Kings and Queens of Baseballtown
“Broadway” Charlie Wagner, 2003
The late “Broadway” Charlie Wagner (1912-2006) dedicated his life to baseball and the American way.
The Red Sox signed “Broadway” at Lauer’s Park in 1935. By 1938 he was pitching in the Major Leagues. In 100 career games with the Red Sox he was 32-23 with a 3.91 ERA.
Wagner was 12-8 in 1941 and 14-11 with 17 complete games in 1942 before he entered the Navy. He did not pitch in the Major Leagues from 1943-1945 while he served our country during World War II.
Wagner was been at every Red Sox spring training since 1935 except when he was in the Navy (1943-45).
After his tour of duty in Navy ended in 1946, Wagner returned to the Majors to pitch one more season before he moved to the front office as the Assistant Farm Director in 1947. At that time the Red Sox had 12 Minor League teams spread over 55 leagues. He switched to scouting and Minor League pitching instructor in 1962 and had been in those roles for the remainder of his life.
In March of 1998 the Red Sox honored Wagner by naming the entrance way into their Minor League facility in Ft. Myers, FL as “Charlie Wagner Way”.
Charlie returned to Fenway Park on May 27, 2001 for the Red Sox 100th Anniversary Celebration. There he threw out a ceremonial first pitch to another No. 27, Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk.
He was back at Fenway Park on Opening Day 2005 on April 11 for the players Ring Ceremony to celebrate Boston’s win in the 2004 World Series. As the oldest active Red Sock, Charlie got to start the game by yelling “Let’s play ball” from home plate to conclude the festivities. He received his World Series ring on July 6 at home at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Wagner has been honored locally several times. On January 13, 1985 his 50th anniversary as a member of the Red Sox was celebrated at a testimonial dinner at the Reading Motor Inn. Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez and Ted Williams, Charlie’s roommate during his playing days, were on hand.
Incidentally, it was Williams who gave him the nickname “Broadway” for his impeccable style of dress. Wagner developed his flair for dapper garb as a youngster at Lauer’s Park. As and adult, he chose to emulate how the players dressed when he was a boy.
The Reading Baseball Hall of Fame opened it’s doors to Wagner in 1992. His induction class was one of the strongest the Hall has seen to date featuring the likes of Rocky Colavito and Herb Score to name a few.
In December, 1999 the Reading Eagle named Wagner one of the Top 50 most influential sports figures in Berks County during the 20th century.
Charlie was also part of the Reading Phillies family. He could be seen at the ballpark almost every day during the season. On August 17, 2000, his favorite hangout – the press box at FirstEnergy Stadium – was named in his honor.
Also, each season, the Reading Phillies’ player who unselfishly gives of himself, does the little things that don’t make the box scores and is the model team player is presented with the “Broadway” Charlie Wagner Unsung Hero Award.
On January 18, 2001 Charlie was honored by the Reading Hot Stovers at their annual banquet. He is a charter member of the organization. At that banquet, the Reading Phillies presented him with his famous chair from which he took in every R-Phils game he attended.
Truly a local legend, Wagner was crowned “King of Baseballtown” on November 7, 2002 at a banquet that also served as a fundraiser for Baseballtown Charities.
Charlie was a lifelong resident of the City of Reading.