#Shortstops: A Rarer Honus Wagner Card
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Surprisingly, the card’s reverse has nothing to do with cigars or baseball, but instead features a poem, a parody of Joseph Bert Smiley’s “St. Peter at the Gate,” which promotes union labor and rails against strike-breakers. Its final stanza reads:
Tell Satan to give him a seat alone
On a red-hot griddle up near the throne.
But, stay, e’en the Devil can’t stand the smell
Of a cooking scab on a griddle in Hell.
It would cause a revolt—a strike, I know,
If I sent you down to the imps below.
Go back to your masters on earth and tell
That they don’t even want a scab in hell.
Despite Wagner’s well-established connection to Louisville – “The Flying Dutchman” played for the Colonels for the first three years of his big league career – the cigar that bore his name apparently didn’t sell very well. Besides the advertising card, little evidence remains of Reccius’s handiwork. A rare mention of the cigar appeared in the Gainesville (Florida) Daily Sun of Oct. 17, 1909. Near the end of an article about Pittsburgh’s World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers, the newspaper noted that “Pirate followers are cutting the ‘figure eight’ today smoking ‘Hans Wagner’ cigars.”
Beyond his Wagner Cigar, Reccius had numerous other connections to baseball. For many years, he doubled as a groundskeeper at Louisville’s Eclipse Park, then home of the city’s major league club. His brothers John and Paul each played Major League Baseball, and his other brothers either played ball at lower levels or were executives for a variety of clubs.
The Reccius/Wagner advertising card is just one of over three million items in the Hall of Fame’s unparalleled collection. While some are rare and some quite common, each object has a story to tell, a lesson to impart, and a special connection to the always fascinating history of our National Pastime.
Tom Shieber is the senior curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum