As part of a series of syndicated articles which asked some of baseball’s biggest stars to talk about “How I Win,” Joseph B. Bowles, a Chicago journalist, interviewed Honus Wagner before the 1910 season.
Wagner said it was simple:
“The secret of winning at baseball is to be found in the first order given to a new ballplayer. it is ‘Keep your eye on the ball.’ I believe there is such a thing as the instinct for playing the game, but the greatest success comes from quick eyesight and from never taking the eye off the ball for a moment, whether batting fielding or running bases.”
But, he admitted he hadn’t given the subject much thought:
“I never have written anything about baseball, and never have thought much about why a team wins or why a player is a winning player (until now). It is hard for a player to explain how he wins than it is to win. I think, however after thinking it over, that the eyesight has more to do with it than anything else. It is the quick eye and the steady one that makes a man a winner.”
Wagner said this was especially true at bat:
“The batter who faces a clever pitcher is certain to be outguessed by him the majority of times. There is no way to overcome the pitcher’s advantage except to have an eye quick enough to see either from the way the pitcher wings or from the way the ball comes, what is pitched, and then have an eye quick enough to enable him to follow the course of the ball.”
As for his approach at the plate:
“In batting a player should stand firmly on both feet. It does not matter what his position at bat is, and he ought to take his most natural position, but he must stand on the balls of both feet to get the force of his body, arms and shoulders into the swing of the bat. Every batter has a different style, but the good ones swing with a steady drive, backed up by the whole body. I think there is a lot in the way a man holds his bat. It is impossible to tell a young player how to hold his bat. He must use his own motion and grip. He can, however, learnt o shift his feet in hitting.”
On defense, Wagner said:
“(T)he quick eye saves many hits…Perhaps one in five ground balls hit to an infielder bound crooked or shoot in unexpected directions, and a quick eye and a good pair of hands will save the team.”
Wagner was also quick to credit his teammates:
“I think the big reason for Pittsburgh’s success has been first that we’ve played together a long time and know each other and second, and greater, that every man is there to win for the team, no matter what he may do himself. Last year (George) Gibson caught the greatest ball of any catcher living, and he enabled all the rest of us to play team ball all the time because he was in the team work every minute. Besides (Fred) Clarke is the greatest manager in the business and a great leader. No one knows how good Clarke is until he has played with him.”
Bowles spoke with one other Pirate player for his series. Second baseman John “Dots” Miller was the 22-year-old rookie second baseman who played alongside Wagner on the 1909 World Champions. His answer to “How I Win:”
“I win by watching Wagner.
“When asked to tell how I won I was going to refuse because it does sound ‘swelled’ for a young fellow to tell such things or claim to win until I remembered how it was.
“I win because Honus Wagner taught me the game, showed me how to play it something after his own style, so in telling how I win I am only praising the teacher and the man I think is the greatest ballplayer of them all.”