After defeating the Cardinals on opening day 1-0, things quickly went down hill for Pittsburgh as they lost 12 of their next 16 games to sit in the unfamiliar position of seventh place on May 7th, 8.5 games out of first at 5-12.
Although they eventually broke out of their funk and finish off the season 82-54, this certainly was not the same Pirate team that had dominated the circuit over the past three years.
First off the pitching staff, which had been the strength of the team during the championship run, was decidedly different. Sam Leever was still the king, finishing this campaign 18-11-2.17, but Deacon Phillippe was not. After winning 20 games in each of his first five seasons, Phillippe would fall to only 10-10 with an uncharacteristic 3.24 ERA. Jesse Tannehill, one of the stars since the late 1800’s, jumped to New York of the American League in 1903 as did Jack Chesbro who would go on to win 41 games for the Highlanders in 1904, more than anybody has in the 20th century. Ed Doheny, of course had been committed to an insane asylum, and predictably, the team’s ERA, which had been first or second since 1900 fell to 2.89, 6th in the circuit.
Replacing the solid trio were Patsy Flaherty, who led the AL in losses with 25 in 1903. Flaherty was picked up from the White Sox for $750 and would go on to win 19 games for the Pirates (20 for the season, becoming one of only four men ever to win 20 games in a season while with 2 teams). Rookie Mike Lynch finished with a nice 15-11 mark and Charlie Case, who was in his second year and had been out of the majors since 1901 when he played for Cincinnati, contributed to the cause with a10-5-2.94 campaign.
Offensively Honus Wagner would win another batting title, .349, while leading the league in slugging, .520, and stolen bases, 53. Wagner would be one of the lone bright spots as Ginger Beaumont and Fred Clarke would take 40 and 45 points off their 1903 batting averages respectively finishing at .301 and .306.
The mighty had certainly fallen in the Steel City. Although they would be one of the better teams in the league over the next few years, it would be five more seasons before they rose to the top again.By Pirates Encyclopedia
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- Charlie Case, Deacon Phillippe, Ed Doheny, Fred Clarke, Ginger Beaumont, Honus Wagner, Jack Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Mike Lynch, Patsy Flaherty, Sam Leever