HACK AND THE HALL
I was interested to see that Hack Wilson, via Mark Kram, in Why Ain't I in the Hall? (April 11), recalled winning the National League's Most Valuable Player award in 1930. The record books do not show this, which is just one more example of the way baseball has slighted Wilson.
For several years the leagues themselves made the MVP awards, but for some reason they dropped the practice, the American League in 1929 and 1930, the National League in 1930, before the Baseball Writers Association took over responsibility for the awards in 1931. Thus, no National League MVP appears in the books for 1930, the only gap from 1924 to the present day. Yet that year, James Crusinberry, a Chicago sportswriter, asked eight baseball writers, one from each of the cities then in the league, to vote on an MVP. Wilson won by a wide margin. But because it was an unofficial tabulation, Wilson's selection has been consistently ignored. What a shame.
R. M. GORDON
Agreed, Hack Wilson's career would seem to merit his installation in the Hall of Fame, and Mark Kram's excellent piece was mainly on the mark—and timely.
However, Mr. Kram should have noted that in 1930, the season during which Wilson compiled his most memorable offensive statistics (190 RBIs, 56 HRs, .356 batting average), including the RBI record about which Kram had Wilson quoting Babe Ruth in heaven saying, "They ain't never going to get," a new, energized baseball was introduced into major league play.
The "live" ball was introduced during that most disagreeable of Depression years to generate more offense, more runs and, presumably, more interest in baseball during a period when a pair of grandstand tickets represented a remote luxury. That the new ball was responsible for the inordinate number of offensive achievements that year is, I think, clear.
So, let's put Hack in the Hall, where he surely belongs, but also remember that his greatest season occurred in the year of an experimental ball, the single greatest offensive year in history.
DAVID L. MACARAY
Society of American Baseball Research
Your fantasy on Hack Wilson was beautifully done, a lyrically compelling defense for his being in the Hall of Fame. Somewhere in his Valhalla, Hack is smiling and so is Joseph Pulitzer at such a monumental article.
Hack was my childhood hero, and I cried for him in 1929 and again after reading Mark Kram's masterpiece.
JOHN R. VAN KIRK
West Lafayette, Ind.
According to Mark Kram, Hack Wilson didn't know where he got his nickname. When I was a boy I was told that "Hack" was short for George Hackenschmidt, an immensely broad champion wrestler of the early years of the century. A powerfully built catcher named George Gibson, who played for the Pirates for many years and later managed them, was sometimes referred to as Hackenschmidt Gibson ( Ring Lardner called him that in one of his early baseball reports), or Hack for short. Whether Wilson was named Hack after Gibson or directly for Hackenschmidt, I don't know, but I'd bet anything that's where the nickname came from.
Herman Long is a shortstop who absolutely ought to be in the Hall of Fame, but there are at least two others from that dimly remembered era who should join Long in Cooperstown. Jack Glasscock played 17 seasons in the National League from 1879 to 1895 and was the league's best shortstop throughout the 1880s. Bill Dahlen, whose career ran from 1891 to 1911, played more than 2,100 games at short and was outstanding. Tommy Corcoran, Ed McKean and George Davis were three other crackerjack shortstops of that period whose reputations were obscured and forgotten when Honus Wagner came along.
MARTIN J. COLEMAN
New York City