Never having gotten to the big leagues myself, I can only speculate here, but my guess is that it must hurt deeply to lose a World Series. The Texas Rangers have now lost two in a row which must be even more heart breaking. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose three in a row, something that Texas could do this year. If they do, they’ll tie a record. It’s happened twice, losing three in a row. They occurred 100 years ago and occurred almost back-to-back. Here’s the story of one of those teams.
The 1907-1909 Detroit Tigers were the first Detroit team to cop a pennant since the Wolverines of the 1880s. They were a loaded team with a lot of star players for the era. It was a team that could hit and hit a lot. With an outfield of Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford (with either Davy Jones or Matty McIntyre holding down left field) they led the American League in runs and hits all three seasons, led in doubles and triples twice each, in batting average, on base percentage, and OPS all three years, and in slugging the first two seasons. Cobb won batting titles all three years and the triple crown in 1909. Crawford picked up a home run title in 1908.
The problem was the pitching. During the three-year period from 1907 through 1909 the Tigers finished third, sixth, and third in ERA; fifth, fourth, and fifth in shutouts; never finished higher than sixth (in an eight team league) in hits allowed; and the best they could do with runs scored against them was third in 1909. Mainstays George Mullin, Ed Killian, and Bill Donovan had great win-loss records, but those records were very much a reflection of the team hitting.
In 1907, led by manager Hughie Jennings, they won the American League pennant by a game and a half (over Philadelphia) and were then swept by the Cubs in the World Series. Well, not exactly swept. There was one game that was called on account of darkness with the score tied. In 1908, they won the pennant by a half game over Cleveland (there was a rain out that didn’t have to be made up under the rules of the day) and had to face Chicago again in the World Series. This time they managed one win as the Cubs won their last ever World Series. By 1909, tired of playing the Cubs, Detroit decided to try its luck with Pittsburgh. The Tigers won the AL pennant by three and a half games (again over Philadelphia), and lost a hard-fought World Series. The Series went seven games with the Pirates winning all the odd-numbered games and Detroit taking all the even-numbered games (only time that’s happened). Their run was over in 1910 as the Athletics finally rushed passed Detroit to take three of the next four pennants (Boston had the other).
There’s a common perception that Cobb did poorly in postseason play. That’s kind of true. He hit less than .250 in both 1907 and 1909 with only ten hits and two stolen bases. He did, however, drive in five runs in ’09 (none in ’07) and scored three in 1909 (again none in 1907). In 1908 he hit .368, drove in four runs (in five games), scored three runs, had seven hits (all but one a single), and stole two bases. So he’s a best a mixed bag. Crawford, who doesn’t suffer from the same perception, never hit above .250, had one home run, eight RBIs, and one stolen base in the combined three Series’. Again not a particularly great stat line. As a rule, the less said about the pitching the better.
After 1909, Detroit fell back in the standings not resurfacing in the World Series until the 1930s. Cobb played into the 1920s, Crawford into the teens. Both failed to make another postseason.