Pivotal World Series Plays
Clarke Bets on the Rookie
1909 World Series Game 1: Pittsburg Pirates vs Detroit Tigers
This article is more about a manager's pivotal decision - actually three pivotal decisions - rather than a pivotal play.
When the 1909 Detroit Tigers grabbed their third straight junior circuit crown, they hoped to finally win the "World's Series" (as it was called then) after two straight losses to the Cubs. Their opponent, the Pittsburg Pirates, had lost the first Fall Classic in 1903 to the Red Sox. The Series would pit two of the greatest players of the era in SS Hon­us Wagner of the Bucs and Tiger RF Ty Cobb.
Detroit manager Hugh Jennings was confident his club would finally break through. "The Tigers are in better condition than they have been in three years. All the boys are playing at top speed. I would not say how badly we will beat Pittsburg, but the outlook is decidedly encouraging. I am not superstitious, but the third time charm looks good to me."
27-year-old Charles "Babe" Adams had a fine rookie season in 1909 for the Pirates, finishing 12-3 with a 1.11 ERA. However, no one considered Babe the ace of a staff that boasted a Big Three of Vic Willis (22-11, 2.24 ERA), Howie Camnitz (25-6, 1.62), and Lefty Leifield (19-8, 2.37).

L-R: Vic Willis, Howie Camnitz, Lefty Leifield
Pittsburg (as the city officially spelled its name from 1891-1911) won the pennant by 6.5 games over the Cubs after a 16-game winning streak in early September. So it wasn't that Player-Manager Fred Clarke had to use his top starters in the last games to clinch the crown. Camnitz was still recovering from an attack of tonsilitis, but otherwise he could have arranged his starters in any order he wished. But Fred appreciated the fine work his "young giant" Babe had done in the last six weeks of the season, especially his control as Adams issued only 23 free passes in 130 innings.
So Adams toed the slab to open the best-of-seven series at Forbes Field. Perhaps intimidated by the overflow crowd of 29,265, Babe started shakily, surrendering a run in the first inning, but settled down to twirl a six-hit 4-1 victory that was sparked by Clarke's game-tying homer in the fourth.
Adams retired the side in order in only three innings but repeatedly wiggled out of trouble, stranding eight. Babe aided his own cause with two fine fielding plays. First, he grabbed Sam Crawford's high bounder in the first and threw out the runner at third. Two innings later, he made a scoop throw on Donie Bush's bunt to nail him by inches at first.
1909 World Series action
1909 World Series Action
By the time Babe took the hill again in Game 5, the Series was tied at two games apiece. Clarke inexplicably started Camnitz in Game 2, but Howie lasted only 2 1/3 innings in the 7-2 loss. Still not going with Willis or Leifield, Clarke chose Nick Maddox (13-8, 2.21), who surrendered only one earned run in the 8-6 victory at Ben­nett Park in the Motor City. Leifield finally took a turn in Game 4 but gave up all five runs in four innings as the Tigers tied the series 5-0.
Back home in Pittsburgh October 13, Clarke turned to his Babe. Adams responded with a complete game 8-4 triumph. He struck out 8 and walked only 1 on a 40° day with a chilling wind sweeping across the field. Detroit's six hits included two homers, two two-baggers, and two singles. Clarke's second HR of the series, a three-run clout to deep CF, broke a 3-3 tie in the 7th.
Following an odd 2-2-1-1 format, the Series returned to Detroit for Game 6 on October 14. The Tigers won 5-4 to force a Game 7.
The National Commission that ruled baseball had determined the site of Game 7 by a coin flip prior to Game 5 that AL President Ban Johnson called correctly. They also acceded to Detroit's request to move the game back a day to October 16, a Saturday, in order to boost ticket sales. Deacon Phillippe (8-3, 2.32), the 37-year-old veteran who won three games for the Pirates in the '03 Series, begged Clarke to let him pitch Game 7. But the day off gave Fred an opportunity to go with Adams again with only two days rest.
Babe responded with his best game of the Series. Ignoring the blustery 50° weather, he shut out the Tigers 8-0 on six hits. He struck out only one but also walked only one. Only in the fourth did Detroit produce more than one hit. No runner went further than second base.
Adams took home the princely sum of $3,117 for his efforts. Only $1,853 was his World Series share. The rest came from donations by Pirate fans and his teammates, who kicked in $25 each.
So the Pirates won the Classic despite the fact that the Big Three failed to win a game thanks to their first-year hurler.
Babe Adams stat line for the 1909 World Series
G W L CG IP H R ER ERA HR BB K
3 3 0 3 27 18 5 4 1.33 2 6 11

Pirates P Charles "Babe" Adams
Babe Adams

Pirates Manager Fred Clarke
Fred Clarke

Detroit Manager Hughie Jennings
Hugh Jennings

Ty Cobb & Honus Wagner at 1909 World Series
Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner at the 1909 World Series


Nick Maddox


Deacon Phillippe