The Pittsburgh Pirates won the opening game of the 1909 World Series against the Detroit Tigers at Forbes Field before dropping game two by a 7-2 score. Two days later the series shifted to Detroit’s Bennett Park, where the Pirates were able to regain their lead in the series in a high offense, error-filled game, played under poor weather conditions. Game four of the series was set for Tuesday, October 12, 1909 in Detroit. The lineups had their first change of the series, as Oscar Stanage replaced Boss Schmidt behind the plate for the Tigers.
The pitchers that day were Lefty Leifield for Pittsburgh, he went 19-8 on the season with a 2.37 ERA in 201.2 innings pitched. Leifield didn’t give up many homers or base runners but he also struck out just 43 batters all season. George Mullin get the start for the Tigers, he was the losing pitcher in game one. Mullin won 29 games in 1909, his fourth 20 win season and the sixth time he pitched over 300 innings in a year. Game four was set to begin in front of 17,036 fans on a cold, windy day where the temperature reached just 32 degrees. The lineups were as follows:
3B Bobby Byrne
CF Tommy Leach
LF Fred Clarke
SS Honus Wagner
2B Dots Miller
1B Bill Abstein
RF Chief Wilson
C George Gibson
P Lefty Leifield
LF Davy Jones
SS Donie Bush
RF Ty Cobb
CF Sam Crawford
2B Jim Delahanty
3B George Moriarty
1B Tom Jones
C Oscar Stanage
P George Mullin
George Mullin came out strong to start the game, getting all three batters at the top of the Pirates lineup to groundout, retiring the side quickly in order. Lefty Leifield retired the first two batters, then hit Ty Cobb with a pitch. Lefty then had Cobb picked off but Bill Abstein couldn’t make the play and Cobb made it safely to second base. The error didn’t hurt the Pirates as Sam Crawford flew out to center field to end the inning, but it was a glimpse of the sloppy play on the day by Pittsburgh that was soon to follow.
In the second inning, Honus Wagner drew a lead-off walk to start things. Dots Miller followed with a strikeout before Abstein could reach on an infield hit, moving Wagner to second base with just one out. Mullin got the next two batters, Chief Wilson and George Gibson, to ground out back to the mound. On the Wilson grounder, Mullin threw to third base to retire Wagner for the second out, then Gibson ended the inning with his ground out.
Leifield hit Jim Delahanty to start the bottom of the second inning, his second hit batter in as many innings. George Moriarty dropped a bloop single into left field and heads up base running by Delahanty got him to third base, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Tom Jones came up next and hit one back to Leifield. Delahanty was running on the play and was tagged out by Gibson but both of the other runners were able to move up two bases. Oscar Stanage came up for the first time and hit a ball just out of the reach of Dots Miller. The Pirates had their infield in to try to cut down the run, otherwise it would’ve been an easy catch for Miller, who was still able to get a glove on it. It allowed two runs to score and the Tigers took an early 2-0 lead. Leifield then got Mullin to groundout to Wagner for what looked like an easy DP. Wagner took the play himself and retired Stanage, but his throw went wild and allowed Mullin to reach and move up to second base. The inning ended without any other damage as Davy Jones grounded back to Leifield to end the inning.
The Pirates put a couple runners on in the third but Mullin pitched his way out of a jam, keeping the Pirates hitters off-balance with his fastball-curveball combination. Leifield struck out to start the inning, then was followed by Bobby Byrne, who doubled down the left field line. Mullin walked Tommy Leach to bring up Clarke and Wagner, the Pirates two best hitters. Mullin struck out Clarke with the runners in motion and while they each reached safely, there were now two outs. Honus worked the count full as Mullin pitched him carefully with first base open. On the payoff pitch, Mullin threw a curveball that broke over the outside corner, retiring Wagner looking and the fans at Bennett Park went wild.
The bottom of the third inning didn’t provide anymore runs for the Tigers but the Pirates poor defense raised it’s ugly head again, making Leifield work harder for his outs against the tough Detroit lineup. After retiring the first two batters, including Cobb attempting to reach on a bunt, Leifield gave up a single to Sam Crawford. Jim Delahanty grounded out to first base for what looked like the last out of the inning but Abstein committed his second error of the day, the third for the Pirates in three innings. Moriarty grounded out to Wagner to end the inning.
In the fourth the Pirates managed a single off the bat of Wilson, but Mullin didn’t let it get any further, retiring the other three batters, while recording his fifth strikeout on the day. Tom Jones started the Tigers part of the inning with a bunt single. He was quickly erased on a double play grounder from Stanage that Wagner took for himself, completing the 6-3 DP. With two outs and no one on, Mullin stepped to the plate and drew a walk from Leifield. Two out walks are never good, especially not to the opposing pitcher and the Tigers made Lefty pay. Davy Jones hit a single, then Donie Bush and Cobb hit back-to-back doubles to left field to put Detroit up by five runs. Crawford grounded out to Leifield to end the inning, and as it turned out, it also was the end of Leifield’s day on the mound.
Paddy O’Connor came in to hit for Leifield, the Pirates first pinch hitter of the series. He quickly became Mullin’s sixth strikeout victim of the day and Byrne followed immediately with the Pirates seventh strikeout. Mullin retired Leach on a grounder to end the inning. Veteran pitcher Deacon Phillippe came in for the Pirates and retired the Tigers five through seven hitters in order in the bottom of the inning.
Mullin wasn’t done with his dominance of Pirates hitters on this day. He set down the heart of the Pirates lineup in order in the sixth inning. Clarke went down on strikes again. Wagner hit the ball hard but it was a line drive right at Tom Jones at first base for the out. Dots Miller then recorded the ninth strikeout on the day for Pittsburgh. The Pirates made their fourth error of the game in the bottom of the sixth, a groundball by Mullin to Miller, turned into an E4 with one out. Davy Jones then grounded out, forcing Mullin out at second base and then Jones was gunned down trying to steal second base by Gibson for the final out.
In the seventh inning, Gibson picked up a two out single for the Pirates fourth hit but Phillippe, in his first AB of the series, became the tenth strikeout for Mullin. In the bottom of the inning, both Bush and Cobb tried to reach via bunts but both were thwarted. Crawford then hit one to first base that Phillippe had to cover on and he dropped the throw from Abstein for the fifth error of the day for Pittsburgh. Deacon retired Delahanty on a ball hit back to the mound to end the inning.
The eighth inning was another easy one for Mullin thanks to some fine defense by Crawford in center field. Byrne led off with what looked like a sure hit on a fly ball to shallow center field but Crawford came running in and made a fine defensive play to record the first out. Leach and Clarke were retired quickly, leaving the Pirates with just one inning to make a comeback. Detroit loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning but could not score. A single, walk and Phillippe’s second error gave the Tigers a two out chance to really break the game open but Bush grounded out to Byrne to end the inning, and bring out Mullin to try for the complete game shutout.
Honus Wagner led off the ninth with a ground out to third base. Miller bunted his way on, bringing up Abstein. Bill hit a sharp grounder back to Mullin, who played it safe and retired the Pirates first baseman, allowing Miller to go down to second base on what could’ve been a game ending double play. It didn’t matter though, as Wilson grounded out to Tom Jones to end the game at 5-0 and even up the series at two games apiece.
The scene would now switch to Pittsburgh with no day off in between for travel. Game five was set for Wednesday, October 13, 1909 with Babe Adams going for the Pirates, looking for his second win of the series. Detroit would counter with Ed Summers, who couldn’t make it out of the first inning just two days earlier, taking the loss in game three. When we return next week, we will see if the Pirates can come within one victory of winning their first World Series title, or if Detroit will be able to take game five and move within a game of winning their first title, in their third straight trip to the post-season.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.