Posts Tagged ‘Howie Camnitz’

1910: Pirates Postmortem

October 1, 2010

When the 1910 season began, Fred Clarke’s Pirates were defending champions of both the National League and the World Series. When the 1910 season ended they were third, 86-67, 17.5 games out of first. What went wrong?

First, it should be noted that 1909 was something of a fluke for Pittsburgh. They finished 110–42 for the season. But in 1907 they were 91-63. In 1908 they were 98-56. That’s a 12 game improvement in 1910, but only seven games in 1909. Secondly, the team was aging, especially the big names. Honus Wagner, who won the batting title 1906-09 (and would win again in 1911) was 36. Clarke was 37, Tommy Leach was 32, and 1903 World Series hero Deacon Phillippe was 38. Both Clarke and Leach had noticeably weak years and Phillippe, although 14-2, only started eight games. And Wagner? Well, Wagner was Wagner. He hit .320, led the NL in hits (tied with teammate Bobby Byrne), and slugged .432. All were fine, but both the average and the slugging were down.

The rest of the team was younger, but not all that good (except for Byrne). Twenty-two year old Vin Campbell hit .326 off the bench, but no one else, starter or substitute, with 20 or more games played hit above .276. The team slugging average dipped to third in the league.

The pitching was down. Babe Adams had a good year at 18-9, but the other three starters were all barely .500 pitchers (with Howie Camnitz actually going 12-13). Vic Willis, who was 22-11 in 1909 was in St. Louis. He went 9-12 for the Cards, but the 22 wins weren’t made up in Pittsburgh.

By 1910, the Pirates were on a downward spiral. They were still competitive, and would remain so for the next two years before the wheels fell off, but you can see age and talent issues beginning to crop up. It will be 15 years (1925) before they will be back in a World Series.

Opening Day, 1910: Pittsburgh

April 6, 2010

Honus Wagner

The Pirates were defending champions when the 1910 season opened. As you would expect, they’d made few changes to the roster. In the infield, first baseman and normal six hitter Bill Abstein was replaced by rookie Jack Flynn (Abstein went to St. Louis of the American League). Dots Mller remained at second and in the five hole, while third baseman Bobby Byrne moved to the leadoff spot in the order. At shortstop Honus Wagner, defending batting, slugging, doubles, and RBI champ, took the clean up spot. The outfield remained unchanged with manager Fred Clake in left and batting third, right fielder Owen Wilson hitting seventh, and Tommy Leach in center and batting second. George Gibson stayed behind the plate and hit eighth. There were some changes. Ham Hyatt remained the primary pinch hitter, Ed Abbatacchio backup middle infielder was traded during the first week of the season. Bill McKechnie became his replacement.

The pitching staff of 1909 was led by Howie Camnitz, Vic Willis, Lefty Leifeld, and Nick Maddox. Babe Adams, the World Series hero; Deacon Phillippe and Sam Leever had all spent the season splitting time between starting and the bullpen. In 1910 Willis was gone to the Cardinals and Adams replaced him as one of the four primary starters. Leever and Phillippe, the pitching ace of he 1903 World Series, were now almost entirely bullpen men.

At 28, the Pirates had the 3rd oldest hitting team in the league by average age, but their staff was the oldest staff in the NL. Phillippe and Leever were both 38 and Adams, though reasonably new to the league, was 28 as was Camnitz. As far as I can tell, Clarke didn’t seem to be worried about it. Maybe he should. His biggest stars, Wagner (36), Leach (32), and himself (37) were getting old by 1910 baseball standards.

So Pittsburgh went into the 1910 season with its World Champion team mostly intact. There was a rookie at first and an aging pitching staff, but as long as the hitting, especially Wagner, held up they would be competitive for the season.

Tomorrow–the Cubs

The Dutchman vs the Peach

January 19, 2010

By general consensus the two great position players of the Deadball Era are Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. Two people more unalike is tough to imagine. Wagner was from the Pennsylvania coal fields. He was quiet, dignified, admired by his teammates, apparently relatively free from racism (when told John Henry Lloyd was being called “The Black Wagner”, Honus was supposed to have said he was honored to be compared with Lloyd). Cobb, on the other hand, was from Georgia. Quiet would never describe him. He was brash, angry, violent, tolerated rather than liked by his teammates, and violently racist. The did have one thing in common, they were great ballplayers. For fans who wanted to see both in action against each other, there was a problem. Wagner (“The Flying Dutchman”) played in the National League while Cobb (“The Georgia Peach”) played in the American League. The only way they could be on the same field in an meaningful game would be in the World Series. In 1909, that finally happened.

Cobb’s Detroit Tigers swept to the American League pennant by 3.5 games over the A’s. Led by Cobb, who hit league leading numbers of 377 in batting, 107 RBI’s, and 9 homers to become the second American Leaguer to win the Triple Crown (Nap LaJoie in 1901), the Tigers had future Hall of Famers Sam Crawford and manager Hughie Jennings on the team. The leading pitchers were George Mullin (29 wins) and Ed Willett (22 wins).

The Pittsburgh Pirates, who knocked off the Cubs by 6.5 games, had Wagner who led the league in hitting at 339 and in RBI’s at 100, along with a league leading 39 doubles. They also had future Hall of Famer and manager-left fielder Fred Clarke and got good seasons from Bill Abstein (1st base), Dots Miller (2nd base), and Tommy Leach (center field). The pitching was led by Howie Camnitz (25 wins) and future Hall of Famer Vic Willis (22 wins).

It was a good series, the first to go the full compliment of 7 games (The 1903 Series was a best of nine. There was a game 7, but it was the penultimate game.) The Pirates won all the odd numbered games, the Tigers the even numbered games (what are the chances of that?). Neither Wagner nor Cobb were the stars. Cobb hit only 231, stole only 2 bases, but led the team with 5 RBIs. Wagner did better hitting 333 with 6 stolen bases and 2 RBIs. But the big stars were Clarke who hit both Pirates home runs and tallied 7 RBIs with only a 211 batting average, Leach who hit 360, and an obscure pitcher named Babe Adams who won 3 of the Pirates 4 games (13 game winner Nick Maddox won the other game). Adams put up a 1.33 ERA and struck out 11 in 27 innings. He pitched three complete game victories, including game 7.

When the Series ended, Pittsburgh had its first championship, the Tigers had lost 3 World Series’ in a row. Neither Cobb nor Wagner would ever make it back to a Series as a player. Both men would be in the initial Hall of Fame class.