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Hack Wilson’s Great Season

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    Juan Gonzalez of the Texas Rangers had 101 runs batted in in his team’s first eighty-seven games in 1998. For quite a while he appeared to have a good shot at Lou Gehrig’s American League season record of 184 RBIs, or even Hack Wilson’s major league mark. Gonzalez then ran into a post-All-Star game dry spell beginning on July 9, going nine consecutive games without an RBI and then missing games with an injury. He ended the season with 157 to lead the league.

    Press coverage rarely mentions Gehrig’s record, concentrating on Wilson’s, set with the Cubs in 1930. The official stats had long given the fireplug power hitter a total of 190 runs batted in during that heavy-hitting season, until research by SABR members proved that the correct total is 1191.

    In the second game of a July 28, 1930, double-header at Wrigley Field vs. the Cincinnati Reds, Wilson singled in the third inning to score Kiki Cuyler, but somehow the official sheets covering Wilson’s year failed to credit him with a run batted in in that game, giving it to Charlie Grimm instead. The incorrect total of 190 had stood for decades.

    There was another game that year in which Wilson would have been credited with an RBI under today’s scoring rules. In the second game of a doubleheader, again at Wrigley Field, this time vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, with Cuyler on third base and one out, Wilson hit a grounder to second baseman Fresco Thompson, who fumbled the ball for an error, Wilson reaching first safely, and Cuyler scoring. Cuyler had taken off for the plate when the ball was hit and scored easily. In 1931, a scoring rule was put into effect that allowed the official scorer to credit an RBI if in his judgment the baserunner would have scored, even if there were no error, but in 1930 no such rule was in effect. (Interestingly, the box score printed in the New York Times gives Wilson an RBI.)

    What follows are four charts with information about Wilson’s great season, including is a game-by-game survey of his 191 runs batted in.Who Scored how often on Hack’s RBIs:

    • Hack Wilson 56 (home runs)
    • Kiki Cuyler 53
    • Woody English 47
    • Footsie Blair 19
    • Cliff Heathcote 7
    • Rogers Hornsby 5
    • Les Bell 1
    • Sheriff Blake 1
    • Charlie Grimm 1
    • Danny Taylor 1

    Total 191

    RBIs by month

    Month Home Road Total

    • April 7 4 11
    • May 27 6 33
    • June 17 12 29
    • July 8 23 31
    • August 48 5 53
    • September 9 25 34
    • Totals 116 75 191

    RBIs by opponent

    Month Home Road Total

    • Boston 18 8 26
    • Brooklyn 12 15 27
    • Cincinnati 20 6 26
    • New York 15 11 26
    • Philadelphia 20 12 32
    • Pittsburgh 19 13 32
    • St. Louis 12 10 22

    Totals 116 75 191

    Interesting Facts

    The 53 RBIs in August are still the major league record for one month. By the way, the July 27 game was played in Cincinnati, not in Chicago. A peculiarity in the schedule had the Cubs play that single game against the Reds at Cincinnati; then the teams went to Chicago for three games.

    Rather surprisingly, the Cubs were shut out seven times in 1930. Wilson had 62 games without an RBI; his 191 came in 93 games.

    Wilson missed one game. He sat out the August 29 game vs. St. Louis because of a pulled muscle in his back, suffered the previous day when he went 0 for 7 in an extra-inning game.

    Longest string of games without an RBI: six (twice-June 25-30 and July 7-15).

    Longest string of games with an RBI: 11 (July 24-August 5; this streak includes the July 28 second game with the missing RBI.)

    Rogers Hornsby broke his leg on May 30.

    Kiki Cuyler had 148 singles, 72 walks, 50 doubles and 17 triples. Woody English had 147 singles, 100 walks, 36 doubles and 17 triples. These two stars always batted before Wilson, giving him lots of opportunities.

    Walt Wilson is a former office manager who has been researching baseball for more than a quarter-century.

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