Historical Hitter

Historical Hitters August 25: Hack Miller and Hack Wilson

A Pair of Hacks. A Quartet of Home Runs.

Yesterday Hack Wilson was mentioned as being one of two players before 1940 to have hit two home runs in one inning. Today’s hitters of the day are none other than Hack Wilson and another Hack and fellow Northsider, Hack Miller.

The days in question were August 25, 1922 and August 25, 1928, with the scene being no other than the venerable ballpark at Clark and Addison.

The game in 1922 was one of exceptionally poor pitching and perhaps a helping wind. The Cubs and Phillies played to a 26-23 Cubs victory. Adding to the drama the Phillies scored 14 runs in the last two innings and the game ended with the bases loaded in the ninth.  An estimated crowd of 7,000 witnessed 51 hits, 23 walks, 9 Errors, 3 hit batters, and 2 wild pitches. Of the 51 hits, 11 were doubles, 2 were triples, and 3 home runs. The Phillies eventually got even: 57 years later 23 runs were good enough against the Cubs in a 23-22 slugfest on May 17, 1979.

The home run hero of the August 25, 1922 game was the Cubs Left Fielder Hack Miller.  He hit his first three-run homer in the 10-run second inning and then repeated the feat in the fourth inning when the Cubs scored 14 more runs.

Hack Miller Cubs
Hack Miller

Six years later on August 25, 1928 future Hall of Famer and Center Fielder Hack Wilson also hit two home runs, a solo shot in the 2nd inning and a three run dinger in the 5th inning.  This game had more typical baseball scoring with the Cubs winning 7-3 against the hapless Beantown Braves. Coincidently both team had just 8 hits.

The sum total of the Cubs’ two Hacks at the bat on August 25 were 6 hits,  4 Home Runs, 10 RBI, and the resultant two Cubbie victories.

Both men were physically similar, short and very stocky, Miller 5’-6” and 190lbs and Wilson 5’-9” and 195 lbs. and thus both were nicknamed after a popular wrestler of the day, George Hackenschimdt.  Both batted and threw right handed. Both were noted as not being good fielders at all.

The baseball stats were similar too: Miller played just four years and only 334 games hit .324 with an OPS of .855 and OPS+ 121.  Wilson played longer (6 years and 850 games) and hit .322 with an OPS of 1.002 and an OPS+ 155.  Hack Wilson held the National League home run season title of 56 and still holds the MLB RBI season total at a whopping 191.

Hack Miller was one of the more colorful characters of the game who had great potential and yet never became a superstar. Hack Wilson, did realized his potential and today is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Hack Wilson Cubs
Hack Wilson

The annuals of baseball are full of colorful anecdotes of Hack Miller’s feats of beyond human strength. His SABR BIO Project author, Mick Sowell, noted that Miller entertained his teammates by pounding nails into wood using his hands and baseball cap. He was photographed holding a bat over his head with two teammates hanging on as barbell weights. Hack Miller was known as the strongest man in the Majors in his day.  He was known to use the one of heaviest bat recorded in baseball, a 65-oz tree trunk when he was in the minors. Once he got to the show, he was noted for using just a 47oz bat. Miller was reported saying that the 65-oz monolith did not sting his fingers when he hit.

Their careers did not overlap in Chicago but were sequential, Hack Miller’s playing days ended in 1925, Hack Wilson followed joining the Cubs in 1926.  For this reason, baseball historians suggest that Hack Wilson got his Hack nickname from Miller.

Sadly both men had fatal flaws. Miller suffered from the evil effects of food, for Wilson is was alcohol.  Miller was famously too fat, “so fat he hasn’t been able to perform,” according to the Chicago Daily Tribune and sadly by 1928 he was out of baseball. He returned to Oakland California where he found work at the docks eventually becoming a crew boss along the waterfront. He died at the good old age of 77. Hack Wilson’s alcohol consumption caused a rapid decline in his baseball skills and by 1934 was out of the majors, just four years after his mammoth season of 1930 when he hit 56 home runs with 191 RBI. He retired to Baltimore and just a week before his death he was interviewed on the radio urging people not to follow his example and beware the evils of drinking. He died way too young at the age of 48. An excerpt from this interview was record and reprinted and framed in the Cubs clubhouse in 1949.

“Talent isn’t enough. You need common sense and good advice. If anyone tries to tell you different, tell them the story of Hack Wilson. … Kids in and out of baseball who think because they have talent they have the world by the tail. It isn’t so. Kids, don’t be too big to accept advice. Don’t let what happened to me happen to you.”

It is fitting on this day August 25 that two colorful and powerful ballplayers of similar stature and both called Hack who wore the circle C badge hit two home runs in Wrigley Field that powered their teams to victory, below are the box scores.

Courtesy Baseball-almanac.com
Courtesy Baseball-almanac.com


Kepner Tyler’ (1979) The Wildest Game in Modern History,” by http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/16/the-wildest-game-in-modern-history/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1

SABR BioProject http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/9849e229 by Mike Sowell

Parker, Clifton B. (2000). Fouled Away: The Baseball Tragedy of Hack Wilson (Softcover ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-7864-0864-2.

Zingler, David (2001) Simply Baseball Notebook’s legends: Hack Wilson http://z.lee28.tripod.com/sbnslegends/hackwilson.html



Baseball Hall of Fame.org

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