Cy Young

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Cy Young : biography

March 29, 1867 – November 4, 1955

Particularly after his fastball slowed, Young relied upon his control. Young was once quoted as saying, "Some may have thought it was essential to know how to curve a ball before anything else. Experience, to my mind, teaches to the contrary. Any young player who has good control will become a successful curve pitcher long before the pitcher who is endeavoring to master both curves and control at the same time. The curve is merely an accessory to control." In addition to his exceptional control, Young was also a workhorse who avoided injury. For nineteen consecutive years, from 1891 through 1909, Cy Young was in his leagues’ top ten for innings pitched; in fourteen of the seasons, he was in the top five. Not until 1900, a decade into his career, did Young pitch two consecutive incomplete games. By habit, Young restricted his practice throws in spring training. "I figured the old arm had just so many throws in it", said Young, "and there wasn’t any use wasting them." Young once described his approach before a game: "I never warmed up ten, fifteen minutes before a game like most pitchers do. I’d loosen up, three, four minutes. 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."

By the time of his retirement, Young’s control had faltered. Young had also gained weight. In three of his last four years, he was the oldest player in the league.

In 1956, about one year after Young’s death, the Cy Young Award was created. The first award was given to Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe. Originally, it was a single award covering the whole of baseball. The honor was divided into two Cy Young Awards in 1967, one for each league.

On September 23, 1993, a statue dedicated to him was unveiled by Northeastern University on the site of the Red Sox’s original stadium, the Huntington Avenue Grounds. It was there that Young had pitched the first game of the 1903 World Series, as well as the first perfect game in the modern era of baseball. A home plate-shaped plaque next to the statue reads:

"On October 1, 1903 the first modern World Series between the American League champion Boston Pilgrims (later known as the Red Sox) and the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates was played on this site. General admission tickets were fifty cents. The Pilgrims, led by twenty-eight game winner Cy Young, trailed the series three games to one but then swept four consecutive victories to win the championship five games to three."

Notes

  • a. Although the phrase "perfect game" appeared in record books as early as 1922, and was a common expression years before that, Major League Baseball did not formalize the definition of a "perfect game" until 1991, long after Young’s death. Nonetheless, Young’s 1955 obituary also used the phrase.
"An official perfect game occurs when a pitcher (or pitchers) retires each batter on the opposing team during the entire course of a game, which consists of at least nine innings. In a perfect game, no batter reaches any base during the course of the game."
  • b.Although not an actual award, many baseball fans and experts call a pitcher who leads his league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA the Triple Crown winner.

Professional career

Before Major League Baseball

Young began his professional career in 1889 with the Canton, Ohio team of the Tri-State League, a professional minor league. During his tryout, Young impressed the scouts, recalling years later, "I almost tore the boards off the grandstand with my fast ball." Cy Young’s nickname came from the fences that he had destroyed using his fastball. The fences looked like a cyclone had hit them. Reporters later shortened the name to "Cy", which became the nickname Young used for the rest of his life. During Young’s one year with the Canton team, he won 15 games and lost 15.