|42 years after his death, Pirates finally honor Paul Waner|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 21 July 2007 14:24|
They corrected that long-standing oversight on Saturday by making him the sixth former Pirates player whose uniform number will not be worn again. Waner joins a short list that previously included only Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Pie Traynor and Bill Mazeroski.
Waner retired 62 years ago and died nearly 42 years ago, but the Pirates waited until the 55th anniversary of Waner entering the Hall of Fame to honor him with the other top players in their history. His number and name are now displayed on a sign located on the third base grandstand.
``Paul Waner was one of the most dominating players, not only in the storied history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but throughout major league baseball,'' said Kevin McClatchy, who wanted Waner to be honored before McClatchy steps down later this year as the club's chief executive officer.
As part of a pregame ceremony that delayed the start of the Astros-Pirates game for 15 minutes, Waner - known as Big Poison - was remembered as an exceptional line drive hitter who took full advantage of Forbes Field's spacious outfield to line doubles and triples into the gaps. He is tied for 11th all-time with 603 doubles and 10th in triples with 190.
The Pirates cut the outline of his No. 11 into the grass in PNC Park's right field, as they did with Mazeroski's No. 9 when he entered the Hall of Fame in 2001.
Waner was one of the majors' top hitters during most of his career from 1926-1945, playing his first 15 seasons in Pittsburgh - mostly as the Pirates' right fielder, with brother Lloyd ``Little Poison'' Waner in center field. Paul Waner (3,152 hits) and Lloyd Waner (2,459) had 5,611 hits between them, a major league record for the only two brothers enshrined in the Hall of Fame solely as players.
When Paul Waner retired in 1945, his hits total ranked sixth in major league history. He is now 16th.
Waner had 237 hits and a club-record 131 RBIs during his MVP season in 1927, when the Pirates won the pennant but were swept by the Yankees in the World Series. Waner had 200 or more hits eight times from 1926-37. His 2,868 hits with Pittsburgh rank behind only Clemente (3,000) and Honus Wagner (2,967) in franchise history and his .340 career average is the Pirates' best.
Waner had been retired for seven years when infielder Dick Groat, who would later join Waner as an NL MVP, first played for the Pirates in 1952. Groat learned that Waner was one of the few former or current players at the time who had a batting cage and pitching machine in his home, and he often went there for pregame batting practice.
``He still could hit then,'' Groat said. ``He could really hit.''
Among those taking part in the onfield ceremony were several Waner family members, plus Mazeroski and Ralph Kiner. Their uniform numbers were retired in 1987 and, until now, were the last former Pirates to achieve the honor.
Also recognized during the ceremony was Astros infielder Craig Biggio, who recently became the 27th player in major league history with 3,000 or more hits.
Previously, the Pirates also retired the numbers of former managers Danny Murtaugh and Billy Meyer and, like all major league clubs, retired Jackie Robinson's No. 42 in 1997.