The Tigers entered 1909 hoping that "the third time is the charm."
They were two-time defending American League champions, but in both years ran into a buzzsaw in the World Series in the Chicago Cubs. But the Tigers were building their own mini-dynasty in the junior circuit, as they were clearly the team to beat in the A.L.
All the major players were back, from manager Hughie Jennings to outfielders Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford to pitchers George Mullin, Ed Summers and the rest. 1909 marked the emergence of young Donie Bush as the Tigers' everyday shortstop.
Bush was a diminutive player, standing just 5'6" and weighing all of 140 pounds. The Tigers had drafted him in 1907 from South Bend of the Central League. They lost him briefly to Indianapolis of the American Association, but Indy sold him back to the Tigers for $6,000 in September, 1908. In the 21-year-old Bush, the Tigers hoped they had found their shortstop for the next ten years, or more.
The bell rang to start the season, and the Tigers left everyone in the dust, at first. They started 16-5.
On June 29, the Tigers finished a 12-1 run that gave them a healthy seven-game lead over the Philadelphia A's. A minor slump followed, but the Tigers righted themselves. However, the Athletics didn't cool off, and by mid-August, the Tigers were once again in a heated pennant race. In fact, on August 18, the Tigers slipped to third place, behind Philadelphia and the Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers went on a tear, winning their next 14 and eventually going 22-3 since August 18.
That hot streak gave them a five-game lead with three weeks to play. From there, the Tigers held on to win the pennant by 3-1/2 games, their third straight A.L. flag. Their record was 98-54.
But the big individual story was Ty Cobb. The Georgia Peach won the league's Triple Crown, highlighted by an amazing .377 BA, Cobb's third straight batting title. Crawford hit .314 and Bush scored 114 runs, second best to Cobb's 116.
Mullin won 29 games, leading a pitching staff that was again considered among the best in the league. Hughie Jennings' crew would once again play in the World Series, this time meeting the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1909 World Series
At least the Tigers wouldn't be facing the Chicago Cubs in the 1909 World Series. Not that the Pittsburgh Pirates were a walk in the park. The Bucs went 110-42 in 1909, a full six games ahead of the second place Cubs. The Pirates featured Hall of Fame shortstop Honus Wagner, the National League's leading hitter at .339.
The 1909 World Series would be the first to go seven games.
Pittsburgh's Tommy Leach made a game-saving catch as the Bucs took Game 1.
But Cobb saw Leach's catch and raised it with a steal of home plate as the Tigers evened the series in Game 2.
In Game 3, Wagner had three hits and the Pirates moved ahead, 2 games to 1.
Undaunted, the Tigers again bounced back behind George Mullin's shutout in Game 4.
Games 5, 6 and 7 were slated to be played in Detroit.
True to form, the Pirates won Game 5, behind Fred Clarke's three-run homer.
The trend continued in Game 6, as the Tigers forced a seventh game with a 5-4 win by Mullin.
The Tigers went into Game 7 hoping to win their first World Series after two straight failures in the fall.
But it wasn't to be, as Pittsburgh's Babe Adams won his third game of the series, 8-0. All three of Babe's wins were complete games.
Heartbroken, the Tigers went home for the winter, demonized by three straight World Series losses.
And just as in 1907, the Tigers wondered what would have happened had they gotten the expected output from Cobb and Crawford, who combined to hit just .241 in the '09 Series.
Wagner, on the other hand, batted .333 to help lead the Pirates.By GregEno