Paul Waner

Position: Outfielder
Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1926-1940; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1941; 1943-1944; Boston Braves, 1941-1942; New York Yankees, 1944-1945

Because at 5’9”, 150 pounds, Paul Waner was bulkier than his brother Lloyd, he was called “Big Poison” and Lloyd “Little Poison.” The nicknames supposedly were Brooklynese for the word “person” and stemmed from a moment early in their careers when a Dodgers fan, bemoaning the frequent pastings the Waners gave Brooklyn pitchers, said something like: “There goes that big and little poison again.”

In 1926, Waner had the highest batting average of any NFL player with more than 400 at bats (.336).
In 1926, Waner had the highest batting
average of any NFL player with
more than 400 at bats (.336).

Paul Glee Waner (1903-1965) left East Central Teachers’ College in Oklahoma against his father’s advice to pursue a professional baseball career in 1923. Originally a pitcher, he switched to the outfield when he hurt his arm while training that spring with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. In his third year with the Seals, Waner paced the PCL with a .401 batting average and 75 doubles.

Sold to Pittsburgh along with infielder Hal Rhyne for $100,000 and three players, Paul began immediately to demonstrate that he was cheap even at that enormous price, one of the largest ever paid for a minor-leaguer to that time.

In 1926, his rookie season, he hit .336, higher than any other National League regular that year, but missed the batting crown when it was awarded to Cincinnati catcher Bubbles Hargrave, who had only 326 at bats.

Waner’s performance spurred the Pirates to buy his younger brother Lloyd. The two combined to amass a sibling-record 460 hits in 1927, but more important, their offensive production helped bring Pittsburgh the National League pennant. That year, Paul led the NL with a .380 average, 237 hits, 17 triples, and 131 RBI, winning the MVP Award.

Paul developed into one of the finest hitters in National League history. He not only won three hitting titles but led the NL at one time or another in every major batting department except home runs and walks.

En route to accumulating 3,152 career hits, he set an NL record by tabulating 200 or more hits in a season on eight separate occasions. He was an outstanding right fielder, combining a center fielder’s speed with one of the strongest arms in the league.

An imbiber, Waner one year foreswore liquor. When his average hovered at .250, his manager brought Paul to the nearest tavern and bought him a drink. Named to the Hall of Fame in 1952, Waner returned to the game in 1957 as a hitting instructor with the Braves.

Later he served in a similar capacity with the Cardinals and the Phillies. One of the few great hitters who could convey his secrets to young players, Waner wrote a book on hitting in the early 1960s that was well received.

Here are Paul Waner's major league totals:


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