Hall of Famer Lloyd Waner, 76, Dies Speed Was Game of "Little Poison'

Tom Kensler Published: July 23, 1982
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Lloyd Waner, who left the Oklahoma prairie to become a major league baseball Hall of Famer, died at 2:15 p.m. Thursday in Presbyterian Hospital of complications relating to emphysema. He was 76.

Waner, nicknamed "Little Poison," is survived by his wife, the former Francis Mae Snyder; a daughter, Lydia Freeman of Oklahoma City; a son, Lloyd Waner Jr. of Oklahoma City, and five grandchildren. Paul "Big Poison" Waner, the other half of the only brother combination elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, died in 1965.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Hahn-Cook-Street and Draper Funeral Chapel. Burial will be in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Waner, a native of Harrah, distinguised himself as a line-drive hitter with exceptional speed during a major league career that spanned 19 years. He broke in with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1927 and immediately set a major league record of 223 hits as a rookie while batting .355.

Waner never won a batting title, hit just 28 career home runs and played in only one World Series (as a rookie). But he compiled a .316 lifetime batting average and was considered one of baseball's first speedsters. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1967 along with long-time baseball executive Branch Rickey.

Some players of his era credit Waner with revolutionizing the sport.

"When he first came up, they tell me the infielders would play back like they normally did, and when Lloyd would beat the ball on the ground like he always did, he'd beat the throw to first," said former major league catcher and manager Al Lopez, reached by telephone at his home in Tampa, Fla. "He had unbelievable speed for those days, and infielders would have to play him differently.

"I don't know if he was the reason why," added Lopez, who roomed with Waner on the 1941 Pirates, "but soon after he came up, you started hearing about teams looking for fast ballplayers."

The Waner brothers played with the Ada town team in the early 1920s when Paul was discovered by Pirate scout Joe Devine and signed to a contract. Lloyd later played baseball at East Central State College in Ada and in 1925 gained a tryout with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. However, he was released from the Seals the next spring after hitting .200 in 20 games.

At the urging of Paul, who had signed with the Pirates a year earlier, Lloyd was invited for a tryout in Pittsburgh in 1926 and impressed the scouts enough to be assigned to Columbia, S.C., of the Sally League. He hit .345 at Columbia in what would become his only full season in the minor leagues.


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