The Pittsburgh Pirates opened up their 1910 season strong, hoping to defend their World Series title. Things quickly went downhill as the weather played havoc with their schedule, postponing games at a pace of nearly once every two games. Their 16-9 record turned into 23-22 by the middle of June and many of the players were considered out of game shape due to so many off days. Manager Fred Clarke began practicing the team on the days where the weather made the games unplayable, yet he took the same field with his men, trying to get the players fit and help wake up the team before it was too late.
On June 20,1910, the Pirates opened up the day in fourth place, trailing the first place Chicago Cubs by 7.5 games. Pittsburgh was in St Louis that day, beginning a four game series against the fifth place Cardinals. Behind the pitching of Kirby White and the hitting of Dots Miller with a home run and Tommy Leach with three hits, the Pirates took home a 5-3 victory and moved into third place ahead of the Reds.
That day, the team decided to let go of Ed Abbaticchio, the starting second baseman in 1907-08, who was moved to the utility infielder role during the 1909 season due to the emergence of Dots Miller. Into Ed’s place as the utility fielder, stepped Bill McKechnie, a 23 year old that the Pirates signed originally at the end of the 1907 season, but he had spent the 1908-09 seasons in the minors. McKechnie was a decent player for awhile, though his claim to fame is his Hall of Fame managerial career, which included two World Series titles, one being with the 1925 Pirates.
The next day in St Louis was a doubleheader, one of 15 twinbills the team would play from that point on during the 1910 season. The first game featured Kirby White, pitching for a second straight day, facing Vic Willis, who spent the last four seasons in Pittsburgh winning twenty games each year. White had a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning, surrendering four runs before being pulled in favor of Babe Adams. The Cardinals would score two sixth inning runs after Pittsburgh scored once in the top of the inning and that is where the score would end. In game two, the Pirates’ bats exploded for 19 hits and ten runs, earning a split in the doubleheader.
Behind the pitching of Lefty Webb on June 22nd, Pittsburgh won 6-1, taking three of four in the series. The team would move on to Chicago for one game before returning home for the first time in over three weeks. The Pirates played that game in Chicago like they couldn’t wait to get home. Lefty Leifield started and got hit hard, while his teammates managed just three hits and no runs off Cubs starter, Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. At the close of play that day, the Pirates were 26-24, nine games behind the Cubs, who they would face the next two days at home. The 23 day, 17 game road trip ended with an 8-9 record.
Finally back home, the Pirates scored a come-from-behind win 6-5 over the Cubs, with three runs in the sixth, followed by three shutout innings by reliever Deacon Phillippe. The Pirates took the second game rather convincingly, winning 8-2 and moving back within seven games of Chicago. The team traveled to Cincinnati for a Sunday game before returning home(there was no Sunday baseball in Pennsylvania due to state Blue Laws) The homestand the team was on at that time was to last until July 26th, although it included two Sunday games with the Reds on the road and three Sundays off.
The Pirates lost to the Reds, then returned to Forbes Field for two against the Cardinals, before five straight against fourth place Cincinnati. Not only would the Pirates be trying to catch up to the Cubs, they would also be trying to hold off the team attempting to catch them in the standings.
Pittsburgh took both games from the Cardinals, as St Louis started to slip into the National League basement with Brooklyn and Boston. The Reds however, proved to be formidable foes. The Pirates bats during the five game series, only showed up twice, but when they did, they really hit. Pittsburgh won the second game by an 8-3 score and took the fifth game(in Cincinnati) by an eight run margin. In the other three games, they scored a total of four runs. Pittsburgh headed home for a July 4th doubleheader against the first place Cubs, while the Reds headed to St Louis for two games, trailing the Pirates by 1 1/2 games in the standings.
In the first game of the July 4th doubleheader, the Pirates sent Nick Maddox out to start for the first time in nearly a month. He had won 23 games two years ago, but at this point was a spot starter and bullpen arm. He did not pitch well, lasting just 4 1/3 innings before being pulled in favor of Lefty Leifield. Pittsburgh still won the first game, then Babe Adams went to the hill in the second and had a bout of wildness, allowing six hits and five walks before leaving the game, as the Pirates lost 7-2 to split the two game set that day.
The series would get ugly for Pittsburgh the next day when they lost 11-3 with Bill Powell on the mound. He threw back-to-back shutouts to start the season, but this game would end up being the last start for him in a Pirates uniform and the next to last major league start of his career. For another Pirates pitcher, it would be the only game of his career. Skip Dowd came on to pitch in the eighth, allowing four runs in that frame before throwing a scoreless ninth inning. The Pirates had just signed him out of Holy Cross College and with the game well out of hand, they gave him a tryout that day.
One bright spot at this time was the hitting of Honus Wagner, who had struggled most of the season. It the last two weeks though, he raised his average 45 points to the .290 mark. His early lack of hitting was quite surprising, but most blamed it on all the postponed games. It is possible that was the problem as the team had now played 16 days straight without an off-day, and that is when the Flying Dutchman finally got hot at the plate.
The final game of the series with the Cubs was a real beauty. Pittsburgh played error-free baseball and both starting pitchers were strong, sending the game into extra innings, where the boys from the Steel City emerged victorious. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Pirates led off the inning with two walks. Clarke sacrificed the runners over, which was followed by an infield hit from Honus Wagner, which made the score 2-1. With runners on the corners, Dots Miller flew out to center field, which couldn’t score the run, but Wagner moved to second on the play. That was followed by a single to left field by Ham Hyatt that scored the tying run, although Honus was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.
Lefty Leifield came on an inning earlier and ended up throwing four scoreless innings in relief for the win. He was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the 11th, when the Pirates got a little help from the Cubs to win it. Shortstop Heinie Zimmerman booted the ball on a grounder by lead-off hitter, Chief Wilson. He was sacrificed to second, then went to third on the second out. Tommy Leach then hit a soft grounder to Zimmerman, that Leach beat out, scoring Wilson with the winning run in an exciting extra innings affair.
On July 7th, the Pirates had their first off-day in 18 days,a schedule day off before Brooklyn came in for one game. It was an odd scheduling quirk, that had the Superbas staying in Pittsburgh for one day as they made their way to Cincinnati for a series. Whatever the thinking was behind that game, it ended up being one the Pirates lost to a second division team, taking away some of the luster from their extra inning victory over the Cubs two days earlier.
That brought in the Phillies for two games, one on Saturday(7/9) and one the following Monday. There was a scheduled Tuesday game before the New York Giants, but the weather raised it’s ugly head again, postponing another game, the first time in just over three weeks that the Pirates had that problem. They had a bigger problem in the Monday game though, in fact, there were two big problems. The pitching of George McQuillan was outstanding and the Philadelphia bats were even better. Pittsburgh actually took the first game handily, winning 7-1 behind pitcher Howie Camnitz. He was outdone the next day though, by the Phillies hurler.
You would be hard-pressed to find a worse loss from a team that was above .500 nearly midway through the season. The Pirates were shutout, collecting just three hits(all singles) with the first coming from Ham Hyatt in the fourth inning, which didn’t even leave the infield. The Phillies collected twenty hits, including five from Kitty Bransfield, the former Pirates first baseman, who smacked two triples and drove in eight runs on the day. The score was one-sided going into the ninth, with Philadelphia up 9-0, but they were far from done. When the dust settled, their run total was doubled and the Pirates went quietly in the bottom of the inning for a lopsided 18-0 loss.
With the unscheduled day off on July 12th, the Pirates waited for the second place Giants to come in. Pittsburgh trailed the Cubs by 7.5 games, and now stood tied with the Reds in third place. The Giants were six games ahead of both teams in the standings and playing great ever since a 16-14 start to their season. When we return, it will be July 13, 1910, with the Pirates sending Camnitz to the mound to start the four game series against a relative unknown in Louis Drucke, a rookie that shutdown Babe Adams and the Pirates a month earlier when the teams played in New York.