November 4, 1955: The Greatest Pitcher in Baseball History Dies (Cy Young)

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A Brief History

On November 4, 1955, Denton True “Cy” Young died, leaving the Earth as the greatest major league baseball pitcher in history, so great in fact, that the annual award for the best pitcher in each major league is named in his honor.  (Why is he the greatest of all time?  Well, 511 wins say he is!)

Digging Deeper

Born in 1867 in Gilmore, Ohio (Tuscarawas County), Young picked up the nickname Cy, short for “Cyclone,” because of his devastating fastball that would break up boards when an errant pitch hit them “like a cyclone.”  Prior to starting his pro career in 1889, he was usually called “Dent” or “Farmboy.”  Later, when Cy was sometimes called “Chief,” the mistaken belief that the “T” for his middle initial stood for Tecumseh became widespread.  (It stood for True.)  Young moved to Nebraska in 1887, and his first stop on the minor league professional circuit was in Canton, Ohio.  After 1 season (1889) in Canton, Cy moved up to the National League Cleveland Spiders, a team that had switched from the American Association the year before.

Young went on to his fantastic major league career with several teams, including the Cleveland Spiders, the St. Louis Perfectos/Cardinals, the Boston Americans/Pilgrims/Red Sox, the Cleveland Naps and the Boston Rustlers.  (Were you familiar with those major league team names?)  along the way he amassed 511 games won (94 more than #2 Walter Johnson!) against 316 losses, both are major league records.  He pitched an incredible 7356 innings with 815 starts, of which he completed a record 749 games!  His career earned run average was 2.63 and he struck out 2803 batters.  A whopping 76 shutouts are among his accomplishments, as are five 30 win seasons and ten more 20 win seasons.  He also had pitched 3 no hit baseball games, during his time the major league record.  Young once pitched 25 1/3 consecutive hitless innings, still the major league record.  Young led his league in fewest walks per 9 innings pitched 13 times, and had 40 complete games pitched in a season 9 times.  He pitched for one World Series Champion team, the 1903 Boston “Pilgrims” (a nickname for the Boston Americans).

While only a 6th grade graduate, Cy Young coached the Harvard baseball team in the spring of 1902, much to the merriment of the students.  He also coached a single season at Mercer University a year later.  In 1907, Cy was the player-manager for the Boston Red Sox, and after his playing career he also coached the Cleveland Green Sox in 1913 (a minor league team).  Living modestly in baseball retirement, Young had a meager income and occasionally made appearances for baseball events, including being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937.  He pitched until the age of 44, with his marvelous control taking over when his fastball no longer blew batters away.

In 1955, Young died in Newcomerstown, Ohio, at the age of 88 years old.  He is buried in Peoli, Ohio.  In 1993 a statue of Cy Young was erected at the site of the old Red Sox stadium on the grounds of Northeastern University.

From 1956 to 1966, the best pitcher in Major League Baseball was given the Cy Young Award, and starting in 1967 the best pitcher in each league (National and American) was given a separate award.  The fact that this award is named for Cy Young speaks volumes about his legacy and the respect for him.

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you believe Cy Young was the greatest pitcher in major league history?  If not, who do you nominate as the greatest and why?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Browning, Reed.  Cy Young: A Baseball Life.  University of Massachusetts Press, 2003.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Roseohioresident of baseball great Cy Young and his wife are buried in Peoli, Ohio in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.