It had been six years since Pirate great Honus Wagner had perhaps his lowest moment in a Pittsburgh uniform, hitting only .222 in the eight game upset loss to the Boston Pilgrims in the 1903 World Series.

After being accused of being yellow by the Sporting News following the series, Wagner waited for another opportunity to show the baseball world his true greatness.  He finally got his chance in 1909, but this time he would have to go up against the man who challenged him for the title as best player in the game, Detroit’s Ty Cobb.

While Wagner won the NL batting crown at .339 in leading the Bucs to a team record 110 victories, Cobb took his team to the American League pennant with a junior circuit high .377 average and 76 stolen bases.

The series opened on October 1st in Pittsburgh’s brand new Forbes Field.  Rookie Babe Adams, who was 12-3 with a sparkling 1.11 ERA during the season, was given the nod to start the first game over Buc ace Howie Camnitz who finished the year at 25-6 but was reported as suffering from tonsillitis.

Adams was wild at first walking Davy Jones and Ty Cobb to open the game, before Jim Delahanty singled Cobb in for the series first run.  Babe eventually settled down, as that was the only run he gave up the entire contest.

The Pirates were held scoreless until the fourth when Fred Clarke tied the game with a homer to right.  Pittsburgh then picked up two more the next frame when George Gibson doubled in Bill Abstien and Tommy Leach hit a sacrifice fly to knock in Gibson.  The club tacked on one in the sixth en route to a 4-1 victory.

The series most memorable moment came in the fifth inning when Wagner picked up a one hopper from Gibson to tag out Cobb sliding into second on a steal attempt.  As the famous story goes Cobb called Wagner a “Krauthead” telling him to watch out he was coming down.  Wagner supposedly urged him to go ahead, slapping him in the face with the glove and the ball, presumably knocking out some teeth in the process.

With a 1-0 lead in the series, Clarke called on Camnitz in Game 2.  After Leach doubled in Bobby Byrne and Dots Miller did the same for Leach, the Bucs took a 2-0 lead and looked like they were headed for another big day.

The lead was short-lived as the Tigers Boss Schmidt doubled in two runs in the second and chased Camnitz from the game in the third when they tallied three more, including Cobb’s steal of home to give Detroit a 5-2 lead.  The Bengals scored two more in the fifth off Vic Willis and tied up the series at one game apiece.

Knuckleballer Ed Summers, who won 19 games for Detroit was on the mound for the first game in the Motor City.  The Tigers hopes of adding to their momentum were quickly dashed when Pittsburgh chased Summers from the game before the first inning was over racing to a 5-0 lead.  The Pirates extended the margin to 6-0 in the second as starter Nick Maddox threw a shutout into the bottom of the seventh.

The Tigers came to life at that point scoring four times, three of the runs unearned after first baseman Bill Abstien dropped a throw from Miller for his second error of the series.  The Bucs came back to score two in the ninth led by Wagner’s third single of the day which knocked in Leach and his third stolen base of the contest which had writer Hugh Fullerton eventually to claim that this was the game that would erase the yellow tag given to him in 1903.

Detroit was not done yet as they scored two more unearned runs led by Abstien’s third error, this time a drop of a throw by Wagner.  Delahanty would fly out to left to end the threat and give the Bucs a hard-fought 8-6 win in the cold rain of the Motor City.

As the wind kicked up and the weather turned colder for game 4, Lefty Leifeld took the mound in hopes of giving Pittsburgh a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead.  Instead what the Tigers got was a dominant, 5-hit, 10-strikeout performance from George Mullin, who was 29-9 on the season, in the 5-0 shut out of the Bucs.

Although they led to no Bengal runs, Abstien dropped two more balls, bringing his wretched total to five errors in four games, in what was turning out to be one of the worst post-season performances in club history.

The series would shift to Pittsburgh for game 5 as both teams traveled from Michigan thru Ohio into Pennsylvania, well all but Cobb, who had to go thru Ontario then Buffalo as there was a warrant for his arrest in Ohio due to an assault charge stemming from an incident in a Cleveland hotel.

Adams came out in wintry Pittsburgh for his second start against Summers, who was chosen over bill Donovan, a pitcher who was more effective in warmer weather. There were temporary stands that Dreyfuss had installed for the World Series, but due to the extremely in climate weather, they were not needed, despite that fact, the temporary stands would come into effect several times in this game.  The first time was in the first inning as Davy Jones led off the contest with a homer right into the temporary area for the 1-0 Detroit lead.  The Bucs tied it in the bottom half when the series goat, Abstein, walked with the bases loaded. Pittsburgh scored one run in each of the next two inning before Detroit tied the game in the sixth frame scoring two runs, the tying one off a throwing error by Wagner. Clarke took advantage of the temporary stands in the bottom of the seventh when he cracked a three run shot to give the club a 7-3 lead which eventually turned into an 8-4 win.

On to Detroit went the teams, as the Bucs were now one win away from the championship, avenging the ’03 series loss.  Mullin faced Willis in the contest as Pittsburgh scored three runs on five hits in the top of the first for an early 3-0 cushion. The Tigers chipped away with one in the first and two in the fourth before taking a 5-3 lead into the ninth inning.  Trying to end it all in six games, the Pirates rallied with singles from Miller and Abstien to lead off the inning.  Owen Wilson came up next and tried to sacrifice the runners over, but was ruled safe at first as he rammed into first baseman Tom Jones who dropped the ball and was rendered unconscious, scoring Miller when the ball was dropped. Gibson came up next, grounding out to first when Abstien senselessly broke for home, and was thrown out easily at the plate.  Ed Abbaticchio, struck out in his only series plate appearance, as Wilson was tossed out while trying to steal third to end the game 5-4 and tie the series at three, heading into a seventh and decisive game.

After losing a coin toss earlier in the series, the Pirates would have to try and win the title in the Motor City, as Adams would face Donovan. Unlike game six, Pittsburgh scored early and often, led by Leach’s 2 for 3 and Wagner’s 2-run triple, the only one of the series, giving the team an 8-0 win and its first World Series victory. Adams scattered six hits in the shutout and was the true hero of the series winning three of the four Pittsburgh victories.  Wagner dominated Cobb in his personal duel out hitting him, .333 to .231, while he stole 6 bases compared to 2.

150,000 loyal fans would line the streets in a nighttime parade to Forbes Field, to salute their new heroes, as Wagner could finally make the statement, yellow no more.

For the first time, four umpires were used at the same time, with the standard plate umpire and base umpire along with two outfield umpires.

On June 14, 2009, the series' 100th anniversary was celebrated, when the Tigers and Pirates played each other in Pittsburgh. Both teams wore throwback uniforms similar to those worn in 1909. The stadium's public address and sound systems were also turned off, simulating the game conditions in 1909. The Pirates won the game, 6–3


Records: Pittsburgh Pirates (W: 110, L: 42, Pct: .724, GA: 6 ½) - Detroit Tigers (W: 98, L: 54, Pct: .645, GA: 3 ½)
Managers: Fred Clarke (Pittsburgh), Hughie Jennings (Detroit)
Umpires: Jim Johnstone (NL), Billy Evans (AL), Bill Klem (NL), Silk O'Loughlin (AL)
For the first time, four umpires were used at the same time, with the standard plate umpire and base umpire along with two outfield umpires.
Hall of Famers: Pirates: Fred Clarke, Honus Wagner, Vic Willis. Tigers: Sam Crawford, Ty Cobb.


 Game 1

Friday, October 8, 1909 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 4
Pittsburgh 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 X 4 5 0
WP: Babe Adams (1–0)   LP: George Mullin (0–1)
Home runs:
DET: None
PIT: Fred Clarke (1)

"I'll never forget the look on Adams's face when I told him I wanted him to pitch the opener." - Pirates Manager Fred Clarke

Rookie Babe Adams, who had compiled a 12-3 record during the regular season, unexpectedly drew the start for Game 1. He responded with a six-hitter, 4-1 victory that was sparked by Clarke's game-tying home run in the fourth inning.

 Game 2

Saturday, October 9, 1909 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit 0 2 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 7 9 2
Pittsburgh 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 1
WP: Wild Bill Donovan (1–0)   LP: Howie Camnitz (0–1)

With three runs in the third inning, Detroit tied the Series up. Ty Cobb stole home plate to ignite the rally.

 Game 3

Monday, October 11, 1909 at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pittsburgh 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 8 10 2
Detroit 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 2 6 11 5
WP: Nick Maddox (1–0)   LP: Ed Summers (0–1)

Honus Wagner had three hits, three RBI, and three stolen bases, as the Pirates regained the lead.

 Game 4

Tuesday, October 12, 1909 at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pittsburgh 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 6
Detroit 0 2 0 3 0 0 0 0 X 5 8 0
WP: George Mullin (1–1)   LP: Lefty Leifield (0–1)

The win-swapping continued with Detroit taking Game 4. Tiger ace George Mullin threw a five-hit shutout while striking out 10 Pirates.

 Game 5

Wednesday, October 13, 1909 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 4 6 1
Pittsburgh 1 1 1 0 0 0 4 1 X 8 10 2
WP: Babe Adams (2–0)   LP: Ed Summers (0–2)
Home runs:
DET: Davy Jones (1), Sam Crawford (1)
PIT: Fred Clarke (2)

Babe Adams threw another six-hitter, resulting in an 8-4 triumph.

 Game 6

Thursday, October 14, 1909 at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pittsburgh 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 8 1
Detroit 1 0 0 2 1 1 0 0 X 5 10 2
WP: George Mullin (2–1)   LP: Vic Willis (0–1)

Mullin, after being roughed up for three first-inning runs, surrendered only one more and wound up with the win.

 Game 7

Saturday, October 16, 1909 at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan

Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pittsburgh 0 2 0 2 0 3 0 1 0 8 7 0
Detroit 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 3
WP: Babe Adams (3–0)   LP: Wild Bill Donovan (1–1)

With the Series going down to a climactic seventh game (the first to go the distance), Pittsburgh's Fred Clarke went with two game winner Babe Adams as his pitcher, while Detroit Manager Hugh Jennings decided on Bill Donovan, a complete-game winner in Game 2.

Donovan got off to a miserable start. He hit the first Pirate batter and went on to walk six in the first two innings. He was pulled after three with Adams confidently holding a 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh never looked back as Babe nailed his third six-hitter of the Series for an 8-0 championship victory.

Honus Wagner continued to prove his Cooperstown worthiness by hitting .333, with seven RBIs and six stolen bases. On the other side, Ty Cobb did not fare as well. Appearing in what would be his last Series (although he would be an active player through 1928), Cobb batted only .231 but led Detroit with six RBIs.

Detroit Tigers, Pittsburg Pirates


Login or register to post comments
Share |