Game Rewind: Pirates vs Reds, April 12, 1911

The Pittsburgh Pirates opened up the 1911 season with a performance that got their fans very excited for the upcoming season. They were just 18 months removed from winning their first World Series title at the time, and the team seemed to have all of the parts for a strong team. Veteran hitters Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke and Tommy Leach had players like Dots Miller, Bobby Byrne, Chief Wilson and George Gibson in the lineup, providing plenty of offense and defense. The pitching staff had Lefty Leifield, Babe Adam and Howie Camnitz as a strong top three that would end up making 107 of the team’s 155 starts. The Pirates finished the season in third place with a strong 85-69 record, but for one day on April 12, 1911, a second World Series title seemed very possible.

Babe Adams was on the mound for the opener, which took place in Cincinnati at the Palace of the Fans with approximately 22,000 fans in attendance. He had an 18-9, 2.24 record in 1910, throwing 245 innings. It was said in the Pittsburgh Post that both Adams and Camnitz warmed up for the game and manager Fred Clarke didn’t decide who was pitching until five minutes before the game started. The mound opponent for Adams that day was Art Fromme, a 27-year-old right-hander who saw limited work in 1910 due to multiple injuries, but he had a 1.90 ERA in 279.1 innings in 1909.

The lineups had a noticeable advantage for the Pirates, especially with Hall of Famers Clarke and Wagner in the 3-4 spots. The only Hall of Famer there for the Reds was their manager Clark Griffith, and unlike the Pirates manager (Clarke), he was not playing in the game. Another Hall of Famer was there behind the plate in umpire Hank O’Day, who pitched for the Pirates 26 years earlier when they were in the American Association.

I’ve already given the spoiler that the Pirates won this game, but before I get into the game recap, I wanted to add this quote from The Pittsburgh Press on the day after the game:

“Yesterday’s terrible drubbing has halted the recent unbridled enthusiasm of the Cincinnati fans. Throughout the city last night there was ill concealed dismay at not only the defeat, but the fact that Griffith’s team seemed to go all to pieces, making opening day from the local standpoint an inauspicious and humiliating one”

The road teams didn’t have to bat first back then, but the Pirates were first up in this game. The local Pittsburgh papers noted that local Cincinnati merchants handed out whistles and miniature cowbells to fans, so you can imagine that the stadium was loud for this game. It was scheduled for a 3 PM start, but they got going at 2:51 PM because there was some worry about possible weather coming soon. There’s not a full play-by-play available for this game, but I’m going to give as much as I could find looking through old papers from the following day.

The Cincinnati papers noted that Art Fromme was wild from the start. This game was scoreless through two innings, but he seemed to be in danger of giving up runs right away. Bobby Byrne singled on a 3-2 pitch to lead-off the game. He led the National League in hits and doubles in 1910. Tommy Leach also got to 3-2 before he struck out, with Byrne stealing second on the play. Fred Clarke grounded out to shortstop, with the out at third base on a heads up play by shortstop Dave Altizer. Honus Wagner walked, then Dots Miller lined out to deep center field to end the top of the first.

The Reds went down in order in the first against Adams on three pop ups, then the Pirates went down in order in the second. For the Reds in the second, Mike Mitchell popped up to catcher George Gibson. Eddie Grant followed with a single. He is unfortunately known as the first Major League player to pass away while serving during WWI. Altizer followed with a single as well, but Adams had Gibson behind the plate with his strong arm and he threw out both runners trying to steals, so Adams ended up facing the minimum for a second straight inning.

The third inning started with Fromme walking Adams, which is never a good idea to walk to opposing pitcher with no outs. Byrne followed with a double. There was an overflow crowd at this game, which back then meant that ropes were put up in the outfield to allow more fans in and different ground rules were in effect. The stadiums were big back then and it was the deadball era, so they were basically making it a little more even for the batters. Bryne’s ball rolled into the crowd, which made it a ground rule double. A wild pitch scored Adams with the first run of the game. Leach grounded out and Clarke struck out, but Wagner made it 2-0 with a single lined to center. Dots Miller reached on an error, before Newt Hunter ended the inning with a fly ball to right field. The Reds got nothing in the bottom of the inning, going down in order again.

In the fourth, the Pirates started with a walk to Wilson. Gibson grounded into what looked like a double play, but an error after the first out led to Gibson reaching and getting to second base on the play. Byrne then tripled to center field to make it a 3-0 game. Leach flew out to center field to end the inning. In the bottom of the fourth, Johnny Bates hit a one-out single and successfully stole second base, but that’s where he stayed, as the next two batters made outs.

In the fifth, the Pirates got things started with three straight triples from Clarke, Wagner and Miller, with the hit by Miller called the longest hit of the day. It hit off of the left field wall, which with the crowd on the field, made it an automatic triple. That hit made it 5-0, before Wilson singled to score Miller with the sixth run. With two outs, Adams reached on a tough play at third base, then Byrne collected his third hit, a liner into left field that made it 7-0. While pitching to Leach, Fromme injured his right knee and had to be replaced by Jesse Tannehill, the former Pirates pitcher, who actually holds the team record for winning percentage.

Tannehill finished a walk to Leach that appears to be credited to him, though the paper doesn’t note the count at the time that Fromme left the game (if there were 2-3 balls at the time, it would be charged to Fromme, 0-1 goes to Tannehill). That would make a difference as far as the run being charged because the Pirates cleared the bases on a ball hit so soft by Clarke that it led to two rushed throws and two throwing errors. Current records show seven runs being charged to Fromme, which is not correct. He either allowed nine or ten based on the walk. Anyway, Wagner grounded out to shortstop to end the inning with a 10-0 score.

With the score one-sided, the local papers were less descriptive in their details of the game. They noted the scoring though. In the sixth, Dots Miller singled to start the inning, then scored on a triple by Hunter, who then scored on a sacrifice fly by Wilson to make it 12-0. In the eighth, the Pirates got a single by Miller, an error on a grounder by Wilson, and a single by Byrne, which made it 14-0. That was the end of the scoring.

As for the work by Babe Adams, he allowed those three singles in the first four innings, with two being erased by caught stealing. He walked Altizer in the fifth, though he was quickly erased on a double play. An error by Wagner in the sixth proved to be harmless. Adams almost nearly didn’t get his shutout. In the ninth, Bob Bescher led off the inning with a triple. He ended up staying there, as Adams retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts.

While Adams was the pitching hero, his day was matched by Byrne, who went 5-for-5 with a walk. The 1910 hit leader had a good start towards a second title. Miller picked up four hits of his own and scored three runs. Wagner had three hits and a walk. Everyone in the Pirates lineup scored at least one run.

Here’s the boxscore from Baseball-Reference, keeping in mind that the run total from Fromme is wrong here.