The Autograph Expert - Vintage Series



Autograph Analysis and Signing Habits of Lloyd James



L loyd James Waner was born on Mach 16, 1906 in Harrah, OK, the youngest of three brothers. The oldest brother played amateur baseball and then became an accountant. Along with his brother Paul (three years his elder) they talked baseball, played catch and hit corncobs with hoe handles on their daily two and one-half mile walk to the one-room Dewey District School. One of their two sisters, Alma, "was the best hitter in the family" brother Paul would claim.

Their father, then a farmer of Dutch-German decent, was a former old Western League ballplayer. He encouraged his children to play ball. Lloyd gained reputation as a highly touted pitching prospect at McLoud High School, where he regularly beat an adolescent Carl Hubbell. Later, he attended East Central State Teachers' College in Ada, OK (as did Paul) but "forgot to finish", just one semester shy of graduation after he was called up to the big leagues.

Off to a slow start after signing with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1925, he basically just watched brother Paul hit a strong .401. Lloyd became upset after the Seals reneged on a verbal commitment to a $1,500 signing bonus and asked to be released. Paul, now an overnight sensation with the Pittsburgh Pirates, recommended the Bucs to sign his brother to a contract and Lloyd aptly responded by hitting .345 for Columbia of the Sally League.

Now promoted, he went on to lead the South Atlantic League, where he was named Most Valuable Player. The speedster won a spot as the starting centerfielder in spring training when slugger Clyde Barnhart showed up hopelessly overweight. For half of the 1927 season, the Pittsburgh Pirate outfield was comprised of three future Hall of Famers including sibling Paul and Ki Ki Cuyler. Lloyd set out to have one of the greatest first seasons ever. As the leadoff hitter, he set the rookie record with 223 hits of which 198 were singles. Although the Waner boys rallied to their only World Series, they were swept by the Yankees' "Murderer's Row" in four games. Ironically, in his entire career, he never appeared in an All-Star game.

"Little Poison" was actually a nickname given to Lloyd (and "Big Poison" to Paul) when a Brooklyn fan's accent made the word "person" sound like "poy-son". A New York sportswriter picked up on the oddly pronounced word and assigned to them their monikers. This came despite both brothers being similar in height and weight. The two brothers remained close throughout their lifetime, rooming on the road for several seasons, even though their personalities differed. Paul was hard-hitting and hard drinking; Lloyd was quiet and preferred to retire earlier than keep the late nights of his brother.

The 5'9, 150-pound left-handed hitting machine success came in part due to his exceptional eye. In his 18-year career, he only struck out 173 times in 7,772 at bats! "Muscles" (to his teammates) preferred to make contact with the ball and never walked more than 40 times in a season. Although he did not have an exceptional right-handed throwing arm, he had outstanding speed and was able to get a good jump on the ball and led the league in putouts four times. Surprisingly, his swiftness was not efficiently utilized on the base paths; only 67 base thefts in all. Appendicitis made him miss most of the 1930 season but he returned and still hit .362 in 68 games. The following year he came back with a vengeance and led the league with 214 hits with a .314 average. He compiled 2,459 hits for a .316 lifetime batting average. He remained with the Pirates briefly into the 1941 season, went to the Braves for 19 games and then was traded to the Reds to finish off the year.

The next year as a free agent coming to the Phillies, he spent the season as a part time center fielder and pinch hitter. Lloyd announced his retirement rather than report to the Dodgers after being traded on March 8, 1943. World War II had thinned the major league rosters and Waner reconsidered by joining the Brooklyn club in 1944, only to be released after just 15 games. At age 37, Lloyd had to find employment in a defense plant or risk being drafted. Returning to Pittsburgh in 1945, a hero's welcome awaited him. Slowing down some, Waner was almost exclusively relegated to pinch-hitting. He once again retired at the season's end.

Lloyd remained with Pittsburgh as a scout from 1946 to 1949 before taking a job as a field clerk with the Oklahoma City government in 1950. He was forced to retire from his position in 1967. His hobbies included hunting and fishing. The Orioles hired him briefly as a scout during the 1955 season, which proved to be his final baseball assignment. The Committee on Baseball Veterans elected Waner (#107) to the Hall of Fame along with deceased administrator Branch Rickey on July 24, 1967.

The Baseball Writers Association enshrined pitcher Charles "Red" Ruffing, who also attended his induction ceremony. Waner became a regular guest making the annual sojourn to Cooperstown from 1968-72 and 1974-79. He died at Presbyterian Hospital on July 22, 1982 of emphysema at the age of 76 and was buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Oklahoma City, OK. He was survived by his wife Frances, their daughter Lydia Freeman and son Lloyd, Jr., in addition to five grandchildren.

The right-handed signature of Lloyd Waner evolved through the years. He was considered a generous signer in person and through the mail, even accommodating multiple requests. Always legible, his autograph was evenly spaced, and was not opposed to adding the greetings such as "My Regards", "Best Wishes" or supply "Little Poison" beneath. His capital "L" stood alone, slightly lower than the baseline, and may or may not be overlapped by the ¾-in size lower case "l" that followed. The "o" resembled more like an "a" with the connecting stroke arcing upward intersecting the loop. He kept his open looped "y" concise before reaching into the middle of the conventional "d".

Earlier versions had more of an upright, as opposed to a 45-degree slant that he adopted over time. The "d", at one time, angled obtusely stretching backwards over the "o" and created an inward fishhook in its terminal stroke. The capital "W" varied in formation. As a rookie, there was an initial upstroke that may create a loop but later examples start with a higher down stroke that is more pointed, especially on the first section of the letter. Depending on his mood, he may or may not use a connecting stroke into the lower case "a" and kept their heights similar when doing so. The "a-n-e" conventional letters were slightly larger than the lower case letters in his first name. Finishing off his surname, he would use two different styles: 1) the more common design would come up to a point, slightly retraced before creating a tilted slanted shelf that curled down and flamboyantly reached high in the terminal stroke. 2) The second later in life would omit the slanted shelf and just come to a point although it finished high as well.

He, like many of the first-half century athletes, enjoyed placing a period after their name, which was dismissed by the 1970's. Cancelled checks took on a different appearance altogether when he intertwined his first two initials and dotted the small "j". Incidence of forgery is somewhat limited to single signed baseballs and the very rare Perez-Steele Art Postcard (printed 1981) is valued at over $3000. He did not use a ghost signer through the mail, however, there were occasional clubhouse examples used for team signed items in the 1920s and 1930s.

A Lloyd Waner 3x5 sells for approximately $20-$25 and will probably remain at that price level for years to come because of their abundance and meager demand. Yellow Hall of Fame plaque postcards can be found in the $40-$50 range but the psychedelic 1980 Dexter Press versions are considered very uncommon and would be offered at $100 plus. Cancelled checks were recently introduced into the marketplace and command $150-$200. Their supply is limited to less than 100 pieces dating from the early 1970's. They are drawn from the City National Bank in Oklahoma City and his wife Frances was also listed as the draft maker bearing his 232 Edgemere Court address.

Single signed baseballs are available from time to time, often signed in his trademark black felt tip marker. Beware of those Rawlings World Series and All Star balls that don't have the "Haiti" stamp on the sweet spot. Forgers have been penning the reissued 1990s versions that lack the country of origin. Black and white photographs (8x10s) that I see sell for $125-150, often feature Waner in a Pirate uniform and/or swinging away. Autographed gum cards are fairly common, typically on TCMA and Fleer cards and can be acquired for about $50. Typed and handwritten letters, depending on their content should be in the $200-400 range.