1909 World Series Trip to Pittsburgh Inspired Navin Field

One hundred years ago this coming October, the Detroit Tigers appeared in their third World Series in a row.  In 1907 and 1908, the Tigers won American League pennants but lost in the World Series both years to the Chicago Cubs.

Forbes_Field_exterior

Pittsburgh's Forbes Field circa 1909.

In 1909, the Tigers made their way into the Series again, this time to face the Pittsburgh Pirates and Honus Wagner.  The thought of losing a third trip to the World Series in a row was unbearable to Tigers fans and hopes were riding high that Wagner would be outmatched by Detroit’s batting king, Ty Cobb.

The 1909 World Series had one foot in the deadball era and one foot in the future.  The Detroit games were played at Bennett Park, an unsophisticated, 19th century creation primarily made of wood.  The Pittsburgh games were played in a brand new steel and concrete structure named Forbes Field.  The new stadium cost $1 million to build (in 1909 dollars) and was one of the first solid structures built for a major league team.

The ‘Series went seven games with the final game being won by the Pirates at Bennett Park on October 16.  The unthinkable happened as Detroit lost its third consecutive World Series.

But one thing Detroit may have won that fall was the desire of team owner Frank Navin to build a new stadium on par with the one in Pittsburgh.  Just three seasons later, the Detroit Tigers would be playing in their own steel and concrete structure known simply as Navin Field. 

NavinField

Detroit's Navin Field circa 1912.

According to records, Navin Field was constructed at a cost of $400,000 (in 1912 dollars).  Detroit’s new stadium was not as ornate as the one in Pittsburgh — but it was a massive step forward from the splinter-filled days of Bennett Park.   Most importantly, the new stadium provided the Tigers with a much greater seating capacity, a necessity at the time as the city of Detroit – and baseball’s popularity — continued to rise.

The 1909 World Series had a major influence on the direction the Detroit Tigers would take for the next 90 years — as Navin Field slowly evolved into Briggs Stadium and then Tiger Stadium.

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About Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas is the original founder and owner of Detroit Athletic Co. He enjoys free-lance writing as well and his articles have appeared in The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, Crain's Detroit Business and The Wall Street Journal.