1909 Champs Had Former Houston Player

Bill Abstein, 1B 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates ~ in a game against the Cubs in Chicago.

Bill Abstein, 1B
1909 Pittsburgh Pirates
~ in a game against the Cubs in Chicago.


Bill Abstein broke into professional baseball as a 21-year old 2nd baseman for the Houston Wanderers of the Class C South Texas League. The Houston club acquired their nickname that last season of Fair Grounds Base Ball Park by losing their venue to changing times and the need to play out their season on the road with an identity that fit their circumstances.

Young Bill Abstein apparently did OK with the inconvenience of living on the road. He hit .310 in 135 games, collecting 168 hits that included 30 doubles, 8 triples, and 12 home runs.

Following a couple of good years with Class A Shreveport (1905-06), Abstein made it up for a few big league break-in games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1906. After two more “seasoning” years (1907-08) at Providence, “Big Bill”, as Abstein was called at only 6’0″ and 185 pounds, was back in the big leagues for a full season with Pittsburgh. This time, he was there as the Pirates’ regular 1st baseman for 135 games and 2 additional game appearances, hitting a respectable .260, with 20 doubles, 10 triples, and a single homer.


By playing for Pittsburgh in 1909, Bill Abstein had written himself into baseball history as the first 1st baseman for the first Pirates World Series Champions and one of the team pieces that fit around the powerful field leadership of the great future Hall of Fame shortstop, Honus Wagner. The Pirates defeated Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers in 1909, with Wagner literally rubbing the ball into the face of the Georgia Peach on the latter’s glaring spikes-high attempt at stealing 2nd base by the art of intimidation. Wagner stopped him. And Cobb didn’t try that again with The Flying Dutchman.

We are not certain what happened to Bill Abstein after the 1909 triumph, but he was assigned to the Jersey City Skeeters minor league club for the 1910 season. After hitting .261 at “Jersey”, Abstein was dealt over to the St. Louis Browns where a .149 batting average with his new American League club would prove to be his last shot at the major leagues. Abstein would play 7 more seasons in the minor leagues and finish his career after the 1915 season with an unspectacular career record as a hitter.

But he did get to the show. He did play with one of the greats. He was a member of the first Pittsburgh Pirates World Championship team. And he did get his start in Houston.

Here’s the link to his career record at Baseball Reference.com:



Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner


“Dot’s Miller!”

One of my all time favorite baseball sidebars concerns another true rookie member of the 1909 Pirates, a fellow named John Barney Miller, who played 2nd base, but was never known by either his legal first or middle names.

It happened this way, goes the story: A Pittsburgh writer was watching the rookie fielder make one incredible play after another at 2nd base during infield practice on the first day of full spring training for the Pirates. Not recognizing the young man by name, he quickly hurried over to Honus Wagner to ask as the players came off the field.

“Who’s the kid at 2nd base, Hans?” the writer asked. “He looks great!”

“That kid over there?” Honus asked, as he smiled and pointed at Miller, feigning surprise.

“Yeah,” the impatient writer confirmed, “that kid!”

“Oh,” Wagner said, “dot’s Miller” (as in “that’s Miller”, but not understood by the writer as such.) Wagner spoke English with a rich Dutch/German accent

John Miller became Dots Miller forevermore from that day forward, following the writer’s story on the brilliant play of the young rookie. If Miller ever attempted a correction, we have not found a written mention of it. Apparently, rookies in those days didn’t care what you called them as long as a manager wrote down a name of who they thought they were – into the starting lineup.


 eagle-0range Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas




One Response to “1909 Champs Had Former Houston Player”

  1. Cliff Blau Says:

    He was certainly known as John Miller, at least in the newspapers of the day. Many of the nicknames shown in encyclopedias and Web sites are fanciful or were used rarely.

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