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HALL of Fame brothers leave their mark on baseball

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ When Lydia Freeman and Lloyd Waner Jr. talk about their famous father, Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Lloyd Waner, you wonder if they're talking about the same person.

``I guess I've got to forgive him for a lot of the things,'' said Lloyd Waner Jr., 67, a retired geologist in Edmond. ``Keep this in mind: I guess he was OK as baseball players and professional athletes go. But, although I'm a scratch golfer, I couldn't hit a baseball if my life depended upon it.''

Lydia, 62, a receptionist for her husband, dentist Wes Freeman of Oklahoma City, offered contrasting insight to her dad, Lloyd Waner, who died in 1982.

``He was real sweet,'' Lydia said.

``Actually, daddy was pretty shy. But he was there for me.''

On the other hand, Lydia said, ``Brother being five years older than me, he remembers better what was going on.''

Lloyd Jr. said he and his sister grew up in the shadow of a great athlete, and that he was sure his dad was embarrassed to have a ''120-pound weakling'' son who was good at golf and tennis but not any so-called man's games.

``Because you get these professional athletes, they want their boys to be husky and all that kind of stuff,'' Lloyd Jr. said. ``Tennis to him was a sissy game. He wouldn't even watch it.''

Lloyd Sr. was in his seventh major league season when his namesake son was born. Lloyd Jr. was 12 when his father retired from baseball.

``My dad probably was the best baseball player pound-for-pound,'' Lloyd Jr. said. ``He was very good, and he was not only good at that, but pretty nearly everything. I mean, his eye and hand coordination was superb.''

He remembered going squirrel or rabbit hunting and marveling at his dad's eyesight.

``He'd see something in a tree that I couldn't see,'' Lloyd Jr. said, ``and the shotgun would come off his shoulder and it was almost automatic. See, point, shoot, and too bad for whatever he was after.''

Make no mistake: the son of the hall of famer is proud to be named Lloyd Waner Jr.

``Oh, sure, of course I am,'' he said. ``Everybody has faults. He was a helluva guy. He ought to be an inspiration for this poor little kid out here who's like me, who's 140 pounds and wants to go do something. Well, here's a guy that did it.

It's really neat to find some little frail guy who can compete against the top people.''

In 1927, at Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn, someone inadvertently gave nicknames to the Pittsburgh Pirates outfielders from Harrah. Lloyd Waner became ``Little Poison'' and older brother Paul became ``Big Poison.''

A Brooklyn fan or sportswriter said (or hollered) something like this: ``Every time you look up, the Waner boys are on base. It's always the little person on third and the big person on first.''

In Brooklynese, ``first'' came out ``foist,'' and ``third'' came out ``thoid,'' and ``person'' came out POYsun, or ``poison.''

So, Lloyd was ``Little'' and Paul was ``Big,'' even though, according to Total Baseball and the Baseball Encyclopedia, Lloyd was 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, and Paul was 5-8, 153.

Both Waners went on to Baseball Hall of Fame inductions, Paul in 1952 and Lloyd in 1967. They are the only ballplaying brothers in the Hall; brothers George and Harry Wright are in Cooperstown as pioneers of the game.

The poison wasn't in the ballplaying, but in the drinking.

``You're interviewing somebody that despises alcohol and the effects of it,'' Lloyd Jr. said, ``and yet I'll have a drink.''

His sister Lydia will occasionally have some wine, she said, but that's about it for the family's alcohol consumption.

It wasn't that way with the ballplaying brothers, Lloyd and Paul Waner.

A writer once wrote that Paul ``hit doubles and triples during games and drank them after.''

Lloyd responded, ``Paul thought you played better when you were relaxed, and drinking was a good way to relax.''

Lydia said, ``They were characters, they really were. There was a lot of drinking, and I think that's what really took down Paul and daddy. But it seemed like back in those days that it was just a real fact of life, it really was.''

Lloyd ran 100 yards in 10 seconds at Harrah. He played ball for the Ada Independents and other town teams, and for one year at East Central Teachers College in Ada.

``Oh, my, he was a handful,'' Hall of Fame pitcher Carl Hubbell once said of Lloyd. ``I played against him when I was at Meeker and he was at Harrah and I couldn't get him out then. He'd hit a high hopper back to the mound and beat it out. It was the damndest thing I ever saw.''

Lloyd Waner batted left, like his older brother, but threw from the right side. Paul taught Lloyd to hit down on the ball, go for line drives. They both had the same unusual batting technique, resting the bat on their shoulder until the pitcher began his delivery.

Lloyd Waner's best season was his first season, 1927, when he was 21 years old and weighed only 132 pounds. He hit .355, scored a National League-high 133 runs, and had 223 hits, which remains the major league record for rookies. He had 198 singles, which still is the major league mark.

Paul died of pneumonia on Aug. 29, 1965, in Sarasota, Fla. Lloyd died of emphysema on July 22, 1982, in Oklahoma City. He is buried alongside his wife, the former Francis Mae Snyder, in Rose Hill Cemetery.
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