1910: 500

Cy Young

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of those absolutely unique moments that baseball comes up with occasionally. On 19 July 1910, Cy Young took the mound for the Cleveland Naps of the American League. When the day ended he had notched his 500th win, the only Major League pitcher to have 500 or more wins.

The game on 19 July 1910 is interesting. Cleveland was on the road against Washington for a Tuesday double-header. They lost the first game 7-0, then Young took the mound for the second game against Senators hurler Doc Reisling (Wouldn’t it have been great if it were Walter Johnson?). Washington scored a run in the first, then in the ninth Cleveland scored two to take the lead. The Senators responded with another run to tie the score at the end of nine. Young held Washington scoreless through the tenth, then Cleveland picked up three runs in the eleventh. In the bottom of the eleventh, Young shut down the Senators and had his 500th win. He would, before he retired in 1911, add eleven more.

Young holds a number of records and is part of a couple of fun little trivia bits. He’s most famous for the 511 wins, but he also leads the Major Leagues in losses, starts, complete games, and innings pitched. When he retired he was first in shutouts (he’s now fourth) and strikeouts (currently 19th). He threw the first pitch in World Series history and lost game one of the Series (he went on to win two other games in the Series). On 27 April 1893, he became the first Cleveland pitcher to throw from a mound when the pitching distance moved to 60’6″. He won the game, but his team was in Pittsburgh so he doesn’t get to be the first pitcher to throw from a mound. Between 1892 and 1896, inclusive, he averaged 32 wins per season. Between 1892 and 1904 he failed to win 20 games once (19 in 1900). For his 22 year career, he had four seasons (1905-06, and 1910-11, the latter two his final seasons) when he had a losing record (40-59 combined for the seasons). His career winning percentage was .618. And, of course, he has both a perfect game and a no-hitter.

All this should remind you why the pitching award is named after Young. He is a truly great pitcher who seldom comes up when debates start over the greatest of all pitchers. Part of that has to be that he pitched a great deal of his career in the 19th Century. Another part is because of the current tendency to downgrade the “wins” statistic. He also pitches the first two seasons of his career at 50 feet without a mound. Take off the wins those two seasons and Young still has the most career wins. I’ve been a critic of the WAR stat when it comes to pitchers, but that stat lists Young as the top pitcher. I disagree, but he’s certainly someone who is in the mix. Bill James rates Young fourth in his Historical Baseball Abstract (Johnson, Grove, Alexander).

Cleveland would fall short in 1910, and Young would have a poor season. He would get one more, equally poor. Then he would retire. In 1937 he would make the Hall of Fame. His plaque shows him with a Naps cap, the team for which he won his 500th game, 100 years ago today.

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3 Responses to “1910: 500”

  1. Kevin G Says:

    I think if they didn’t name the pitching award after him, that many present day fans wouldn’t know Cy Young, or appreciate how great of a pitcher he really was. He was one of the few pitchers to transition to the 60’6″ distance without skipping a beat. He’s a top 10 pitcher easily.
    Your photo doesn’t do Cy justice either. It’s the one photo that we always see of Cy, and since it’s taken later in his career, he just looks like a pudgy old guy, not the dominating pitcher that he really was.
    Nice post V.


  2. verdun2 Says:

    Actually, I chose this pix for a reason. It represents him about the time of his 500th win, which I’m commemorating. At Google images there’s a good shot of him in 1903 that I considered, but opted for this one instead.

  3. William Miller Says:

    Certainly, if there is one baseball record that will never be broken, it is Young’s 511 career wins. I doubt anyone will even reach 400 wins ever again. In the updated Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, James drops Young down a notch, to 4th place. Grover Cleveland Alexander moves up to #3. No matter. As you said, Young is immortalized every year when baseball gives out its Cy Young Award.
    Thanks for reminding us of his greatness. Bill

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