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Hack's 191: Hack Wilson And His Incredible 1930 Season Hardcover – January 24, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“I have long been fascinated by Hack Wilson, and his underappreciated RBI record. In Hack’s 191, Bill Chastain marvelously explains both the man and the mark. I learned something on every page.”

     —Tim Kurkjian, senior writer, ESPN The Magazine

Hack’s 191 is a fascinating inside look at not only the 1930 season but also one of the most intriguing, overlooked characters the game has known. Bill Chastain captures the brawling times of Al Capone’s prohibition-era Chicago and the barrel-shaped ballplayers who lived large during it. He also gives us a detailed look at a season that helped create arguably baseball’s most unapproachable record, a season that changed the course of the game.”

     —Dave van Dyck, Chicago Tribune

“Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games played, Pete Rose’s 4,256 career hits. . . . These records may never be broken. The mark least talked about is the record for runs batted in during a season. As a former Major League Baseball player and lifelong fan, I consider Hack Wilson’s 191 RBIs in 1930 to be one of the most amazing achievements in the history of the game. Bill Chastain does an incredible job of taking us back to that magical season. I felt like I was there watching the games at Wrigley Field or enjoying the speakeasy nightlife with Wilson and his Prohibition-era Cubs fans.”  

—Tino Martinez, baseball broadcaster, former Major League All-Star

“Hack Wilson’s personality and habits—at the ballpark and away—had always intrigued me, as had his record of 191 RBIs in one season, which is an amazing feat and a record that will not likely be broken. Bill Chastain’s fascinating account of that season brings to life Wilson and the city of Chicago during a raucous period complete with gangsters and speakeasies.”

—Joe Maddon, manager, Tampa Bay Rays

From the Author

Hack Wilson's story fascinated me, from his hard drinking to the way he could hammer a fastball, and I loved the era in which he played.  Researching can be a difficult animal to tame, particularly when baseball fans are your master -- they are the best at tracking down anything remotely wrong.  So I went to great lengths to limit wrong information, constantly cross-checking what was taken for granted as correct information.  In doing so, I came to discover that history can distort a lot of facts. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; First Edition edition (January 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762769637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762769636
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Chastain began his journalism career as a freelance writer shortly after graduating from Georgia Tech in 1979. Some of the more notable publications where his stories have appeared over the years include: Razor Magazine, Nation's Business, SPORT Magazine, and Inside Sports. Chastain worked as a sports reporter for The St. Petersburg Times and The St. Petersburg Evening Independent before going to The Tampa Tribune in 1990, where he worked for twelve years as a columnist and sports reporter. While with the Tribune he also served as a correspondent for Sports Illustrated. He is the author of Payne at Pinehurst: The Greatest U.S. Open Ever; Purpose and Passion: Bobby Pruett and the Marshall Years; Steel Dynasty: The Team that Changed the NFL; September Nights: Chasing the Beasts of the American League East; Jackrabbit: The Story of Clint Castleberry and the Improbable 1942 Georgia Tech Football Season; Hack's 191: Hack Wilson and His Incredible 1930 Season; and The Steve Spurrier Story: From Heisman to Head Ball Coach. Currently he covers Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays for MLB.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hack Wilson's 191 RBI in 1930 for the Chicago Cubs might be one of baseball's unbreakable records. The record has stood for 82 years, and the closest anyone has come close to the mark in the past several decades is 165 RBI by Manny Ramirez in 1999. The second closest to Wilson's mark is 184 RBI by Lou Gehrig in 1931.

Wilson clouted 56 homers that season, erasing Chuck Klein National League record of 43 and challenging Babe Ruth's mark of 60. His home run effort drew more attention than his RBI production. The RBI didn't become an official stat until 1920.

Despite a season or two of glory, Hack Wilson was one of baseball's most tragic figures. He was a functional alcoholic, a flawed hero, someone who was once described as "a wayward soul headed in the wrong direction on a one-way street."

At 5-foot-6 and 195 pounds, Wilson didn't look like a ballplayer. He wore a size six shoe, but wore a size 18 collar. Author Bill Chastain says Wilson "stuck out like a pit bull in a poodle show."

Although Wilson batted .471 in the 1929 World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics, he earned the goat horns as he lost two balls in the sun. He was humiliated by the errors and was forever tagged with the sarcastic nickname "Sunny Boy."

Chastain sets the stage for the 1930 season by recounting the 1929 season and some of the Cubs' major players--Manager Joe McCarthy, infielder Rogers Hornsby and Cubs' owner William Wrigley. McCarthy understood Wilson better than anyone else and he was able to get the maximum out of his talent. Hornsby was despised by his teammates, often tried to undermine McCarthy (eventually ousting him) and poisoned the clubhouse.
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Format: Hardcover
In terms of the great single baseball campaigns of all-time, Hack Wilson's 1930 assault on the record book is easily of the most impressive. "Hack's 191" tells the story of that season, while also filling in some of the gaps that history may have embellished or forgotten along the way.

The first half of the book sets the groundwork, discussing Hack's "Sunny Boy" miscue in the 1929 World Series, as well as such important Cubs figures at the time as manager Joe McCarthy and polarizing personality Rogers Hornsby.

After that, the book does a month-by-month description of Hack's 1930 season.

For fans of baseball history, this book will automatically be a decent read for the amount of research put into it. Though countless books have been published about the Ruths or Gehrigs of the similar era, there is a bit of a gap in terms of Hack Wilson considering the fact that he did set the all-time RBI record that still stands to this day. Thus, even for relatively seasoned baseball historians, "Hack's 191" may contain some stories or information that hasn't been unearthed in quite a long period of time.

However, the main attribute of the book that renders it little above average is that it can be so dry at times. While reading (and learning quite a bit), I never felt as if I were truly drawn into Hack's record-setting season. I think the problem stems from the fact that the book almost tries to do a bit too much in terms of scope. It tries to be a history lesson, a character study, a biography, a "story of the times", and a "thriller" ("Hack's RBI heroics"), but ultimately doesn't shine on any of those fronts.

Thus, while I would recommend this to the hardcore fans of baseball history who already have a working knowledge of the events/people, those who don't have a studied interest in the topic might want to look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good book about Hack Wilson who during that time was basically the "Babe Ruth of the National League." I was first intrigued about Hack when I was younger and had a baseball card with Hack Wilson as the holder of the National League RBI record w/ 190 RBI. This book dwells on the 1930 season with a good accounting of Hack's season. It also goes into detail how hitting averages exploded in 1930 and pitcher's ERA's skyrocketed as well. The book has a good section explaining how Hack's RBI total was upped to 191 based on a missed RBI during the 1930 season. The books recounting of Hack's youth is good, but I wish it had a little more detail. I would have given this book five stars; however, the link with Al Capone and the gangsters of Chicago was not as much as I hoped or expected based on the publisher's description. Overall a very good book about baseball's glorious years, any baseball history buff will enjoy the reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Overall the book was interesting and informative but I was a little disappointed. I noticed a few editing mistakes such as when the author wrote Rogers Hornsby hit a homerun off Yankee great Lefty Grove in 1933. Grove nevered pitched for the Yankees, it was Lefty Gomez. Also the author did not include a listing of Wilson's career stats although that is easily looked up. I would liked to have seen
a little more detail on Wilson's game to game stats, maybe a chart if that is possible. At times the author skipped game information such as talking about a game which moved Wilson to 176 RBI then a few paragraphs later he has 182 RBI, what happened in between? I did like the chapter on the struggle to get the record corrected. The book does show what a difference a manager can make in the confidence of a player and how much it can affect his performance.
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