The 1909 World Series featured the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers. The Pirates won the Series in seven games to capture their first championship of the modern Major League Baseball era and the second championship in the club's history.
A Honus Wagner baseball card, c. 1909-1911
They had won the pennant in 1909 behind the brilliant play of Honus Wagner, who led the league with a .339 batting average and 100 RBI.
Detroit returned for their third consecutive Fall Classic determined to erase the memories of their previous efforts. The Tigers were also backed up by the heavy bat of Ty Cobb (who had just won his third consecutive American League batting title) and a formidable pitching staff.
They might have finally won the Series in their third try had it not been for Pirates rookie Babe Adams. Manager Fred Clarke started him, on a hunch, in Game 1. Adams won that game and two more, setting a World Series record.
The Tigers thus became the first AL team to win three consecutive pennants and the first team to lose three straight World Series (the New York Giants would lose three straight Series during 1911–1913).
The Pirates ran at will against the weak Detroit catching corps, stealing 18 bases in seven games.
Ty Cobb had a fairly quiet Series, going 6 for 26 with two stolen bases and one caught stealing. There is a long-standing legend that Cobb, standing on first base, called the German-ancestored Honus Wagner "Krauthead", told him he was going to steal second, and was not only thrown out but that Wagner tagged him in the mouth, ball in hand, drawing blood from Cobb's lip. However, an examination of the play-by-play does not indicate that such a play occurred. In the one "caught stealing" charged to Cobb, during the first inning of Game 4, he was actually safe at second due to a throwing error by first baseman Bill Abstein. This story is largely attributed to the creative press at the time, and Wagner and Cobb were actually on good terms.