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Honus Wagner: A Biographyby Dennis Devaleria
Synopses & Reviews
Honus Wagner is generally acknowledged as the finest shortstop in baseball history. Along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson, he was one of the first five players to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His rare 1909 baseball card - known to collectors as the Holy Grail of American memorabilia - fetched nearly half a million dollars at auction in 1991. His rise paralleled the development of baseball as the national pastime, and his playing skills remain legendary. He was, possibly, the first superstar of American sports. At a time when baseball was a raw, aggressive game played by rugged men, the unflappable Wagner's humble ways enhanced his miraculous performance throughout his twenty-one-year career, including three seasons with the Louisville Colonels and eighteen with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Wagner's gradual emergence from the pack into stardom and popularity is described here in rich detail. But the book also reveals much of Wagner's family and personal life - his minor league career, his values, his failed business ventures during the Depression, his later years - about which, until now, there has been no well known narrative. Neither the "rowdy-ball" ruffian nor the teetotal saint constructed of legend, Wagner is presented here in a complete portrait - one that offers a vivid impression of the era when baseball was America's game and the nation was evolving into the world's industrial leader.
Neither the “rowdy-ball” ruffian nor the teetotal saint constructed of legend, Wagner is presented here in a complete portrait—one that offers a vivid impression of the era when baseball was Americas game and the nation was evolving into the worlds industrial leader.
With the coming of the twentieth century, America was thinking on a grand scale. Barriers of communication and transportation were being overcome and giants such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and William Randolph Hearst walked the land. The nations game was baseball, and its giant was Honus Wagner. In 1996, a baseball card depicting Honus Wagner sold for $640,500 - the largest sum ever paid at auction for a sports artifact. What could possibly make that piece of cardboard, approximately one-and-a-half by two-and-a-half inches, worth more than half a million dollars? The DeValerias tell the unique story behind this now-famous baseball card and the man depicted on it. In doing so, they accurately present the local, regional, and national context so readers gain a thorough understanding of Wagners times.Wagners gradual emergence from the pack into stardom and popularity is described here in rich detail, but the book also reveals much of Wagners family and personal life - his minor leauge career, his values, his failed business ventures during the Depression, and his later years. Neither the rowdy-ball” ruffian nor the teetotal saint constructed of legend, Wagner is presented here in a complete portrait - one that offers a vivid impression of the era when baseball was Americas game and the nation was evolving into the worlds industrial leader.
About the Author
Dennis and Jeanne DeValeria are writers and historians who live and work in Pittsburgh. They are widely recognized as the foremost experts on Honus Wagners life and career. Their presentation on Wagner received the annual Baseball Weekly Award at the 1995 national convention of the Society for American Baseball Research.
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