Search results for 'honus wagner'

Honus Wagner, “How I Win”

14 Dec

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.

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

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.

Dots Miller

Dots Miller

“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.”

A Thousand Words–Honus Wagner and Claude Hendrix

1 Feb

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Honus Wagner participating in his 2nd favorite sport with pitcher Claude Hendrix.

William A. Phelon, poet and sportswriter for The Chicago Daily News, Chicago Tribune, New York Morning Telegraph, Cincinnati Times-Star and St. Louis Star—where this poem about Honus Wagner appeared in 1904.

 Hans Wagner, Hans Wagner, we see you lead once more

The Sluggers of the National League—if leather spher’s had gore

The blood of many a fractured globe would dew the faces where

Your mighty whacks, from shoulder swung, went whizzing through the air!

Hans Wagner, Hans Wagner—how oft we’ve felt the shivers

To see you striding to the plate, to knock our hopes to shivers!

How oft we’ve heard the call, “Two strikes,” to make us yelp and smile,

And then our blood was frozen up—you’ve smashed the thing a mile!

Hans Wagner, Hans Wagner, whene’er that ball you spank

We wonder if you think about the coin you’ve placed in bank?

For every time a mighty drive brings roaring cheer on cheer,

You’ve added to your chances for a boost in pay next year!

Hans Wagner, Hans Wagner, your habits are the best—

You never store bad whiskey in the space beneath your vest—

The midnight jag attracts you not—you murmur “Aber nit—

If I should get von chag dis nacht, zu morgen I’d not hit!”

Hans Wagner, Hans Wagner, you’ve saved a load of dough

The products of the scheme by which you give the slabman woe!

You’ve made a record that will live, you’ve gained tremendous fame—

A slugger of the A1 class—a credit to the game.

Wagner is the Nearest Approach to a Perfect Baseball Machine”

30 May

Claude Johnson was the long-time sports editor for The Kansas City Star.  Al Spink, in his book “The National Game,” called the paper “one of the greatest newspapers in the Western world,” and said of Johnson:

”He is a real baseball enthusiast… (The) sports pages are widely read and perfectly edited by little Johnson… (he) ought to be dancing in the big league.”

When the Pittsburgh Pirates came to town to play exhibition games with the American Association Kansas City Blues, Johnson wrote a long profile of Honus Wagner:

“Hugh Fullerton, who writes on baseball topics, has said that Hans Wagner is the nearest approach to a perfect baseball machine ever constructed.  ‘Constructed ‘ is good.  Wagner is put up solidly, after the fashion of government architecture.  And you may take it straight from any bug who ever saw Hans Wagner that he is some baseball machine.“

wagner

 Honus Wagner

Johnson said in the Kansas City games Wagner had the “star role:”

“Do you know, it’s lots of fun to watch Hans Wagner play ball.  A good deal of this is due to the fact that Honus enjoys it himself.  He has as much fun playing ball as a kid on a corner lot.  He romps about and kids the opposition…and nags good naturedly the umpire. For Hans is field captain this year and feels that he must do some beefing.  But beefing is hard work for Hans.  He is too good natured.  Hans would much rather take a bun decision with a humorously protesting wave of his enormous hands and make up for it later by one of his terrific wallops.

“Hans has a lot of little mannerisms on the field.  He is a born comedian, though so bashful he will hide himself under the bat rack if he sees a reporter coming.”

Johnson said Kansas City fans were as impressed with his work in the field as at the plate:

“Most of what you read of Hans is about his tremendous hitting, and it is all true, too.  But Hans is a miraculous fielder, also.  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; retreating to the edge of the outfield grass, 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 line 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.”

wagnerpix

Wagner

Next Johnson described Wagner at the plate:

“At bat Honus is a study.  He is built like a piano mover above the waist and below he resembles a pair of parenthesis.  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.  At least it looks very much like aplomb.

“Hans twiddles his ponderous bat as if it weighed about as much as a feather duster.  He balances it between his fingers, pulls down his cap and takes his stand–bowlegged and pigeon-toed—well back of the plate.  You see the reason for the latter.

“Wagner watches the ball from the time pitcher starts his delivery.  He steps into the pitch with a long, swinging stride, and meets the ball with a heave of his whole powerful frame.  It looks very easy, and there is a certain grace about it too.  But what you mainly notice is the streaky appearance of the ball, whatever way it may travel, tearing its way through the hands of an infielder or flying like an arrow over the outfield.”

wagnerwbat

Wagner

Johnson said, in the final game of the series, Wagner “walked into the first” pitch he saw in the eighth inning:

“He did not seem to hit the ball hard, yet, it soared away into the top of the center field bleachers—one of the longest hits ever made inside the park.”

The Pittsburgh Post called the home run, “a wallop into the center field bleachers…the longest hit of the series.”

As for Wagner himself, Johnson said:

“Hans is a likable chap—a retiring, modest sort of star.  He is fond of dogs and collects strays in nearly every city he visits.  He can’t bear to see a dog hungry.  If he can’t provide for them elsewhere he ships them home, where he has a dog farm collected in that way.  Hans’ main pet is a Dachshund, whose legs, he says, are dead ringers for his own.

“And he’s a great old boy, is Honus.  And you can start something with nearly any bug by suggesting that there is a greater player doing business today.”

Los Advertisements–Hans Wagner, Lewis 66

26 Feb

wagner66

A 1912 advertisement for Lewis 66 Rye, featuring Honus Wagner:

“Hans Wagner–‘The Flying Dutchman’

“When the National League official averages for 1911 were issues, Hans Wagner ranked ‘King of Swat,’ with a batting credit of .334–for the eighth time the hitting premier of his league.  Nobody ever approached the long record of the Pittsburgh Pirate–big, whole-souled and modest.”

Five years later, as Wagner’s career was drawing to a close, Grantland Rice of The New York Tribune said:

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

“Wagner stands to date, for team worth, as the most valuable ball player that ever lived.

“A great infielder is of more value than a great outfielder, so in this respect Wagner has even ranged beyond Ty Cobb.

“Hughey Jennings was a star–a great hitter, a brilliant infielder and a brainy workman.

“But even Hughey has to make way before Wagner a man who for twenty years could average .340 [sic 21 years, .328] at bat and cover all the ground in sight between third base and the right field bleachers.

“Wagner is the game’s main marvel…He was as marvelous in the field as at the bat.  Floundering, awkward looking, bow-legged, with his vast hands dangling at his side, no one would ever have taken him for any action snapshot of grace.

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

“But when it came to killing base hits back of third and back of second, mopping up his side of the field with a deadly certainty, he had no equal.

“If Wagner had been a .240 hitter he would have been one of the most valuable man of all time through his great defensive value alone.”

“When Wagner Comes to Bat”

24 Dec

A poem composed by Grantland Rice in The Nashville Tennessean in 1909:

Grantland Rice

Grantland Rice

 

I know just how a fellow feels the cold gray ‘morning after;’ when all about the ceiling reels there’s little show for laughter;

I know just how it hits a guy when bills begin to grow, and bill collectors on the sly line up in motley row;

I know exactly how he feels when up and down they face him, and with a line of endless spiels they follow him and chase him;

But in the line of ticklish deals that send one to the mat, I wonder how the pitcher feels when Wagner comes to bat?

I know about how Roosevelt feels out in the jungled space, with boa constrictors at his heels and hippos at his face.

I know how it would strike me out in some wild western lair, if I should swiftly turn about, and face a grizzly bear, or walking down a street high-fenced, with no long stretch to run, should find my features pressed against an automatic gun;

But in the line of ticklish deals that leave one feeling flat, I wonder how a pitcher feels when Wagner comes to bat?

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Wagner’s Mysterious Bat

20 Aug

In 1911 Honus Wagner hit .334, it was his thirteenth straight season hitting better than .320, but he still wondered how much better he could have hit if he had the opportunity to regularly use a bat he once found in Ohio.  He told the story to William A. Phelon in The Cincinnati Times-Star:

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

“There was never yet a perfect bat, and I don’t suppose there ever can be.  Not while the shape has to remain perfectly round and fouls can slip off the curving surface, and not while the material breaks just as you are administering a sure home run with the bases full.  I have had bats break when I met the ball fair and square—break deliberately, after months of faithful service—and a feeble grounder would go trickling off the treacherous stick when the force I put into the wallop had spelled at least three bases.”

Wagner said, “bats are strange and moody things,” and that he understood why Pete Browning “used to talk to his bats and credit them with human understanding.”

Pete Browning

Pete Browning

He said he had “handled one that was almost perfection” during 1898, his first full season with the Louisville Colonels.  The team was playing an exhibition game “against some small club in an Ohio river city,” and the Colonels’ bats had already been shipped to their next stop:

“We figured, of course that we would borrow bats from the locals, but we didn’t need to.

“On arriving at the local ball park we found some urchins knocking flies.  One of the kids was using a curious looking bat, long, finely shaped and of a peculiar red-brown color.  I took it from the youngster, examined it, and found that, while it was very heavy, that it balanced nicely in the hand.  I slipped the boy half a dollar for the loan of his bat, and we started the game with the red stick and three or four others of the ordinary pattern which had been scared up by admiring natives.

“We never used the ordinary bats.  That red stick proved to be the proper medicine.  Of course there wasn’t any big league team against us, but the pitcher was one who was destined to be a mighty star in the after years, and he had something that day, believe me.”

Wagner did not say who the pitcher was, but said it didn’t matter how good he was:

“The least tap with that red bat and the ball whirred out in the field like a bullet.  There was spring and a texture to the wood that gave incomparable hitting power.  Tap a fast ball with that bat and it would go for two bases.  Meet a curve and you could send it to the bleachers.  With that bat a man who ordinarily hit .200 would be a .300 hitter, easy, and I blush to estimate the record I could have made therewith.”

Wagner said he and his teammates had “about twenty-eight long hits” during the game, and he asked the boy about the bat’s origin:

“(H)e explained that he had laboriously turned the wood to proper shape himself, and that it was originally the leg of an old-fashioned, broken-down table that his grandfather possessed.  It was some strange oriental wood, something like mahogany, but much heavier and of firmer grain…When the game ended I turned to find the boy, intending to hand him good money for that bat, but the kid was gone.  Apparently afraid we intended to steal his bat…I never saw the boy again, and although I twice played games in that town years after, he never came near the park.  The mysterious bat, brimful of hits, vanished the same afternoon it first appeared and its equal has never been discovered.”

Lost Advertisements–Hans Wagner Says!!!

11 Oct

hans

 

A 1910 advertisement for Coca-Cola featuring Honus Wagner (a 1908 Wagner Coke ad was featured in an earlier post).

You can’t play good ball without vim–you’ve got to be full of enthusiasm and energy and keep your brain going–always.

You can’t afford to take alcoholic  stimulants or anything that has a “let-down” after effect.

Coca-cola

is the only beverage I have ever drunk that had vim, vigor and go to it–that quenched the thirst and assisted my mental and physical activity.

“A Heart-Breaking Play, Engineered by Wagner”

29 Mar

The defending World Series Champion New York Giants had gotten off to a fast start in 1906; on May 15 they were 19-7, the Chicago Cubs were 21-9, when they arrived in Pittsburgh for a four game series.

The Giants were shut out by the Pirates in the first two games.  In the third game of the series Christy Mathewson blew a three-run lead and the Giants trailed 7-5 heading into the top of the eighth inning..

Outfielder Sam Mertes walked, moved to second on Bill Dahlen’s single and scored on a two-out single by second baseman Billy Gilbert.  The Giants were behind 7-6 with runners on first and second; manager John McGraw was about to send Sammy Strang to pinch hit for Mathewson, when, according to The New York Times:

“A heart-breaking play, engineered by (Honus) Wagner in the last second of the eighth inning, beat the Champion New Yorks…It was a hard game to lose, and might not have been lost had Dahlen not fallen a victim to the wiles of Wagner.  The big Dutchman was guilty of the trick of hiding the ball, and when Bill stepped off second base, thinking (pitcher Albert “Lefty”) Leifield had the ball, Wagner, who had concealed it, touched Dahlen, which made the third out.”

Bill Dahlen

Bill Dahlen

The Pirates held on to win 7-6; The Times said of Dahlen:

“The New York shortstop felt so bad that he fairly wept.  McGraw, too, was angry, and it was said tonight he fined Dahlen heavily for his bit of carelessness.”

The Giants were unable to keep pace with the Cubs who finished 20 games ahead of New York for National League Pennant.

The Box Score

The Box Score

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

leetgriffith

Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate.  He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

lajoie

Napoleon Lajoie

 

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand.  And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As or his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #37

24 Jul

The Science of Survival

Brian Bell was a sports columnist for The Associated Press before eventually becoming Chief of their Washington D.C. bureau.

In 1931 he related a story:

“(I)t was a dangerous strategy to place close in with (Napoleon) Lajoie at bat. Once when Cleveland was playing in Detroit. (Bill) Coughlin, the Tigers Third sacker, played in close with Bill Bradley up, for the Cleveland third sacker was adept at dragging bunts. Then when Lajoie came up, Coughlin retreated to a position well beyond third base for Nap could hit balls down the third base line as though the ball had been fired from a rifle.

“The fans razzed Coughlin, yelling questions at to him to whether there was any lack of courage in getting out of range of one of the big fellow’s bullet-like hits. Finally, Bill walked over to the foul line and help up his hand for silence. He got it.

‘”Ladies and gentlemen.’ He said, ‘I wish to make an announcement. This is a game of of science and skill, not bravery.’”

coughlin

Bill Coughlin

Jennings on Kauff

Benny Kauff was on his way to hitting .308 for the New York Giants in 1917, Hughie Jennings, the manager of the Detroit Tigers, told the Newspaper Enterprise Association was not impressed:

kauff.jpg

Benny Kauff

“(He) says Benny Kauff would bat about .250 if in the American League.

“’Kauff was a wise boy when he elected to go with the Giants,’ says Hughie.  There are a dozen, or more, outfielders in the American League who are far superior to him.  I could name any Detroit outfielder, two on the Chicago club, two with Cleveland, one with St. Louis, one with Philadelphia, one with Washington, three with Boston, and two with New York who are superior to him.’

“’Kauff is not a good hitter.  He is a fellow who stands up at the plate and slams away at the ball.  A wise pitcher would have him in the hole all the time.  The pitching in the American League is admitted to be much better than that served in the National; the fielding is also better.’”

Bill Klem’s All-Time All-Stars

Bill Klem had been a National League umpire since 1905 and had worked 17 World Series by 1939—he would work his final World Series in 1940.

The New York Daily News asked him that year to name his all-time all-star team—most interesting in where it varies from other such teams named by “experts” during that period.  The paper said:

“Bill still insists he never made a mistake, so this team must be right.”

Pitchers:

Carl Hubbell

Grover Cleveland Alexander

Walter Johnson

Mordecai Brown

Christy Mathewson

Catchers

Roger Bresnahan

Wilbert Robinson

Johnny Kling

Gabby Hartnett

First Base

Hal Chase

Second Base

Frankie Frisch

Third Base

Jimmy Collins

Shortstop

Honus Wagner

Utility Infielders

Eddie Collins

Bill Terry

Harry Steinfeldt

Outfield

Ty Cobb

Ginger Beaumont

Babe Ruth

Utility outfielders

Tris Speaker

Fred Clarke