye-popping record, 191 RBIs, how can anyone deny Wilson the Hall of Fame? I wouldn't.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society