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Sixty years ago, a twenty-three-year-old farmer from the Newcomerstown, Ohio, community boarded a train for Canton. He didn't know it then, of course, but the career of baseball's most durable and effective pitcher was being launched.
He was, of course, Denton True Young, destined to become the only pitcher ever to win more than 500 games in the majors and the only pitcher ever to more than 200 games in each of the two big leagues.
Young reported at the Canton park to find only one other candidate on hand. The stranger chatted with the farmer-pitcher and suggested that Young hurl a few to him.
After pitching a couple to warm up, the big farmer really "cut loose." In quicker time than it takes to relate the incident, the stranger was in the office of the Canton manager begging him to sign the mound aspirant.
He was so excited that he fairly shouted:
"That farm boy out there has got so much steam that he has your fence looking like a cyclone struck it."
Thus, the game's most durable pitcher acquired the nickname of "Cy" - from cyclone.
Today, at eighty-three, Cy Young is living a life of ease and probably getting a snicker or two as he reads about the present-day crop of hurlers nursing their ailing flippers and various other afflictions. He resides with his old friends, the John Benedums, at Peoli, Ohio, only a baseball's throw from Gilmore, where he was born, and just a few miles from Newcomerstown.
Cy is in fair health and unusually spry considering his advanced years. Perhaps his longevity is a reflection of the clean, wholesome life he has always led. Certainly, he isn't worried about the possibility of any of his pitching records being exceeded or surpassed.
If you're a teenage baseball fan, your granddaddy will tell you that Young was a big, strapping fellow - six feet two and weighing about 210.
And if you marvel at the achievements of Walter Johnson, Bob Grove, Carl Hubbell, Bob Feller and other pitchers of more recent vintage, take a look at a few of the accomplishments of Cy Young, the first hurler ever elected to the Hall of Fame:
Pitched forty-four consecutive runless innings.
Pitched twenty-two seasons for five clubs in the two leagues.
Won 511 games, lost only 313 for a percentage of .620.
Authored three no-hitters, one of them a perfect game against Rube Waddell and the Philadelphia Athletics.
Won more than thirty games in a season five times.
Struck out 2,832 and walked only 1,102.
Pitched twenty-three successive hitless innings.
Averaged .737 or better five seasons, three of them consecutively.
In his best year, 1892, he won thirty-six and lost only ten for the Cleveland National League club.
In 1905 -- his sixteenth season in the majors -- he fanned 207 and walked only twenty-eight.
Appearing in only one World Series (the first, in 1903) he won two games and lost one. In thirty-three World Series innings, he struck out seventeen and issued only four walks.
Young possessed incredible control, striking out two and one-half times as many opposing batsmen as he passed.
Cy says in his day there were no fancy pitches such as the "dipsy-do" or the "blooper." As he explains it with gestures: "I just reared back and flogged 'em through there."
According to Cy, when he was knocked out of the box -- every pitcher has a bad afternoon now and then -- he just went to the clubhouse and got ready to twirl the next day.
Cy, rugged and powerful and with a great right arm, and Bill Dinneen once pitched (and won) all eight games of a series for the Boston Americans.
As far as high salaries are concerned, Young was born fifty years too soon. In spite of all of his remarkable deeds, his highest stipend was $4,000.
He was a devout and ideal husband. He came home from his first big league season with $1,400 in his pocket and married the girl next door. They traveled hand in hand over the baseball circuit until he retired in 1911. They then returned to their old home in the Tuscarawas County hills but Mrs. Young died in 1934.
Cy said he "didn't care to live in that old house after that." He sold it and moved in with the Benedums, high on a hilltop overlooking his wife's grave in the church cemetery.
There are many sidelights to Young's pitching career not generally known. The great pitcher was once sold for a suit of clothes. The Canton club, with which he entered professional baseball, collapsed and the manager, flirting with bankruptcy himself, sold Cy to Cleveland, then known as the Spiders, for a new suit.
Recently, Cy revealed that at the peak of his career he was approached by a would-be briber who offered him $20,000 if he wouldn't "bear down" in a crucial Boston-Pittsburgh series.
At that time, there were no headline-hunting investigating committees nor were there any laws against bribery.
Perhaps, the only reason Cy didn't swear at the bribe offerer is because his strongest expression was (and is) "durn." Anyway, he did declare scornfully:
"If you put any value at all on your money, you'd better bet it on me to win."
The next day, Cy went out and clinched the series for Boston, the difference between the $20,000 lure and his $2,400 yearly salary not even entering his head.
Cy got his biggest laugh when he clouted one of his infrequent homers at Cleveland. Let him tell about it:
"I hit one that rolled under the scoreboard in the right field and the ball got struck there. Charley Hickman wrestled with the durn thing trying to get it loose. All the time I was laughing so hard I could hardly circle the bases. I finally made it -- but I almost laughed myself out of a home run."
Ironically, as great as his pitching career was, Cy has absolutely no difficulty singling out his number one thrill. He'll tell you:
"My biggest thrill was that perfect game I pitched against Rube Waddell and the Philadelphia Athletics. I had the breaks that day."
"I never thought about a perfect game but I did notice about the sixth or seventh inning that no one on the bench would even talk to me. They wouldn't even come and sit by me. I thought something was wrong."
"Finally, after the ball game was all over, Frank Chance, our first baseman, rushed over and shook my hand. He exclaimed: 'Well, Cy, nobody came down to see me today'."
"Only then did it dawn on me. My teammates were afraid of jinxing my perfect game -- that was why they were shunning me on the bench."
Cy's eightieth birthday, March 29, 1947, was observed with a mammoth banquet and ceremony at Newcomerstown. One thousand celebrities, friends, neighbors and well-wishers attended.
There would have been more if it hadn't been for the limited accommodations. As it was, no place in town was large enough to hold the crowd of admirers so they feasted at five different spots and then assembled in the high school auditorium to hear executives and the greats and near-greats of the national pastime pay Cy fitting tributes.
Hundreds sent congratulatory telegrams to him. One came from Connie Mack, who wired: "You made records that never will be equaled by any individual." Mack also sent a check.
When Bill Veeck, then the president of the Cleveland Indians, presented Cy with a new car, he invited the once-famous pitcher to bring the entire population of Newcomerstown to Cleveland for a special day during the summer. June 11 was selected and approximately 4,800 went via train and auto to see the Indians play the Boston Red Sox as Veeck's guests. The occasion was designated as Cy Young Day.
All plants in the community were closed that day, only the weekly newspaper and two banks remained open.
Old-timers in the crowd remembered that one season Cy pitched every other day for a month to boost the Cleveland club (then in the National League) into the Temple Club playoffs, the forerunner of today's World Series.
As great as he was, Cy had one thing in common with the other pitchers of his day. He couldn't fool Ty Cobb.
Young still admits:
"He just couldn't be fooled. He could hit to either side, drag a bunt and run like a deer. And once he got on base, he still worried the pitcher because of his terrific speed."
For thirteen years, Cy and Lou Criger were battery mates. While Young was of even temperament and was never chased by an umpire, Criger was forever wrangling with the men-in-blue.
Even now, Cy says:
"You couldn't help but like Lou and you had to stick up for him but I think he sometimes got us into hot water."
Thirteen years ago, Cy appeared in an old-timers' game at Cleveland. On his special day in 1947 at the Municipal Stadium, he was introduced again and had a hankering to "flog" just one more across the plate but the umpire shouted "Play Ball!" before he could carry out his plan.
After twenty-two years in the majors, Young retired at the age of forty-four. He had played with Cleveland in both the National and American Leagues, St. Louis in the National and Boston in both the National and American.
Under terms of the pension system now in effect, Young would have been eligible to draw $100 monthly only six years after quitting the diamond and by this time he would have drawn approximately $40,000.
In recent summers, his favorite pastime has been to sit on the front porch of John Cooley, old showboat captain who lives nearby, and swap yarns of their gone-but-not-forgotten experiences with his host.
You can't get Cy to talk about it but his friends will tell you that the failure of a Dover, Ohio bank in the early 1930's was unkind to him. According to these friends, Young had most of his hard-earned baseball savings deposited in the institution.
Cy says his arm was in good shape even when he decided to quit. He explains that his decision to retire was reached because "I had such a paunch on me I couldn't bend over or field bunts. I made up my mind it was time to quit when a third baseman has to do your fielding for you!"
It was a prank of fate that Cy, after compiling such an outstanding pitching record, should lose his last game. Hurling for the Boston Nationals, he dropped a 1-0 decision to a Philadelphia Phillies' recruit. The rookie's name? Grover Cleveland Alexander. --From Baseball Digest, April 1950.