Not unlike athletes of today, Honus Wagner was into the newest fads and gadgets. In the off-season of his job as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ shortstop, he was known to play the relatively new game of basketball on some local club teams. Late in the first decade of the 20th century, the automobile was becoming increasingly popular and Wagner jumped in with both feet.
Our Photo of The Day from RMY Auctions shows the Hall of Famer behind the wheel of his favorite vehicle. The 4 x 5 ¾” image was recently uncovered in a long-forgotten newspaper archive and is currently being offered at auction. While photographs of Wagner driving do exist, this particular image is one the auction company says it has never encountered before.
It’s relevant to note the chains on the back tires which would lead to believe it was taken during the winter.
The silver gelatin photo has some mild creases but the image is very clear. A file date of 1913 is stamped on the back, but it’s believed the photograph was actually taken in 1909, the same year his famous T206 baseball card was released.
It wouldn’t have been unusual for a news organization to photograph Wagner in the off-season. He was the National League’s greatest star and was coming off a phenomenal 1908 season in which he hit .354 and drove in 109 runs during what was a pitching-dominant era. He also stole 53 bases. Wagner would hit .339 and drive in 100 runs in ’09. His 21-year career didn’t come to an end until 1917, after which he embarked on a coaching career that lasted into the 1950s.
Bidding for the Wagner photo and more than 300 others continues through January 18 at RMYAuctions.com.