Honus Wagner: A Biography

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9780822956655: Honus Wagner: A Biography
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With the coming of the twentieth century, America was thinking on a grand scale. Barriers of communication and transportation were being overcome and giants such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and William Randolph Hearst walked the land. The nation’s game was baseball, and its giant was Honus Wagner. In 1996, a baseball card depicting Honus Wagner sold for $640,500 - the largest sum ever paid at auction for a sports artifact. What could possibly make that piece of cardboard, approximately one-and-a-half by two-and-a-half inches, worth more than half a million dollars? The DeValerias tell the unique story behind this now-famous baseball card and the man depicted on it. In doing so, they accurately present the local, regional, and national context so readers gain a thorough understanding of Wagner’s times.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 leauge career, his values, his failed business ventures during the Depression, and his later years. 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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The first decade of baseball in the 20th century witnessed the ascension of two stars who stood above the rest: Ty Cobb in the American League and Honus Wagner in the National. If Cobb was the game's tortured bully, Wagner was the anti-Cobb. He was kind and quiet, the most beloved figure in the game before Ruth, the local boy from the coalfields of western Pennsylvania who made good on the green fields of Pittsburgh's ballparks. Despite terribly bowed legs and freakishly large hands, he patrolled the shortstop slot with remarkable dexterity; he may not have been as acrobatic as Ozzie Smith, but no shortstop was steadier defensively. Offensively, he was a genius, winning eight batting crowns, four in a row between 1906 and 1909, and he remains, almost a century later, among the all-time top 10 in hits, doubles, triples, and stolen bases. Cobb, who rarely complimented anyone, considered Wagner "the greatest ballplayer that ever lived." Yet more than 40 years would pass after his death before any biographer seriously went to bat with his life.

In Honus Wagner, the DeValerias have produced a clean hit, maybe not a home run, but, befitting a star of the dead-ball era, a well-placed, well-struck double. As solid as Wagner himself--and at 5'11" and 200 pounds, he was solid--the "Flying Dutchman" emerges as a shy man who loved the game and loved to play it, and that's about the extent of it. He was a regular guy, no tormented Cobb, no educated Mathewson, no flamboyant Ruth. There are simply no strikes against him; he was unfussy, immensely likeable, anxious to please, tremendously supportive of his friends and teammates, and, while inordinately polite on the field, off of it he rarely pulled his punch lines. If anything haunted him, it was his poor performance against the Red Sox in the 1903 World Series, which he more than made up for against Cobb and the Tigers six years later. He may have led a simple life, but he wasn't exactly a simple man; his biographers treat him with the same respect he treated the game, and propel themselves with the same thoroughness, doggedness, and care that Wagner displayed on the field. --Jeff Silverman

From the Back Cover:

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. 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 has 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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9780805037500: Honus Wagner: A Biography

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Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, 1996
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Book Description University of Pittsburgh Press, United States, 1998. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. With the coming of the twentieth century, America was thinking on a grand scale. Barriers of communication and transportation were being overcome and giants such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and William Randolph Hearst walked the land. The nation s game was baseball, and its giant was Honus Wagner. In 1996, a baseball card depicting Honus Wagner sold for $640,500 - the largest sum ever paid at auction for a sports artifact. What could possibly make that piece of cardboard, approximately one-and-a-half by two-and-a-half inches, worth more than half a million dollars? The DeValerias tell the unique story behind this now-famous baseball card and the man depicted on it. In doing so, they accurately present the local, regional, and national context so readers gain a thorough understanding of Wagner s times.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 leauge career, his values, his failed business ventures during the Depression, and his later years. 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. Seller Inventory # AAC9780822956655

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Book Description University of Pittsburgh Press, United States, 1998. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. With the coming of the twentieth century, America was thinking on a grand scale. Barriers of communication and transportation were being overcome and giants such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and William Randolph Hearst walked the land. The nation s game was baseball, and its giant was Honus Wagner. In 1996, a baseball card depicting Honus Wagner sold for $640,500 - the largest sum ever paid at auction for a sports artifact. What could possibly make that piece of cardboard, approximately one-and-a-half by two-and-a-half inches, worth more than half a million dollars? The DeValerias tell the unique story behind this now-famous baseball card and the man depicted on it. In doing so, they accurately present the local, regional, and national context so readers gain a thorough understanding of Wagner s times.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 leauge career, his values, his failed business ventures during the Depression, and his later years. 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. Seller Inventory # AAC9780822956655

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