Position: Infielder, outfielder
Team: Louisville Colonels, 1897-1899
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1900-1917
John Peter Wagner (1874-1955) was a rarity, the son of an immigrant father who thought baseball was an acceptable profession. One reason the elder Wagner held such a sanguine opinion was that Honus's older brother Albert had previously tried his hand at the game with fair success.
Honus Wagner was perhaps the
greatest shortstop ever, but
bounced around at several
positions before settling in at short.
When the franchise folded after the 1899 season, owner Barney Dreyfuss, who also owned the Pittsburgh Pirates, was permitted to take his best players to the Steel City with him. He retained Wagner, a .336 hitter in 1899.
Player-manager Fred Clarke used Wagner mainly in the outfield in 1900 and was rewarded when Honus won the first of his record eight National League batting titles and also led the loop in doubles, triples and slugging average. When Bones Ely slumped to .208 in 1901, Wagner spelled him for nearly half the season at shortstop.
In 1902, he was returned to the outfield as Wid Conroy handled the shortstop post for most of a season that saw the Pirates win the pennant by a record 271/2 games. The team was so strong it survived defections by several players to the American League and still triumphed for a third successive season in 1903. When Conroy was one of the players to jump ship, Clarke handed Honus the shortstop job on a permanent basis. Finally, Wagner had a position he could call his own, and the rest is history.
"The Flying Dutchman" was so great a shortstop that contemporary players must have considered it a cruel act of providence that he was also blessed with such incredible talent as a hitter. During his 21-year career Wagner was a league leader at least twice in every major offensive department except home runs and walks. When he retired he had compiled more hits, runs, total bases, RBI, and stolen bases than any player in history to that point.
All these career records have since been broken, but no other shortstop in the game's long history has even approached Wagner's overall achievements. Honus was among the elite group of five players named to the Hall of Fame in 1936 when the first vote for enshrinement was conducted.
Here are Honus Wagner's major league totals:
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