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He Was A Yankee? – Paul Waner

He Was A Yankee?

by Paul Semendinger

***

An MVP.

A three-time batting champion.

A four-time All Star.

A member of the Baseball Hall-of-Fame.

Paul Waner, a player known as Big Poison, one of baseball’s first members of the 3,000 hit club, was one of the greatest players ever to wear a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.

But he was also once a Yankee.

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Paul Waner came up with the Pirates in 1926. Along with his brother Lloyd (Little Poison), they led the Pirates to the 1927 World Series (which it was said that they, and their teammates were wowed by the tremendous batting displayed in batting practice by the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and others).

That 1926 season would be the start of twelve consecutive years when Waner batted over .300. His overall batting average over that period was an amazing .348. In six of those seasons, Waner batted over .350. His best year was 1927 when he batted .380 (to lead the league), but his league leading .373 in 1936 wasn’t too far behind.

The man could hit, that was certainly true.

(So could his brother, also a member of the Hall-of-Fame. In his career, Lloyd Waner batted .316 with 2,459 hits. Together, the Waner brothers totaled 5,611 hits – the most by any brother combination in baseball history.)

In his final three seasons with the Pirates, Paul Waner batted .280 (1938), .328 (1939), and .290 (1940). He then went to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1941), the Boston Braves (1941-43), the Dodgers again (1944), and then, for just ten games to close out his career, the New York Yankees (in 1944 and 1945).

Over his final 395 games, Waner batted .276.

***

The last ten games of Paul Waner’s career were played for the Yankees. He played in nine games in 1944 as a Yankee and in one game in 1945.

In 1944, Waner batted seven times as a Yankee. He had one hit.

In 1945, he came to the plate once and walked.

And that was it.

***

Paul Waner’s lone Yankee hit came in his very first at bat as a Yankee, on September 1, 1944. The Yankees had signed Waner to help them as a pinch-hitter down the stretch.

In that first game, Waner came up against Jug Thesenga (pitching in his first of just five big league games) of the Washington Senators. Waner was pinch-hitting with the Yankees down 3-0, but there were no outs and there were runners on first and second.

Waner promptly singled home a run. This continued a rally that would see the Yankees take a 4-3 lead in the game. (In the end, they lost anyway 10-7.)

The rest of Waner’s 1944 season saw him go 0-for-6 with a walk and a run scored.

In Waner’s last game, his lone chance in 1945, he walked in a game the Yankees lost to the Philadelphia A’s 7-5.

***

PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

Hall-of-Fame Manager Bill McKechnie

Hall-of-Fame Football Coach and Owner George “Papa Bear” Halas

Hall-of-Fame Executive Branch Rickey

Hall-of-Fame Musical Artist Charley Pride

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