What’s more amazing, that Cy Young has an award named after him or the fact that his recorded stats, which are astounding, document the twilight of his career? Born Denton True Young in 1867, “Cy” played pro ball for 21 years from 1890-1911 and has gone down in history as the pitcher with the most career wins (511) losses (316), games started (815), complete games (749) and innings pitched (7,355) in MLB history.
So yeah, the guy was good.
Young was born into a small farm community in Ohio to McKinzie Young and Nancy Miller. Young stopped his education after the sixth grade, opting to help out on the family farm rather than continue with his schooling. Young started his baseball career playing for an amateur team in 1888, and was then signed to the minor league team the following season thus beginning his pro career.
Young made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Spiders (wonder why that name never stuck around) in 1890 tossing a three-hit shutout. From then on Cy established himself as one of the hardest throwers in all of baseball. In fact it was his arm that earned him the nickname “Cyclone” because of the way the fences of the grandstand looked as he whipped his fastball past them. Radar guns obviously weren’t around in the 1890’s but from what people said (and felt catching him) it’s not unreasonable to say he threw in the 90’s which would have been a rarity back then.
As time went on Young’s career continued to develop (won 36 games in 1892 alongside a 1.93 ERA (now I know why the named the award after him)), however he was traded to St. Louis in 1899 and then the Sox in 1901.
Young signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1901 for $3,500 where he went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers in Sox history. Seriously, Young pitched for the Sox for eight seasons and during that time amassed a 192-112 record alongside a 2.00 ERA while striking out 1,341 men in 2,728 innings pitched. Not only that but during that time he walked just 299 men–you don’t see that often. Cy was so good that if he put up those numbers today he’d get…. eight Cy Young awards (get it? Ok I’m done). Check out his career stats here:
Young left the Sox for the Cleveland Naps and then called it quits in 1911 at the age of 44. After baseball Young got back into farming, and then after his wife died in 1933 he spent time with friends doing odd jobs and living off meager stock dividends. In 1937 he was accepted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and was one of the first players to donate mementos commemorating his career.
Young is long remembered as a bridge from the original game of baseball to the modern game. He came from an era where foul balls were not counted as strikes and pitchers threw underhand, and then finished his career under the more modern rules that we see today. No matter how modern the game became Cy stuck to the way pitchers used to be: throwers who flung the ball day in and day out with a mission to win the game.
“I never warmed up ten, fifteen minutes before a game like most pitchers do. I’d loosen up, three, four minutes,” Young once said. “Five at the outside. And I never went to the bullpen. Oh, I’d relieve all right, plenty of times, but I went right from the bench to the box, and I’d take a few warm-up pitches and be ready. Then I had good control. I aimed to make the batter hit the ball, and I threw as few pitches as possible. That’s why I was able to work every other day.”
In 1956 the Cy Young award was created to honor the best pitcher in each league as a way to remember baseball’s greatest pitcher and likely a pitcher we will never see be rivaled in our time.