September 4 – Lloyd and Paul Waner
On this day in 1927, brothers Lloyd and Paul Waner became for the first time baseball brothers hit home runs in the same game. Not only the same game but in the same inning as well. Lloyd lead off the 5th inning with his second home run of the season, and after Clyde Barnhart made an out Paul came to the Plate and hit his ninth of the year. Both were bounce home runs, allowed until the 1931; now they would be ruled an “automatic” double. Both were off of Cuban-born Dolf Luque who by then was a 12-season veteran pitcher and hit at Redland Field, Cincinnati. These homers helped the Pennant winning Pirates to victory over the Reds in Cincinnati 8-4.
The source of the brother’s famous nicknames is subject to debate – and part of the Giants-Dodger rivalry, but the cause was the same: the New York accent in which “person” sounds like “poison.” Paul the older brother and more established star was “Big Poison,” the younger and actually taller Lloyd was “Little Poison.” Joseph Wancho SABR Bio Project on Paul Waner explains the details.
1927 was a bittersweet year for the Bucco’s, they did win the NL pennant for the second time in three years, but the team played the role of ceremonial opposition to the Murders’ Row Team of the Yankees. It would also be the last time the Pirates won the Pennant until the magical year of 1960, when they got even with the Yanks.
While brothers playing on the same team are a rare sight in baseball, being in the Hall of Fame is special: the Waners are one of only two brother pairs in the Hall of Fame (George and Harry Wright are the other pair.) They spent 14 seasons side by side in the outfield of Forbes Field, Lloyd in Center and Paul in Right and in the lineup with Lloyd batting leadoff and Paul third; both batted and threw left-handed. All in all the brothers Waner were teammates for a total of 16 seasons and three teams: Pittsburgh, Boston Braves (1941), and Brooklyn (1944).
Neither brother was a home run hitter. Of Lloyd’s 2459 hits in his 18-year career, he hit only 27 home runs, and of Paul’s 3151 hits knocked clean in his 20-year career, he hit a grand total of 113 home runs. Both were known as line drive hitters who had more triples Lloyd had 118 and Paul had 191. Playing all those years in spacious Forbes Field contributed to these numbers greatly.
1927 was a career year for Paul, it was his second in Pittsburgh, and he led the National league in seven categories, including hitting an outstanding .380 and knocking in 131 RBI’s thus winning the MVP award. It was brother Lloyd’s rookie season with the Bucs and he hit only .355 and scored 133 runs.
The key to success in hitting was the Paul Waner’s approach which still is applicable today: calmness and being relaxed. Leo Durocher told his players to emulate his stance and weight shift:
“Look how relaxed Paul is when he’s hitting,… See how he holds his right arm, not stiff at all. And watch how he shifts his weight to his left foot when he swings at a ball.”
Paul’s own words add more to the concept of relaxation, concentration and a calm stillness.
“Here’s the way it works. When you can relax at the plate, you have a terrific advantage. Your stance is easy, your arm and shoulder muscles are loose and free, your eye is clear and you can time your swing” (Wancho.)
“If a pitcher sees you fiddling with the bat, he’ll stall until your arms are tired before you even get a chance to hit” (Sporting News April 27, 1995.)
He honed his hand eye coordination by hitting corn cobs on his childhood farm in Oklahoma with his brother. Joseph Wancho reported that the advice Paul gave was based upon batting practice with stick and used corn-cobs. This unique practice habit was the key to success of the brother’s wonderful hand eye coordination and graceful sense of timing.
“We used a stick as a bat and we would break the corncobs in two …A corncob thrown with force will take all kinds of odd shoots and jumps and is hard to hit. I played that game by the hour. I could follow those erratic cobs along every (zigzag) of their flight. I learned timing in that barn lot as I could have learned it nowhere else in the world.” And;
“Just swing it and let the weight drive the ball”(Sporting News 1955.)
As for the method of how Paul got himself relaxed and heightened his powers of concentration is not recommended. So kids, don’t do this at home ever, or especially on the road. For as Paul was known to say:
“When I walked up there (to the batter’s box) with a half-pint of whiskey fresh in my gut, that ball came in looking like a basketball. But if I hadn’t downed my half-pint of 100 proof, that ball came in like an aspirin tablet.”
And what makes his hitting even more spectacular was his eyesight. Unlike an earlier posting on baseball players’ better than perfect eye sight; especially Ted Williams and his famous 10/20 vision, Waner was nearsided. He could not read the advertising on the outfield walls or even the score on far-away scoreboards. Waner said without glasses the baseball was the size of a grapefruit, and thus easier to hit, when with glasses on the ball was smaller and clearer, but harder to hit.
Thus, it’s a special combination of corn cobs, whiskey, poor eyesight, and calm, relaxed hands and arms, that was the Waner’s unique approach to hitting that garnered them more than 5100 hits and two trips to the Hall of Fame. And on September 4, 1927 philosophy met reality for Lloyd’s and then Paul’s two home runs in one inning in Cincinnati.
For more hitting instruction Paul wrote a book titled, Batting Secrets that was published in paperback in 1962.
SABR BioProject, Joseph Wancho, http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/9d598ab8