Today would have been the 116th birthday of the man they called “Little Poison” if modern medicine didn’t fail us. Pittsburgh Pirates great Lloyd Waner played outfield for 17 seasons, usually manning center field at Forbes Field, and a majority of the team he was playing alongside his older brother, Paul Waner, aka Big Poison. I saw an interesting fact about their nicknames while doing research, which went against the common told tale of them getting their nickname from fans at the Polo Grounds who pronounced person as poison with their New York accents. Sometimes the story says it was just one fan, or sometimes a news reporter gets credit for the name. Lloyd Waner himself in later years said that it was one fan in the Polo Grounds between games of a doubleheader calling them “big and little person”, but that story can’t be true as the origin of the nicknames because of what I was able to find.
The first time their nicknames both showed up in print was August 18, 1927 in the New York Daily News and a subsequent issue said that they were poison to the opposition on the bases, in the field and at the plate. There was another note very soon afterwards and it said that they were actually being referred to as Big Poison and Little Lysol. It would be odd to call him Little Lysol while getting the nickname from the word person, but also, the two brothers were basically the same height and weight, so why would one (who was 5’8″) be called big person compared to someone who could pass as his twin?
The first time I could find the accent story was in 1943 and it credited a fan watching the 1927 World Series with coming up with the nickname by accident due to an accent. Paul Waner himself said that the nickname came from a newspaper man outside of Ebbetts Field in May of 1927, and sure enough there was a mention of them being referred to as the “poison brothers” shortly afterwards, long before the World Series, long before the Big/Little names first got used to differentiate them, and well before they played a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds. I’m guessing that the “poison brothers” nickname turned into Big Poison and Little Poison after they got the nickname, and it got credited to someone at the Polo Grounds either because of Lloyd Waner’s recollection or because that’s where the Pirates were playing the first time the nicknames were used in print, spelled out how we are used to seeing them today. The fan accent story reminds me of the Dots Miller nickname story told for many years, which turned out to be completely false, yet part of it was true at the same time.
Anyway, let’s get on to the Card of the Day. As all of your can tell by the title, which includes another Hall of Famer’s name, this is two players on one card. However, it’s different from a majority of the multi-player cards we have covered here. This card features a game action shot of Lloyd Waner at the plate, and behind him is Hall of Fame catcher Gabby Hartnett, then of the Chicago Cubs. The funny thing about this card choice is that I looked at previously used Lloyd Waner cards in our Card of the Day series and noticed he had just one solo article here, with multiple players on his other three appearances in this series. So I set out to include a solo card of Waner and the very first scan I saw on Ebay ruined that for me. My eye was caught and I quickly changed my mind to show this 1936 National Chicle Fine Pen card.
Here’s the front (the back is blank):
This is a great card because we are basically seeing a closeup of game action, making this more of a photo than a traditional card from the era. Throw in the lack of a true front design (unless a small white border counts as a design), the bigger size than your normal cards from today, and the blank back, and this really just has the feel of a photo instead of a card. It’s an outstanding picture, Lloyd Waner going the other way (that’s how you know it isn’t Joey Gallo on the card), while Gabby Hartnett looks on, just a few years away from breaking the hearts of Pirates fans (look up “Homer in the Gloamin” if you must know).
I’m not sure how many people know this, but this great photo was likely the result of a practice from back in the day where photographers were allowed on the field during game action. They were usually stationed around where the batters circle would be right now, maybe towards first base a little closer, though most stadiums had bigger foul grounds back then, so they weren’t as close as that sounds, but they would get closer if there was a potential play at the plate. I particularly like that you get such a straight shot of the action, with much of the crowd clearly visible in the background.
For those who don’t remember the last time we talked about this set, the “Fine Pen” part of the name comes from the type of pen used to put the writing on the card. It’s in comparison to the Wide Pen set from the same time, which has thicker writing on the cards.
If you’re interested in this card, Ebay had just one option that will still be up if no one purchases it in the between time of me writing this article and you reading it. There’s actually an auction going on right now that will be finished before you read it. The other listing might change before you see it too because they are offering an 18% discount as I write this up. The original price was $78.45 delivered, with a best offer option. This card has three completed auctions (besides the active auction that will be completed) and they went for $100 for one in really nice condition, and then $32 and $38 for copies in low grade. That makes it a very affordable card for having two Hall of Famers and being 86 years old.