“The Nearest Approach to a Baseball Machine ever Constructed.”

18 Dec

After the Pirates barnstormed in several Midwest cities before the 1912 season, The Pittsburgh Press acknowledged that an out of towner’s assessment of the city’s biggest star revealed that local reporters, “have seen so much of him that they ceased to marvel at his astounding stunts, and take many of them as a matter of course.”

The sports editor of The Kansas City Star wrote several articles about Wagner, and, “The Kansas City man points out several things which have seldom been commented upon by local writers, who have come to regard ordinary doings by Wagner as of little importance, and only mention him particularly when he pulls off some herculean—something which no one else would attempt.”

Among the observations in The Star:

“Hugh Fullerton, who writes once in awhile on baseball topics, has said that Hans Wagner is the nearest approach to a baseball machine ever constructed. ‘Constructed’ is good. Wagner is put up solidly, after the fashion of government architecture.”

Wagner

And, he was built, “like a piano mover above the waist and below it resembles a pair of parentheses.”

Wagner, said the paper:

“(H)as as much fun playing ball as a kid on a corner lot. He romps about and kids the opposition, most of whom are ex Pirates in this town, and nags good naturedly at the umpire. For Hans is field captain this year and feels that he must do some beefing. But beefing is hard word for Hans. He is too good natured.”

He was a dichotomy; “a born comedian, though so bashful he will hide himself under a bat rack if he sees a reporter coming.”

The Star marveled at the 38-year-old’s fielding:

“He has a style that is all his own. No bush leaguer would dare try to play short like Hans Wagner. He plays wherever he pleases, frequently retreating to the edge of the outfield, whence only his mighty arm would carry to first in time to head off a fast runner. When he goes after a ground hit, he goes after it like a runaway gondola loaded with coal—but he gets it if it is getable. And when once one of those ponderous hands clamps down on the pellet there it remains quietly until the great shortstop wings it on its way.

“Wagner’s pegging is something to ponder. Several times in the Kansas City series he would field a sharply hit drive lazily, merely lobbing the ball over to first and beating the runner only by a step.

“’Shucks,’ remarked some of the bugs who were watching Honus for the first time, ‘that guy’s as slow as molasses: A fast man would have beat him.’

“Wait a bit, though. There goes a fast man—and his hit was a slow one. But he’s out by the same distance. And if you want to see Honus really peg, watch him finishing up a double play. The big frame moves like a streak. He gets the ball away in a twinkle—and it nearly knocks the first baseman off the bag.”

At the plate, “He is one of the few celebrities who can stand bowlegged and pigeon-toed at one and the same time, and he does it with ease and aplomb…He steps into the pitch with a long, swinging stride and meets the ball with a heave of his whole powerful frame.”

Off the field, The Star noted that Wagner, “can’t bear to see a dog hungry. If he can’t provide for them elsewhere he ships them home…And he is a great old boy, is Honus.”

2 Responses to ““The Nearest Approach to a Baseball Machine ever Constructed.””

  1. Jimmy Flame December 21, 2020 at 1:59 am #

    Love this site and the stories!

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