Let's Talk About the Past: Honus Wagner

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Recognized as one of the greatest all-around players in baseball history, hometown hero Honus Wagner set the standard for Major League shortstops.

Born in 1874 as one of nine children to German immigrants in Chartiers (today's Carnegie), Johannes Peter Wagner dropped out of school at age 12 to help his father and brothers in the Western Pennsylvania coal mines.

After developing his athletic talents on the local sandlots, Wagner made his Major League debut with the Louisville Colonels in 1897 and quickly became one of the National League's most feared hitters. When baseball disbanded four teams following the 1899 season, Colonels owner Barney Dreyfuss took many of the team's best players to his other franchise, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Described as bow-legged and barrel-chested, the "Flying Dutchman" developed into the game's most skilled fielder at shortstop, with a strong throwing arm and all-around athleticism. At the plate, Wagner hit over .300 for 16 seasons while displaying a powerful stroke and lightning speed on the base paths.

In 1903, Wagner led the Pirates to baseball's first World Series against the Boston Americans and six years later, the Bucs won their first world championship against Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers. Throughout his career, Wagner won eight batting titles, led the league in slugging six times and in stolen bases five times.

In 1936, he received the second highest vote total behind Ty Cobb and joined Babe Ruth as one of the first five inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame's inaugural class. He served as a coach with the Pirates for 39 years before his death in Pittsburgh in 1955.

Today, a larger than life-sized statue of Wagner greets fans outside PNC Park and his famous T-206 is the most sought-after baseball card in history.

Pirates fans visiting the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center can see Honus Wagner's 1938 uniform along with items from one of the greatest moments in Pirates history -- Bill Mazeroski's walk-off home run in Game 7 to clinch the 1960 World Series over the New York Yankees. Mazeroski's iconic uniform, bronzed bat and other items from Game 7 of the 1960 World Series are on display for a limited time through May 1. For information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.


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