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A Day In Wrigley Field History: June 24, 1917

The Cubs honored a great player from another team on this day.

SDN-054782, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

Honus Wagner (and the name was pronounced something like "Hah-nes", not "Ho-ness", as it was supposed to be a German-type nickname for his given name John) was one of the greatest players of the early 20th Century, if not in baseball history.

Often forgotten almost 100 years after his retirement, at least outside of Pittsburgh, where he played and coached for his entire career, he certainly wasn't overlooked on one specific day in Chicago.

Nearing the end of his career at 43, Wagner played in only about half the games for the 1917 Pirates. The Cubs and Pirates made an odd little one-game stop in Chicago (take a look at the Cubs' day-by-day 1917 schedule) between Cubs road trips to Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The Cubs took the opportunity on June 24 to honor Wagner for his career, as reported by I. E. Sanborn in the Tribune:

A crowd of about 10,000 turned out, despite the anti-straw hat weather, to do honor to Johannes Wagner, the veteran comebacker, and gave him numerous glad hands on all occasions. The distinguishing ceremonies were confined to the presentation of a bunch of American Beauties almost as large and tall as the player himself.

Roses. American Beauties were (and are) roses. What were you thinking? More Sanborn:

The honored guest responded by doing his best to trim the Cubs, driving out two hits and scoring the only run by his team.

The Cubs won the game 2-1, both runs scoring in the sixth inning after an error by Pittsburgh shortstop Chuck Ward, who threw a ball into the dugout, putting a runner on second base. After a single by Larry Doyle scored one run, a sacrifice moved Doyle to second, where he scored the eventual decisive run on a single by Cy Williams.

Wagner, of course, had been the Pirates' star shortstop for many years; slowed in his later years, he played just one game at shortstop in 1917.

There's one more note on the ceremony honoring Wagner. According to Stuart Shea in his book "Wrigley Field: The Unauthorized Biography", Wagner was asked to make a speech after he received the flower bouquet from the Cubs. He said just two words in response: "Much obliged."

And just so you don't think backward-cap wearing is a modern phenomenon, you'll see Wagner wearing his cap that way in the photo at the top of this post -- taken in 1909.