- 3B, 1B
- Smiling Stan
- December 6, 1909
- 170 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-12-1932 with CHN
The National League’s finest leadoff hitter and top third baseman for much of his career, Stan Hack annually finished among the senior circuit’s leaders in hits, runs scored, walks, stolen bases, and on-base percentage during his time with the Chicago Cubs. Second only to 19th-century star Cap Anson on Chicago’s all-time list with 1,938 games played, 7,278 at-bats, and 2,193 hits, Hack led the N.L. in hits and stolen bases twice each. He finished second in the league in steals three times, placed second in runs scored four times, and also finished among the leaders in batting average five times, surpassing the .320-mark on three separate occasions. An outstanding fielder as well, Hack led all National League third basemen in putouts five times, fielding percentage three times, and assists twice.
Born in Sacramento, California on December 6, 1909, Stanley Camfield Hack attended Sacramento High School, where he starred in baseball. After graduating from high school, he took a job working at a bank, although he continued to hone his baseball skills by playing semi-pro ball on weekends. The left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Hack tried out for the Pacific Coast League’s Sacramento Solons in 1931, batting .352 in his first year of pro ball. His outstanding performance caught the attention of Chicago president Bill Veeck Sr., who subsequently flew to Sacramento to sign him to a Cubs contract.
Playing Career with Cubs
Hack broke in with the Cubs the following year, backing up Woody English at third base his first two seasons, while also spending a good portion of 1933 in the minor leagues. Hack finally established himself as Chicago’s starting third baseman in 1934, batting .289 in just over 400 official at-bats. He had a solid year for the pennant-winning Cubs in 1935, batting .311 and finishing third in the National League with a .406 on-base percentage.
Hack assumed the mantle previously held by Pittsburgh’s Pie Traynor as the National League’s top third baseman in 1936, when he batted .298, knocked in a career-high 78 runs hitting out of the leadoff spot, scored 102 runs, and finished second in the senior circuit with 17 stolen bases. He posted similar numbers the following year, batting .297, driving in 63 runs, scoring 106 others, and again finishing second in the league in stolen bases, this time with 16. Hack also topped all N.L. third basemen with 151 putouts, 247 assists, and 25 double plays.
Hack had perhaps his finest all-around year in 1938, when he finished among the league leaders with a .320 batting average, a .411 on-base percentage, 109 runs scored, 195 hits, 11 triples, 34 doubles, and 94 walks, while also topping the circuit with 16 steals. He also led league third basemen with 178 putouts and 26 double plays. Hack’s fine performance, coupled with Chicago’s first-place finish, earned the third baseman a seventh-place finish in the league MVP voting and the first of five All-Star selections. Although the Cubs lost the World Series to the Yankees in four straight games, Hack had an outstanding Fall Classic, accumulating eight hits in 17 official at-bats, for an exceptional .471 batting average.
Hack continued to excel for the Cubs in each of the next three seasons, compiling batting averages of .298, .317, and .317, while placing near the top of the league rankings in runs scored each year with totals of 112, 101, and 111, respectively. After topping the senior circuit with 17 stolen bases in 1939, he led the league in hits in both 1940 (191) and 1941 (186). Hack also finished second in the N.L. with a .417 on-base percentage in 1941.
An outstanding contact hitter who used the entire ball field, Hack hit only 57 home runs over the course of his career. However, he accumulated 363 doubles, surpassing the 30-mark on four separate occasions. He also struck out only 466 times, in just over 8,500 total plate appearances. The combination of Hack’s keen batting eye and exceptional ability to make contact with the opposing pitcher’s offering enabled him to post more walks than strikeouts in every single season. In fact, he compiled a walk-to-strikeout ratio of better than three-to-one on five separate occasions.
Former Cubs teammate and longtime major league scout Len Merullo discussed Hack’s hitting style, saying, “He was like Wade Boggs. He hit from foul line to foul line….A line-drive type hitter.”
In explaining his tendency to get most of his hits to the opposite field, Hack said, “I watch the ball more than most hitters. I let it get right up on me – maybe I even swing a little late.”
Clearly the National League’s top third baseman by the late-1930s, Hack exhibited a smooth, easy style in the field as well, leading all players at his position in putouts in 1939, before topping all N.L. third sackers in putouts, assists, and double plays the following year. Yet, as solid a reputation as Hack built from his playing ability, he developed an even greater one as a result of his congeniality. Nicknamed “Smiling Stan” due to his friendly nature, Hack gradually became one of the game’s most popular players. Teammate Gabby Hartnett once remarked, “Stan Hack has as many friends in baseball as Leo Durocher has enemies.”
Still, not everyone liked “Smiling Stan.” After another solid 1942 campaign, Hack’s offensive production fell off somewhat in 1943 as his relationship with Cubs manager Jimmy Wilson grew increasingly contentious. The 34-year-old third baseman retired at the end of the year, but he subsequently returned to the team early in 1944 when Chicago replaced Wilson at the helm with Hack’s former teammate Charlie Grimm, who helped coax his old friend out of retirement. After posting a .282 batting average in 1944 (his lowest mark since his rookie year of 1932), Hack batted a career-high .323 in 1945. He also scored 110 runs, accumulated 193 hits, and walked 99 times in helping the Cubs to the National League pennant for the fourth time. Although Chicago lost the World Series to Detroit in seven games, Hack compiled 11 hits and batted .367.
Hack spent two more years with the Cubs, ending his career as a part-time player for the club in 1947. He retired from the game with 2,193 hits, 1,239 runs scored, a .301 batting average, and an outstanding .394 on-base percentage. He batted over .300 and scored more than 100 runs seven times each, and he also compiled an on-base percentage in excess of .400 on seven separate occasions. In addition to being selected to five All-Star teams, Hack finished in the top 10 in the league MVP voting twice. At the time of his retirement, Hack trailed only Pie Traynor in hits, doubles, total bases, and games played among National League third basemen. His total of 1,092 walks – then the most by any third baseman – placed him behind only Mel Ott (1,708), Jimmy Sheckard (1,134) and Billy Hamilton (1,096) in N.L. history. Meanwhile, Hack topped all league third basemen in career on-base percentage until 2001, when Chipper Jones moved ahead of him on the all-time list.
After retiring as an active player, Hack became a minor league manager, piloting three different teams between 1948 and 1953. He then managed the Cubs from 1954 to 1956, leading the team to three consecutive losing seasons before being relieved of his duties. Hack subsequently became a coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, serving in that capacity for two years under manager Fred Hutchinson. He returned to minor league managing in 1959, before finally retiring from baseball in 1966. Hack lived another 13 years, passing away in Dixon, Illinois on December 15, 1979 at the age of 70.