The Pittsburgh Pirates had a chance to close out their first World Series title in game six of the 1909 series. Just one day after winning game five by an 8-4 score at Forbes Field, the Pirates and Detroit Tigers were back at Bennett Park in Detroit for the sixth game. It was a lot of travel for the day in a short time, as game four took place only two days earlier in Detroit with no day off for travel between games. The starters on this day were George Mullin for the Tigers and Vic Willis for the Pirates. Mullin had already started game one and game four, while Willis was making his first start of the series. He had worked 6.2 innings of relief in game two, but the 22 game winner had not worked since. The lineup for the Pirates, except for the pitcher’s spot, was the same one they had used the first five games, while the Tigers put Boss Schmidt back behind the plate. Their one through seven remained the same as it had been the first five games. The date was Thursday, October 14,1909 and 10,535 fans braved the chilly, windy weather to see the Pirates and Tigers in game six of the World Series.
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 Vic Willis
LF Davy Jones
SS Donie Bush
RF Ty Cobb
CF Sam Crawford
2B Jim Delahanty
3B George Moriarty
1B Tom Jones
C Boss Schmidt
P George Mullin
The game started off with a bang for the Pirates as they got on the board quickly against Mullin, who was on just one day rest. Bobby Byrne and Tommy Leach each singled, putting runners on the corners with no outs and the big bats of the Pirates lineup coming up. Fred Clarke made it three straight singles to put the Pirates on the board. Ty Cobb in right field tried to nail Leach at third base but he slid in safe and Clarke moved to second on the throw. That brought up Honus Wagner, who lined a double into left field to score both of the runners and put the Pirates up 3-0 with no outs. Mullin was able to settle down a keep the deficit at three by retiring the next three batters in order, leaving Wagner on third base after he advanced there on a groundout by Dots Miller.
Davy Jones led off the Tigers half of the inning with a hard liner right at Miller for the first out. Willis walked Donie Bush but then struck out Cobb for the second out. Sam Crawford came up and hit a double to center field that brought Bush all the way around from first. The play at the plate would’ve been close but the relay throw from Miller was wild, which allowed Crawford to move to third base. Willis got Jim Delahanty to fly out to end the inning with a 3-1 score.
The second inning was over quickly for both sides, six batters up and six batters down, with a fly ball by Boss Schmidt being the only ball that left the infield. Pittsburgh led off the third with Leach reaching on an error by Bush. Clarke sacrificed him to second base but all Wagner could do was move him up ninety feet with his groundout to second base. Miller then drew a walk and moved to second base on a stolen base but Mullin struck out Bill Abstein to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Mullin singled to center field but was doubled off of first base when a liner to third base by Davy Jones was snared by Byrne, who threw out to first for the double play. Willis then hit Bush, who stole second base, but the inning ended on an infield pop up by Cobb.
The bottom of the Pirates order decided to try out all of the Detroit infielders in the fourth inning. Grounders to 3B,2B and SS retired the side in order.
The fourth inning for Willis was a rough one and it all started with a walk to Crawford. Delahanty singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. George Moriarty singled to Chief Wilson in right field, Crawford scored easily but Delahanty was thrown out trying to advance to third base. Moriarty moved to second on the throw, then scored when Tom Jones singled to left field. An error by Clarke let Jones get to second base on the play. Willis then walked Boss Schmidt, before getting out of trouble with two straight fly outs to left field. The score was now tied at three apiece.
The top of the Pirates order could do nothing in the fifth inning, making it seven in a row retired by Mullin. Willis remained on the mound in the fifth inning and gave up a leadoff single to Bush. Vic got Cobb and Crawford to groundout, with Bush moving up ninety feet on each play. Jim Delahanty then doubled to bring home the Tigers fourth run. After a walk to Moriarty, Willis got Tom Jones to pop out to end both the inning and the day for the Pirates pitchers. He would be replaced in the next frame by Howie Camnitz.
Pittsburgh got it’s first hit off Mullin in three innings, when Miller collected a one out single in the sixth. The Detroit ace was still able to face the minimum as he got the next hitter(Abstein) to hit into a double play.
Camnitz had a rough first inning, giving up two doubles,a walk and the Tigers fifth run. He almost got out of trouble when Boss Schmidt turned a leadoff double into a runner at first and one out, when he was nailed at third base on a grounder back to the mound by Mullin. Davy Jones replaced Mullin at first base with two outs, when he reached on a fielders choice Jones stole second, then scored on a ground rule double by Cobb. Camnitz got Crawford to make the last out, leaving the score at 5-3 after six innings.
In the top of the seventh, George Gibson collected a one out hit, bringing in Ham Hyatt to pinch hit for Camnitz. Mullin retired Hyatt, who got Gibson over to second base. Byrne came up and hit a line drive but it was right at Bush at shortstop to end the inning. Deacon Phillippe came in for the bottom of the inning and retired the Tigers in order. It was the fifth shutout inning thrown by Phillippe in the series, in game four he threw four scoreless innings in relief of Lefty Leifield.
The heart of the Pirates order could nothing against Mullin in the eighth inning and Phillippe shut down the Tigers in the bottom of the inning, setting up a dramatic, action packed ninth inning.
The Pirates stepped to the plate in the ninth inning down two runs. They got the inning started off quickly with back-to-back singles by Miller and Abstein. Chief Wilson stepped up and with the infield in, he laid down a perfect bunt. This is where the game got very interesting. Schmidt, the Tigers catcher, fielded the ball and made the throw to first. Wilson was running hard the whole way and got to the bag at the same time the throw did, but Tom Jones was reaching for the ball and the two players collided. Jones was out cold on the play and he didn’t hang on to the throw. Dots Miller, now at third base, saw the ball get away and he scurried towards home with the Pirates fourth run.
The play set off a melee that delayed the game and put Jones in the hospital. More importantly for the Pirates, it put runners on the corners with no outs and they needed just one run to tie. Gibson came up and hit a grounder to first base, now manned by Sam Crawford, who moved in from center field. Abstein took off for home on the play and was gunned down by Crawford for the first out. On the play, the Pirates first baseman slid hard into Boss Schmidt and gave him a nasty cut on his leg from the spikes. It also led to a second fight that had to be broken up. The Pirates then went to a pinch hitter with one out and two men on, calling on Ed Abbaticchio for the first time in the series. Mullin was able to strikeout the Pirates hitter and on the third strike, the runners took off. A perfect throw by Schmidt nailed Wilson at third base to end the game but it didn’t end the excitement.
A hard slide by Wilson left a third Tigers player bloodied in the inning. Third baseman George Moriarty and Wilson began a fight that nearly brought the Tigers fans on the field to get involved. It was a rough ending to a closely fought 5-4 game and it brought great intensity to game seven, which would be played two days later in Detroit. When we return next week, the date is October 16, 1909 and the Tigers and Pirates will meet in the deciding game of the World Series. Pittsburgh throws Babe Adams to the mound looking for his third win, while the Tigers counter with Wild Bill Donovan, the winner of game two.
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.