Cy Young

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Cy Young : biography

March 29, 1867 – November 4, 1955

Franchises in the National League, the major professional baseball league at the time, wanted the best players available to them. Therefore, in 1890, Young signed with the Cleveland Spiders, a team which had moved up from the American Association to the National League the previous year.

Cleveland Spiders

On August 6, 1890, Young’s major league debut, he pitched a three-hit shutout. While Young was on the Spiders, Chief Zimmer was his catcher more often than any other player. Bill James, a baseball statistician, estimated that Zimmer caught Young in more games than any other battery in baseball history.James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Abstract (Simon & Schuster, 2001), pp. 410–411

Early on, Young established himself as one of the harder-throwing pitchers in the game. Bill James wrote that Zimmer often put a piece of beefsteak inside his baseball glove to protect his catching hand from Young’s fastball. In the absence of radar guns, however, it is impossible to say just how hard Young actually threw. Young continued to perform at a high level during the 1890 season. On the last day of the season, Young won both games of a doubleheader. In the first weeks of Young’s career, Cap Anson, the player-manager of the Chicago Colts spotted Young’s ability. Anson told Spiders’ manager Gus Schmelz, "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 $1,000 ($ today) for him." Schmelz replied, "Cap, you can keep your thousand and we’ll keep the rube."

Two years after Young’s debut, the National League moved the pitcher’s position back by . Since 1881, pitchers had pitched within a "box" whose front line was from home base, and since 1887 they had been compelled to toe the back line of the box when delivering the ball. The back line was away from home. In 1893, was added to the back line, yielding the modern pitching distance of . In the book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, sports journalist Rob Neyer wrote that the speed with which pitchers like Cy Young, Amos Rusie, and Jouett Meekin threw was the impetus that caused the move.

The 1892 regular season was a success for Young, who led the National League in wins (36), ERA (1.93), and shutouts (9). Just as many contemporary Minor League Baseball leagues operate today, the National League was using a split season format during the 1892 season. The Boston Beaneaters won the first-half title, and the Spiders won the second-half title, with a best-of-nine series determining the league champion. Despite the Spiders’ second half run, the Beaneaters swept the series, five games to none. Young pitched three complete games in the series, but lost two decisions. He also threw a complete game shutout, but the game ended in a 0–0 tie.

The Spiders faced the Baltimore Orioles in the Temple Cup, a precursor to the World Series, in 1895. Young won three games in the series and Cleveland won the Cup, four games to one. It was around this time that Young added what he called a "slow ball" to his pitching repertoire to reduce stress on his arm. The pitch today is called a changeup.

In 1896, Young lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning when Ed Delahanty of the Philadelphia Phillies hit a single. On September 18, 1897, Young pitched the first no-hitter of his career in a game against the Cincinnati Reds. Although Young did not walk a batter, the Spiders committed four errors while on defense. One of the errors had originally been ruled a hit, but the Cleveland third baseman sent a note to the press box after the eighth inning, saying he had made an error, and the ruling was changed. Young later said, that, despite his teammate’s gesture, he considered the game to be a one-hitter.

Shift to St. Louis

Prior to the 1899 season, Frank Robison, the Spiders owner, bought the St. Louis Browns, thus owning two clubs simultaneously. The Browns were renamed the "Perfectos", and restocked with Cleveland talent. Just weeks before the season opener, most of the better Spiders players were transferred to St. Louis, including fellow pitcher Pete McBride and three future Hall of Famers: Young, Jesse Burkett, and Bobby Wallace. The roster maneuvers failed to create a powerhouse Perfectos team, as St. Louis finished fifth in both 1899 and 1900. Meanwhile, the depleted Spiders lost 134 games, the most in MLB history, before folding. Young spent two years with St. Louis, which is where he found his favorite catcher, Lou Criger. The two men were teammates for a decade.