Post-Season Surprises - II
This feature discusses a journeyman player who had a big impact in a World Series or playoff game.

Babe Adams - 1909
"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.
 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates Poster
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.

 

Pirates 1909 World Series Patch

Pirates P Charles "Babe" Adams
Babe Adams

Pirates Manager Fred Clarke
Fred Clarke

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

1909 World Series Game 1 at Forbes Field
Panorama of Game One of 1909 World Series

Bennett Park, Detroit, 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
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

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)


Pirates P Vic Willis
Vic Willis

Tigers P George Mullin
George Mullin

Virgil Trucks - 1945

 

 

Detroit P Virgil Trucks
Virgil Trucks

Detroit Manager Steve O'Neill
Steve O'Neill

Hank Greenberg, Detroit
Hank Greenberg

1945 World Series Program - Detroit

1945 World Series Program

Virgil Trucks joined the Detroit pitching staff for the 1942 season after an eye-popping minor league career.
  • 1938 Class D Andalusia (AL): 25-6, 1.25 ERA
  • 1939 Class D Alexandria (LA) and A1 Beaumont: 16-10, 2.82 ERA
  • His fast ball earned him the obvious nickname of "Fire" Trucks. But control limited his advance - 125 BB in '38, 114 in '39.
  • He finally put it together at Buffalo of the AA International League in 1941 when he struck out 204 in 204 innings and walked only 76.
Trucks spent the 1942 and 1943 seasons with the Tigers.
  • He went 14-8 in '42 with a 2.74 ERA.
  • His 1943 slate read 16-10, 2.84.
Virgil joined the Navy in February 1944.
  • After training at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago, he went to the Pacific Theatre at the end of the year and played in the Army-Navy Service World Series in Hawaii, winning both Game 1 and Game 4 of the series.
  • Trucks later played for the Fifth Fleet team before being stationed on Guam. A knee injury on that island brought him stateside to Oklahoma.
  • He was scheduled for discharge in July 1945, but his papers sat on an officer's desk until September as the Tigers battled the Washington Senators for the pennant.
  • In the meantime, Trucks found a catcher who could handle his fastball and began training for baseball in dungarees and spikes.

The Navy finally gave Trucks his medical release on September 27.

  • The next day, under special regulations governing newly-furloughed players, the commissioner's office placed Virgil on the eligible list for the World Series.
  • In a quirk of scheduling, the Senators finished their season on Sunday, September 23. They stood only one game behind the Tigers, who still had four games to play.
  • Detroit split a doubleheader with Cleveland on Wednesday to remain one up. They headed to St. Louis for two with the Browns over the weekend.

Virgil went from Oklahoma to St. Louis ahead of the time to work with C Paul Richards, who would make a report to manager Steve O'Neill.

O'Neill told the press on Friday: Paul called today to say that Trucks checked in at 190 pounds, five poounds under his 1943 playing weight and is in top shape. If he's ready to pitch, he'll work Saturday. Otherwise, we'll use Stubby Overmire. Then it'll be Trucks or Paul Trout Sunday. With that order, we'll have our best lefthander, [Hal] Newhouser, to go against Washington Monday if it comes down to that [a playoff] - but, believe me, I hope it doesn't.

The weather threw a monkey wrench into O'Neill's plans.

  • A cold, beating rain forced postponement of Saturday's game.
  • So a doubleheader was scheduled for Sunday with the Tigers having to win one to clinch the pennant.

Trucks started the first game of the twinbill.

  • He pitched well, allowing only three hits through 5 1/3 innings with 3 Ks and 2 BBs.
  • With the Tigers leading 2-1, Steve decided to go with his ace, Newhouser, to close out the game.
  • But the Browns pushed across runs in the 7th and 8th to take a 3-2 lead into the ninth.
  • That's when LF Hank Greenberg, who had played 78 games after leaving the service himself, walloped a grand slam for a 6-3 victory.
  • With the pennant clinched and darkness setting in, the meaningless second games was cancelled.

Impressed with Virgil's performance in St. Louis, O'Neill started him in the second game of the Series after the Cubs shellacked Newhouser 9-0 in the opener.

  • Old-timer Rabbit Maranville expected Virgil to do well. Trucks throws that low ball the Cubs don't like. I wouldn't be surprised if Trucks is the only Tiger pitcher who can beat the Cubs.
  • Whether it was the low ball or not, Fire pitched a masterful 7-hitter to even the series, 4-1.
  • His complete game gave the Tiger bullpen a chance to rest after four hurlers took the mound in Game One.

Virgil toed the slab again for Game 6 at Wrigley Field with the Tigers leading 3-to-2 in games.

  • After shutting down Chicago for four innings, the fireballer ran into trouble in the 5th.
  • Four singles and a walk drove him from the hill as the Cubs took a 4-1 lead.
  • But the Tigers rallied and tied the game at 7 in the 8th.
  • Chicago stayed alive with a run in the 12th.

As any baseball fan knows, the victory only postponed the agony for Cubs fans as the Tigers scored 5 in the first against Hank Borowy, who had beaten them twice, to cop the Series 9-3.

Detroit couldn't have done it without Trucks' victory in Game Two. He would always call that triumph his greatest thrill in baseball, even better than his two no-hitters in 1952.