The Pirates opened up the 1910 season with a 16-9 record before losing six in a row in late May, pushing them into fourth place in the NL. With the team playing like they were in danger of not being able to defend their World Series title, the Pirates took on the Reds on May 31st in a doubleheader, sending Babe Adams and Nick Maddox to the mound to stop the losing streak and get the team back into contention.
The bats exploded during the doubleheader, scoring 20 runs total on 32 hits. In both games, the Reds scored in the first inning to take the lead, but the Pirates came back in each contest to sweep the twinbill. The following day the two teams were unable to play due to rain, another in a long line of cancellations during the first two months of the season. Pittsburgh left Forbes Field for Brooklyn the next day, their first trip to the East Coast on the year. Before returning home, they would also play in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, St Louis and Chicago, meaning they would visit six of the other seven teams in the league on their trip.
With the two wins against Cincinnati, the Pirates had moved into third place ahead of the Reds. Coming in to face Brooklyn, they were going up against a team that hadn’t had a winning season since 1903, twice losing over 100 games during that stretch. What happened during that series, no one could’ve foreseen. Brooklyn took all three games, defeating the Pirates top three pitchers along the way, Adams, Howie Camnitz and Lefty Leifield. After putting up twenty runs in one day against a strong Cincinnati team, the sixth place Brooklyn Superbas held them to a total of six runs in the series.
The team was frustrated at this point, not only with the weather, but with their physical condition due to the lack of play. Many of the players were said to be carrying extra weight and after scoring two runs total in the first two games, the Pirates did something out of norm on June 3rd. The third game of the Brooklyn series was postponed due to rain, the 16th time already that the team was unable to play their scheduled game. That weather that postponed the game, didn’t stop the team from taking the field and holding a full practice. The hardest worker that day was Honus Wagner, whose batting average was nearly 100 points off his usual high standards.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, things didn’t better with the weather. They had an off-day on June 5th, then had their first game with Boston postponed due to earlier rains and an unplayable field. The team didn’t rest though, again holding a practice on the wet field. The two day layoff did help the pitching, as the Pirates were now able to throw out Adams, Leifield and Camnitz for the first three games of the series.
Pittsburgh won the opener of the series with Boston, in a game shortened to seven innings. The next day, the two teams got together for a doubleheader. The Doves took the opener 4-0 over Howie Camnitz to drop the Pirates back down to the .500 mark after 38 games. The second game was an exciting well-played 11 inning contest, tied by the Pirates on a long eighth inning homer by Vin Campbell. In the 11th inning Campbell also had a hand in the winning run, giving Pittsburgh a 3-2 victory. The interesting thing about the second Pirates lineup that day, was the fact former Pirates pitching star, Mike Lynch made out the batting order. He was there watching his old team play and had gone down to visit the team in the clubhouse prior to the game. When he approached manager Fred Clarke, who was trying to figure out an order to jump-start his offense, Lynch offered to do it for him and the manager stepped aside.
The two teams played another extra inning game the next day, and this one was a see-saw battle. Pittsburgh took an early lead scoring a run in the second, with Boston coming back with one run in each of three different innings, giving them a 3-1 lead through six innings. Pittsburgh tied it up in the seventh, then took a two run lead in the ninth. Veteran Deacon Phillippe came in the finish the game for Nick Maddox, and he gave up two runs, sending the game into extra innings. In the 11th, the Pirates put up two runs only to see Boston attempt a comeback, falling just short, leaving the Pirates with a 7-6 victory and three out of four wins in the series.
In a sign of the times, the trip from Boston to Philadelphia was described as one of the worst to make, despite what seems like a short distance. It would be much easier the next year when new tunnels in New York City would take nearly three hours off the trip. Prior to 1911 though, the trip took just over ten hours to make and due to transportation changes along the way, it was nearly impossible to get any sleep on the overnight ride.
Pittsburgh came out flat in the opener with the Phillies, losing 5-0 in a game that would’ve likely been postponed due to weather had the teams not already put off so many games. The Pirates/Phillies game that day was the only NL game that wasn’t postponed. After a Sunday off-day due to Blue Laws of the day, the two teams met up again on Monday. Pittsburgh won game two of the series behind the pitching of Kirby White, making just his second start since being acquired in early May. Game three against Philadelphia was a blowout loss, giving the cross-state rivals bragging rights for the series.
The Pirates went on to New York, down seven in the standings to the Cubs, and trailing the second place Giants by five games. In game one they took on Christy Mathewson, who was his normal dominant self against Pittsburgh, shutting them down 5-1, with the only Pittsburgh run being scored by a Ham Hyatt home run. Game two didn’t go off as scheduled due to rain and wet grounds but it was said that the real reason it was canceled, was not due to the rain that stopped two hours before game time, it was due to the fact the head groundskeeper at the Polo Grounds forgot to put the tarp on the field overnight. The two teams played on Friday, June 17th, with the Pirates taking the victory, then the predictable happened, game four of the series was rained out.
With a day off on Sunday, the Pirates headed out to St Louis with a 23-22 record, in fourth place, trailing the Cubs by 7.5 games. After 45 games, the team’s leading hitter was Campbell with a .333 average. He was followed by third baseman Bobby Byrne, who was hitting .303 and then Dots Miller at .261, had the third highest average. Honus Wagner was not only struggling with his average still at .245, but he also had only 14 RBI’s, just one season after leading the NL with 100 RBI’s. Out in left field, manager Fred Clarke was hitting .212, exactly 100 points below his career average. Clarke was also suspended for three games at this point due to a run-in with an umpire.
On the pitching side, both Camnitz and Leifield had losing records and no one on the team had more than four wins. With 172 runs allowed in 45 games, only the Cubs and Superbas had allowed less runs at this point. The club led the league with a .962 fielding percentage and their .241 batting average, ranked them fifth in the National League.
Pittsburgh had four games in three days with the Cardinals coming up on their schedule, then it was on to Chicago for one game before finally returning home. The Pirates were pitching well and fielding strong, but they needed that offense to pick up, especially Wagner and Clarke, if they were going to get back in the 1910 pennant race.