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Detroit Tigers history: The 1907 Tigers

The year they almost brought home a World Series. Almost.

MLB: Archive Photo by The Rucker Archive/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tigers had themselves one heck of a year in 1907. Not only did they establish a rowdy, fun core of players who were engaging for fans; in Hughie Jennings they finally found a manager who could deal with owner Frank Navin and stick around for the long haul. Jennings was about to usher in a golden period for the Tigers, though he would never be able to bring them a World Series title. He would, however, remain at the helm of the team from 1907 to 1920, providing the club some nice stability, and proving himself to be among the all-time great baseball managers.

1907 History

!907 saw an absolutely bonkers number of shipwrecks and sunk ships, with 100s of lost lives, so I won’t break them down individually. March saw the assassination of Dimitar Petkov, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. In December, the Monongah Mining Disaster would kill 362 workers in Monongah. WV. That same month an explosion in a coal mine in Jacobs Creek, PA killed 239. Meanwhile, that month in Chile over 2000 mineworkers were killed during a protest in the Santa Maria School massacre.

Over several months, upwards of 11,000 people died in the Romanian Peasants’ Revolution, which saw peasant workers attempting to rise up against a faction of landowners.

April 17 saw the single busiest day for immigration to the US through Ellis Island, and over a million people would pass through the island over the course of the year. In July, the Irish Crown Jewels are discovered to have been stolen.

On August 17, the iconic Pike Place Market in Seattle opens, nine days later in the same city, UPS was founded. On September 26 both New Zealand and Newfoundland became British dominions. In October the 1907 bank panic ends with several major bank owners create a $25 million pool to help bolster the New York Stock Exchange. On November 16 the Mauretania takes its maiden voyage as the world’s largest and fastest passenger ship (no future disasters for her, she would continue in operations until 1934). That same day, Oklahoma became the 46th state in the United States.

The year ended with the first-ever ball drop in Times Square in New York City.

Notable births: Actor Cesar Romero; poet W.H. Auden; actress Katharine Hepburn; author Daphne du Maurier; cartoonist Hergé (of TinTin fame); actor Laurence Olivier; actor John Wayne; artist Frida Kahlo; singer Gene Autry; and jazz singer Cab Calloway.

Notable deaths: Timothy Eaton (founder of Eaton’s department store chain. This one is for my fellow Canadians)

1907 Tigers

This was it, this was the year for the young Detroit Tigers club. After some middling seasons to start their journey in the American League, 1907 was, without question, their best year ever (to that point, don’t come for me, 1984 fans). The Tigers won the American League pennant, finishing the season with a record of 92-58-3. Alas, the year would not end in a World Series victory, as the team went up against the Chicago Cubs and lost the series four to nothing, with a single tie game in the mix.

If you want to talk about potential season (and history) altering moves, in March of 1907 new Tigers manager Hughie Jennings tried to trade Ty Cobb to the Cleveland Naps for one Elmer Flick. Flick, who is also in the Hall of Fame, certainly would have been a great get for the Tigers, but the deal didn’t get done and Cobb stuck with Detroit.

It should come as no surprise that Cobb was once again the standout in the Tigers batting order. His 1907 line was .350/.380/.468 with five deadball home runs. Incredible stuff, his OPS+ was 167. Right behind him, though, was our good buddy, tried and true Sam Crawford, who hit .323/.366/.460 with a 160 OPS+ and four homers of his own. Outfielder Davy Jones managed a solid .273/.357/.318. The team captain that year was Bill Coughlin, and a fun side story about Bill (or how about two) was that he once stole second, third, and home in a single game; but my favorite is that he was apparently an absolute menace with the hidden ball trick, leading all of MLB to this day, and it’s said he pulled it off successfully seven times, including the only time it has ever been done in World Series, during Game 2 against Jimmy Slagle of the Cubs.

On the pitching side of things, George Mullin was no longer a powerhouse two-way star, but still managed a pretty decent 2.59 ERA and 2.42 FIP. The real standout, however, was Ed Killian, with 25 wins, and a 1.78 ERA (but 2.63 FIP). Probably worth noting here that Ed Killian only ever gave up nine home runs in his entire career, which is impressive even IN the deadball era. Right up there for pitchers that season was Bill Donovan who also collected 25 wins and had a 2.19 ERA and 2.41 FIP.

Towards the end of the regular season, mere days after overtaking the A’s for first place, the Tigers and A’s were meant to play a double-header, but what happened instead was a 17-inning 9–9 tie that was ultimately called due to darkness.

Spotlight On: Boss Schmidt

Charles “Boss” Schmidt was born September 12, 1880 in London, Arkansas. While Boss played baseball for much of his adult life, serving in the game from 1901 to 1926, he only spent six seasons in the majors. In fairness, however, three of those seasons were among the best ever for the young Detroit Tigers club.

Serving as part of the catching platoon for the Tigers, Boss was exceptional at one thing above all else: collecting errors. In fact, for each of the three seasons the Tigers won the pennant while he was with the club, the led the league in catcher errors (1907-09). In spite of his errors, Boss was a good player both behind the dish and on the basepaths. He led AL catchers in 1907 with 14 double plays turned, and on the bases he had six triples and eight stolen bases.

During the 1907 World Series, comments were made about Schmidt’s throwing issues, as none of his defensive throws seemed to be hitting their mark. As it turned out, Schmidt had broken a finger earlier in September and had continued to play through the break.

That “toughness” was a hallmark of Schmidt’s personality. He had been a prizefighter before his days in baseball, and had the mangled hands to show for it (Note: I wish I could find photos of his hands, as their grisly appearance is mentioned repeatedly in biographies). He also had the mind of a fighter and wouldn’t back down from a tussle. Accordingly, when he butted heads with Ty Cobb on a handful of occasions, things came to blows. According to the SABR Bio project, “The catcher was allegedly offended by comments Cobb made to a Georgia newspaper about his abilities to out-fight any of his teammates. If so, Schmidt convincingly settled the matter by pummeling Cobb, leaving the Georgian a bloody mess.” However, rather than turning them into enemies, it turns out that Cobb liked the cut of Schmidt’s jib, and the two were lifelong friends following the fights.

Prior to the 1911 season, which would be his last in the majors, Schmidt wrote an open letter to the Detroit Free Press lamenting his poor treatment under team manager Hughie Jennings. In the letter, Schmidt said, “If ever a catcher has worked under a handicap, I certainly have. I have had a manager to fight, besides the other clubs and he has done everything in his power to put me out of baseball.” He went on to play for the Tigers that season, but in a limited role.

But Schmidt was not run out of baseball, only the majors. He continued to play for more than a decade after leaving the Tigers, and went on to manage teams when his playing days ended. He died, rather unexpectedly, of complications from an intestinal blockage when he was only 52.

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