Richards: Pittsburgh Poison: An appreciation of the Waner brothers

From Lawrence Richards at The National Pastime Museum on August 21, 2014:

There are two major poison groups. The most common are those that occur in a natural state: plants, mushrooms, carbon dioxide, and toxins delivered by fangs or bites. But there’s another type equally quick and deadly, Pittsburgh Poison.

Depending on the specific poison or toxin, the effect is lethal on the circulatory, respiratory, or nervous systems. Pittsburgh Poison has a very distinctive methodology. It kills by line-drive singles, ringing doubles, and power-alley triples. For 14 years, National League pitchers were victimized; R.I.P.

Paul Waner (Big Poison) and Lloyd Waner (Little Poison) remain the only brothers inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Their combined hit total (5,611) exceeds the three DiMaggios by over 500. They covered cavernous Forbes Field, Paul in right, Lloyd in center, both quicksilver-fast, particularly Lloyd. Lloyd was a rookie in 1927, when he hit .355. It was Paul’s second year with the Bucs; he batted .380 and earned the MVP. Try harder little brother.

Early in the ’27 season both were on fire, each batting over .400. Playing in their first game in Brooklyn, a reporter spotted a newspaper vendor. The guy had a stand outside Ebbets Field; he never attended a game. “What are you doing here?” “I came to see those two poisons.” Brooklyn translation: persons. Big and Little Poison monikers got press. Probably true. We should remember that when Giants knuckleballer Waite Hoyt was hit by a liner and collapsed on the mound Ebbets reverberated with shouts of “Hoit’s Hoit!”

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Originally published: August 22, 2014. Last Updated: August 22, 2014.