1909 World Series
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.
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.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, a regular Series contender, won their seventh National League championship in 1909, behind the brilliant play of veteran superstar Honus Wagner. (He would add his eighth and final title two years later) Wagner had hit .339 for the Buccos and Pittsburgh's pitching staff was just as dangerous. Howie Camnitz and Vic Willis won twenty-five and twenty-two games, respectively, for the Pirates and Lefty Leifield posted nineteen victories. 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 featuring Mullin, Willett and Summers who had a combined seventy victories. None of this mattered though as the Pirates big three were unable to win a single game in the Series and only one Detroit standout, Mullin, performed as predicted by chalking up two victories.
The Tigers managed to outplay the Pirates veteran starters, but they couldn't handle newcomer Babe Adams, who had compiled a 12-3 record for the Pirates in 1909. Adams drew the start for Game 1 and responded with a six-hitter, 4-1 victory that was sparked by playing Manager Fred Clarke's game-tying homer in the fourth inning. Once again, Detroit had lost the lead... and lost the game.
Game 2 was tipped in Detroit's favor with a three run outburst in the third inning that was ignited by the spectacular home plate stealing of Ty Cobb. The Tigers had managed to square the Series at one game apiece and were looking for more. Pittsburgh regained the lead in Game 3 when they jumped on the back of Honus Wagner, who had three hits, three runs batted in and three stolen bases and rallied to an 8-6 victory. The win-swapping continued when Tiger ace George Mullin actually lived up to his reputation and threw a five-hit, shutout while striking out ten Pirates in a Game 4 victory.
Once again, Detroit had tied it up, but were unable to repeat as the Babe Adams threw another six-hitter, resulting in an 8-4, Game 5 triumph. The resilient Tigers found themselves back in business the next afternoon when Mullin, after being roughed up for three first-inning runs, surrendered only one more and wound up with a seven-hit, Game 6 winner. 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 was off to a miserable start as he hit the first Pirate batter and went on to walk six of them in the first two innings. He was pulled after three with Adams confidently holding a 2-0 lead. Pittsburgh never looked back as the Bucco's Babe nailed his third six-hitter of the Series and an 8-0 championship victory. It was the Pirates third post-season appearance, second official Series and first World Championship. Honus Wagner continued to prove his Cooperstown worthiness by hitting .333, with seven RBIs and six stolen bases. Playing manager Fred Clarke set a record with four walks in Game 4. On the other side, future Hall of Famer 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.