SCP Auctions was honored and privileged to present "The Honus Wagner Collection" at auction August 14th 2003.
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He was born John Peter Wagner on Feb. 24, 1874 in Chartiers, PA., to a family of Bavarian immigrants. He was called Johannes by his mother, which was eventually shortened to Hans and then evolved to Honus. His father was a coal miner, and all the boys in the family at one time or another followed him into the pits. During lunch breaks, the Wagner brothers played baseball and eventually developed their skills to such an extent that four of them became professionals. There are two prevailing stories as to how Honus was signed to his first contract. One says that his brother Al insisted that his younger brother be signed as a contingency for his own signature with Steubenville in the Tri-State League in 1894. The other says that Ed Barrow, who would later become the manager of the New York Yankees, saw Wagner tossing rocks and was so impressed by his arm and his powerful physique that he signed him for his Paterson club in the Atlantic League.
To many who saw him perform – and to some present-day historian and analysts – John Peter ("Honus") Wagner was the single greatest player in the game's history. In a twenty-one year National League career (1897-1917) with the Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates, Wagner displayed all the obvious virtues one might seek in a player, and displayed them consistently and conspicuously. Forty-two times he led the league in one or another of the basic offensive categories: he hit for average (eight batting championships and four on base titles), he hit for power (five RBI titles and six slugging crowns), and he could run (leading the NL in stolen bases on five occasions). Some of his totals (101 career home runs) may seem modest by latter-day standards, but it must be recalled that his career coincided with the "dead-ball era," when offensive production was at a historic low. What truly set him apart, though, was his combination of outstanding offensive skills with great defensive ability as a shortstop. Early in his career his versatility caused him to be moved from position to position; only in 1903 did he settle in at short, the diamond's most demanding spot. In spite of his unorthodox appearance, he was remarkable fast and strong, commonly regarded as the best athlete in the game. Wagner was and is one of baseball's most admired individuals. Wagner along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson were the first five members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.