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Yankees history: The brief Yankee career of Hall of Famer Paul Waner

The Pirates legend made a pit stop in New York near the end of his career.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Some legends don’t know when their time is up. Some leave and go to different teams than where they spent their golden years, like Willie Mays on the Mets.

By the time Hall of Famer Paul Waner ended up on the Yankees, he had already become a bit of a journeyman. After a legendary career with the Pirates, he had brief stints with the Dodgers, Braves, and then Dodgers again. His post-Pirates years weren’t quite as good as his prime, but he was still a decent hitter.

Waner put up decent numbers as a 41-year old in 1944, but after 83 games, the Dodgers decided to release him. He could still get on base, but he hit just five extra-base hits in 136 at bats.

The Yankees picked him up in September, looking for a bench bat to help in the pennant race. They briefly did have a lead in the AL that month, but faded and eventually finished in third. Waner wasn’t exactly much help, getting just one hit in seven at bats. Despite that, the Yankees brought him back for the following season.

Waner did not appear in the Yankees’ first six games on the 1945 season. They had gotten off to a 5-1 start, and production from the offense wasn’t really a problem.

Despite scoring five early runs against the Athletics on April 26th, the Yankees had fallen behind. Starter Monk Dubiel was charged with seven runs in the fourth inning, as he coughed up the lead.

Still down 7-5 in the top of the eighth, there was a man on with one out when the pitcher’s spot was due up in the Yankees’ lineup. Waner was sent up to get his first plate appearance of the season. He didn’t come up with a big hit, but Waner kept things moving. He drew a walk, and moved a runner into scoring position.

However, the Yankees did not score any runs in the inning, and Waner’s day was done, as a pitcher was re-inserted into the lineup.

Not only was Waner’s day done, that would actually be the last appearance of his career. A couple days later, Waner was released by the Yankees, and he would retire. After 20 years in the majors, the future Hall of Famer ended his career with a walk and then never played again.

Not every player can win the World Series in their final season. Not everyone can have a Derek Jeter-like iconic moment to close out their career. I’m not sure anyone wants to end their career by getting a walk, and then being stranded in a two-run loss in April.

Sources

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/wanerpa01.shtml

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/9d598ab8

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHA/PHA194504260.shtml