#Shortstops: Waner's Last Stand

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Matthew Carter

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Dean O. Cochran, Jr. Photograph Archives contains more than 300,000 objects related to the history of baseball.

Besides containing photographs of the Hall of Famers on the field, the collection also contains photographs of them off the field.

Take this photo of Hall of Famer Paul Waner for instance. Taken on Feb. 1, 1945, it shows him balancing on a chair in an empty dining hall. His right hand is on the seat while his left hand is on the back. His feet and legs are up in the air and he is wearing a cowboy hat on his head. Even though he was 41 when the photo was taken, it demonstrates Waner’s remarkable athleticism.

Taken by photographer Harold Rhodenbaugh, the shot was one of a series of photos used in a feature of Waner for Look Magazine. Appearing in the April 17, 1945, issue under the headline “Baseball player Paul Waner, makes 3000 hits,” the feature also included photos of him batting, hunting, fishing, and golfing. These photos are also preserved in the Hall of Fame’s photograph archives.

In 1945, Waner was entering his second season with the New York Yankees. He joined the club during the 1944 season after a stellar career playing in the National League for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves.

With Joe DiMaggio and other star players leaving to fight in World War II, the Yankees and other major league teams used veteran players like Waner and untested rookies to help fill their rosters. Recalling his time with the Yankees, Waner said: “Some fan in the bleachers yelled at me, ‘Hey Paul, how come you’re in the outfield for the Yankees?’ ‘Because,’ I said, ‘Joe DiMaggio’s in the Army.”

On April 26, nine days after the Look issue came out, Waner made his last appearance in a Major League Baseball game, playing in his only game of that season. With the Yankees losing to the Philadelphia Athletics 7-5 going into the top half of the eighth inning, he came to the plate pinch hitting for the pitcher. He got on base with a walk, then advanced to second when the next batter walked, but was stranded on base when the inning ended. With that, the Hall of Fame career of Paul Waner was over.

Waner, who finished his career with 3,152 hits and a .333 batting average, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1952. His brother Lloyd Waner was elected in 1967.

Matthew Carter was a curatorial intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series