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Honus Wagner: A Biography [NOOK Book]


"We think we have made a deal which will materially help us out," Fred Clarke, manager of the National Louisville Colonels, prophetically told the local media in 1897. "After negotiating for some days we have succeeded in securing Hans Wagner...He is a big, heavy German, with very large hands, and is powerful as a bull. He kills the ball." A few years later, the widely read sportswriter Hugh Fullteron would refer to Wagner as "the nearest approach to a baseball machine ever constructed."Honus Wagner is generally...
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Honus Wagner: A Biography

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"We think we have made a deal which will materially help us out," Fred Clarke, manager of the National Louisville Colonels, prophetically told the local media in 1897. "After negotiating for some days we have succeeded in securing Hans Wagner...He is a big, heavy German, with very large hands, and is powerful as a bull. He kills the ball." A few years later, the widely read sportswriter Hugh Fullteron would refer to Wagner as "the nearest approach to a baseball machine ever constructed."Honus Wagner is generally acknowledged as the finest shortstop in baseball history. Along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson, he was one of the first five players to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His rare 1909 baseball card--known to collectors as the Holy Grail of American memorabilia--fetched nearly half a million dollars at auction in 1991. His rise paralleled the development of baseball as the national pastime, and his playing skills remain legendary. He was, possibly, the first superstar of American sports.And yet, amazingly, a full-length biography of Honus Wagner had never before appeared. Here, Dennis and Jeanne DeValeria tell the sports hero's whole story. The son of German immigrants, Wagner (1874-1955) grew up in Andrew Carnegie's Pittsburgh, working in coal mines at age twelve. At age thirteen he worked in a steel mill; at twenty-one he was a professional baseball player. Despite his hardscrabble background, he came to be respected by those in the highest reaches of American society: when he became an icon, he would know President Howard Taft and industrialist Henry Ford. And with prestige came wealth: one of the highest-paid players in the game, he was among the first in his hometown to own an automobile. At a time when baseball was a raw, aggressive game played by rugged men, the unflappable Wagner's humble ways enhanced his miraculous performance throughout his twenty-one-year career, including three seasons with the Louisville Colonels and eighteen with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner's gradual emergence from the pack into stardom and popularity is described here in rich detail. But the book also reveals much of Wagner's family and personal life--his minor league career, his values, his failed business ventures during the Depression, his later years--about which, until now, there had been no well known narrative. Neither the "rowdy-ball" ruffian nor the teetotal saint constructed of legend, Wagner is presented here in a complete portrait--one that offers a vivid impression of the era when baseball was America's game and the nation was evolving into the world's industrial leader.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Baseball's legendary "Flying Dutchman" was born in Pennsylvania in 1874, the son of immigrant German parents. He was signed to play in the minor leagues and made his National League debut with Louisville in 1897. When the team folded, he moved to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he would spend the rest of his career. A gifted athlete who could play any position, he finally settled in at shortstop, where he would go on to lead the league in batting eight times during the "deadball" era. The authors, members of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), look at the highlights of Wagner's career: playing in the first World Series in 1903; going head-to-head with his rival Ty Cobb in the 1909 World Series; and becoming the second player in major-league history to collect 3000 hits. Having gone on to manage the Pirates and to become one of the original members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Wagner died in 1955. This workmanlike bio will appeal primarily to those interested in the early years of baseball. Photos not seen by PW. Foreign rights: Holt. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
A baseball story too good to be true, written in a style that makes it seem even less probable.

Born to a German immigrant family, Hans Peter Wagner was a genial, strapping lad (the nickname "Honus," a corruption of Hans, was a German term of endearment for a big awkward kid) who grew even more physically prepossessing by working in the mills and mines of western Pennsylvania. Breaking in with the Louisville Colonels of the National League in the 1890s, Wagner showed great prowess with both bat and glove. He could play at any of the eight field positions, although his regular spot was at shortstop. (He is considered by many to have been the greatest shortstop ever to play the game.) At the turn of the century Wagner's team was bought by Barney Dreyfuss, a genial businessman who moved them to Pittsburgh, where Honus would spend the balance of his life and career. Dreyfuss's largesse (he regularly treated his teams to vacations whether they won the pennant or not) was a marked contrast to the penurious owners of the early 1900s. And as baseball's pinnacle attraction and the centerpiece of several championship teams, the loyal and hardworking Wagner gave Dreyfuss few chances during their long relationship to regret his generosity. After finally hanging up his spikes in 1917, Wagner—owner of several Major League records—entered a golden retirement during which he coached for the Pirates and was among the first players inducted into the Hall of Fame. This book does explode some prominent myths, most notably that Wagner forced a cigarette maker to withdraw a card bearing his likeness because of his disdain for tobacco (Wagner was, in fact, an inveterate chewer and cigar smoker who may have dismissed cigarettes as too "lady like").

The authors (members of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research) divulge little, however, in their hagiography about how Wagner changed the game, or vice versa.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466862883
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 334
  • Sales rank: 1,253,949
  • File size: 463 KB

Meet the Author

Dennis and Jeanne DeValeria live and write in Pittsburgh. They received the annual Baseball Weekly Award for their talk on Wagner at the 1995 Society for American Baseball Research national convention.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 13, 2014

    Great look at Honus

    There's plenty here about Honus Wagner. Most of which shows Honus as the great guy he was in that era. But it also shows the good and bad sides of Honus. A great book of one of the best players ever and the best SS of all time.

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