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Just because: Honus Wagner, gun-wielding lawman

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

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The luminous Honus Wagner is in the distinct position of being an all-time, inner-circle baseball great who is simultaneously underrated. While these days Wagner's name doesn't come as readily to mind as those of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson and other stars of the first half of the 20th century, he absolutely merits mention alongside them. Wagner was, after all, a member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1936. Today, though, it's Wagner's life off the diamond that we are pondering, mostly in the service of sharing a cool photo of him.

After stepping away from baseball following the 1917 season, Wagner began a stretch of many years that saw him struggle financially. He coached, he worked as a professional glad-hander, he opened a sporting-goods store, he worked as the sergeant-of-arms of the Pennsylvania legislature (a gig he walked away from because it was, in his flinty words, "a job for a lazy man," which Wagner manifestly was not), and he eventually became a deputy sheriff in Allegheny County.

Wagner had long harbored "lawman" aspirations. Back in 1906, he was asked by a congressman to run for sheriff, but he declined. In 1928, Wagner did run for sheriff but lost, largely because of a poorly organized campaign (source: Honus Wagner: The Life of Baseball's Flying Dutchman).

And that brings us to 1942. That year, Wagner, age 68, was indeed named deputy sheriff of the aforementioned Allegheny County. And that brings us to this, which is Mr. Wagner brandishing his "barking irons" and all but daring you or any other punk to give him cause ...

If I'm not mistaken, I do believe Deputy Wagner is about to take back the streets! Lawbreakers, you shall know him not only by his rarely holstered revolvers, but also by the derailed train that he calls a nose!

The image above comes courtesy of Legendary Auctions, and here's the original AP caption that accompanied it ...

Of note: This happened to Wagner's sporting-goods store back in 1931 (Pittsburgh Press) ...

Lucky for that unnamed bandit, Wagner had not yet been deputized. Lucky for us, the two trusty thundersticks pictured above ("Tango" at left; "Cash" at right) were not among the pilfered "best guns in stock."

 
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