Historical Hitter

Historical Hitter October 13th 1909: Fred Clarke

October 13 is the day for the Pittsburgh Pirates, because three unique World Series events occurred on this day.


1960 World SeriesIn the 1960 World Series, at 3:36 PM with one swing of a bat joyful elation was unleashed in the steel city like never before.

1909 was the Year of the Pittsburgh Pirates. On the first day of the year, off site construction commenced and 122 days later on June 30, the first steel and concrete stadium in the National League opened.

In old and new stadiums across the National League, the team dominated being in first place from May 5 until season’s end in October .

The opening ceremonies for Forbes Field were like nothing Pittsburgh had ever seen before. It was an afternoon of great fanfare, pomp and circumstance, and unabashed civic pride. The fans started arriving some 6 hours before the scheduled starting time. By the time first ceremonial pitch was thrown by the Mayor of Pittsburgh from the upper deck it was a standing room only crowd of 30,338. The Pirates owner exclaimed, despite the Cubs wining 3-2, with glee and pride of an expectant father about the Stadium and its opening

 “This is indeed the happiest day of my life.”

If June 30th was a happy day, October 13, 1909 would make any club owner very, very happy. It was World Series Game 5, and on a clear fall afternoon, the Spalding Baseball Guide noted that, “home runs where the order of the day.” Tigers players Davey Jones and Sam Wahoo Crawford homered early in the contest making the game tied at three.

The seventh inning started off quite innocently, with pitcher Babe Adams striking out. Then a Byrne single to left and then another to left by Leach. The crowd 21,706 rose and gave a lusty shout, for it was two runners on and only one out. It was sound so great that it rumbled and echoed through the steel ball park, for was advancing to the bat was Capitan Clarke.

Clarke Baseball CardAs the Spalding Guide reported in a more matter of fact manner, “it was over in a hurry in the seventh.” To the crowd’s unbridled gee, Clarks’ home run gave Pittsburgh the lead of three. (With apologies to Mr. Thayer).

October 13, 1909 is the day for Pirates’ player-manager Fred Clarke, as the Spalding guide notes:

It was the big feat of a great day for the Pittsburg manager, who was on three times, once on a pass, again on a single, and on his homer. He also stole a base and played a general good game.

Additionally a sacrifice hit was recorded in the box score notes.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Clarke lf AB-2, R-2, H-2, RBI-3, BB-1, SO-0  Clarke lf

Such acts of leadership were not unusual for the Clarke, for at the young age of just 24, he was made player-manager. He batted and threw left handed and patrolled the acres of green in the left field pasture of Forbes Field with grace and skill. In his 21 years as a player, he batted over .300 eleven times, had best fielding percentage nine times, and stole over 30 bases seven times. His career totals are 2246 games, 2678 hits, .312 average and 133 OPS+. His tour as skipper was unparalleled in Pirate history winning four Pennants (1901, 1902, 1903, 1909), one World Series (1909), and five second place finishes (’00, ’05, ’07, ’08, ’12). The final tally after 19 years as manager was 1,602 games won to the tune of a .576 winning percentage.

Clarke Baseball Card 2The secret to this Pirates success was heart and steadfastness, as the Hall of Fame records Clarke saying:

“You’ve got to love baseball and want to play it above all else,… You have to take every opportunity to practice and play. And not be discouraged. The most important thing is desire.”

In 1903 the heavily favored Pirates lost the First World Series title game on this day to the upstart Americans from Boston. This one day of infamy on October 13, ’01, frames and sets the stage for the overflowing of joy which occurred on those other October 13th of ’09 and ‘60.

For the record, the Bucs also won on October 13, in the following years: 1925 (Senators 4 to 3), 1971 (Orioles 3 to 2); 1991 (Braves 4 to 3), and 1992 (Braves13 to 4); their lone loss was to the Orioles in 1979, but they did win that series. In the team’s other World Series and now Post-Season appearances their series did not reach the 13th of October.

The list price for a Fred Clarke T-206 card is about $5,000 dollars, just a lot, lot less than is more famous teammate, Honus Wagner.

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