Hall of Fame: Honus Wagner (1936)

I don’t care how good he is. Why would you pay $3M for his baseball card?

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG *OPS+  TB   SH
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
1897 23 LOU NL 61 237 37 80 17 4 2 39 19 15 .338 .379 .468 126 111 5
1898 24 LOU NL 151 588 80 176 29 3 10 105 27 31 .299 .341 .410 115 241 10
1899 25 LOU NL 147 571 98 192 43 13 7 113 37 40 .336 .391 .494 142 282 4
1900 26 PIT NL 135 527 107 201 45 22 4 100 38 41 .381 .434 .573 175 302 4
1901 27 PIT NL 140 549 101 194 37 11 6 126 49 53 .353 .417 .494 160 271 10
1902 28 PIT NL 136 534 105 176 30 16 3 91 42 43 .330 .394 .463 159 247 8
1903 29 PIT NL 129 512 97 182 30 19 5 101 46 44 .355 .414 .518 161 265 8
1904 30 PIT NL 132 490 97 171 44 14 4 75 53 59 .349 .423 .520 187 255 5
1905 31 PIT NL 147 548 114 199 32 14 6 101 57 54 .363 .427 .505 174 277 7
1906 32 PIT NL 142 516 103 175 38 9 2 71 53 58 .339 .416 .459 168 237 6
1907 33 PIT NL 142 515 98 180 38 14 6 82 61 46 .350 .408 .513 186 264 14
1908 34 PIT NL 151 568 100 201 39 19 10 109 53 54 .354 .415 .542 205 308 14
1909 35 PIT NL 137 495 92 168 39 10 5 100 35 66 .339 .420 .489 176 242 27
1910 36 PIT NL 150 556 90 178 34 8 4 81 24 59 47 .320 .390 .432 133 240 20
1911 37 PIT NL 130 473 87 158 23 16 9 89 20 67 34 .334 .423 .507 156 240 12
1912 38 PIT NL 145 558 91 181 35 20 7 102 26 59 38 .324 .395 .496 144 277 11
1913 39 PIT NL 114 413 51 124 18 4 3 56 21 26 40 .300 .349 .385 113 159 10
1914 40 PIT NL 150 552 60 139 15 9 1 50 23 51 51 .252 .317 .317 92 175 11
1915 41 PIT NL 156 566 68 155 32 17 6 78 22 15 39 64 .274 .325 .422 126 239 16
1916 42 PIT NL 123 432 45 124 15 9 1 39 11 34 36 .287 .350 .370 120 160 10
1917 43 PIT NL 74 230 15 61 7 1 0 24 5 24 17 .265 .337 .304 95 70 9
+--------------+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+----+----+---+
21 Seasons 10430 3415 252 1732 15 327 .327 .391 .466 150 221
2792 1736 640 101 722 963 4862

Johannes Peter Wagner was born February 24, 1874 (my brother’s birthday) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During his childhood, his mother called him “Hans”, and that would later evolve into his more popular nickname “Honus”. Even though he was the most famous of his brothers by the end, it was actually his brother Albert who got him his first tryout.

Wagner began his successful career as one of the greatest shortstops of all time with the Louisville Colonels (Louisville!), but after his second season, the league contracted and the Colonels were gone. The Colonels owner, however, bought half of the Pittsburgh Pirates and brought many of his players, including Honus, with him after the 1899 season.

Pittsburgh proved to be a beneficial place for Wagner. He won a batting title in his first season and won a World Series in 1909. That World Series almost did not happen, however. After the 1907 season, Wagner retired, but the owner offered $10,000 to Wagner. Wagner accepted and was the highest paid player for many seasons, and due to this, some wonder if his retirement was just a ploy for a raise (these were the days before a union). Wagner would later become the second player in history with 3,000 hits (Cap Anson being the first). Like other players of the time, he became the manager of his team, but after 5 games, he told the owner that the position wasn’t right for him. After the 1917 season, Wagner retired.

One of the greatest shortstops and even players of baseball history, Wagner was an easy choice for the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1936, and he tied Babe Ruth’s 215 votes. Bill James rates him as the second greatest player of all-time behind Ruth, and he makes many people’s all-time lists as the top shortstop.

The “Flying Dutchman” was known for his speed and defense. What he may be best known for now is his T206 baseball card. He, supposedly, didn’t want his picture and image used as a baseball card in a cigarette box because he feared that children would buy cigarettes for his card, and the American Tobacco Company had to stop making them, which in turn made the card extremely rare. In 2007 after a series of owners, the card sold for $2.8M and became the most valuable card ever.

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