Despite winning 104 games, the Chicago Cubs failed to capture their fourth consecutive National League pennant in 1909. Led by Honus Wagner, the Pittsburgh Pirates posted an extraordinary 110-42 record over the course of the regular season, to finish 6 ½ games ahead of the second-place Cubs. In helping the Pirates score a league-leading 699 runs, Wagner topped the senior circuit in six different offensive categories, including batting average (.339) and runs batted in (100). Meanwhile, teammate Fred Clarke led the league with 80 walks and finished second with 97 runs scored. Pittsburgh infielder Tommy Leach led the N.L. with 126 runs scored.
The Pirates also featured a much-improved pitching staff that included Howie Camnitz and Vic Willis. In easily his finest season, Camnitz posted a 1.62 ERA and finished 25-6, to tie for the league lead with a winning percentage of .806. Willis surpassed 20 victories for the fourth straight year for the Pirates, finishing the campaign with a record of 22-11 and an ERA of 2.24.
Yet, the hero of Pittsburgh’s seven-game World Series triumph over the Detroit Tigers turned out to be 27-year-old rookie Babe Adams, who compiled a record of 12-3 and a 1.11 ERA in limited spot-starting duty during the season. Adams won Games One, Five, and Seven to finish the Series with a record of 3-0 and a 1.33 ERA. In the process, he held the great Ty Cobb to just one hit in 11 trips to the plate. Cobb found himself being badly outplayed by Honus Wagner during the Fall Classic. The Tiger star batted just .231, while Wagner posted a .333 batting average in his final World Series appearance.
Although the Cubs failed to advance to the World Series for the first time in four years, their pitching staff remained the best in baseball. Mordecai Brown finished 27-9, to top the senior circuit in victories. He also compiled a 1.31 ERA and led the league with 342 innings pitched and
32 complete games. Orvall Overall went 20-11 with a 1.42 ERA. Ed Reulbach gave Chicago a third outstanding starter, winning 19 games and compiling an ERA of 1.78. Only the magnificent campaign turned in by Pittsburgh deprived the Cubs of an opportunity to win their third straight world championship.
Still, the National League’s finest pitcher played for the third-place Giants, who finished 18 ½ games behind the Pirates with 92 victories. Christy Mathewson posted a league-best 1.14 ERA that remains the fifth-lowest mark ever compiled. He also finished 25-6, threw 275 innings, tossed eight shutouts, and completed 26 of his starts.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• Chicago’s 104 victories represent the most wins ever by a second-place team.
• Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field and Philadelphia’s Shibe Park became the first all-concrete-and-steel stadiums to open.
• Christy Mathewson’s and Howie Camnitz’s identical 25-6 records tied them for the National League lead with a winning percentage of .806.
• Red Ames of the Giants pitched an Opening Day no-hitter for nine innings, before finally losing to Brooklyn 3-0 in 13 innings.
• Brooklyn catcher Bill Bergen posted the lowest batting average ever by an everyday player – a mark of .139 over 112 games.
• The Cubs defeated Boston a National League record 21 times during the season.
• The Phillies were rained out of games a record 10 straight days.
• Jimmy Sheckard collected a National League record 46 sacrifice hits for the Cubs.
• The Cardinals committed a record 17 errors in a doubleheader on July 3.
• Cincinnati's Bob Bescher swiped 54 bases, to win his first of four straight National League stolen base crowns.
- 1909 World Series, Babe Adams, Bill Bergen, Bob Bescher, Christy Mathewson, Ed Reulbach, Forbes Field, Fred Clarke, Honus Wagner, Howie Camnitz, Jimmy Sheckard, Mordecai Brown, Orval Overall, Pittsburgh Pirates, Red Ames, Shibe Park, Tommy Leach, Ty Cobb, Vic Willis