MARCH 29 = Baseball Great “Cy” Young is Born

“He’s too green to do your club much good, but I believe if I taught him what I know, I might make a pitcher out of him in a couple of years. He’s not worth it now, but I’m willing to give you $1,000 ($25,867 today) for him.” –  Adrian “Cap” Anson to Gus Schmelz on the ability of Cy Young.

“Cap, you can keep your thousand and we’ll keep the rube.” – Schmelz’s reply.
 
On today’s date, March 29 in 1867, Denton True “Cy” Young was born in the tiny farming community of Gilmore in East Central Ohio. The above quoted Anson was the player/ manager of the Chicago Cubs, and  Schmelz was the manager of Young’s team, the Cleveland Spiders. Schmelz was wise to turn Anson down, because Young would go on to become, in the view of many observers the greatest pitcher in baseball history, winning 511 games, a record which stands to this day.  Oddly enough, he also holds the all-time record for the most games ever lost by a major league pitcher, 316. But in 1956, a year after Young’s death Baseball Commisioner Ford Frick created the Cy Young Award to honor baseballs’ best pitcher for the previous season. And his best years came just after a former owner was getting rid of him.
 
Young’s Early Career – A New Hard Thrower on the Scene 

Cy Young made his Major League debut with the Cleveland Spiders of the National League on August 6, 1890, pitching a three-hit shutout.  Early on in his career he earned a reputation for being one of the hardest throwing pitchers around.  In fact he threw hard enough that his catcher, Chief Zimmer frequently would put a piece of beefsteak inside his glove to provide an extra cushion from Young’s fastball.  He did well in the remainder of that 1890 season, finishing it off by winning BOTH games of a doubleheader!! It was during this period that Young earned his nickname “Cy” when he tore off several fence boards with his pitches. A bystander remarked that the fence looked “like it had been hit by a cyclone.”  The National League moved the pitchers box back five feet from 55 feet, 6 inches to the modern distance of 60 feet 6 inches, and this is said to have been as a reaction to the speed of pitches being thrown by players like Young.  In 1892, Young  led  National League with 36 wins, an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 1.93 and 9 shutouts. In 1895 he added what he called a “slow ball” to his pitching range in order to lessen the wear on his arm.  This pitch is what is commonly known now as the “changeup”.  In 1897 he threw the first of three career no hitters against my own Cincinnati Reds.

Young Moves to the American League – “Don’t Make Him Mad!!”

Before the 1899 season the Cleveland Spiders owner, Frank Robison bought the St. Louis Browns, thus becoming the owner of two teams, and gutted the Cleveland team to beef up his preferred Browns whom he renamed the “Perfectos”.  This new team never finished better than fifth, but the Spiders really dived, losing a ML record 134 games in 1899, after which they understandably disbanded.  Young spent 1899 and 1900 in St. Louis before moving to Boston  to the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) of the newly formed American League.  In what is clearly a cautionary tale to employers who would seek to belittle, or otherwise bully employees on their way to the opposition, Robison made no great effort to hold onto Young saying that “Young is through.  In the new bush league he may last another year, but we couldn’t have used him.”  Young was decidedly put out by this remark, saying that he “would not work for Frank Robison again even if (he) offered (me) $10,000.00”.  Young went on to back up his talk by leading the league that year in the “Triple Crown” categories of wins, strikeouts and ERA.  Boston went on to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first modern World Series in 1903, with young pitiching the first World Series game ever.  Boston wound up winning the Series 5 games to three, with Young compiling a 2–1 record and a 1.85 ERA in four appearances, In 1904, Young completed the first “Perfect Game” in American League history as a part of an incredible pitching streak. Young set major league records for the most consecutive scoreless innings pitched and the most consecutive innings without allowing a hit; that last record remaining unbroken ever since at 25.1 innings, or 76 hitless batters.Even after allowing a hit, Young’s scoreless streak reached a then-record 45 shutout innings. Clearly Robison had exposed himself as a first rate baseball boob by dissing a prize prospect just before he became prized.  The moral: don’t make him mad just before you kick him out!!

Later Years… Retirement and Young’s Overpowering Legacy

In 1908, Young pitched the third no-hitter of his career. Three months after his 41st birthday, Cy Young was the oldest pitcher to get a no-hitter, a record which remained in place for 82 years until Nolan Ryan surpassed the mark at age 43. Young got a mere walk away from his second perfect game; after that one runner was thrown out stealing, not another batter got on base. At this time, Young was the second-oldest player in baseball. On August 13, 1908, the league celebrated “Cy Young Day.” No American League games were played on that day, and All-Stars from the league’s other teams came to Boston to play against Young and the Red Sox.  The next season Young was traded back to Cleveland, wherein he had played over half his career, to the Cleveland Naps of the American League. During the 1910 season, he recorded his 500th career win on July 23 against Washington He split 1911, his last year, between the Naps and the Boston Rustlers.  On September 22, 1911, Young shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates, 1–0, for his final career victory. Cy Young was one of, perhaps the most overpowering pitcher of his, or any time.  While his record for games won is never likely to be broken due to the fact that pitchers no longer work with the frequency that they did in his time, his records for strike outs and ERA still rank among baseball’s greatest records. His place in baseball history makes him more than worthy of having the premier pitchers award for Major league baseball bear his name.

 
 
READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any “Today in History” posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  krustybassist@gmail.com  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I’m writing (or not!)!!

by Reed Browning, University of Massachusetts Press, 2000.

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