Fog still clung to the low spots along the narrow country road that twisted among the hills of Eastern Ohio. The speed limit was posted forty-five but I could not imagine going that fast on a clear, sunny day on a road filled with blind turns and sudden drops. Coming around a blind turn, I was almost past the church and cemetery before I realized I had arrived at my destination just east of Peoli.
Parking on the roadway that passed through the cemetery, I got out and took in my surroundings. The country church stood guard at the top of the hill overlooking the rolling fields. The cemetery wrapped itself around the hillside.
I heard the clanging of a bell approaching and turned to see a lone cow coming out of the bank of fog. It stopped at the simple fence separating the pasture from the cemetery. The moo it let out echoed in the early morning air and was answered by other nearby cows that were hidden by the fog. I soon had an audience watching as I scanned the small cemetery for the memorial I sought.
I could see a stone with the name Young on it and carefully walked up the wet hillside. As I walked closer, I knew it was the grave I sought, not because of its size, but due to amount of baseballs and other memorabilia that decorated it. At the top of the stone, a winged baseball took flight over the names of the couple buried here: Denton and Roba Young. Here, in the rolling hills of eastern Ohio, away from the hustle and bustle of society was the simple grave marking the resting place of baseball great Cy Young.
Cy Young was born Denton True Young on March 29, 1867 in Gilmore, Ohio, located north of where he eternally slumbers. He was the eldest of five children born to McKinzie and Nancy Young. He dropped out of school after the sixth grade to help his father on the farm.
Young spent his free time playing baseball with local teams. He played for a semi-pro team in Carrollton team in 1888 and the following year signed with the minor league team located in Canton, Ohio where he won fifteen games and lost fifteen. The nickname “Cy” was given to him during this time by reporters as the fences he threw his fast ball against, saying they looked like they had been hit by a cyclone.
In 1890, Young signed with the Cleveland Spiders, making his debut on August 6. His debut was resulted in a victory over the Chicago Colts. For the next twenty-two years, his fastball challenged those players who stepped up to the plate to face him.
On September 18, 1897, in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, Young threw his first no-hitter. Young did not walk any batter, but his team committed four errors. One of the errors was originally ruled a hit, but Cleveland’s third baseman sent a note to the press box stating he had made an error, so the call was changed on the field. Young never considered this game a no-hitter, but instead referred to it as a one-hitter.
For the 1899 baseball season, Young was among a group of players moved to the St. Louis Browns. Frank Robison, the Spiders owner had purchased the Browns, and the best players from the Spiders were moved to the St. Louis team.
Young’s best season came in 1901. That year was the first year of the American League and Young had joined the Boston Americans. With the new team, Young led the league with 158 strikeouts, thirty-three wins and an ERA of 1.62.
The Boston Americans played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first modern World Series in 1903. Young had the honor of throwing the first pitch in modern World Series history. The Americans won the series and Young finished the series with two wins and one loss.
On May 5, 1904, Young pitched the first perfect game in the history of the American League in a game against the Philadelphia Athletics. Note: In some places it is reported that Young threw the first ever perfect game in professional baseball’s history. In 1880 two different pitchers had perfect games. The first was Lee Richmond and the second was Bellefonte native John Montgomery Ward.
In 1908, two important events occurred. On June 30, Young pitched his third no-hitter at the age of forty-one years, three months, making him the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter – a record that lasted until 1991 when until Nolan Ryan broke it at the age of forty-three. The second event happened on August 13, 1908 when The Boston Post sponsored “Cy Young Day.” All American League games were suspended for the day and an All-Star Team was created to face Young. Over 20,000 fans filled the park to watch the game and an estimated over 10,000 people were turned away.
Young was traded in 1909 to the Cleveland Naps and the following year he pitched his five-hundredth game. During the 1911 season, Young went to the Boston Braves, where, on September 22, 1911, Young shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates, for his last career victory.
Upon retirement, Young moved back to his farm in Ohio. In 1913, he would return to baseball for one season as the manager of the Cleveland Green Sox of the Federal League. After that season, Young retired permanently from baseball. In 1937, Young was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
On November 4, 1955, Young died at the age of eighty-eight and was buried next to his wife, Roba, whom he married in 1892 and had passed in 1933. The year after his death, the CY Young Award was created to recognize the best pitcher of the season. In 1967, the award was split to recognize the best pitcher in each league.
Cy Young left a legacy as a pitcher that is unlikely to ever be matched. Over his career, Young won five hundred and eleven games. He pitched 7,356 innings, starting 815 games – with 749 of them being complete games pitched – and winning 511 games with seventy-six of those games being shut-outs. Over his twenty-two-year career, sixteen seasons saw him pass the twenty-win mark and five times he passed the thirty-win mark.
Note: On Young’s tombstone it is marked he pitched 874 Major League games and I’m not sure how they got that number. I’ve searched through numerous baseball resources and the number they show is 815, which is the number of games he started. My best guess is this higher number includes innings he may have pitched in games that he did not start, but I have not found a definite answer to the difference in numbers.
I finished paying my respects and made my way down the wet slope as another wall of fog rolled over the rural church and cemetery. I left Cy to rest on the hillside overlooking the rolling fields of the place he called home.