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Posted May 9, 2010
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Tiny Feet, an 18" collar and size 6 shoes juxtaposed with a barrel-chest, blacksmith arms and tree truck thighs and short legs. At 5'6" and weighing 195 pounds, he was a physical oddity that prompted Baseball Hall of Fame historian Lee Allen to view Lewis Robert Wilson, the subject of Clifton B. Parker's biography "Fouled Away" as follows: "There was something comic about Hack Wilson. He looked like a sawed-off Babe Ruth. He took a lot of ribbing from opposing bench jockeys, and writers called him the "Pudgy One", but there was no denying his talent and fans took to him immediately". Parker's book is filled with tragedy, showing how Hack Wilson, a man of alcoholic extremes and described by sportswriter Thomas Holmes as: "perhaps the most malicious mauler known to baseball science, the most incorrigible exponent of brute strength verses a pitched ball" could hit rock bottom nearly one year after winning Major League Baseball's Most Valuable Player Award. There are photos interlaced within this tragedy that can make the strongest of hearted cry. Wilson's only son and sole carrier of his bloodline, Robert Wilson, is shown with Hack throughout the book, the victim of a bitter divorce between Hack and his first wife, Virginia Riddleburger. The reader can see the love and pride Hack had in these photos for his only son and love of his life. When Hack died on November 23, 1948 in a Baltimore, MD. hospital with what the death certificate read as "internal hemorrhaging, pulmonary edema and cirrhosis of the liver", his body laid unclaimed for three days. When Robert was contacted about his father's death, his only response was "Am not responsible".
Like picking up a book about Lou Gehrig, the reader knows automatically that this story could only have a tragic ending. However, unlike the former, how many baseball fans have heard of Hack Wilson? And how did this man, a product of the roaring twenties, with Prohibition, Al Capone and the eventual Stock Market crash get the moniker "Hack"? Clifton Parker points out that it was either Wilson's resemblance to former Cub Lawrence H. "Hack" Miller or from an old time wrestler named George Hackenschmidt. Regardless, the nickname stuck. Parker tells of how Hack's father, also named Robert Wilson went to Ellwood City, Pennsylvania as a laborer in 1898 to look for work in the steel mills. One night at the bars, Wilson met 15 year old Jennie Kaughn, and a relationship started, culminating in her pregnancy of Lewis Robert Wilson on April 26, 1900. However, tragedy was an undercurrent in Hack's life, and when he was 7, his mother died of a burst appendix.
There are many other interesting stories that Clifton Parker included in this book. There are lessons of Chicago in the late 1920's and 1930's, the era of Prohibition and the resultant speakeasy's that many Chicagoans (including Hack and his cronies) frequented, as well as the amazing and strange story of boxer, baseball player and accused murderer Art "the Great" Shires. It is also interesting to note that after Wilson died, his body laid unclaimed for three days, juxtaposed with the 80,000 people that came to view Babe Ruth's body lay in state in the lobby of Yankee Stadium. This book caused a variety of emotions, sadness, and frustration, and made me think how his career would have been if he could have had the help afforded to players nowadays.
Posted January 2, 2014
No text was provided for this review.