Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Lloyd Waner | Baseball Digest

Baseball Digest Birthdays: Lloyd Waner | Baseball Digest

Lloyd James Waner was born in Harrah, OK in 1906, just a few decades after the town was settled. He and his older brother Paul worked the family farm, attended school, and played baseball with whatever they could use as equipment. After graduating high school, the younger Waner attended East Central State University in nearby Ada, OK. But the lure of baseball was too strong, and Waner left school to play for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League in 1925. It was the same franchise that would later produce the DiMaggio brothers.

Though he performed poorly with the Seals, he was league MVP the following season when he joined the Columbia (SC) Comers of the Southern League, and batted .345. That same season was Paul’s rookie season in the Major Leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates. With Paul’s backing, Lloyd tried out and made the 1927 Pirates. The rookie led the National League with 133 runs scored and hit a sizzling .355. Paul, meanwhile, won the NL MVP Award and the Pirates captured the pennant with one of the best teams of the decade.

There was just one problem; the Pirates had to go up against the vaunted Murderer’s Row lineup of the New York Yankees in the World Series. They never stood a chance. Though Lloyd hit .400, the Yankees swept the Pirates in four games in what would be the only World Series appearance for the Waner brothers, who by then were known by the monikers “Big Poison” (Paul) and “Little Poison” (Lloyd). Actually, neither was very big, standing 5’8″ or 5’9″ and weighing less than 160 pounds.

Al Abrams of the Pittsburgh Gazette talked to the speedy Waner in 1966 about his ability to leg out infield hits. Click here to read all about it!

Lloyd would hit better than .300 in 10 of his first 12 seasons in the bigs, but it was his first three seasons in the majors that really stood out. Over that stretch, he averaged 226 hits, 13 triples, 22 doubles,129 runs scored, and batted .347. The centerfielder also set career highs in several categories, including RBI, average, doubles, and triples. He played 14 seasons in Pittsburgh before being traded (at age 35) to the Boston Braves for second-year pitcher Nick Strincevich. In June he was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for another second year hurler, Johnny Hutchings.

Waner spent the ’42 season with the Dodgers before returning to Pittsburgh for the final two years of his career. It was a career that was likely extended by MLB’s desperation for players during World War II. After his playing days were over, Waner worked as a scout for the Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the veterans committee in 1967. Waner passed away in 1982 and was survived by his wife Frances and their two children.

Also Born Today

Stephen Drew (Hahira, GA, 1983): The Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop is beginning his sixth season in the Major Leagues after being the 15th player (Florida St.) selected in the 2004 amateur draft. Drew is a good glove and has been a consistent offensive performer, averaging 15 HR and 63 RBI per season, but the Diamondbacks had hoped his offensive would have been more developed by now.

Curtis Granderson (Blue Island, IL, 1981): The speedy centerfielder begins his second season in a New York Yankees uniform after six seasons as a Detroit Tiger. Granderson has averaged 23 HR and 69 RBI the last five seasons, and hit 30 home runs in 2009. Granderson has struggled with his average the last two seasons, but is hoping to turn things around with the work of Yankees’ hitting coach Kevin Long. In 2007, he became only the third player to top 20 doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases in one season.

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