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:
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
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.