Pirates to honor former great Waner

Pirates to honor Waner

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates announced during a special ceremony before Friday's game that the organization will retire Pirates Hall of Famer Paul Waner's uniform No. 11 at a pregame ceremony on July 21 prior to the home game against the Houston Astros.

Waner will become only the ninth Pirate, and 10th person overall, in the 121-year history of the storied franchise to have his number retired. His number will be added to the list of retired numbers along the club level facade at PNC Park. Friday marked the 81st anniversary of Waner's Major League debut.

"Paul Waner was one of the most dominating players, not only in the storied history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but throughout all of Major League baseball during his career," said Pirates CEO Kevin McClatchy. "His accomplishments as a member of the Pirates are deserving of this ultimate honor."

Paul "Big Poison" Waner and his brother Lloyd "Little Poison" Waner formed a potent duo for the Pirates in the 1920s and 1930s.

Waner's batting average of .340 with the Pirates ranks first in the 121-year history of the club. In addition, the three-time National League batting champion ranks sixth in club history in games played (2,018), third in hits (2,868), second in triples (187), fifth in RBIs (1,181), third in at-bats (8,429), third in singles (2,018), third in extra-base hits (855), second in runs scored (1,493), first in doubles (559) and fourth in total bases (4,128).

He captured the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1927 and finished his career with a total of 3,152 career hits. Waner passed away on August 26, 1965.

Taking part in the ceremonies to honor Waner will be McClatchy, former Pirates batting champions Dick Groat, Dave Parker, Bill Madlock, as well as current batting champion Freddy Sanchez.

Groat received batting help from Waner as a rookie in 1952.

"Paul Waner had a batting cage out in Harmarville," Groat recalled. "And this was my rookie year and I was struggling. George Sisler was the hitting instructor with the Pirates and he helped me tremendously. Billy Meyer was the manager and was great, but I got to know Waner and went out to his driving range and batting range in the morning before a night game, when we were home probably two or three days a week.

"He was the greatest -- I loved him. He had to be 55 or 60 at that time and he could still hit. He'd get in the batting cage and show me this and show me that. In fact, he even held the bat differently than most of us. It was almost like he held it like a golf club. I mean 55 or 60 years old and still be able to hit line drives -- it was amazing. He loved helping me -- he worked with me a lot that summer and I guess it worked out -- I ended up leading the Pirates in hitting as a rookie at .284. He helped me ... he was an excellent teacher."

George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.