With a perpetual grin, Hack earned the nickname Smilin’ Stan. The Cubs third baseman had plenty to smile about – he was the best third baseman of his time and one of the finest leadoff hitters in baseball history. Hack could hit for a solid average and also drew a ton of walks while rarely striking out. That is what you look for in an ideal leadoff man.
Hack made his debut with the Cubs in 1932 and by 1933, he was showing enough signs – namely a .350 batting average – to warrant regular duty. To accommodate Smilin’ Stan, the Cubs handed the third base job to him in ’34 – a post previously held by Woody English. Hack led the Cubs to an NL pennant in 1935, pacing all hot corner men with a .311 batting average. He showed his supreme pitch recognition ability in the early stages of his career, posting a 65 to 17 walk to strikeout ratio.
Hack became the preeminent third baseman in 1936, pacing NL hot corner men in runs scored, hits and walks ( the three most vital stats for a leadoff man). He showed his consistency the following year with almost identical stats in ’37. Again, Smilin’ Stan paced NL third basemen in runs scored, hits, walks and doubles. Hack finished second in the NL in stolen bases and he was the only NL third baseman to score more than 70 runs (Stan scored 106).
He won back-to-back stolen base crowns in 1938 and ’39. In 1938, Smilin’ Stan set the table all year for the NL champion Cubs, finishing second in the league in base hits while leading all third basemen in batting average and doubles. In the World Series, the Cubs were swept by the Yankees, but Hack did his part, hitting .471 in the four-game sweep. After falling in the World Series in ’38, Hack again paced the NL in stolen bases in ’39 and finished second in the league in runs scored.
The beginning of a new decade marked the first hits title for Smilin’ Stan. His 191 hits topped the senior circuit in 1940 and he distanced himself significantly from his position peers. Hack led all third basemen in hits, doubles, walks, stolen bases, batting average and slugging. He hit an identical .317 in 1941, again leading the NL in base hits, while finishing second in runs scored and fourth in walks. In 1942, Stan was the only .300 hitting third baseman in baseball and he finished third in the National League with 36 doubles.
During the World War II era, Hack was able to remain with the Cubs. In 1943, Smilin’ Stan posted a remarkable 82 to 27 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He led the Cubs to the World Series in 1945, hitting .323 for the season and .367 in a Fall Classic loss to the Tigers. Hack topped all NL third basemen in ’45 in the runs, hits and walks departments. A broken finger in ’46 short circuited Smilin’ Stan and he retired a year later.
Stan Hack had quite a career – one of the finest leadoff men to ever play the game. During his career, the lifelong Cub’s fielding average was twelve points above the league average. He attended five All-Star games, finished in the Top Ten in on-base percentage and runs scored eight times, the Top Ten in base hits seven times, the Top Ten in stolen bases nine times and the Top Ten in walks a whopping ten times. A place in Cooperstown should be allocated for Smilin’ Stan – the prototypical leadoff man.
Stan Hack’s career stats: G 1,938/R 1,239/H 2,193/2B 363/3B 81/RBI 642/BB 1,092/SO 466/BA .301/SA .397