The 1909 World Series featured the Pittsburg 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.
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 for rookies.
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.
NL Pittsburg Pirates (4) vs. AL Detroit Tigers (3)
Friday, October 8, 1909, at Forbes Field in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
I'll never forget the look on Adams' face when I told him I wanted him to pitch the opener.
Rookie Babe Adams, who had compiled a 12–3 record during the regular season, unexpectedly drew the start for Game 1. He responded with a six-hit, 4–1 victory sparked by Clarke's game-tying home run in the bottom of the fourth.
Saturday, October 9, 1909, at Forbes Field in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
The Tigers began their 7–2 comeback win (after a two-run Pirate bottom of the first) with three runs in the top of the third, tying the Series at one game apiece. Ty Cobb stole home to start the rally.
Monday, October 11, 1909, at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan
Honus Wagner had three hits, three RBI and three stolen bases as the Pirates regained the lead in the Series, two games to one.
Tuesday, October 12, 1909, at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan
The win-swapping continued with Detroit taking Game 4. Tiger ace George Mullin threw a five-hit shutout while striking out 10 Pirates, again evening the Series at two games apiece.
Wednesday, October 13, 1909, at Forbes Field in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
Babe Adams threw another six-hitter, for an 8–4 triumph and a 3–2 Series lead for his Pirates.
Thursday, October 14, 1909, at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan
Mullin, after being roughed up for three first-inning runs, surrendered only one more and wound up with the win, knotting the Series at three games apiece.
Saturday, October 16, 1909, at Bennett Park in Detroit, Michigan
With the Series coming 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 got off to a miserable start. He hit the first Pirate batter and went on to walk six in the first two innings. He was pulled after three with Adams confidently holding a 2–0 lead. Pittsburgh never looked back, as Babe nailed his third six-hitter of the Series for an 8–0 championship victory.
Honus Wagner continued to prove his Cooperstown worthiness by hitting .333, with seven RBIs and six stolen bases. On the other side, Ty Cobb didn't fare as well. Appearing in what would be his last Series (although he would remain active through 1928), Cobb batted only .231 although he did lead the Tigers, losers of their third Series in three years, with six RBIs.
1909 World Series (4–3): Pittsburg Pirates (N.L.) over Detroit Tigers (A.L.)