On this date in 1909 the Pirates won their first World Series Championship, defeating the Detroit Tigers at Bennett Park by a score of 8-0 in game seven of the series. Babe Adams started the game and won for the third time in the series. The Pirates were led by Honus Wagner who batted .333 in the series with six stolen bases. Detroit had Ty Cobb on their side and this first meeting between the two hitting stars was a big deal back in the day. Cobb was considered by some as the better hitter, he had won three straight batting titles and RBI titles but he failed to live up to the hype, hitting just .231 in the series.
Adams allowed just six hits and a walk during his shutout win in game seven and Wagner came through with the big hit of the game, a two run triple in the 6th inning that he also scored on when the throw got away at third base. Rookie second baseman Dots Miller had two hits and 2 RBI’s in the game and Tommy Leach went 2-for-3 giving him a .360 average for the series. Adams, who went 12-3 1.11 in 1909, also won games one and five in the series.
Born on this date in 1866 was Fred Lake, who played five games for the 1898 Pirates. The interesting part about Lake’s big league career was that after the Pirates released the 31 year old first baseman, he went 12 seasons before he appeared in the majors again. There is a caveat to his story, in 1910 Lake was the manager of the Boston Doves and he used himself twice as a pinch hitter and once as a pinch runner. His last major league appearance came 19 years after he made his major league debut for that same Boston club. He also played for them in 1897 before being traded even up (with cash) for future Hall of Famer, and one-time Pirates pitcher, Vic Willis. It sounds like Lake had quite a major league career but in reality he had just 29 career hits. In his five games with Pittsburgh, he went 1-for-13, with two walks and a run scored. In his three starts at first base, he handled all 34 chances without an error, not a small feat during the 19th century.
Another former Pirates player with a long stretch between major league appearances was also born on this date in 1904. Walter “Boom-Boom” Beck played just one season for Pittsburgh, finishing his major league career in 1945. He started his pro career in the majors back in 1924 as a teenager and he ended up playing in pro baseball until he was 45 but in between he won just 38 major league games. Beck was released by the Reds in June of 1945 and signed shortly after with the Pirates. He was used mainly in relief but occasionally started and was able to post a 6-1 record with a 2.14 ERA. The ironic part about that record was that it was the first time he had a winning record (not including a 1-0 brief stint in 1927). Prior to joining the Pirates he was 32-68 in his major league career although it should be noted that he won 199 minor league games.
On this date in 1928 former Pirates pitcher Len Yochim was born. He signed with Pittsburgh as an 18 year old and won 20 games in the minors his first season. The following year the young lefty went 14-4 between two levels. He made his major league debut in late 1951 and won his first start despite giving up five runs and eight walks. He made one more start ten days later and couldn’t get out of the 2nd inning, getting his first loss. He spent all of the next two seasons in the minors before making the 1954 team out of spring. He was used sparingly and posted a 7.32 ERA in 10 games before being sent to the minors for good. He had a 109-68 record in 10 minor league seasons. After his playing days he scouted for the Pirates before eventually moving to a front office job in 1994 with the team. He remained in baseball until 2002 and he turns 83 today.
Jack Kafora (1888) Catcher for the 1913-14 Pirates. Kafora spent just two seasons in the majors, both with Pittsburgh and in 1913, he played only one game. He made his debut on October 5,1913 going 1-for-2 with a run scored and hit by pitch. The next season, he was a seldom used back-up, mostly finishing games on defense behind the plate. In 21 games, he went to the plate just 25 times, going 3-for-23 with two hit-by-pitches. Kafora spent the first two seasons of his pro career with the Butte Miners of the Union Association. The Pirates signed him after he hit .313 over 105 games during the 1913 season. Kafora finished his career back where he started in 1917. He had the nickname Tomatoes, which supposedly came from the fact he ate tomatoes before every game.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.