Rockford Native Died While A Member Of The Cubs


Rockford School District 205 will induct its latest class into its Athletic Hall Of Fame this Saturday night. One of the inductees is a former Cubs’ pitcher whose career ended too soon.

Harold Hal Carlson was born in Rockford in 1892. He attend Rockford High School and later went on pitch in the National League from 1917 through 1930. In 1921 he struck out Babe Ruth twice in an exhibition game.

Carlson won a total of 114 games in his career  with the Pirates, the Phillies and the Cubs. His best season was 1926 when he won 17 games. He helped the Cubs reach the World Series in 1929. He didn’t throw hard. He relied early in his career on a spitball and when that was banned he relied on his curveball.

One of his nicknames was “The Silent Swede,’ but he also was a bit of a practical joker.

Carlson would have won more games in his career, but his life ended during the 1930 season with the Cubs.

The Rockford Daily Republic had the story splashed on the front page. It detailed how at 2 a.m. on May 28th Carlson woke up in the middle of the night in his Wrigleyville hotel room on Sheffield Avenue complaining of severe stomach pain. He called some of his Cubs teammates who rushed over.

One of those teammates outfielder Riggs Stephenson was quoted as saying “He told us he was going to die as soon as we reached the room. We told him he was kidding us.”

The Cubs team doctor was called in, but Carlson died that morning just as an ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital. The official cause of death was listed as a stomach hemorrhage.

Some speculate that the bleeding was caused by a damaged artery that Carlson might have suffered when he was hit in the stomach by a batted ball in spring training. It might have taken some time for the artery to rupture.

Some people also raised the possibility that Carlson was exposed to poisonous gas during World War I while he was serving his country and that over time the exposure to the gas destroyed his internal organs.

Carlson’s body was brought back to Rockford for burial at Arlington Cemetery on Charles Street.
An estimated crowd of 5,000 people turned out.

Some of Carlson’s Cubs teammates were paullbearers. Some of the greatest Cubs of all-time were on that team…Kiki Cuyler, Gabby Hartnett, Hack Wilson, and Charlie Grimm.

Carlson was 38 years old when he died. He left behind his pregnant wife Eva and another young child.

The District 205 Athletic Hall of Fame inductions will be held this Saturday during its Champions Ball at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center on East State Street in Rockford. You can find more information about the event on the district’s website

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