Thursday, January 2, 2014

Short people...

                       I was looking at a baseball website, (whose name I will not reveal) trying to see who the shortest home run hitters were. This site had two different lists; one was called "Shortest home run hitters", which included many 6 foot plus players.  After a couple of people complained, they tried to rectify the situation by putting out a list called "Greatest home run hitters under 6 feet."  On this list, there were such short players as 5' 7" Joe Morgan and 5' 9" Matt stairs, who weren't included on the previous list.

              One player who was on neither list-and the reason I looked this up in the first place-was Hack Wilson.  At 5' 6" tall, he would have been the shortest player to be included on either.  The omission was shocking to me, to tell you truth.  At first, I thought it was one of those, "I didn't live through it" kind of things, but there were a decent amount of old timers there, including Mel Ott, who was Wilson's contemporary. 

              Wilson hit only 224 home runs, but didn't play all that long, and for a time,  was one of the most feared hitters in the league.  His 1930 season alone should have placed him on the list; 56 homers-a National league record for almost seven decades- and 191 RBIs, which is still the Major League record.  Granted, it was the '30s, where everyone seemed to be hitting it out, and he was playing half his games in hitter friendly Wrigley field, but still, those are eye popping numbers.

          Also, it wasn't like he was .230 hitter... he  batted .356 for the year ( on top of his 56 homers and 5' 6" frame, which is a little weird).  While 1930 was his best year, there was a good four, five year period that Wilson put up awesome numbers for the Cubs, leading the league in homers a few years, and RBIs...although he did lead the league in strikeouts a couple of times, which is probably where his nickname came from(actually, there are many theories, one is that Giants manager John McGraw called him hack because his body was shaped like a taxi cab).

            He started his career in the early '20s with the New York Giants, and got to play in the 1924 World series against the Washington Senators, making a costly error in one of the games that led to a loss.  He was never a good fielder, and probably would have been a D.H. if he had played in the modern era. You might say he was almost the prototype for Dave Kingman...minus the rat giving abilities...After his gaffe in the series, he was shipped to the Cubs. He then ended his career with Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

               Of course, all of us have our weaknesses. Hack's was alcohol, which not only shortened his career, but also shortened his life, dying at the age of 48 of pneumonia. There was also a saying that at 5' 6" and 190 lbs, Wilson was built along the lines of a beer keg, and not unfamiliar with it's contents... although I would say he looked like more of a whiskey drinker.  He ended up bar tending outside of Ebbets filed, singing for drinks, and getting in trouble. Either way, he still is the shortest player to hit homers at such a pace, albeit briefly.  He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1979.

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