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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 nation’s game was baseball, and its giant was Honus Wagner. In 1996, a baseball card depicting Honus Wagner sold for $640,5 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 nation’s 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 Wagner’s times.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 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 America’s game and the nation was evolving into the world’s industrial leader.


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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 nation’s game was baseball, and its giant was Honus Wagner. In 1996, a baseball card depicting Honus Wagner sold for $640,5 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 nation’s 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 Wagner’s times.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 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 America’s game and the nation was evolving into the world’s industrial leader.

30 review for Honus Wagner: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    Simply put a great book on a terrific athlete. This book centers (obviously) on the baseball life of Honus Wagner with bit parts to his personal life including business, marriage, and all other personal things that occur in life. His personal life was largely not explored nor discussed and that is OK because one gets enough of the personal life within these pages. Honus was a decent man, great ball player, and was loved and respected by those who knew him. He really was a spend thrift; something Simply put a great book on a terrific athlete. This book centers (obviously) on the baseball life of Honus Wagner with bit parts to his personal life including business, marriage, and all other personal things that occur in life. His personal life was largely not explored nor discussed and that is OK because one gets enough of the personal life within these pages. Honus was a decent man, great ball player, and was loved and respected by those who knew him. He really was a spend thrift; something most people from our current modern age could take a lesson from.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    While the book was interesting at times, I felt like there was too much unnecessary detail. I am not even sure if it followed a strict timeline because I sometimes got lost in the dates with the jumping around. The historical information from the time was interesting and to listen to how different the professional ball players were back then is both educational and sometimes comical. Having to hurry home from the coal mine to make it to the ball game and vice versa. An aspect that was difficult While the book was interesting at times, I felt like there was too much unnecessary detail. I am not even sure if it followed a strict timeline because I sometimes got lost in the dates with the jumping around. The historical information from the time was interesting and to listen to how different the professional ball players were back then is both educational and sometimes comical. Having to hurry home from the coal mine to make it to the ball game and vice versa. An aspect that was difficult for me in the book, though I am not certain it can be avoided or even done differently, is all of the names. So many names were included that I had not idea of their significance. Hard spot to be in here, because of course these guys would all want their name included in the stories that involve them, but many were one time mentions with very little background that it seemed to distract from the book for me. I felt at times as if I would have to read a whole book on each of the names included here and piece all of the individual stories together and interpret the relationships that way. I am a huge baseball fan and would love to own a Honus Wagner baseball card, so the appeal to learn more about this all star was strong. I would say this book stopped short of disappointing me for spending the time listening. Again, some interesting parts and segments, but much too long and too detailed for me. Is it possible to be too detailed? I guess what I mean is that it was hard to interpret the importance of the details that were included at times.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Vander Maas

    Honus Wagner was one of the first superstars in baseball. Loved by the city of Pittsburgh where he grew up and played for most of his career. He was loyal to the Pirates and stayed even when he was offered better money by upstart leagues. He was a big man who was humble and loved the game of baseball. A versatile player who was one of the first six players inducted to the Hall of Fame. He wasn't as controversial as Ty Cobb or a bigger than life character as Babe Ruth who played later. So this bo Honus Wagner was one of the first superstars in baseball. Loved by the city of Pittsburgh where he grew up and played for most of his career. He was loyal to the Pirates and stayed even when he was offered better money by upstart leagues. He was a big man who was humble and loved the game of baseball. A versatile player who was one of the first six players inducted to the Hall of Fame. He wasn't as controversial as Ty Cobb or a bigger than life character as Babe Ruth who played later. So this book is for baseball fans who are curious about the dead ball era and how the game grew into the National Pastime. The book could of been better if it focused a little more on what was going on in that era as opposed to game recaps of the pennant races at the time. It does make you wish you could go into a time machine and see the Flying Dutchman play.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vincent T. Ciaramella

    This is the third baseball book I have read this summer and sadly it didn't live up to what I hoped it would be. I read the newest Ty Cobb book and Fall from Grace about Shoeless Joe. Both were outstanding. This one fell short of the mark. Being from Pittsburgh I was really interested in learning more about this hometown hero. I don't feel like I got to know him that well in this book. He was buried in between too much detail about games and other supporting cast. I know they need to be discussed This is the third baseball book I have read this summer and sadly it didn't live up to what I hoped it would be. I read the newest Ty Cobb book and Fall from Grace about Shoeless Joe. Both were outstanding. This one fell short of the mark. Being from Pittsburgh I was really interested in learning more about this hometown hero. I don't feel like I got to know him that well in this book. He was buried in between too much detail about games and other supporting cast. I know they need to be discussed but at times I lost track of Honus. Maybe I just need to read a kids bio about him or a really detailed article. Maybe he wasn't as interesting as Cobb or Jackson off the field. I don't know. But, I will say that over all I didn't think much of this book. Sorry.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris Schaffer

    Good book on an old time ball player from the Dead Ball Era. Always get him confused with Rogers Hornsby, not sure why. Covers well the National League years from late 1890s to about 1915 when it was always the Pirates, Cubs, and John McGraw's Giants. If you liked a book like "The Glory of Their Times" and are into old time players like Cobb, Mathewson, etc., you'll like it. He was kind of a simple Pittsburgh guy. Good book on an old time ball player from the Dead Ball Era. Always get him confused with Rogers Hornsby, not sure why. Covers well the National League years from late 1890s to about 1915 when it was always the Pirates, Cubs, and John McGraw's Giants. If you liked a book like "The Glory of Their Times" and are into old time players like Cobb, Mathewson, etc., you'll like it. He was kind of a simple Pittsburgh guy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Solid biography that does well to explain both the man and his times. Can get a bit bogged down in statistics and blow-by-blow details of games. Some readers like those details. IMO the authors missed a chance to explain the importance of Wagner as an athlete, a celebrity, and life in industrial Pittsburgh. Beyond saying he was revered, I was left wondering what he meant to the fans that packed the stands to see him. Still, those are minor issues to what is overall a very good biography.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Liz Staab

    This biography definitely bumped Honus Wagner up to my favorite player of all time (sorry Pedro Alvarez). As a child born in Pittsburgh, I always knew who Honus Wagner was, but I never actually knew much about him or his career in baseball. After listening to his biography, I definitely have more respect for the man that many people still consider to be the greatest baseball player of all time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Richard Deneault

    A detailed account of Honus Wagner's career in baseball. If you are interested in the minutia and a game by game account of Wagner's career, this is the book for you. Doesn't explore his life very much outside of the box score so to speak. A detailed account of Honus Wagner's career in baseball. If you are interested in the minutia and a game by game account of Wagner's career, this is the book for you. Doesn't explore his life very much outside of the box score so to speak.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Greg Harrison

    +1/2

  10. 4 out of 5

    George Hancock

    Wow, a great biography of an outstanding baseball player from another generation. The Pirates could really use Honus now. Excellent detailed biography.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Collin

    Great book detailing Wagner's life. Gives a good glimpse of what baseball was like in the early 1900s. Great book detailing Wagner's life. Gives a good glimpse of what baseball was like in the early 1900s.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Jones

    The myths coming out of the early days of baseball include the story of Ty Cobb meeting up with Honus Wagner while trying to steal second base during the first game of the 1909 world series. Cobb, who had just a few months earlier been called "the dirtiest player I ever saw" by the great Connie Mack, is supposed to have yelled down to Wagner from first base, "I'm coming down on the next pitch, Krauthead!" The stoic and much loved Wagner is supposed to have replied, "I'll be ready." True to his w The myths coming out of the early days of baseball include the story of Ty Cobb meeting up with Honus Wagner while trying to steal second base during the first game of the 1909 world series. Cobb, who had just a few months earlier been called "the dirtiest player I ever saw" by the great Connie Mack, is supposed to have yelled down to Wagner from first base, "I'm coming down on the next pitch, Krauthead!" The stoic and much loved Wagner is supposed to have replied, "I'll be ready." True to his word, Cobb ran on the next pitch. The throw from the catcher was hard and low and Wagner handled it with a swooping motion that brought his tag down hard into Cobb's face. Cobb would need three stitches to repair his cut lip. This story of the dirty Cobb get his comeuppance at the hands of the popular hero Wagner has endured for over a century, even getting retold in the Ken Burns documentary where I first heard it. I was so taken with this story of good vs. evil that I went out and got a few books to read more about these two men. One of the first things I found out was the "Krauthead" story was a fabrication - one that sprung up years after the game to fill the public's need to see the good guy triumph and the bad guy defeated. I learned from this meticulously researched book that Honus Wagner really was deserving of all the accolades he received. Wagner was a man well worth remembering and the more I read, the more I was attracted to his simple, humble, humorous nature. But as much as I enjoyed finding out about this man, what really made this book come alive is the lengths the DeValerias went to in fleshing out all the characters that surrounded Wagner. Baseball is a team sport after all, and Wagner's career depended on the friendship and help of many people. The story of Wagner is in many ways the story of a community. This morning Derek Jeter stands just 63 hits behind Wagner's 3,430 on the all-time list. Jeter should, barring injury, pass Wagner sometime in early August to become the sixth most prolific hitter the game has ever known. When that day comes I'll be happy for Derek, he'll have put his name up there with a great one.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rugg Ruggedo

    All the statistics are there. There is even a account of his life that is factually the most complete every put together. The DeValeria's are really great researchers. The bibliography for this book was several pages long. The thing is among all this research and accuracy there is very little that is personal. I dont think this is because the authors were lacking in ability to bring that personal touch to their writing,its more a product of the fact that there are very few people alive today who All the statistics are there. There is even a account of his life that is factually the most complete every put together. The DeValeria's are really great researchers. The bibliography for this book was several pages long. The thing is among all this research and accuracy there is very little that is personal. I dont think this is because the authors were lacking in ability to bring that personal touch to their writing,its more a product of the fact that there are very few people alive today who had personal contact with Wagner/the player. I admire the authors reluctance to use information that is purely anecdotal but it does make the accounts of Honus's career a bit sterile. The contrast in fact with the last few chapters where this is more first hand accounts of his life as a coach and representative of the Pirates much more personal, and interesting. Since I had very little information about Wagner other the straight statistics I did enjoy learning of the career of the man many think of the greatest player in the first decade of professional baseball in the 20th century. Oddly, the book inspired me to dig out the first two "innings" of Burns PBS Baseball documentary and after reading such a well researched account of that period, Burns effort seemed very inaccurate and full of myth rather then fact. Since I find the actuality of this history pretty amazing, it left me wondering why the PBS doc couldnt have lived more inside the proven stories of the times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    Solid read. A little heavy on the details of Wagner's seasons, but authors do a good job of putting Honus in the context of early twentieth-century baseball. Writing is more graceful than ponderous, but wobbles back and forth between the two at times. If you're a fan of early baseball history, you won't be disappointed at this. Solid read. A little heavy on the details of Wagner's seasons, but authors do a good job of putting Honus in the context of early twentieth-century baseball. Writing is more graceful than ponderous, but wobbles back and forth between the two at times. If you're a fan of early baseball history, you won't be disappointed at this.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Todd Everett

    It was a good read but not as good as so many baseball biographies because of the lack of information from the period. Still an excellent read for anyone who wants to understand the early days of MLB as it evolved into a scientific pursuit.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ronald

    read SOMETIME in 2001

  17. 5 out of 5

    K.H.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John Bohl

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Wagner

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dominic Carlone

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Lucas

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ted Baldwin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jim Welsh

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim Nistler

  27. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Haus

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bob

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Klun

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jay Hatch

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