The 1909 World Series: The Pirates’ Honus Wagner vs. the Tigers’ Ty Cobb!

The 1909 World Series: The Pirates’ Honus Wagner vs. the Tigers’ Ty Cobb!

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 The 1909 World Series: The Pirates’ Honus Wagner vs.the Tigers’ Ty Cobb!

“I’ll never forget that look on Babe Adams’ face when I told him I wanted him to pitch the opener of the 1909 World Series.” – Pirates’ Manger, Fred Clarke.

Yesterday, October 16, 1909, was the 108th anniversary of the Pirates’ victory in the 1909 World Series. They defeated the Tigers 8-0 in the decisive seventh game in front of 17,562 fans, to win their first championship of the modern baseball era.

The series pitted the two great stars of the Dead Ball Era: Honus Wagner, coming off a .339, 100 RBIs season and the National League batting title; and Ty Cobb, who hit .377, and had just won his third straight batting crown.  

The Pirates finished the regular season at 110-42 (.724), 5 ½ games ahead of the second place Cubs. The Tigers, in their third straight appearance in the Fall Classic, went 98-54 (.645), 3 ½ games ahead of the Athletics. They were hoping for a better result after losses in 1907 and 1908 to the Cubs. It was not to be, as they became the first team to lose three straight World Series. The Pirates ran at will against a weak Detroit catching corps, stealing 18 bases in the seven games.

Both teams featured formidable pitching staffs. The Pirates were led by Howie Camnitz and Vic Willis, who won 25 and 22 games respectively, plus Lefty Leifield with 19 wins, and rookie phenom Babe Adams at 12-3; while the Tigers’ staff included George Mullin, Ed Willett, and Ed Sumners, who combined for 70 victories.

The star of the series for the Pirates was rookie Babe Adams. Pirates’ manager Fred Clarke started him on a hunch in Game One. He responded with a six-hit, 4-1 victory, sparked by Clarke’s game-tying homer in the fourth inning.  He also won Games Five and Seven, setting a World Series record for rookies.

Wagner hit .333 for the series, with seven RBIs and six stolen bases. Fred Clarke set a record with four walks in Game Four. On the other side, Ty Cobb did not fare as well. Appearing in what would be his last World Series, Cobb batted only .231 but led the Tigers with six RBIs.

For the first time, four umpires were used: Silk O’Laughlin, Jim Johnston, Billy Evans, and Bill Klem. There were eight future Hall-of-Famers in the series: For the Pirates, manager Fred Clarke, Honus Wagner, and Vic Willis; and for the Tigers Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, and manager Hughie Jennings; plus umpires Evans and Klem.

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. Nothing had changed over the years, as the Pirates won the game, 6–3.

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the 1909 World Series Wikipedia page.

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I’m a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

1 Comment

  1. Jamin · October 18, 2017 Reply

    Featured on https://www.reddit.com/r/TheHistoryofBaseball/

    Feel free to share your other work there!

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