One of the first true Chicago Cubs legends, hitting machine Hack Wilson was a hard luck hero who dominated on the field but battled his demons off.
There are a lot of former baseball stars that can be labeled a “hard luck hero.” A few that come to mind are the likes of Addie Joss, a superb right-handed pitcher from the beginning of the 1910s who died of tuberculosis at the age of 31 after playing just nine seasons. Jones won 160 games and holds the second lowest career ERA (1.89) ever. Then there is Ross Youngs, an outfielder for the New York Giants in the ‘20s and lifetime .322 hitter, who lost a battle with Bright’s Disease at the age of 30. Dizzy Dean’s on-field foot injury, Sandy Koufax’s chronic arm problems, and Roy Campanella’s auto accident that left him crippled are more instances of hard luck players. Hack Wilson could be labeled as such, as well.
Lewis Robert Wilson was born on April 26, 1890, in the steel mill town of Elwood City in Pennsylvania. His mother was an unemployed drifter and his father was a steelworker. They never married and both drank heavily. His mother eventually died of appendicitis at the age of 24 and his father all but abandoned young Lewis after her death. He then be raised by his grandmother who introduced him to the game of baseball.
In 1916, he would left school to take a job at a locomotive factory, swinging a sledgehammer for four dollars a week. He was an odd-looking young man, standing just 5’6” and a size 6 shoe size but weighing 195 pounds with an 18-inch neck. His unique frame and physique were likely a result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.