Cy Young’s Last Win

Cy Young’s Last Win

September 22, 1911

Record-setting games are usually well attended, but only 1,200 fans showed up at Forbes Field on September 22, 1911 to watch Cy Young hurl a 1-0 shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the 511th win of Young’s illustrious career — a total no pitcher has come close to matching. And for the 44-year-old Young, it would be his last.

Even if one discounts Young’s 72 wins before the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate was increased to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893, he would still rank as the winningest pitcher in history. Walter Johnson, who ranks second in career victories, tallied only 417.

Part of the reason for Young’s amazing win totals was his longevity. By 1911, he’d spent half his life in the major leagues, staying in shape by chopping wood and doing other heavy-duty chores around the house. He appeared in 906 games, starting 815 and completing 749. Not surprisingly, he also holds the career record for losses, with 316.

By 1911, it was clear Young’s career was winding down. Having spent most of his time with the Cleveland Spiders and Boston Pilgrims (later the Red Sox), he was now pitching with an unfamiliar team, the National League‘s Boston Braves. In July, he’d been sold for the waiver price to the Braves, a rag-tag bunch that finished the season dead last with 107 losses. After the season, he would hang up his spikes.

On September 22, Young took the mound against Pittsburgh’s Babe Adams, who allowed just three hits over the first six innings. Young had more trouble, allowing the leadoff man to reach base in three of the first five innings, but still managed to hold the Pirates scoreless.

The aging hurler dodged a bullet in the fifth, when Pittsburgh catcher Mike Simon led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch after Adams struck out. But catcher Bill Rariden foiled Bobby Byrne’s attempted squeeze by tagging out Simon. Although a Max Carey single and some aggressive baserunning put runners on second and third, Young induced a weak groundout from Vin Campbell to end the inning.

Two innings later, Jay Kirke scored the Braves’ only run on an RBI single from Al Bridwell. It was all the support Young would need. In the ninth — with Fred Clarke on second base, representing the tying run — he struck out pinch-hitter Tommy Leach to rack up his final win.