Cy Young won more baseball games than any pitcher can even dream of winning today. Over his 21-year career he won 511 games, including two no-hitters and a perfect game, playing for Cleveland, St. Louis and both Boston teams: the Americans, now the Red Sox, and the Rustlers, later the Braves.
He was born on a farm in Gilmore, Ohio, two years after the Civil War ended on March 29, 1867. His real name was Denton True Young, but when teammates saw how fast he threw they called him ‘Cyclone,’ then just ‘Cy.’ He once said his ability was genetic:
All us Youngs could throw. I used to kill squirrels with a stone when I was a kid, and my granddad once killed a turkey buzzard on the fly with a rock.
In 1903, Young pitched for the Boston Red Sox against Pittsburgh in the first modern World Series. The Red Sox won five games to three, despite gamblers’ attempts to bribe him to throw a game. While he was standing in the field before the fourth game, two men representing gamblers offered him $20,000 if he wouldn’t ‘bear down’ the next day, when he was scheduled to pitch. Young replied, ‘if you put any value at all on your money, you’d better bet it on me to win.’ (The Red Sox actually lost the game by a run.)
Cy Young’s greatest day in baseball came on May 5, 1904, pitching against the great Rube Waddell of the Philadelphia Athletics. He once described the game as a ‘sensation,’ as it was the first perfect game in 24 years. Here’s how he remembered it:
A pitcher’s got to be good and he’s got to be lucky to get a no-hit game. But to get a perfect game—no run, no hit, no man reach first base—he’s got to have everything his way…
I don’t think I ever had more stuff and I fanned eight, getting Jasper Davis and Monte Cross, the Philly shortstop, twice. But the boys gave me some great support, and when I tell you about it, you’ll understand why I say a pitcher’s got to be awfully lucky to get a perfect game.
The closest the Athletics came to a hit was in the third, when Monte Cross hit a pop fly that was dropping just back of the infield between first and second. Buck Freeman came tearing in from right like a deer and barely caught the ball.
But Ollie Pickering, who played center field for Mr. Mack, gave me two bad scares. Once he hit a fly back of second that Chick Stahl caught around his knees after a long run from center. The other time Ollie hit a slow roller to short and Parent just got him by a step.
Patsy Dougherty helped me out in the seventh when he crashed into the left field fence to get Danny Hoffman’s long foul; and I recall that Criger almost went into the Boston bench to get a foul by Davis…
Well, sir, when I had two out in the ninth, and it was Waddell’s time to bat, some of the fans began to yell for Connie Mack to send up a pinch hitter. They wanted me to finish what looked like a perfect game against a stronger batter.
But Mr. Mack let Rube take his turn. Rube took a couple of strikes and then hit a fly that Stahl caught going away from the infield.
You can realize how perfect we all were that day when I tell you the game only took one hour and twenty-three minutes.
We got three runs off Waddell, and when the game was finished it looked like all the fans came down on the field and tried to shake my hand. One gray-haired fellow jumped the fence back of third and shoved a five-dollar bill into my hand.
Cy Young left out one important details. Three days earlier, Waddell had one-hit the Red Sox. He had taunted Young to face him so he could repeat his performance. After Waddell flied out for the last out, Young yelled, “How do you like that, you hayseed?”
Cy Young pitched two other no-hitters: He threw one on Sept. 18, 1897 for the Cleveland Spiders against the Cincinnati Reds, and one on June 30, 1908, for the Red Sox against the New York Highlanders. He was 41 years old.
With thanks to Cy Young: A Baseball Life by Reed Browning and My Greatest Day in Baseball as told to John P. Carmichael.
Great ball player, great.
One baseball record that will NEVER be broken: 511 wins.
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