The shortstop on the 1912 Red Sox was Charles Francis “Heinie” Wagner. Fiercely loyal, the hardworking, quiet leader was respected by teammates, opponents, management and fans for the 12 years he called Boston and Fenway Park home.
“Heinie” Wagner played 983 major league games in a career which spanned nearly the first two decades of the 20th century. All but 17 of those games were played in the uniform of the Boston Red Sox. He learned the game playing barefoot on the streets and sand lots of Harlem in the days when “King” Kelly ruled in Boston.
The Streets of Harlem circa 1895.
Turning professional in 1901 when he signed on with the Waverley Club of the New York State League and playing for a dollar a game, he caught the eye of New York Giants manager John McGraw. He played for the Giants in 1902 but McGraw was not impressed and he was released after playing only 17 games. He continued to play in the Eastern League and in 1906, he joined the Red Sox.
Known for a rifle arm and feet that on occasion would find their way entangled with runners rounding second base, Wagner was adept on the bases as well. A proficient basestealer, nearly a century after he retired, he remains fifth on the Red Sox all time list of stolen bases.
Duffy Lewis, Larry Gardner, Tris Speaker and Heinie Wagner, 1912.
In Fenway’s inaugural season of 1912, player-manager Jake Stahl was one of 11 player-managers in the major leagues and thus there were virtually no captains named to the teams. However, Wagner was so highly respected that on a roster which was sprinkled with stars, future hall of famers and the manager himself, Stahl tabbed “Heinie” the captain of the squad. Heinie responded with the best season of his career, finishing 10th in the MVP balloting.
Wagner and Stahl.
Wagner provided a stabilizing influence when religious differences and ethnic strife ripped at the fabric of the teams of 1913, 14 and 15 and when a young kid named Ruth arrived in Boston and things began to get away from the budding icon, it was Wagner who was assigned to room with and keep and eye on the Babe. He retired as a player following the ’18’ season but returned to manage for a year in 1930.
Heinie Wagner, 1930.
Following the 1930 season, Heinie left pro baseball for good. He went on to become the superintendent of a lumber yard in New Rochelle NY. He stayed involved in the game, coaching baseball teams for the New Rochelle police and fire departments and for the local Elks Club as well.
He passed away in March of 1943, a victim of heart disease, his place in Fenway Park history forevermore secure as Fenway Park’s first shortstop, her first captain and one of only two players in Red Sox history to win four World Championships in a Red Sox uniform!
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, 1912-1918, Heinie’s time.