The Detroit Tigers continued their success in 1909. They won their third straight pennant and once again made the World Series. Of the three straight American League championship teams, the 1909 edition was the best. This group had the strongest pitching, heavy hitters Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, and experience. Unfortunately, the Tigers lost the World Series for the third straight year.
Opening Day set the tone for 1909. George Mullin beat the White Sox 1-0 on a one-hitter. Tiger pitching dominated the league that year. George Mullin led the league with 29 wins. Ed Willett won 21 games. Ed Summers and Ed Killian combined for 40 wins. Summers won 19 and Killian had a 1.71 ERA.
Offensively, Ty Cobb won the triple crown leading the American League with 9 home runs, 107 RBI, and a .377 average. Cobb became the only home run champion in the 20th century to not hit a ball out of the park. All his home runs were inside the park. He also experienced his usual ejections, steals of home, and spikings.
The Tigers offense outscored their opponents by nearly 200 runs. While Cobb won the triple crown, Sam Crawford led the league in doubles with 35 and extra base hits with 55. He also drove in 97 runs and stole 30. Shortstop Donie Bush swiped 53 steals, third baseman George Moriarty 34, and Cobb 76.
The offense helped the 1909 Tigers enjoy the third best winning percentage in club history. Only the 1915 and 1934 Tigers had better regular seasons. Despite the success, the year was not without controversy. On May 16, George Moriarty beat up Boston catcher Bill Carrigan. On August 24, Ty Cobb intentionally spiked A’s third baseman Frank Baker leading Philadelphia manager Connie Mack to file a complaint with the league.
The rough and tumble Tigers won the pennant by 3 ½ games over Mack’s Athletics. They faced the 110-win Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. The Tigers and Pirates split the first six games. Wild Bill Donovan made 17 starts during the regular season after winning 16 or more games seven times in his career. He faced Pirates rookie Babe Adams in Game 7.
The Tigers did not show up for Game 7. Donovan got bounced in the fourth inning. He left trailing 4-0. George Mullin finished the game and the Tigers lost 8-0. Rookie Babe Adams won his third game of the series as he shutout the Tigers on 6 hits. In the over-hyped Cobb versus Wagner match up, Cobb mustered only a .231 average. The great Honus Wagner hit .333 with 6 RBI and a .500 slugging.
For the third straight season, the Tigers lost the World Series. Despite 95 regular season wins, the team fell one game short in the World Series. Despite an amazing 1915 season, the Tigers did not return to the fall classic until 1934. Ty Cobb remained a force in the American League until 1927. Sam Crawford retired after the 1917 season. Both entered the Baseball Hall of Fame.