Lloyd Waner, also known as Little Poison, was a 5’9” centerfielder from Harrah, OK. Born on March 16th, 1906, the left-side batting righthander first surfaced in 1925, with the “AA” level Pacific Coast League team, the San Francisco Seals, batting .250 in 31 contests. After six games with the team in 1926 (4-for-20), he joined the Columbia Comers of the “B” level South Atlantic League, hitting .345 over 127 games.
Waner made the jump to the majors in 1927, joining his brother Paul (Big Poison) with the Pirates and playing 150 games (NL 10th) as a rookie. He led the NL with 133 runs scored and with 198 singles. He also collected 233 hits (NL second), hitting .355 (NL third) with 27 RBI and 37 walks to only 23 strikeouts. He placed sixth in the NL MVP vote at the end of the season. He batted first and second in the order, playing both center and right field. On July 20th, in the back half of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies, he went 5-for-6 with a double in a 6-5 win. He collected multiple hits in 73 games (49% of the time), 28 times making at least three. From August 10th through September 14th, he hit safely in 30 of 32 games (with a 14 and a 16 game hitting streak). He hit .407 during that time. It was a good season to be a rookie in Pittsburgh, as they cruised to a 94-60 record and the NL Pennant. Waner went 6-for-15 with a double, a triple, and five runs scored, but the Bucs lost four straight to the AL Champion New York Yankees.
In 1928, Waner played in 152 games, leading the National League with 659 at bats. He hit .335 (NL ninth) with 22 doubles, 14 triples, (NL third) and 61 RBI, walking 40 times and striking out 13 times (less than once every 50 at bats). He scored 121 runs (NL third), made 221 safe hits (NL third), and totaled 286 bases (NL ninth). Again he batted first or second, appearing exclusively in right field. On September 20th, he went 4-for-5 with a double and a home run, knocking in three as the Pirates won a 6-4 decision over the Phillies. The Pirates were fourth in the NL, with an 85-67 record.
1929 would see Waner hit .353 (NL 10th) over 151 games, leading the NL with 662 at bats and with 20 triples. He also scored 134 runs (NL fifth), made 234 hits (NL second), 28 doubles, a career high 74 RBI, and 37 walks with 20 strikeouts. He batted second and played center field in all but three games over the course of the season, never appearing as a pinch hitter. He had 72 multi hit games, including a 6-for-8 performance with a double, a triple, and two RBI on June 15th, in a 20-15, 14 inning loss to the New York Giants. For his performance, he earned enough votes to finish fifth in the NL MVP vote. At 88-65, the Pirates finished in second place in the NL, 10.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs.
In 1930, Waner missed over half a season, possibly due to injury (fill me in in the comments). He played 68 games, hitting .362 and striking out five times in 274 plate appearances. He led off and played center field. From September 1st through September 21st, he hit safely in 17 straight games, going 33-for-78 (.423). He did not strike out until the 82nd and final plate appearance of the streak. He collected two or more hits 31 times, earning three on nine occasions and twice making contact four times. The Pirates finished well out of contention, finishing in fifth place with an 80-74 record.
1931 would see the younger Waner again earn MVP mention, finishing 15th in the race for the 75-79 Bucs. He led the Senior Circuit with 214 hits and with 681 RBI, good for a .314 batting average. He batted 57 in while hitting 25 doubles and 13 triples. He also walked 39 times with 16 strikeouts. He led off and played center field, appearing in 154 games for Pittsburgh. On May 3rd, in the second half of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds, he went 3-for-5 with two triples and three RBI, scoring two runs and accounting for all of the Pirates offense in a 10-5 loss.
Waner hit .333 in 1932, appearing in 134 contests. He walked 31 times and whiffed 11 times in 599 plate appearances. Despite missing 20 games, he still finished ninth in the NL with 188 hits and in fifth with 13 triples, leading off and playing center field. Starting with his second game of the season on April 13th, he made three hits in three straight games, going 9-for-14. From May 30th to June 19th, he hit safely in 14 straight games, hitting .383. In the first game of a doubleheader on September 7th, he hit two doubles with two RBI, going 4-for-5 in an 8-3 win against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Pirates missed the pennant by four games at 86-68, just behind the Chicago Cubs. Waner finished 13th in the NL MVP race.
1933 would see Waner appear in 121 contests, hitting a then-career low .276. He struck out eight times in 526 plate appearances. He led off most of the season, splitting his time between left and center field. On June11th in the first of two, he went 4-for-6 from the plate, all singles, knocking in four in an 11-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates were again left on the outside looking in, five games behind the New York Giants at 87-67.
Waner hit .283 in 140 games in 1934, with 95 runs, 27 doubles, 48 RBI, 38 walks and 12 strikeouts. He led off and played center field all season. He had 17 instances of three or more hits, including July 28th, as he went 3-for-3 with two walks and two runs in a 5-4 win over the Cardinals. Pittsburgh posted a 74-76 record, finishing fifth in the National League.
1935 would see Waner get back over the .300 mark, hitting .309 in 122 games. He scored 83 runs, hit 22 doubles, 14 triples and 46 RBI, and walked 22 times to only 10 strikeouts. He played in center all season, batting either first or second in the order. From May 4th to May 16th, he hit in 12 straight games, going 23-58 (.397). He topped the feat from August 3rd to September 23rd, hitting in 23 straight games, going 39-for-100 (.390). On May 15th, he scored five times, going 3-for-6 with a walk in a 20-5 romp over the Phillies. The Pirates finished fourth in the NL with an 86-67 record.
In 1936, Waner hit .321 in 106 games with 31 walks (to five strikeouts), 67 runs, and 31 RBI. He batted first or second while manning center field. On May 13th, he hit a single, a double, and a triple in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Boston Braves. On July 21st, he hit a double and a home run for four RBI in 17-6 win over Philadelphia. Pittsburgh finished 84-70, in fourth place in the NL.
1937 would see Waner hit .330 in 129 games, with 80 runs, 23 doubles, 45 RBI, 34 walks, and just 12 strikeouts. He batted first and second from his usual spot in center. He had 55 multi-hit games, including 13 three-hit games, four 4-hit games, and a 5-for-5, four run performance in a 16-6 win over the Cubs on August 12th. He also earned a walk. The Bucs again finished in fourth place in the National League, at 86-68.
In 1938, Waner earned a selection to the sixth annual all-star game, his first such honor. He also finished the season at 21st on the NL MVP ballot. He hit .313 in 147 contests, hitting 25 doubles, 11 triples, and five home runs (his home run total is notable in that although he played for six more major league seasons, he never hit another). He collected 57 RBI and struck out 11 times while drawing 28 walks. He batted first or second in the order while playing center field. On May 4th, he went 4-for-4, scoring three runs by hitting a single, two triples and a home run with five RBI in a 9-5 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. The hard-luck Pirates missed the pennant by a slim two-game margin to the Cubs, finishing at 86-64.
In 1939, Waner hit .285 in 112 games, playing center field (and third base on one occasion). Mostly he led off, with a few starts in the three slot and once in the six hole (he went 1-for-2). On June 15th he hit four singles in a 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Braves. The Pirates ended the season with a then-rare losing record, in sixth place with a 68-85 record.
1940 would see Waner hit .259 while playing in only 72 contests. After going 1-for-4 in the first three games of 1941, the Pirates traded him to the Braves for pitcher Nick Strincevich (42-40, 3.64 over the next seven Pittsburgh seasons). Waner hit .412 in 19 games with the Braves, later in the season joining the Cincinnati Reds and hitting .256 in 55 appearances. He played with the Phillies for 101 games in 1942, hitting .261 before taking a season off any major league roster. In 1944 he returned to appear in 15 games for the Dodgers, hitting .286 and getting released in May.
Pittsburgh signed Waner to a free agent contract in June, 1944. He would appear in 42 games over the next two seasons, hitting .300 in 33 at bats. He was eventually selected to join the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee with the Class of 1967. See his page here.
Sorry it’s seeming to take longer to get these articles out. As we get higher up the list, the accomplishments become more numerous, leading to longer reads. If I can’t get to number one by the start of the regular season, I’ll publish whatever’s left on Pirates off-days.
All-Time Statline: 17 seasons, 1803 games, .319/.356/.399, 2317-for-7256, 1151 runs, 269 doubles, 114 triples, 27 home runs, 577 RBI, 65 stolen bases, 391 walks, 167 strikeouts, 22.0 wins above replacement.Next up: A man with the most common name in the English language, but you've probably never heard of him.