Honus Wagner - Born In Western Pennsylvania
Born in Western Pennsylvania
Wagner was born in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, on February 24, 1874, one of nine children born to Peter and Katheryn (Wolf) Wagner, who had immigrated to western Pennsylvania from Germany's Bavaria in 1866. Big, clumsy, and bowlegged from birth, Wagner was called Honus (a German term often applied to awkward children) by his family. He also acquired the nickname "Dutch," a corruption of "Deutsch," the German word for German, and fairly common in this heavily German-settled region of Pennsylvania. Wagner was raised in Chartiers, Pennsylvania, not far from Mansfield. The two towns, close to Pittsburgh, were eventually merged and renamed Carnegie. His father worked in the mines, where twelve-year-old Honus joined him in 1886.
Young Wagner labored in the mines during the day, but most evenings and Sunday afternoons found him playing sandlot baseball with his brothers and neighbors. By the time he entered the mines, Wagner had already acquired star status on his neighborhood team, the Oregons. His older brother, Albert, was thought by many in the area to be the better ballplayer, but Al never
really took the game seriously. He did, however, recognize Honus's potential and encouraged his younger brother to learn every playing position. In time, the brothers graduated from sandlot play to positions on area church and company teams, often earning up to five dollars a week in pay and tips.
Honus and brother Al began playing semiprofessional baseball in 1894 for Mansfield, a member of the Allegheny League. The following year the Wagner brothers jumped to the Carnegie Athletic Club and in 1895 joined the Steubenville, Ohio, team, part of the newly formed Inter-State League. In his first game for Steubenville, Honus hit a home run. Not long thereafter, Honus Wagner was signed by manager Ed Barrow to play for Paterson (New Jersey) in the Atlantic League. Older brother Al meanwhile went north of the border to play for a team in Toronto. So impressive was the younger Wagner's perfomance for Paterson that he soon became the object of a bidding war between a number of major league baseball clubs. Louisville eventually took the prize, paying Paterson $2,100 for the rights to sign Wagner.