Post-Season Surprises - II
This feature discusses a journeyman player who had a big impact in a World Series or playoff game.
"I'll never forget the look on (Babe) Adams's face when I told him I wanted him to pitch the opener (of the 1909 World Series)." - Pirates' Player-Manager Fred Clarke
- 27-year-old Charles "Babe" Adams had a fine rookie season in 1909, 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).
- Pittsburgh (referred to as "Pittsburg" in the newspapers since the city officially spelled its name that way 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 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.
The Detroit Tigers had 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. The 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.
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 HR 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, grabbing Sam Crawford's high bounder in the first and throwing out the runner at third and making a scoop throw on Donie Bush's bunt in the third to nail him by inches at first.
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 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.
Ty Cobb and Honus Wager at the 1909 World Series
Panorama of Game One of 1909 World Series
Detroit's Bennett Park during the 1909 World Series
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.
Ty Cobb didn't travel with the Tigers from Pittsburgh to Detroit. The reason was that law enforcement authorities in Cleveland had served Michigan Governor Warren with a request to turn Cobb over to them on a charge of assault with intent to kill. Ty had gotten in a fight in a Cleveland hotel with an African-American night watchman. The governor denied the request. So Ty avoided Ohio altogether by taking the longer route through Buffalo and entering Detroit through Windsor, Ontario. After the World Series, Cobb pleaded guilty to assault and battery and paid a $100 fine. He also had to settle a civil suit with the man he attacked.
- Willis finally started but didn't pitch very effectively, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings.
- George Mullin won his second game for the Tigers, 5-4.
The Detroit win forced a Game Seven.
- 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.
- 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.
- The crowd was a "distinct disappointment" - 17,562 paid when the game was expected to break all local attendance records. The weather, while far from ideal (50° and blustery), was better than for any of the other three contests in Detroit.
- 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
The Pirates would not return to the World Series until 1925. Amazingly, Adams pitched in that series at age 43, having toiled for only Pittsburgh except for a year in the Western Association in 1917. He threw one scoreless inning.
Babe's career stats show tht he has more wins and shutouts than Dizzy Dean and Sandy Koufax. Yet he seems to have gotten no consideration for the Hall of Fame.
References: The Biographical Encyclopedia of Baseball (2000);
The Seventh Game, Barry Levenson (2004)