It might have not been as devastating as the breakup of the Beatles, but the pitching staff that had led the Pirates to so much success over the past ten years was deteriorating very quickly. The ERA had vaulted from 2.07 to 2.83, although some of that may have been attributed to the use of a new ball that had a livelier cork in the center. They finished third in the league, the lowest they had been since 1905.
Aging veteran, Deacon Phillippe, won 13 in a row, mostly in relief, to go 14-2, but fellow vet Sam Leever would finish at 6-5. More troubling than that, was Howie Camnitz, coming off his career year, fell hard to 12-13 with a 3.22 ERA. The Bucs didn’t have future Hall of Fame pitcher Vic Willis any more as they sold him to St Louis feeling that he was really not a good influence on the young pitchers due to his problems with the bottle. One year wonder, Nick Maddox was let go late in the season as Babe Adams was really the only one of the old guard who had a solid season in the starting rotation with an 18-9-2.24 campaign.
Honus Wagner, “slumped” to .320, only fifth in the league, although utility outfielder, rookie Vin Campbell would out hit him, finishing second in the race at .326. Third baseman Bobby Byrne, who solidified the position after coming over from Cards late in 19089, tied with Wagner for the NL lead in hits with 178, hitting .296. Rookie John Flynn continued Pittsburgh’s revolving door at first base, the fourth man in four years to man the position (although no less than seven players took their turn at first during the season) when Bill Abstein was picked up by the St Louis Browns on waivers. It would be a particularly tough year on Wagner as he almost was killed in late May when his car crashed into a railroad crossing gate in Pittsburgh.
President Taft made a return visit to the Steel City on May 2nd, this time the Pirates won, beating the Cubs 8-3, gaining first place the next day. They would remain there until May 25th when they lost to the Giants 4-3, never to return to the top spot. Taft who got up in the seventh inning to stretch, prompting the throng at Forbes Field to stand up also thinking he was leaving. Some claim this to be the beginning of the seventh inning stretch although others say it began much earlier.
In what seemed to be the strange yearly occurrence with the Giants, John McGraw would summon reliever Bugsy Raymond from the bullpen. What McGraw didn’t know was that Raymond had snuck out of the stadium earlier for two shots at a local bar. When he did return he hit two batters, and gave up two hits helping the Bucs to beat New York 6-3. Raymond was suspended by what can be said to be an irritated McGraw.
Despite the oddities, the Bucs lost out to Chicago yet again as the Cubs were the new dynasty in town winning their fourth NL crown in the past five years.By Pirates Encyclopedia
- Babe Adams, Bill Abstein, Bobby Byrne, Deacon Phillippe, Honus Wagner, Howie Camnitz, John Flynn, John McGraw, Nick Maddox, Sam Leever, Vic Willis, Vin Campbell