Cobb Wins Triple Crown; Wagner Comes Close

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

Look back at the 1909 MLB season.

By Glen Sparks

  • Ty Cobb wins the Triple Crown in the American League. The Detroit Tigers superstar bats .377, hits nine home runs and drives in 107. This is the only season in which Cobb will lead the league in homers. He retires with 12 batting titles and tops the A.L. in RBI four times.
  • Honus Wagner nearly wins the Triple Crown in the National League. The shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates tops the senior circuit in RBI (100) and batting average (.339). His total of five homers puts him fifth but just two behind leader Red Murray of the New York Giants. (Three players hit six.)
  • Murray wins his first and only home run crown. He also knocked seven in each of the previous two seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals and placed third in the N.L. both times. Murray belts 37 homers over an 11-year career.
  • The uniquely named Orval Overall tops the N.L. with 205 strikeouts. The Chicago Cubs right-hander posts a career-low 1.42 ERA. Overall pitches seven seasons in the majors and records a 108-71 lifetime record. Frank Smith of the Chicago White Sox leads the A.L. in strikeouts with 177.
  • Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown wins a career-high 27 games for the Cubs. Brown posts a 1.31 ERA and completes 32 of 34 starts. He also pitches 16 games in relief. This is how Brown picked up the nickname “Three Finger”: He slipped while feeding some material into a feed chopper on the family’s Indiana farm. The knives on the chopper tore up Brown’s hand. He severed his right index finger and mangled some other fingers. Later, he fell and broke several bones in the hand. The accident may have helped Brown’s pitching career. The grip he uses with his sawed-off fingers gives the ball some unusual spin.
  • On July 19, the appropriately named Neal Ball pulls off the first known unassisted triple play in MLB history. The shortstop for the Cleveland Naps (later, the Indians) catches a line drive hit by the Boston Red Sox’ Amby McConnell for the first out, steps on second base to double off Heine Wagner for the second, and tags baserunner Jake Stahl as he is running to second for the third out.
  • Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Shibe Park in Philadelphia open as baseball’s first steel-and-concrete stadiums. Forbes plays host to the Pirates through June, 28, 1970, before giving way to Three Rivers Stadium. Shibe Park (later known as Connie Mack Stadium) is the Phillies’ home until Veterans Stadium opens for the 1971 campaign.
  • George Mullin enjoys a big season on the mound for the Tigers. The durable right-hander from Cleveland goes 29-8 and has a league-leading .784 winning percentage. This is his best year in the big leagues. He pitches 14 seasons, wins 228 games and completes 353 of 428 starts. He ranks 24th on the all-time list in complete games.
  • Christy Mathewson wins 11 fewer games than he did in 1908, but still goes 25-6. He leads the N.L. with a 1.14 ERA, the best of his career. The New York Giants ace wins 373 games in a 17-year career. All but one of those wins comes as a Giant. He goes 1-0 as a Cincinnati Red in 1916.
  • The Pirates win 110 games and finish 6.5 games ahead of the Cubs in the N.L. The Tigers win 98 games and end the season 3.5 games in front of the A’s in the A.L. Rookie Babe Adams wins three games for Pittsburgh in the World Series; the righty leads his team to a championship in seven games. Tommy Leach hits .320 for the Pirates (8-for-25) and scores eight runs. Wagner bats .333 (8-for-24) and drives in six. Cobb hits just .231 (6-for-26) for Detroit, but knocks in a team-high five runs. Mullin wins two and loses one with a 1.97 ERA.
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