When reviewing the all-time great records across all sports, numerous athletic achievements come to mind.
First, the feats of longevity, Brett Favre's 297 consecutive-game streak and Cal Ripken's insane 2,632 straight contests played. You have your records of skill such as Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hit streak or Jerry RIce's 208 Touchdowns. Chamberlain's 50.4 ppg average or Joe Louis's 26-straight Heavyweight Title defenses. All of these are unbelievably impressive, but frankly none come close to Cy Young's 511 wins as a major league pitcher.
No record in sports can match the scope of such an achievement.
Just to put Cy Young's record in perspective, let's imagine that a 22-year-old super-phenom came into the league tomorrow. For him to break Cy Young's record, he would have to average 20 wins a season, for a whopping 26 seasons. Something that is about as probable as my chances are in the ring against Mike Tyson in his prime. In an era where pitchers seemingly are always suffering from arm problems, no one stands a chance to ever come anywhere close to Cy Young's 511 win mark.
I know that it is unfair to compare across eras, especially in baseball, but I simply cannot get over the fact that Cy Young was able to win this many games. Just the amount of pitches he must've thrown baffles me and makes my shoulder ache. Today, you can scarcely find a pitcher who reaches the age of 30 without having to miss significant time due to elbow or shoulder trouble, yet Young never seemed to miss any significant time due to injury, displaying amazing longevity all the way to the age of 44.
Also, consider these statistics, Cy Young had 30-plus wins during five separate seasons, 20-plus wins 10 different seasons, and completed more than 700 of the 815 games he started. Wow.
Due to the nature of baseball today, I know that no one will ever be given the opportunity to come close to the all-time wins record, but I think we all need to admire Cy Young's record for what it is. Amazing.
I'll close with a quote from the man himself. According to legend, a young boy once asked Cy at a ballgame, upon hearing he was a former professional pitcher, if he was any good. He replied, "Son, I've won more games than you'll ever see played." I think Mr. Young summed up his career with that line better than anyone else possibly could.