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Bucco Breakfast: Honus Wagner And Other Pirate Politicians

When the thievery and pillaging of being a Pirate isn’t enough, there is always politics.

The Pirates have had some alumni go on to political careers. Jim Bunning and Wilmer Mizell both pitched for the Bucs in the 60s and were later elected to Congress. Former minority owner Frank E. McKinney was hand-picked by Harry S. Truman to be the DNC Chairman in 1951. And lest we forget the time Frank Coonley brought the Pirate Parrot to a dinner where the Pirates’ president made a speech for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone.

But on this election day, we’ll focus on arguably the greatest Pirates player of all-time: Honus Wagner. The Flying Dutchman’s post-playing career wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary. He opened a business, did a little acting (1919’s Spring Fever, a short where he teaches Moe and Shemp Howard of The Three Stooges how to hit a baseball. Unfortunately, the film wasn’t properly stored and has been lost to time) and dabbled a tad in politics.

Wagner’s foray into politics started in 1906, when he was approached to run for Allegheny County Sheriff. As documented by Arthur D. Hittner in his book Honus Wagner: The Life Of Baseball’s “Flying Dutchman”, Wagner declined, saying “I told him I knew more about hanging up base hits than murderers.” Wagner’s name came up in political talks again in 1910 when he was considered a compromise candidate for Pittsburgh’s Congressman for the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s not known how seriously he was considered, but he had just a World Series the year prior. He wasn’t ready to leave baseball yet.

After retirement, Wagner’s sporting goods store was struggling and he had no prospects of managing, so he gave politics another shot, running for Allegheny County Sheriff. He was extremely popular in the area, was able to market himself as the “everyman” candidate and had the endorsements of several newspapers, but according to Hittner, Wagner’s campaign was halfhearted. He lost in a landslide, with the incumbent Robert H. Braun winning 110,250 to 28,452, according to a 2015 Post-Gazette piece penned by SABR member Joe Guzzardi.

Wagner accepted a position as an assistant sergeant-at-arms in the State Legislature shortly after his loss and the bankruptcy of his store, but he resigned after two weeks because it “was for a lazy man.” Fortunately, Wagner got back on his feet financially, got to manage and eventually became a deputy county sheriff in 1942. So politics didn’t work out for Wagner, but it had a happy enough ending.

Daily Links:

If you can’t get enough of those top 50 free agent lists, FanGraphs came out with their’s yesterday.

On the more stupid lighter side, Reddit user /u/Victor_Starffin uses math to try to find out how hard Donkey Kong could hit a baseball. (Spoiler alert: very hard.)

And be sure to do your civic duty today and vote. If you don’t know where your polling place is, find out here.