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 fastball." 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.
Owners in the National League, the major professional baseball league at the time, were frugal and did not pay their players a large salary.
This opened the door for many players to be lured in by the up-and-coming American League.
In 1890, Young signed with the Cleveland Spiders, a team that had moved from the American Association to the National League the previous year.
On August 6, 1890, Young's major league debut, he pitched a three-hit 8 - 1 victory over the Chicago Colts. While Young was on the Spiders, Chief Zimmer was his catcher more often than any other player.
Bill James, a baseball statistician, estimated that Zimmer caught Young in more games than any other battery in baseball history.
Early on, Young established himself as one of the harder-throwing pitchers in the game.
Bill James wrote that Zimmer often put a piece of beefsteak inside his baseball glove to protect his catching hand from Young's fastball. In the absence of radar guns, however, it is impossible to say just how hard Young actually threw.
Young continued to perform at a high level during the 1890 season. On the last day of the season, Young won both games of a doubleheader. In the first weeks of Young's career, Cap Anson, the player-manager of the Chicago Colts, spotted Young's ability.
Anson told Spiders' manager Gus Schmelz, "He's too green to do your club much good, but I believe if I taught him what I know, I might make a pitcher out of him in a couple of years. He's not worth it now, but I'm willing to give you $1,000 ($27,237 today) for him." Schmelz replied, "Cap, you can keep your thousand, and we'll keep the rube."
Two years after Young's debut, the National League moved the pitcher's position back by 5 feet. Since 1881, pitchers had pitched within a "box" whose front line was 50 feet from home base, and since 1887, they had been compelled to toe the back line of the box when delivering the ball.
The back line was 55 feet 6 inches away from home. In 1893, 5 feet was added to the back line, yielding the modern pitching distance of 60 feet 6 inches.
In the book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, sports journalist Rob Neyer wrote that the speed with which pitchers like Cy Young, Amos Rusie, and Jouett Meekin threw was the impetus that caused the move.
The 1892 regular season was a success for Young, who led the National League in wins (36), ERA (1.93), and shutouts (9).
Just as many contemporary Minor League Baseball leagues operate today, the National League was using a split-season format during the 1892 season.
The Boston Beaneaters won the first-half title, and the Spiders won the second-half title, with a best-of-nine series determining the league champion.
Despite the Spiders' second-half run, the Beaneaters swept the series, five games to none. Young pitched three complete games in the series but lost two decisions.
He also threw a complete game shutout, but the game ended in a 0–0 tie.
The Spiders faced the Baltimore Orioles in the Temple Cup, a precursor to the World Series, in 1895. Young won three games in the series, and Cleveland won the Cup, four games to one.
It was around this time that Young added what he called a "slow ball" to his pitching repertoire to reduce stress on his arm. The pitch today is called a changeup.
In 1896, Young lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning when Ed Delahanty of the Philadelphia Phillies hit a single. On September 18, 1897, Young pitched the first no-hitter of his career in a game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Although Young did not walk a batter, the Spiders committed four errors while on defense.
One of the errors had originally been ruled a hit, but the Cleveland third baseman sent a note to the press box after the eighth inning, saying he had made an error, and the ruling was changed.
Young later said that, despite his teammate's gesture, he considered the game to be a one-hitter.
Prior to the 1899 season, Frank Robison, the Spiders owner, bought the St. Louis Browns, thus owning two clubs simultaneously.
The Browns were renamed the "Perfectos" and restocked with Cleveland talent. Just weeks before the season opener, most of the better Spiders players were transferred to St. Louis, including fellow pitcher Pete McBride and three future Hall of Famers: Young, Jesse Burkett, and Bobby Wallace.
The roster maneuvers failed to create a powerhouse Perfectos team, as St. Louis finished fifth in both 1899 and 1900. Meanwhile, the depleted Spiders lost 134 games, the most in MLB history, before folding.
Young spent two years with St. Louis, which is where he found his favorite catcher, Lou Criger. The two men were teammates for a decade.
In 1901, the rival American League declared major league status and set about raiding National League rosters. Young left St. Louis and joined the American League's Boston Americans for a $3,500 contract ($102,956 today).
Young would remain with the Boston team until 1909. In his first year in the American League, Young was dominant.
Pitching to Criger, who had also jumped to Boston, Young led the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA, thus earning the colloquial AL Triple Crown for pitchers.
Young won almost 42% of his team's games in 1901, accounting for 33 of his team's 79 wins. In February 1902, before the start of the baseball season, Young served as a pitching coach at Harvard University.
The sixth-grade graduate instructing Harvard students delighted Boston newspapers. The following year, Young coached at Mercer University during the spring.
The team went on to win the Georgia state championship in 1903, 1904, and 1905.
The Boston Americans played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first modern World Series in 1903. Young, who started Game One against the visiting Pirates, thus threw the first pitch in modern World Series history.
The Pirates scored four runs in that first inning, and Young lost the game. Young performed better in subsequent games, winning his next two starts. He also drove in three runs in Game Five.
Young finished the series with a 2–1 record and a 1.85 ERA in four appearances, and Boston defeated Pittsburgh, five games to three games.
After one-hitting Boston on May 2, 1904, Philadelphia Athletics pitcher
Rube Waddell taunted Young to face him so that he could repeat his performance against Boston's ace. Three days later, Young pitched a perfect game against Waddell and the Athletics. It was the first perfect game in American League history.
Waddell was the 27th and last batter, and when he flew out, Young shouted, "How do you like that, you hayseed?" Waddell had picked an inauspicious time to issue his challenge. Young's perfect game was the centerpiece of a pitching streak.
Young set major league records for the most consecutive scoreless innings pitched and the most consecutive innings without allowing a hit; the latter record still stands at 25.1 innings or 76 hitless batters.
Even after allowing a hit, Young's scoreless streak reached a then-record 45 shutout innings. Before Young, only two pitchers had thrown perfect games.
This occurred in 1880, when Lee Richmond and John Montgomery Ward pitched perfect games within five days of each other, although under somewhat different rules: the front edge of the pitcher's box was only 45 feet from home base; walks required eight balls; and pitchers were obliged to throw side-armed.
Young's perfect game was the first under the modern rules established in 1893.
One year later, on July 4, 1905, Rube Waddell beat Young and the Americans, 4–2, in a 20-inning matchup. Young pitched 13 consecutive scoreless innings before he gave up a pair of unearned runs in the final inning.
Young did not walk a batter and was later quoted: "For my part, I think it was the greatest game of ball I ever took part in." In 1907, Young and Waddell faced off in a scoreless 13-inning tie.
In 1908, Young pitched the third no-hitter of his career. Three months past his 41st birthday, Cy Young was the oldest pitcher to record a no-hitter, a record which would stand 82 years until 43-year-old Nolan Ryan surpassed the feat.
Only a walk kept Young from his second perfect game. After that runner was caught stealing, no other batter reached base. At this time, Young was the second-oldest player in either league. In another game one month before his no-hitter, he allowed just one single while facing 28 batters. On August 13, 1908, the league celebrated "Cy Young Day."
No American League games were played on that day, and a group of All-Stars from the league's other teams gathered in Boston to play against Young and the Red Sox.
When the season ended, he posted a 1.26 ERA, which gave him not only the lowest in his career but also gave him a Major League record of being the oldest pitcher with 150+ innings pitched to post a season ERA under 1.50.
End of Career and Death
Young was traded back to Cleveland, the place where he played over half his career, before the 1909 season, to the Cleveland Naps of the American League.
The following season, 1910, he won his 500th career game on July 19 against Washington. He split 1911, his final year, between the Naps and the Boston Rustlers.
On September 22, 1911, Young shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates, 1–0, for his last career victory. In his final start two weeks later, the last eight batters of Young's career combined to hit a triple, four singles, and three doubles
In 1912, Cy Young lived and worked on his farm. In 1913, he served as manager of the Cleveland Green Sox of the Federal League, which was at the time an outlaw league. After his stint with the Green Sox, he never worked in baseball again.
In 1933, Cy Young's wife passed away. After she died, he moved from job to job and eventually moved in with friends John and Ruth Benedum and did odd jobs for them.
He did take part in some baseball events and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. He was one of the first to donate mementos to the hall.
On November 4, 1955, Cy Young died on the Benedums farm at the age of 88. He was buried in Peoli, Ohio.