Posts Tagged ‘Cy Young’

1908: Cy Young

June 26, 2018

Cy Young with Boston

Continuing on with a look back 110 years ago to 1908, we come to a milestone for a great pitcher. On the 30th of June 1908 Cy Young, the fella they named the award for, pitched his third no-hitter. He was 41.

By 1908 Young was on the downside of his amazing career. He’d averaged 30 wins between 1892 and 1896, did so again between 1901 and 1903. He’d won an ERA title, a couple of strikeout titles, several times he’d led the league in shutouts. He’d even won two saves titles (OK, it was only three saves, but it still led the league). He started the first ever World Series game (and lost), won the first ever World Series in 1903 with Boston, and, in 1908 was still with Boston. It was his last 20 win season (21-11) and his ERA dipped below two for the final time (1.26–and it didn’t lead the AL). His ERA+ was 193, the second highest total of his career (219 in 1901), and his 9.6 WAR was the seventh highest total for his career (he peaked at 14.0 in 1892). The season’s highlight came 30 June.

The Red Sox were playing on the road in New York against the Highlanders (now the Yankees). Wee Willie Keeler, who was, like Young, toward the end of his career, was the only Hall of Famer in the Highlanders lineup. The opposing pitcher was Rube Manning, a 25 year-old righty in his second (of four) seasons. He was 7-5 going into the game.

Harry Niles

Young was almost flawless in this third no-hitter. The leadoff hitter for the Highlanders was second baseman Harry Niles, who was later in the season traded to Boston (as Mel Allen might say, “How about that?”). He was 27 and in his third (of five) seasons in the big leagues. He managed a walk from Young to lead off the game. Then he broke for second and was thrown out by Boston’s catcher Lou Criger. And that was all the base runners New York had for the entire game. Young struck out two on the way to facing the minimum of 27 batters. Meanwhile Boston ran up eight runs and Manning didn’t get out of the second inning. The big hitting star for the Red Sox was… you guessed it, Cy Young. He went three for five, scored a run and knocked in three. You could make an argument that combining pitching and hitting it was the best single day any player ever had in the Major Leagues.

Young, of course, would go on to win more games than any other pitcher, set a record for strikeouts (since broken many times), and rack up more innings pitched than anyone else. There’s a reason they named the pitching award for him. And for a great bit of trivia. On the same day (30 June) in 1962, Sandy Koufax pitched his first of four no-hitters.


Opening Day 1908

April 12, 2018

Jack Coombs

Continuing with the ongoing look at 1908, 14 April was opening day. That’s a Saturday this year, and I don’t post normally on a Saturday. So here’s an early look at the first day of the 1908 season.

There were seven total games opening the 1908 season, three in the National League, four in the American League. The defending champion Cubs opened on the road against Cincinnati. Chicago won 6-5. There are a couple of interesting points about the game. First Orval Overall started the opener, not Mordecai Brown (Brown relieved). Second, the Reds got all five runs in the first inning (only one was earned) then were shutout for the remainder of the game. Third, Hans Lobert, a pretty fair third baseman, started the game in left field. For the season he played 21 games in left and 99 at third. Finally, the hitting star was Johnny Evers. He went three for three with a double, three runs scored, an RBI, and a walk.

The Giants beat the Phillies 3-1 with Christy Mathewson throwing a four hit gem. He struck out seven, walked one, and saw a shutout lost in the ninth inning. In the other NL game, the Doves (Boston) knocked off the Superbas (Brooklyn) 9-3. Brooklyn first baseman Tim Jordan hit the NL’s first home run in the losing effort.

In the American League, Cy Young picked up a win leading the Red Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Senators. The one Washington run was a home run by Jim Delahanty. The Browns (St. Louis) knocked off the Naps (Cleveland) 2-1 with Hall of Famer Addie Joss taking the loss. Fellow Hall of Famer Nap LaJoie, for whom the team was named, went one for four with a double. The New York Highlanders (now Yankees) beat Connie Mack’s Athletics 1-0 in 12 innings. All 12 innings took two hours and 25 minutes to play. In another oddity, later star pitcher Jack Coombs started the game in right field for Philadelphia. He went two for five. The two hits led the team. For the season he played 47 games in the outfield and pitched 26.

The defending AL champion Detroit Tigers were in a slugfest with the Chicago White Sox. The final was 15-8 for the ChiSox with Doc White picking up the win. Every Chicago starter, including White, scored at least one run. For Detroit, both Hall of Famers Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb did well. Crawford was two for five with a double and two runs scored, while Cobb went two runs scored, a double, and a home run.

That was opening day 1908.



Replacing Cy

January 28, 2016
Cy Young

Cy Young

I have a question for you. Just exactly how do you, as a Major League Baseball owner, replace a superstar? I ask because all the way back in 1901 the American League was formed and it took a lot of players away from the National League. One of those was Cy Young. You know Cy Young right? He’s the guy they named the pitching award after. So just how do you replace a guy like that? This is the story of one team’s attempt to do so.

In 1900 the St. Louis Cardinals were, to be candid about it, not very good. They finished 65-75, good for fifth in the NL. They did have Cy Young, however (and John McGraw). He was 33, went 19-19, had an ERA of exactly three, gave up more hits than he had innings pitched, walked all of 36 while striking out 115, put up 1.161 WHIP, had an ERA+ of  121, and had 7.3 WAR (tops on the team). Jim Hughey, Willie Sudhoff, Jack Powell, and Albert “Cowboy” Jones (the only lefty) made up the rest of the staff (those who pitched at least double figure games). Gus Weyhing, Tom Thomas, and Jack Harper were the other pitchers and got into a total of 13 games. All were right-handed.

This is the same staff in 1901: Powell, Harper, Sudhoff, Jones (again the only lefty), and new guy Ed Murphy (guys who pitched in double figure games). The rest of the staff was all new guys and topped out at five games (and 41 innings) pitched. So technically, I guess, Murphy is the guy who replaced Young (now with the Boston team in the AL). Murphy went 10-9 with an ERA of 4.20 (ERA+ 76), 36 more hits than innings pitched, 32 walks to 42 strikeouts, a 1.412 WHIP, and -1.3 WAR. Quite a comedown, right?

So how about the other new guys, the ones with less than 10 games pitched? They were a combined 5-6 in 96 innings. So there wasn’t much there either. Cy Young was, to be fairly blunt about it, tough to replace.

Interestingly enough, the Cards actually got better. They went 76-64 and finished fourth, a jump of 11 wins and one place in the standings. So maybe replacing Young actually worked, at least a little. The team ERA dropped (3.75 to 3.68), they gave up 40 fewer hits, struck out 120 more (Powell led the team with 133 and Harper had 128, both more than Young the year before), but walked 33 more men. Powell equalled Young’s 19-19 record (what do you supposed the chances of that are?) while Harper went 23-13. Both had good years and provided pitching that did manage to replace Young.

It was something of a fluke. The next time St. Louis was above .500 was in 1911. Neither Harper nor Powell sustained long periods of excellence while Young went on to the Hall of Fame. Replacing Cy Young worked for one year, then the team receded. In 1903 the Cards finished dead last while Young was instrumental in Boston winning the first ever World Series.

WAR, One Pitcher, and Winning it All

September 24, 2015
Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

They tell me that the guys with the best WAR are the best players. They also tell me that a great pitcher will win for you. OK, I’ll give them both of those (sorta). But one thing I’ve noticed is that they’re certainly no predictor of a championship. It’s the nature of the game that this would be true. You simply can’t let your ace pitcher (the one with the best WAR) pitch every inning and you can’t let your best hitter (again the one with the best WAR) come up for every at bat. It’s particularly true that you can’t take the guys with the best ever pitching WAR and find a lot of World Series championships.

I’ve been particularly critical of pitching WAR (but not as much critical of offensive WAR) ever since I saw the numbers and read the ever-changing formulae. But let’s accept that it’s a good measure of pitching excellence. It still isn’t much of a predictor of how a team will do. I Went down the BBREF list of yearly WAR (which uses BBREF’s version of WAR) looking only for pitchers. I excluded all pitchers who showed up before the advent of the 20th Century. In other words I ignored the pre-American League championship games  (1884-1891). I did this because there is great disagreement about how seriously they were taken by the teams and players and how much they were treated as mere exhibitions. I also ignored the Temple Cup Series. Then I looked to find the top 10 WAR seasons for a pitcher in the American League era (1901-present). Of course I ran into Walter Johnson who had three of the top five and four of the top 12. So I changed the way I went at it. I began looking for a new name until I found 10 different pitchers. That took me all the way to 52nd on the list. Of course many of the 52 (and ties) were pre-1901 pitchers (including the first seven) and some were hitters (Ruth four times, Barry Bonds twice, and Gehrig, Yastrzemski and Hornsby once each). Here’s the list I ended up with: Walter Johnson in 1913 (16.0 WAR), Johnson in 1912 (14.6), Dwight Gooden in 1985 (13.2), Johnson in 1914 (13.0), Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1920 (12.8), Cy Young in 1901 (12.6), Steve Carlton in 1972 (12.5), Roger Clemens in 1997 (12.2), Johnson in 1915 (12.1), Fergie Jenkins in 1971 (12.0), Hal Newhouser in 1945 (12.0), Bob Gibson in 1968 (11.9), Alexander in 1916, Pedro Martinez in 2000, and Smokey Joe Wood in 1912 (all at 11.7). So the individual pitchers are Johnson, Gooden, Alexander, Young, Carlton, Clemens, Jenkins, Newhouser, Gibson, Martinez, and Wood (a total of 11).

Let’s notice a couple of things about this list. First, Walter Johnson’s 1912-1915 is, by WAR, the greatest pitching performance by a single pitcher over a  period of years in the last 115 years (and people still debate how good he was). Second, there are a couple of one shot wonders in the list, specifically Gooden and Wood. The remainder are quality pitchers having their peak year.

But for my purpose, the most interesting thing is that only two of the pitchers were with teams that won the World Series: Newhouser and Wood. Gibson got to the Series but the Cardinals lost in seven games (Gibson himself taking the loss in game seven). In 1901 there was no Series, but Young’s Boston team finished second.

This isn’t a knock on pitching WAR, but merely an acknowledgement that it can’t predict pennants. And one great pitcher isn’t a predictor either. It does help if the number two pitcher on your team has a pretty good year also.

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1917

July 1, 2015

Time again for my once monthly foray into the past in an attempt to determine how a Hall of Fame created in 1901 would differ from one done in the 1930s. With this year, I’m half through this project.

Cy Young

Cy Young

With more than 500 total wins, Denton “Cy” Young has more pitching wins than any player in Major League history. He also leads in total strikeouts. Winning pennants with both Cleveland and Boston, he pitched the first ever World Series game, helping Boston to the first championship. Between 1891 and 1896 inclusive he averaged more than 30 wins per season.

Now this month’s commentary:

1. Just the one? Yep. Young so dominates the pitching stats for the era that he is certain to have made a 1917 Hall of Fame on the first ballot and no other pitcher eligible is in the same category with him. There is no outstanding everyday player available to compare with him (Elmer Flick is probably the best available) so I decided to elect him singly.

2. But is he that popular? Well, in some ways yes, but not as popular as any of us would guess. By 1917 he’s beginning to recede from memory a bit, being overtaken by a couple of contemporary stars. He’s a lot like Grover Cleveland Alexander in the era. He’s well-known, respected as a pitcher, but somewhat in the shadow of two other greats. Christy Mathewson, who retired in 1916, is much more famous and frequently seen as a much greater pitcher. So is Walter Johnson, who is in the middle of his great career. And BTW his win total is in dispute, so I left it at “more than 500.”

3. So he’s fading, is he? Yeah, sorta. What I’m noticing is something akin to what I’ve heard all my life. There are two versions of this. One says the old guys were better than the current crop and the other says the old-time guys were great and all but not really up to the quality of the current generation of players. Young, interestingly enough, seems to have adherents in the first and detractors in the second. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the current argument about which generation of players was better goes back at least to 1900 or so (and probably farther).

4. Still no love for George Davis? Actually, I like him a lot, but he’s seemingly dropped totally off the grid in 1917. I checked and found he was coaching Amherst College and doing some scouting in 1917, but no one seems to know that (I admit to being unable to find an Amherst paper or contemporary alumni site). So asking if a contemporary voting group would elect him, my guess is many of them would say “who?” rather than vote for him. I admit I may be wrong on this, but am erring on the side of caution (Can I cliché with the best of them, or what?).

5. The 1918 year begins a run of several seasons when there isn’t much in the way of hall of fame quality players arriving on the ballot (there are a few, but not many), so the next three or so elections would allow for ballot backlog to be reduced somewhat. In 1919 you have Johnny Kling (who got an amazing amount of support in the real Hall of Fame’s early voting) and Cy Seymour available. Doc White shows up as a pitcher, and National League president John K. Tener shows up as a contributor. Fairly slim pickings, right?

6. With this project half done, I want to take an entire post and relay to you some of the things I’ve learned. That should come shortly.

The 50 Greatest Red Sox

April 20, 2012

The Birthday Boy

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, ESPN Boston just released its list of the 50 Greatest Red Sox. It’s an interesting list and frankly not a bad one, although I would disagree with some of the selections. Here’s a list of their top 10 in order: Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Tris Speaker, Pedro Martinez, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Jimmie Foxx, Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, and Bobby Doerr. Before you ask, Jim Rice is 11th.

Again, not a bad list but I wonder how much Clemens rancorous departure and the subsequent steroid controversy contributed to his rank below both Martinez and Young. I’m a little surprised Grove is a top 10 over Wade Boggs or Rice, but why not. You got to admit, that’s one heck of an outfield, isn’t it?

In case you’re interested it takes all the way to 30th to get a full team. According to this listing, the best Red Sox team is:

Infield: Foxx, Doerr, Joe Cronin (18th), and Wade Boggs (13th)

Outfield: Williams, Yastrzemski, Speaker

Catcher: Carlton Fisk (14th)

DH: Rice (11th and the first position player who would not have a regular spot in the field, hence he’s the DH)

Left Handed Starters: Ruth and Grove

Right Handed Starters: Martinez, Young, and Clemens

Closer: Dick Radatz (30th)

Agree? Disagree? Fine, but compliment or complain to ESPN: Boston, it’s their list.

A Dozen Things You Should Know About Kid Nichols

October 19, 2011

Kid Nichols

1. He was born Charles Augustus Nichols in Madison, Wisconsin in 1869.

2. After a few years in the minors, he hit the Major Leagues with Boston in 1890 at age 21. His youth earned him his nickname, his 27 wins earned him a permanent spot on the team.

3. In 1893, baseball went to the modern pitching distance and added the mound. He went from 35 wins to 34, his ERA jumped a  full run, his strikeouts went down, and he led the National League in WHIP for the first time. Obviously he, adjusted reasonably well (as did Cy Young).

4. Between 1891 and 1898 inclusive he averaged 31 wins a season, falling below 30 only once with 26 in 1895.

5. He remained with Boston through 1901. During his 12 years with the Beaneaters the team won five pennants, came in second once, and third another time.

6. In the 1892 split season, Boston won the first half with a .702 winning percentage, then beat Cleveland (and Cy Young) in the postseason playoff five games to none, Nichols getting two wins). In what passed for postseason play in the 1890s (split season and Temple Cup), Nichols was involved in the split season and the 1897 Temple Cup. He won one game in 1897.

7. The advent of the American League decimated the Boston team. Nichols stayed around for 1901, then spent 1902 and 1903 in the minors, pitching well and coaching a little.

8. In 1904 the Cardinals brought him back to the Majors. He went 21-13 with an ERA of 2.02 (ERA+ of 134).

9. He began 1905 with St. Louis, was traded to Philadelphia during the season, and finished his career with the Phillies in 1906.

10. His career record is in some dispute. His win total varies from 369 to 360 depending on the source. Baseball Reference settled on 361, but the Hall of Fame chose 360,  either of which is seventh ever.

11. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949 by the Veteran’s Committee. He never got more than 2.6 % of the vote by the writers (which should be proof that the writers aren’t as knowledgable about baseball as they claim).

12. He died in Kansas City, Missouri on 11 April 1953 and is buried there.

My Top List of Terrible Owners

September 19, 2011

Where these guys belong

Baseball is full of terrible players and coaches. I guess it’s not fair to call any player who makes it to the Major Leagues “terrible”, but there’s definitely a lot of players that are at best marginal. And coaches and managers can be real duds. But somehow owners tend to get overlooked by casual fans. Most people don’t seem to pay much attention to the impact of ownership. Well, baseball has had some really awful owners too. Here’s my Mount Rushmore (4 guys) of terrible owners in no particular order.

Charles Comiskey: The only owner who ever had his team mutiny to such an extent it was willing to dump a World Series. Ultimately the players themselves must take blame for their own actions, but Comiskey did more than his share to help them along with their choices. Comiskey was cheap, but so was Connie Mack. What Comiskey lacked was a shred of respect for his players, and that makes him lower on the ownership scale and thus higher on the Rushmore scale. And I’m not sure I understand it exactly. Charles Comiskey was a former player, actually a pretty good one. He was first baseman and manager of the St. Louis Browns team that won pennant after pennant in the 1880s. Having been a player, having seen the tussles with ownership and the league offices, I find it strange he seems to have had no sympathy at all for the plight of his players. Maybe it was an “I went through it, so can you” attitude. Maybe he was just a jerk. Whatever it was he gets a spot on my Mount Rushmore. And for what it’s worth, although Clifton James doesn’t look at all like Comiskey, his portrayal of the White Sox owner in “Eight Men Out” is pretty close (except that the flat champagne episode occurred in 1917, not 1919).

The Robison Brothers: Because there were two of them, the Robison brothers occupy two spaces on Mount Rushmore. Frank was the older brother. He married the daughter of the man who ran the Cleveland, Ohio streetcar company, Charles Hathaway. Today that doesn’t sound like a way to make a great deal of money, but in an era without subways, cars, or buses, the streetcar was the quickest, easiest way for someone to get across town to see the doctor or go to work or whatever. So the Robison’s made a lot of money, a whole lot of money. Very early on Frank brought in younger brother Stanley to help run the business. Between them they got very rich. Frank Robison was also a baseball fan (as was Stanley to a lesser degree). He decided that Cleveland should have a big league team and in 1887 he started up the Cleveland Blues, later renamed the Spiders. They joined the National League the same year. Mostly they weren’t very good. In 1892 that changed. Among other things, they picked up (the year before) a youngster named Cy Young who seemed to have some potential. It was the year of the first split season. Cleveland won the second half, then lost the playoff to Boston. In 1895 and 1896 they played for the Temple Cup, winning in ’95. It was the apex of the team and so far so good for the brothers as owners. But the Robison’s had a plan to make more money. In 1898 the National League forced St. Louis owner Chris Von Der Ahe to sell the Browns. The Robison’s bought the team. In 1898 it was legal to own two teams. It was called “syndicate baseball” and there were three of them, including the Robison’s. With St. louis being a much larger market (4th largest US city at the time),  the Robison’s immediately began stripping the Cleveland team of its best players and sent them, Cy Young included, to St. Louis. The Browns didn’t do any better and the Spiders were awful. At the end of the year, the NL shut down the team. Frank died in 1908, leaving Stanley in charge. In 1905 Stanley had tried his hand at managing the team. He went 19-31 (which was better than Ted Turner’s foray into managing). Now in charge, Stanley proceeded to watch his team continue to flounder. He died in 1911, leaving the team to Frank’s daughter.

The Robison’s make my Mount Rushmore because of their callous disregard for the fans and the city that made them, Cleveland. They had gotten rich off Cleveland and then they caused the town to lose its team and its finest players. Did it bother them? Apparently not. And they didn’t make St. Louis any better in the long run. The team went from last to fifth (but they had two rosters, theirs and Cleveland’s to use), but then stagnated topping out at fourth in 1901. About the only positive thing the Robison’s did was to change the uniform color from brown to cardinal red, thus giving the team its current nickname, Cardinals.

Emil Fuchs: Fuchs was the Giants attorney. In 1922 he joined with Christy Mathewson in buying the Boston Braves. Mathewson’s ill-health put Fuchs in charge. He proceeded to run the team into the ground. He knew nothing about baseball other than what he’d picked up as attorney for the Giants, couldn’t evaluate talent, couldn’t be bothered with the small details of keeping up a stadium. In 1928 he bought Rogers Hornsby as manager, found a way to make money, and sold Hornsby the next season to the Cubs. With no manager, he tried his hand at running the team on the field himself. They finished dead last. In 1935, out of money, unable to pay rent on the stadium, he bought Babe Ruth from the Yankees. He promised Ruth a vice presidency, a managerial job, and a share of the profits. Well, there were no profits, the vice presidency was nominal, and Fuchs admitted he wasn’t going to fire his current manager, Bill McKechnie  (who ended up a Hall of Fame manager). Ruth, not unreasonably, quit. At the end of the 1935 season, broke, short of players, out of options, Fuchs sold the team back to one of the men he’d bought it from in 1922.

So there they are, my four Mount Rushmore lousy owners. There are a lot of other people available; Arthur Soden who destroyed the great Beaneaters dynasty of the 1890s, Arthur Freedman who almost managed to destroy the Giants before John McGraw got there, Harry Frazee who sold away a rejuvenated Red Sox, Earle Mack who almost destroyed his dad’s Athletics, Frank McCourt who is currently destroying the Dodgers, the guys who’ve run the Royals and Pirates into the ground. And a host of others too. But for my money, these four are the guys I’d least like to see run my team.

The Deacon

September 16, 2011

Deacon White with the Wolverines

To be an 19th Century ballplayer is to live in obscurity. Even Hall of Famers are obscure. Ask someone to name a 19th Century ballplayer. Most people, even fans, can’t. They might, if they’re very clever, remember that Cy Young and Honus Wagner played a little in the 19th Century and a civil rights person might know the name (but not the stats) of Moses Fleetwood Walker, but most people are going to zero out. That’s a great shame because the modern players stand squarely (and sometimes a little wobbly) on their shoulders. Give me a minute here to rescue one from deepest obscurity to simply obscurity, Deacon White.

James White was born in Caton, New York on 2 December 1847. His family was farmers and he wanted to be one also. But it turned out that both he and his younger brother Will were terrific baseball players. By 1868 Jim White was with the Forest City of Cleveland (from here on the Cleveland Forest Citys). He was a catcher, a heck of a hitter, and something of an anomaly. He didn’t play cards, and worse, he went to church. The “Deacon” nickname was obvious and it stuck with him for the rest of his career.

In 1871 Cleveland joined the fledgling National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, the first professional league and in some ways (professionals playing at the highest level possible) the first Major League. Two games were scheduled for opening day. One was rained out; Cleveland played in the other. White led off the game with a double, was later doubled off second. If you want to consider the National Association a Major League, then White has the honor of registering the first at bat, the first hit, the first extra base hit, and be involved in the first double play. For what it’s worth, Cleveland lost 2-0. Cleveland finished 10-19 for the season, but White hit .322, had a home run, and led the team with 40 runs scored.  He did well again in 1872. That got him out of Cleveland and brought him a job with Boston, the premier Association team and 1872 champion. In 1873-1874, Boston won consecutive championships with White as the primary catcher.

In 1876, he joined the National League where he played through 1889. He won pennants with Chicago in 1876 and Boston in 1877.  Already a prime catcher, in 1882 he moved to third base becoming arguably the finest third baseman in the NL. After several years in Buffalo and Cincinnati, he ended up in Detroit in 1886. In 1887 the Wolverines won the NL pennant, then won the 19th Century version of the World Series against the American Association’s St. Louis Browns. 

During the latter part of his career, White was a staunch supporter of John Montgomery Ward’s Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, the first sports union of any consequence. Although almost through with his career, he joined the 1891 player’s revolt and finished his career with the Player’s Association team in Buffalo. It made him well liked by other players despite his insistence on attending church on Sundays.

After retirement he managed a series of Minor League teams in the Southwest, then settled in Buffalo where he worked for an optical company, then ran a stable on Auburn Avenue which later became a garage. When he died in 1939 he was 91 and the oldest living ballplayer. He is buried in Illinois.

Let’s start the look at his career stats with an obvious caveat. He played a few years prior to the establishment of the National Association, so the numbers we have a slightly incomplete. He is already 23 when the Association is formed and something like reliable statistics are available. For his career White hits .312, slugs .393, with an OBP of .346 for an OPS of .740 (OPS+ of 127). He plays 1540 games, a lot for the era, has 2067 hits, 1140 runs, 988 RBIs, 2605 total bases, 24 home runs, 308 walks, and 221 strikeouts. He also is a major component on five pennant winners. For the pre-1893 era, those are good numbers. He leads both the Association and the NL in batting once (1875 and 1877), leads the NL in OPS, hits, triples, total bases and RBIs in 1877. He’s also a pretty good catcher for the era, but only a so-so third baseman.

If I had to pick one player and call him the most overlooked great player of the 19th Century, it would be White. He’s a heck of a hitter. At a position where the game is totally different today than in the 19th Century (catcher), he excels. It’s a weak enough position (along with second base) to make the argument that there are no truly great catchers in the 19th Century (Buck Ewing’s presence in the Hall of Fame not withstanding), but I think that misses the point that it was a very different job to be a catcher in 1880 than it was in 1980. There are no gloves to speak of, no catching equipment we’d recognize, and pitchers were much closer to home than today. To excel there in those conditions is worth comment (frankly, to be brave enough to play the postion in those circumstances is worth noting). Is White a Hall of Famer? In my opinion yes, although I won’t be surprised if he never gets invited inside.

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Cy Young

September 8, 2011

Cy Young in 1901 (the first year of the American League)

1. His name was Denton True Young and he was born in 1867.

2. He was a farm boy who played minor league ball. One version says the “Cy” nickname was short for “cyclone” , a reference to the speed of his pitches. Another says it was short for “Cyrus”, a name associated with farmers. I have no idea which is correct.

3. He began his Major League career on 6 August 1890 with a three hit shutout for the Cleveland Spiders.

4. This was before the advent of the mound. He was 36-29 in pre-mound days.

5. The mound (and the extra five feet involved) didn’t hurt him. In 1892 he led the National League in wins, winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, and WHIP.

6. Between 1892 and 1896 inclusive he averaged 33 wins and led the league in strikeouts once (1896).

7. In 1901 he jumped to the fledgling American League team in Boston. He led the new league in Wins, ERA, shutouts, strikeouts, ERA+, and WHIP.

8. In 1903 his team played in the first World Series, winning the best of nine in eight games. He pitched game one for the home team Boston Americans, thus becoming the first pitcher to throw a pitch in the World Series, give up a  hit, a run, an RBI, and take a loss in the Series. He later won two games in the Series.

9. In 1904 Boston repeated as AL champ, but there was no World Series. Young was part of the greatest ironman staff of the 20th Century. Over 154 completed games (there were three ties) only five men threw a pitch for Boston. Young was the ace. He led the team in wins, losses, ERA, games, complete games, shutouts, hits, runs, ERA+, WHIP, and  picked up the only save. Only his shutouts and WHIP number led the league.

10. He threw no hitters in both 1904 and 1908.

11.  When he retired he held several pitching records. He still holds the record for wins (511), losses (315), starts, innings pitched, and complete games.

12. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937 and died in 1955.

13. In 1956 Major League Baseball created a new award to honor the best pitcher in the big leagues. They named it after Young. Don Newcombe won the first one. In 1967, they divided the award by creating one for both the National League and the American League.