The Real Story of Cy Young: The Guy, Not the Award
Nowadays, when he hear the name Cy Young, we don't think about the guy who won 511 games and has an award named after him. We think about guys like Johan Santana, Barry Zito, Randy Johnson, and Jim Palmer—guys who have won the award in the past.
Denton True Young was born on a farm in Newcomerstown, Ohio. Funny name for a town, huh? He developed a strong arm working for his parents on their farm.
In 1889, he was referred to as "Dent Young." He played third base for the Tuscarawas County semi-pro team in Ohio. In 1890, he moved to the pros as a pitcher with Canton of the Tri-State League. Yes, that is the same Canton where the Football Hall of Fame is.
As a rookie, he had 15 wins and 15 losses until the Cleveland Spiders acquired him. The Spiders bought him for a whopping amount of $300 and a suit of clothes the Canton manager would receive.
He picked up the name "Cy" the next year. His teammates called him "Cyclone" because of the speed of his pitches. No one knows, but everybody who saw him play knew he could wing it. After getting 27 wins and a 2.85 ERA for the Spiders, he saw his salary raise to $1,400.
Young's season may have been overrated. He also had 22 losses and walked 140 batters, but his control improved.
He was 36-12 in 1892 and 34-16 in 1893. He eventually became known as a control expert, walking only one batter per game on average during the late 1890s.
Historian Lee Allen said once, "There have been faster pitchers, but his control was so unerring and he was so tireless that he kept throwing as if he were systematically chopping down a tree."
In 1897, the Spiders as a franchise began to slip. Attendance was dropping at a bad rate and the Cleveland Naps acquired Young and some other Spiders players.
Young hated St. Louis. He managed to have 45 wins in two seasons, but hated the heat and was traded to Boston in 1900.
Ban Johnson offered him $3,000 to play for Boston, and Young jumped at the chance. In 1901, 1902, and 1903 Young went 93-30 and led the league in wins three times with totals of 33, 32, and 28.
Young took part in a great Boston team in 1903 that won the World Series over the New York Giants. He pitched the Giants to a 1904 pennant, but the Giants forfeited in the World Championship. That year, Young was 26-16 with a 1.82 earned run average that season.
In 1906, however, Young's performance dipped to an all-time low. He was 13-21 despite a very good 3.19 ERA. Fans wondered if Young's career was over. He was 39 years old at the time.
The answer: no.
In 1908, at 41, he no hit the Giants—the third of his career—and compiled his last of 15 20-win seasons.
The next year, Young was sold to the Cleveland Naps for $12,500. He proved he still had it, winning 19 games and posting a very good 2.26 ERA. His Naps went 80-73 that season.
However, his performance in 1910 and 1911 dipped even more than in 1906.
He won just seven games each season and decided to retire after the 1911 baseball season as he wasn't even the ace of the club.
In 1937, Young was just the third pitcher named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The first two were Walter Johnson and Christy Matthewson. He retired to his farm but lost boatloads of money because of the stock market and was forced to crash with neighbors.
He died in 1955, a year before the award named the "Cy Young Award" was awarded to the best pitcher in each respective league. His cause of death is unknown.
In his career, he had 511 wins and 316 losses, a 2.63 ERA, 2803 strikeouts, and 1217 walks. He had a .617 winning percentage.
Sportswriter Ogden Nash put it best:
"Y is for Young
The magnificent Cy;
People batted against him,
But I never knew why."
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