One of the elite players of the early 20th century, Wagner was included in the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1936. Like fellow greats Cobb and Ruth, Wagner was a prolific signer. Examples of his signature date from the pre-1910 era virtually up to his passing in 1955, and often include inscriptions and dates. Visually, Wagner’s autograph changed dramatically over time. His early signature varied from "John H. Wagner" to "J. Honus Wagner" to "J. Hans. Wagner," and was often ornate in appearance. As time went on, the signature lost a bit of its eye-appeal and also changed in form. By the 1930s, Wagner signed his name "Hans Wagner," but changed to "Honus Wagner" by the mid-1940s, often adding inscriptions such as "Pirates Coach" under his signature.
Johannes Peter “Honus” “Hans” Wagner
Born: February 24, 1874 - Chartiers, PA
Died: December 6, 1955 - Carnegie, PA
Career BA: .328
Managerial Record: 1–4
Louisville Colonels NL (February 24, 1874 - December 6, 1955)
Pittsburgh Pirates NL (1900–1916; player-manager: 1917)
It is very hard not just to consider Honus Wagner as the best shortstop in the Cracker Jack Collection, but rather the greatest shortstop of all time. One of the first heroes of the game, “The Flying Dutchman” was a great batsman, superb defensively, and one of the fastest players in the league. Wagner’s name is sure to appear on any short list of the 10 greatest players of all time. With eight batting titles and a .328 lifetime batting average, Wagner also banged out more than 3,400 hits over his brilliant career.
A powerfully built man with large hands and bowed legs, Wagner was not graceful, but he was speedy on the basepaths, stealing 723 bases during his career. In 1908 he led the league with a .354 batting average and in most other categories as well. His offensive winning percentage that year was .880; a single season league record that stood until 2001. Although he played on only one Pittsburgh World Series Champion team (1909), we could write volumes on his individual accomplishments. Among contemporaries like Mathewson and Cobb, he was considered the best. Although there are stories about his rivalry with Cobb, they actually spent time together hunting during the offseason.
At the end of his career, Wagner managed the Pirates for a brief period before retiring as a player. He became a successful businessman in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, coached locally, and raised his family. After his business ventures were hard hit by the Depression, Wagner returned to the Pirates to coach from 1933 until 1951. Elected to the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year, Wagner was truly one of the greats. Of course the famous Wagner T206 card has also added to the legend of “The Flying Dutchman.” In the whole scheme of things, however, the legacy of the great Honus Wagner stands on its own merit.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html