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When Honus or Hans (his real name was John Peter Wagner) died in his sleep at 81 last week, the tales were told again of this strong and gentle athlete who did not look like an athlete at all and yet was, all things considered, the nearest approach to the perfect baseball player that the game has ever seen.
Of all the tales told, one illustrated better than any other the quiet courage of Wagner, who was, by nature, a kindly, peace-loving fellow. It was in the 1909 World Series and Ty Cobb had singled, then yelled to Wagner from first base, "I'm coming down, Krauthead!" Wagner nodded and smiled and said so softly that Cobb could not have heard him, "I'll be waiting."
And he was waiting when Cobb came flying into second base, spikes high. Sidestepping at the last instant as gracefully as a matador, Wagner tagged the fearsome Georgia Peach squarely on the mouth.
Wagner was never highly paid by today's standards; his top salary was $10,000 a year. "But," he used to say, "there was no income tax then and a glass of beer cost a nickel." Nor did he collect many trophies during his peak years. There was a cup for the 1908 batting championship (it is in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown along with his locker from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh), and there were a few other mementos here and there. Most of them were stored away in the attic of the Wagner home in Carnegie, a suburb of Pittsburgh. There was just one plaque that old Honus had hanging in his bedroom. It was presented to him at Forbes Field last year by Mayor David L. Lawrence of Pittsburgh on behalf of the Pirates, the club with which Honus had spent 30 years as player, coach and coach emeritus. Honus must have been pleased with what it said:
"To Honus Wagner, greatest of the great, as an enduring tribute, from the Pittsburgh Baseball Club in sincere appreciation of an unmatched career, in which loyalty, honesty, high character and sportsmanship were combined with playing skill, to make him a champion and a source of endless good to baseball, the Pirates, and the City of Pittsburgh."
SYSTEM FOR THE HORSES
Take a woman to a race track when she is in tune with the occult—that is to say when she is wearing a new hat or has just beaten Supermarket A out of 4� by driving four miles to Supermarket B—and watch her pick horses on which to bet your money. She will not really use a form sheet—although women have been known to hold one and rattle it now and then. Women pick horses by comparing the jockey's colors to the bathroom wallpaper, by sticking pins into their programs and by closing their eyes and aiming their lipstick at the track as the field parades.
They win by these methods, particularly if the odds are greater than 5 to 1. There is no explaining why—they just do.
It has remained for Britain's gray-haired, energetic Lady Zia Wernher, however, to pick a winner while sound asleep; one night last spring she dreamed that a 3-year-old filly named Meld won both the Thousand Guineas and the Oaks—two of England's five classics. Meld did so—by exactly the number of lengths, in each case, which Lady Zia had predicted in describing her midnight vision. Lady Zia bet almost nothing on the races, although she did wager a token �10 on Meld in the St. Leger—which she knew the horse would win even without dreaming of it. But her experience was profitable enough—she owns Meld (which also won the Coronation Stakes at Ascot) and this year has amassed �46,345 in purses, an alltime record for an Englishwoman, and has replaced Queen Elizabeth as Britain's top owner of the year.
Just what all this proves is difficult to say but it must prove something perhaps that since women are known to be unpredictable and horses are also known to be unpredictable, it may be possible to take the little woman to the track, feed her greenbacks, allow Unknown Quantity 1 to cancel Unknown Quantity 2 and come away with a hatful of money.