Today’s Game Rewind deals with a doubleheader between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Giants, which took place on Wednesday afternoon, September 4, 1901, in front of 4,000 fans at the Polo Grounds. The first place Pirates had a three-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. Pittsburgh was in their 20th season as a franchise and they were look for their first league title. The Giants were struggling along in last place with a 42-63 record.
In game one, Jesse Tannehill got the start for the Pirates, going up against Luther “Dummy” Taylor, a deaf pitcher in his first full season, who would go on to lose a league leading 27 games in 1901. Tannehill was on his way to 18 wins and the league ERA title, though it wasn’t an official stat at the time.
This game started rocky for the Pirates, with some poor infield work and cheap hits by the Giants accounting for four runs in the first. After the half inning ended, manager Fred Clarke had a brief team meeting in which he “demanded a fight” from his team. He then went out and singled to start the rally in the bottom of the first. Ginger Beaumont reached on a bunt and Honus Wagner then singled in Clarke for the first run. Kitty Bransfield walked to load the bases with one out. A foul out by Claude Ritchey brought home the speedy Beaumont on some daring base running to make it 4-2. Honus Wagner tried some daring running of his own and got thrown out attempting to steal home, which ended the inning.
In the second inning, the Pirates got back-to-back singles from catcher George Yeager and Jesse Tannehill. A walk to lead-off hitter Lefty Davis loaded the bases. Clarke cleared the bases with a double, giving the Pirates a 5-4 lead.
While Tannehill settled in, the Pittsburgh bats stayed hot. The third inning saw the Pirates get a double from Bransfield, a single by Claude Ritchey and a single by Tommy Leach that brought in Bransfield with the sixth run. Yeager bunted both runners into scoring position for the pitcher (seriously) and Tannehill came through with a two-run single to make it 8-4.
The Pirates added two runs in the sixth on RBI singles from Wagner and Bransfield. The Giants tried to scrape back with solo runs in the seventh and eighth, with the first run coming on an error by Wagner. However, the Pirates regained their six-run lead in the bottom of the eighth. Honus Wagner started with his third hit of the game. That was followed by doubles from Bransfield and Ritchey, with Tannehill topping off the scoring with an RBI single.
Tannehill shut down the Giants in the ninth, getting the final out on a spectacular catch by Lefty Davis in right field.
Everyone contributed at the plate in the 12-6 victory. All nine batters had at least one hit and one run scored. Wagner, Clarke, Bransfield and Tannehill each had three hits. The Pirates had 19 hits total. Tannehill allowed just six hits, despite giving up four runs in the first inning.
Here’s the boxscore for game one.
In game two, future Hall of Famer Jack Chesbro was starting for the Pirates. The Giants gave the ball to Charlie Hickman, who was such a good pitcher that he led the American League in hits in 1902. He pitched 185 innings over his 12-year career, while putting up a .295 batting average. He actually pinch-hit for the pitcher in the ninth inning of game one, so it’s almost as if they decided to just leave him out there for the second contest.
Hickman immediately looked like a poor decision. The Pirates put together three runs in the first on five straight hits. Fred Clarke once again got things started, this time nearly hitting a homer, but settling for a double off the fence. Ginger Beaumont reached on a bunt, then Wagner singled up the middle for the first run. Bransfield singled to make it 2-0, and then Wagner scored on a Claude Ritchey single to give the Pirates an early 3-0 lead.
Hickman was removed after the first inning and he was replaced by Ike Van Zandt, a local amateur, who was making his big league pitching debut. He played one big league game prior to this date, but it was a month earlier when he was forced into a game as a late inning defensive replacement. Considering the circumstances (pitching against the eventual NL champs), Van Zandt would pitch well in this contest.
Another double from Clarke, along with two walks, loaded the bases in the second for Pittsburgh. It brought up Honus Wagner to face the young pitcher, who seemed content to walk Wagner and force in a run. After a Bransfield out, the Pirates set all three runners in motion on a 3-2 count. Interestingly enough, the local paper referred to it as an attempted triple steal, but with a 3-2 count and two outs, the runners are going to be on the move anyway. Claude Ritchey swung hard, but made soft contact, and the catcher was able to field the ball and step on the plate to end the inning.
After the Giants plated a run in the third inning, the Pirates added another tally with consecutive singles by Beaumont, Wagner and Bransfield. Beaumont’s hit was his third bunt hit of the day.
The Pirates got their offense going in the fifth with help from the New York defense. A walk was followed by a fielder’s choice (no outs) and a back-to-back errors to bring home one run. Fred Clarke singled on a hot shot to first base to bring in a run. Wagner picked up another RBI on a bases loaded walk, then Claude Ritchey followed with an RBI free pass. The ball never left the infield and the Pirates added four runs, making it 9-1.
Chesbro allowed eight hits in the game and four of them came in the fifth when the Giants scored two runs by stringing together singles. After that point, both pitchers settled in and put together three straight scoreless innings. The Pirates added another run in the ninth and it felt like this happened a few times on the day. Clarke singled, Beaumont reached on a bunt single, then Wagner doubled home Clarke.
Here’s the boxscore for game two.
On the day, Fred Clarke collected a total of seven hits, scored five runs and drove in four runs. Wagner had three hits in each game and he drew two bases loaded walks in the second contest. He picked up a total of six RBIs. The Pirates scored 22 runs total without the benefit of a home run. Chesbro won his 17th game, on his way to a 21-win season.