Historical Hitter

Historical Hitter October 8th 1909: Honus Wagner

This October 8th illustrates the best and worst of the Baseball business.  And it ties together two Hall of Famers; Honus Wagner and Yogi Berra.

Baseball theftFirst is the worst part of the Baseball business, it’s the selling of illegally gained or unethically altered memorabilia at auctions. Some of the more unique items have been stolen from public institutions such as from the AG Spalding Archives at the New York Public Library, the alterations of the Honus Wagner T-206 1909 baseball card, a 1909 Pirates World Series Composite photo supposedly from the Hall of Fame pulled from a recent auction and just yesterday, the theft of items from Yogi Berra’s museum in New Jersey.

The theft issue is complex and multi-faceted because the institutions do not want bad publicity or to admit donated archived items are stolen. On the dealer side, memorabilia criminals are notoriously tighter lipped than mobsters. Furthermore, the laws are weak and non-existent, few have taken up this cause, and it’s a white collar criminal act.  Many of these stolen items are sold in private auctions or go underground until they are forgotten. As for the items stolen from Yogi’s museum, one baseball memorabilia seller noted,

“These are not mass-produced items — it’s like trying to sell a famous painting. Anyone who bought them would have to keep it secret. Why not just steal the Mona Lisa and try to sell that instead?”

Honus Wagner Cut CardWith items stolen from the Spalding Archives, altered Honus Wagner cards and photos, and thievery at Yogi’s museum, the memorabilia business is built on a seemingly fraudulent foundation, as Yogi famously said,

“This is like déjà vu all over again.”

October 8, before the post-season expansion, was a common World Series date. Number 8, Yogi Berra has played almost half a regular season worth of games in the World Series. He participated in 14 World Series winning 10 of them; played in 75 games, had 295 at bats, hit 10 doubles, 12 home runs and knocked in 32 RBI, with an average of .274 and OPS of .811.

The Pirates World Series appearances are half of Yogi’s totals, participating in 7, and winning 5 Titles.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have played five World Series games on October 8th, winning two and losing three. They lost twice to the Yankees, in 1927 and 1960, and to the Red Sox in 1903; while beating the Tigers in 1909 and Senators in 1925.

In 1902, the year before the first World Series, an end-of-season exhibition series was played between the National League Pirates and a selected American League All-Star team. Like the DH rule today, this exhibition was played under alternating National and American league rules. Sporting Life describes this series as, “…the contests were all battles-royal…” The editors of Sporting Life acknowledged that the series was missing that critical sense of urgency and high stakes rewards.

“The result makes it a matter of regret that the National and American champions did not come together…”

On October 8, 1902 the Pirates won 2-0. Honus Wagner Lead the Pirates to victory with a double, run scored and run batted in while going 2 for 3.

In the four-game exhibition the Pirates went 2-1-1, and claimed victory. While the series was not a world championship, Sporting Life, editor A. R. Cratty, reported,

“There is joy among the Pittsburghians over the result of the series…”

Seven years later with more at stake in the 1909 World Series, Wagner would lead his Pirates to victory as the Bucco’s leading hitter. The Spalding Guide noted that this series was not only between two pennant winning teams, but between the game’s superstars.

There was much interest displayed in the meeting of the rival luminaries. Wagner and Cobb. The Pirate played close to his regular form, especially at bat and on the bases, and alone stole as many sacks as the entire Detroit club.

On October 8th 1909, the first game of the series, Honus Wagner put the finishing touches on a tight game with a double, and scored the Pirates last run in the sixth inning. The Pirates won 4-1.

Overall, on October 8th the man shown on the most valuable baseball card showed why he is worth it. He went 3 for 6 hit two doubles and led his team to post-season victories.

Here are the box scores.

boxscore-1902 Pirates boxscore-1909 World Series
The 1902 end-of-season exhibition series won by the Pirates, courtesy of Sporting Life, Vol. 40 Number 5, October 18, 1902 The 1909 World Series Game, Spalding’s Base-Ball Guide of 1910, p 109.



Yogi Berra Museum thefts,


AG Spalding Archive thefts,


Honus Wagner T-206 Card Alterations,



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