Paul Glee Waner (Big Poison)
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 8½", Weight 153 lb.
- School East Central State Teachers College
- Debut April 13, 1926
- Final Game April 26, 1945
- Born April 16, 1903 in Harrah, OK USA
- Died August 29, 1965 in Sarasota, FL USA
"Just before the game, I told Oscar Stanage, our coach, that I was going to hit the first pitch over the exit sign in the upper right field deck. . . I hit it exactly where I said I would, right through the exit hole for a home run. . . my next time at bat . . . I hit that one in the same place . . ." - Paul Waner, about hitting two home runs off of Pea Ridge Day, after Day formed the incorrect conclusion that Waner couldn't hit low balls (quote from the book Big and Little Poison)
Paul Waner, along with his brother Lloyd, starred in the Pittsburgh Pirates' outfield in the 1920s and 1930s. Born in Harrah, OK and nicknamed "Big Poison," he led the National League in batting on three occasions and accumulated over 3,000 hits in his career from 1926 to 1945. He collected 200 or more hits on eight occasions, was voted the NL's Most Valuable Player in 1927, and compiled a lifetime batting average of .333. In 1927, he set a major league baseball record with extra-base hits in 14 consecutive games; 79 years later, Chipper Jones tied that mark. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952.
Paul was selected by the Pirates in a large cash transaction for those times, $100,000 for him and Hal Rhyne from the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. The Pirates scout was Joe Devine. Lloyd had also played for the Seals, but was dropped from their roster since he had demanded a bonus. Paul tipped the Pirates off about him, and one year later he was a Pirate.
He and his younger brother Lloyd, nicknamed "Little Poison," hold the career record for hits by brothers, outpacing Joe DiMaggio and his two brothers Dom and Vince, and the three Alou brothers Felipe, Matty and Jesus, among others. A possibly apocryphal story claims that he and his brother's nicknames reflect a Brooklyn Dodgers fan's pronunciation of "Big Person" and "Little Person"; but given that Lloyd was actually taller, this would seem somewhat incongruous. For most of the period from 1927 to 1940, Paul patrolled right field at Forbes Field while Lloyd covered the ground next to him in center field. When Paul and Lloyd homered back-to-back for Pittsburgh on September 15, 1938 game, it marked the last time two brothers went deep in the same outing for the Bucs until 2009, when Adam LaRoche and Andy LaRoche accomplished the feat. It was also the only time in major league history that brothers had hit home runs back-to-back, until B.J. and Justin Upton did so for the Atlanta Braves on April 23, 2013.
After playing the first fifteen years of his career with the Pirates, Paul Waner ended his career playing for the Dodgers (1941, 1943-1944), Boston Braves (1941-1942) and New York Yankees (1944-1945). Famous for his ability to hit while hung over, when Waner gave up drinking in 1938 at management's request, he hit only .280 - the only time that he failed to hit .300 as a Pirate. As Casey Stengel said in complimenting his base-running skills, "He had to be a very graceful player, because he could slide without breaking the bottle on his hip."
Waner was also near-sighted, a fact that Pirate management only learned late in his career when he remarked that he had difficulty reading the ads posted on the outfield walls. Fitting him with glasses, however, only interfered with his hitting, as Waner now had to contend with a small spinning projectile rather than the fuzzy grapefruit-sized object he had been hitting before.
Waner died in Sarasota, FL at age 62. In 1999, he ranked Number 62 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
On July 21, 2007, the Pirates retired Waner's number 11, the 9th player or manager in franchise history to have his number retired.
In 1971, Joe Tronzo, the sports editor at The News-Tribune in Beaver Falls, PA, commented that "Paul Waner, when he was sober, was the best right fielder the Pirates ever had. The second best right fielder the Pirates ever had was Paul Waner when he was drunk." (source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/16/2007) In 2007 he was elected to the Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame.
- 4-time NL All-Star (1933-1935 & 1937)
- NL MVP (1927)
- 3-time NL Batting Average Leader (1927, 1934 & 1936)
- 2-time NL Runs Scored Leader (1928 & 1934)
- 2-time NL Hits Leader (1927 & 1934)
- NL Total Bases Leader (1927)
- NL Singles Leader (1937)
- 2-time NL Doubles Leader (1928 & 1932)
- 2-time NL Triples Leader (1926 & 1927)
- NL RBI Leader (1927)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1927 & 1929)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 9 (1926-1930, 1932-1934 & 1936)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 8 (1927-1930, 1932, 1934, 1936 & 1937)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1952
|Bob O'Farrell||Paul Waner||Jim Bottomley|
- Most consecutive games, extra-base hits, 14 (tied with Chipper Jones), 1927
- Tied MLB record by hitting four doubles in a game, May 20, 1932
- Clifton Blue Parker: Big and Little Poison: Paul and Lloyd Waner, Baseball Brothers, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003.
- Lawrence Ritter: The Glory of Their Times, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1966, pp. 278-293.