Paul Waner

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Paul Waner
PaulWanerGoudeycard.jpg
Right fielder
Born: (1903-04-16)April 16, 1903
Harrah, Oklahoma
Died: August 29, 1965(1965-08-29) (aged 62)
Sarasota, Florida
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 13, 1926, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
April 26, 1945, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Batting average .333
Hits 3,152
Home runs 113
Runs batted in 1,309
Teams
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction 1952
Vote 83.33%

Paul Glee Waner (April 16, 1903 – August 29, 1965), nicknamed "Big Poison", was an American professional baseball right fielder. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Braves, and New York Yankees of Major League Baseball from 1926 to 1945. He won three National League (NL) batting titles and the NL Most Valuable Player Award while with the Pirates. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952.

Background

Waner was born in Harrah, Oklahoma, four years before the region became a state. He was born with the middle name of John. He was the third child of five of Ora and Etta Waner; Ora had once been offered a contract by the Chicago White Stockings but declined it, instead settling a 400 acre farm. His middle name was changed from John to Glee after an uncle of the same name gave him a shotgun at the age of 6. Waner played baseball at East Central State Teachers College (now known as East Central University) in Ada, Oklahoma, having a 23-4 pitching record with a 1.70 ERA in 1922. He wanted to play pro baseball, and he signed with the team in Joplin, Missouri in the Class A Western League. After he decided to finish college work, he was sent to the Southwestern League in Muskogee before being sold again to the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1923. A sore arm led to a change to the outfield. The manager of the Seals was a former Pirate, John "Dots" Miller. Waner stated that he learned batting from hitting corncobs on his father's farm, learning the way to follow the ball by seeing the movement of the cobs. In his three seasons with the Seals, he hit well, with a .401 average and 280 hits in 174 games in the latter season. Waner and Hal Rhyne were sold for $100,000 to the Pirates in 1926. [1]

Career

Waner, circa 1927

In his first season, he played in 144 games while hitting for .336, 180 hits, 22 triples and 79 RBIs. He finished 12th in MVP balloting. In the next season, he had career highs, playing in 155 games (and having 708 plate appearances), having 237 hits, 131 RBIs and a .380 batting average. He was named Most Valuable Player for his efforts. His team went to the 1927 World Series that season. In his only postseason appearance, he went 5-for-15 with 3 RBIs and a .333 batting average, but the Pirates were swept by the New York Yankees. His numbers dipped slightly the following year, but he had 223 hits, 50 doubles (a league high), 86 RBIs and a .370 batting average in 152 games while garnering a career high 142 runs. In his fourth season, he had 200 hits, 43 doubles, 100 RBIs and a .336 batting average. He had 1,959 of his over 3,000 hits of his career in the 1930s, having five seasons of over 200 hits. During that decade, he garnered votes for MVP five times, finishing 4th in 1932, 2nd in 1934, 24th in 1935, 5th in 1936, and 8th in 1937. He was named to the inaugural 1933 MLB All-Star Game, along with the editions in 1934, 1935, and 1937.

He hit for .368, 77 RBIs, and 217 hits in 1930. The following year, his numbers dipped slightly, hitting for .322 along with 70 RBIs and 180 hits. He played in all 154 games for the 1932 and 1933 seasons; he bat .341 for 82 RBIs, 62 doubles (a league high) and 215 hits in the former and batted .309, 70 RBIs and 191 hits in the latter season. He hit for .362 (a 53 point increase), 90 RBIs, 217 hits and 122 runs in the 1934 season, with the latter two being increases of over 20 from the previous year. He dipped to .321 with 78 RBIs and 176 hits in 139 games the following year. In 1936, he hit for .373, his second highest in his career, while hitting 94 RBIs (his third highest in his career), 53 doubles (2nd highest), and 218 hits. In 1937, he had a .354 average, while getting 74 RBIs and 219 hits. Famous for his ability to hit while hung over, when Waner gave up drinking in 1938 at management's request, he hit only .280—the first of only two times that he failed to hit .300 as a Pirate. That year, he had 69 RBIs, 31 doubles and 175 hits in 148 games. As Casey Stengel said in complimenting his base-running skills, "He had to be a very graceful player, because he could slide without breaking the bottle on his hip." He bounced back to a .328 average in 1939, having 45 RBIs and 151 hits in 125 games. The 1940 season was his last as a Pirate. He hit for .290 while having 32 RBIs and 69 hits in 89 games, having pulled the ligaments in his right knee after stepping awkwardly on a base, missing three weeks along with playing time after healing up. He was released on December 5, 1940. In his 15 year career with the Pirates, he had 2,868 hits, 1,177 RBIs, 558 doubles, 187 triples, and a .340 batting average in 2,154 games. The 1941 season was shared between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers on January 31, 1941. He was released by the team on May 11, 1941, but he was signed by the Boston Braves two weeks later. He hit for .267, 50 RBIs, 88 hits in 106 combined games, with the majority being with the Braves. He spent the next season with the team, having a .258 average, 39 RBIs, 86 hits in 114 games. Waner got his 3,000th hit off old Pirate teammate Rip Sewell on June 19, 1942, being the seventh hitter (after Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, and Cap Anson) to do so. [2] He was released by Boston on January 19, 1943. Two days later, the Dodgers signed him again. A spike injury to his foot meant that he missed time once again, but he still hit for .311 in 82 games while having 36 RBIs and 70 hits, a career low for a whole season played. The 1944 season was his last full season, playing 92 total games (83 with the Dodgers and nine with the Yankees after being released by the former on September 1). He batted .280, 17 RBIs, and 40 hits. He played one game for the Yankees in 1945, making one plate appearance as a pinch hitter, getting walked in his one appearance.[3]

Waner was also nearsighted, a fact that Pirate management only learned late in his career when he remarked that he had difficulty reading the ads posted on the outfield walls. Fitting him with glasses, however, only interfered with his hitting, as Waner had to contend with a small spinning projectile rather than the fuzzy grapefruit-sized object he had been hitting before.

Waner led the National League in batting on three occasions and accumulated over 3,000 hits during his 20-year baseball career. He hit 605 doubles which at the time was 5th all-time, he is now tied for 13th highest with Paul Molitor. He collected 200 or more hits on eight occasions, was voted the NL's Most Valuable Player in 1927, and had a lifetime batting average of .333, tied for 5th highest (along with Eddie Collins) for anyone in the 3,000 hit club. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952. He set the Major League record for consecutive games with an extra-base hit, with 14 (June 6 through June 20, 1927); since then this feat has also been accomplished by Chipper Jones in 2006.

He (3,152) and his younger brother, Lloyd (2,459), hold the career record for hits by brothers (5,611), outpacing the three Alou brothers (5,094): Felipe (2,101), Matty (1,777) and Jesús (1,216), and the three DiMaggio brothers (4,853): Joe (2,214), Dom (1,680) and Vince (959), among others. For most of the period from 1927 to 1940, Paul patrolled right field at Forbes Field while Lloyd covered the ground next to him in center field. On September 15, 1938, the brothers hit back-to-back home runs against Cliff Melton of the New York Giants.[4] Paul was known as "Big Poison" and Lloyd was known as "Little Poison." One story claims that their nicknames reflect a Brooklyn Dodgers fan's pronunciation of "Big Person" and "Little Person." In 1927, the season the brothers accumulated 460 hits, the fan is said to have remarked, "Them Waners! It's always the little poison on thoid (third) and the big poison on foist (first)!" But given that Lloyd was taller, this origin is debatable.

Legacy

Pirates 11.png
Paul Waner's number 11 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007.

After his retirement, he kept active by fishing, hunting, golfing and being a part-time hitting coach of the Phillies, Cardinals, and Braves. He was named to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 21, 1952. "Gee. It's what I've been looking for a long time, but I had almost given up hope of making it," he said. "In fact, I guess you can say I've achieved my life's ambition. Any baseball player's ambition. ..." With the induction of his brother Lloyd in 1967, they became the second brother combination to be inducted into the Hall of Fame (with Harry and George Wright being the other). He died on August 29, 1965 in Sarasota, Florida after a respiratory arrest from emphysema at the age of 62. In 1999, he was ranked number 62 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players,[5] and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Separate efforts by the Waner family and two longtime Pirates fans, who repeatedly petitioned Pirates then owner Kevin McClatchy to honor Waner by retiring his uniform number, were eventually successful.[6] The Pirates retired Waner's No. 11 in a ceremony before their game vs. the Astros on July 21, 2007, 55 years to the day of his induction into the Hall of Fame. A plaque has been placed in the interior of PNC Park to commemorate the retiring of Waner's jersey.

See also

References

  1. ^ https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/9d598ab8
  2. ^ exhibits.baseballhalloffame.org/3000_hit_club/waner_paul.htm
  3. ^ https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHA/PHA194504260.shtml
  4. ^ "Today in Baseball". Washington Post. September 15, 2008. pp. E7. 
  5. ^ 100 Greatest Baseball Players by The Sporting News : A Legendary List by Baseball Almanac
  6. ^ Ron McClure discusses petition to retire Waner's number on YouTube

External links

  • Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
  • Paul Waner at the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • The Deadball Era – Obituaries
  • The Deadball Era – Beer Drinkers
  • Paul Waner at Find a Grave
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