|Cy Young's Final Fling|
By Paul F. Doherty
On August 15, 1911, the legendary Cy Young, the only major league pitcher to reach the 500 mark in victories, was unconditionally released by Cleveland. His career from 1890 to 1911 bridged the ancient and modern periods of the sport and included outstanding service in both major leagues. Now it seemed that old Cy had reached the end of the line. He had, at the age of 44, become too fat to field his position even though his arm seemed about as good as ever.
The last time he pitched for Cleveland was in Washington July 29, 1911. He was taken out of that game after three innings, having given up five runs in a 7-1 loss. When the Indians played in Boston a few days later he was on the coaching lines. Then came his release by Cleveland and it was no surprise. The club had considered such action for over a month.
After being notified of his release he said he was not finished with the game and would not immediately become associated with a minor league club either as a player or owner, for he believed he could still pitch in the majors. Three days later the Boston National League team completed a deal with Young and he signed a contract on August 21, ready to pitch.
He had not been in good form while with Cleveland and seemed to lack speed and control. His new team was in last place in the National League 14½ games back of seventh place Brooklyn. With only about seven weeks to play, the addition of Old Cy could only be a. drawing card for Boston and it was just that.
His first game with the Rustlers was the day after he signed his contract. He started against Cincinnati at Boston with over 8,000 fans coming out to see Young back in a Beantown uniform. He was shaky at the start and was taken out after pitching three innings and giving up eight runs, an unimpressive beginning with his new team. Young was not the loser because the Rustlers tied the score with an eight-run fifth inning, but later lost the game 11 to 9.
The Boston team advertised Cy as one of the pitchers for the doubleheader with St. Louis August 25, but rain cancelled these games and they were played the next day with Young starting the second game. He was cheered by the fans when he strode to the mound to start the game, and when he fanned the first batter they roared in glee. Then he was hit hard, giving up a single and a home run by Ed Konetchy over the left-field fence for two runs. After this Cy settled down and kept the Cardinals under control. In the sixth with men on second and third, and none out, he retired the next three batters without the runners advancing. He worked hard and pitched a good game. The fans enjoyed themselves, applauding loudly when he struck out batters. Young went the distance and won 5 to 4.
Four days later another crowd of 8,000 was in the park to see the double-header with Pittsburgh. Young went to the mound for the second game and pitched a 6 to 0 win over the Bucs. This was more like the Cy Young of old and he was exhilarated by the triumph over the strong Pittsburgh club of Fred Clarke. There is no better feeling to a "washed-up 44-year-old" than to shut out the opposition.
On a short tour of the eastern cities, Young pitched one game and that was at Brooklyn on September 2. It was a tight game with the 2 to 1 win going to Young. He showed that he could still pitch under pressure with a poor team behind him.
It was back to Boston for the last home stand of the season at the South End grounds and Philadelphia was the first opponent. The series opened with a double-header and the Phils star rookie, Grover Alexander, faced Young in the second game. Cy Young was 20 years older than Alexander and had nearly 500 more victories, but it still turned out to be a classic pitchers' battle. Old Cy was unlucky enough to face young Alex on a day when the latter was at his best, for this was the day that Alexander pitched his first one-hit game, and it was a 1 to 0 win. Young gave up six hits, two came in the eighth inning to produce the only run of the game. The Boston fans had seen Cy Young, in his next to last appearance in Boston, pitch a game to be proud of. This was Young's fourth complete game in a row in 13 days and his record was three wins and one tough loss.
A game that was billed as a pitchers' battle between Young and Christy Mathewson on September 12, the only time these two ever faced each other, was the last time the Boston fans would see Cy Young pitch. Over 10,000 people, the largest crowd of the year at the Walpole Street grounds, were in the stands to greet Cy with the same enthusiasm they displayed when he was with the American League team that played on the other side of the railroad tracks. But it was a bad day for Young and a disappointing one for the fans. He was hit hard from the start by the Giants. In less than three innings he gave up nine runs, including three homers, all over the fences. Two came in the first inning when the visitors crossed the plate three times. In two and two-third innings the Giants hit safely eight times for 18 bases. With this big 9 to 0 lead John McGraw took Mathewson out after only two innings of pitching to save him for the tight pennant race going on against the Cubs and Pirates.
A few days later the team set out for the final western trip of the season which was successful for the team, but a poor one for Young. Cy's first game in this western trip was in a double-header at St. Louis, and it ended in a tie. The weather was bad and the first game was delayed by rain and near hurricane winds. This kept the attendance down to 500. Young started the second game and after six innings darkness stopped the game with the score 3 to 3.
Boston then went to Pittsburgh for Cy's first appearance in the Smoky City since the 1903 World Series when he was with Boston in the other league. Those games had been played at Exposition Park but since then the Pirates had moved into Forbes Field in 1909. A small crowd of 1200 turned out, many just to see Young who was opposed on the mound by Babe Adams, the star of the Bucs pitching staff.
The old veteran won this game in a hard fought battle by a 1 to 0 score. The Bucs had a lineup of regulars and subs, pretty evenly divided, that out hit Boston 9 to 6 and had three men reach on Boston errors. Of these 12 runners 9 were left on and none scored. Three were thrown out trying to steal. Honus Wagner fanned three times, once with men on third and second, and Cy ended the game by striking out pinch hitter Tommy Leach with a man on second. Young was loudly applauded by the fans throughout the game.
Boston won only three of 22 games with Pittsburgh in 1911 and Cy Young won two of them-both being shutouts. This game can be remembered as Cy Young's last major League win.
After this game Young lost the next three he appeared in. The Cubs beat him 6 to 5 at Chicago. This was the only game in which he didn't strike out a batter while he was pitching for Boston.
In Cincinnati the Rustlers gave Young poor support as he lost to Rube Benton 4 to 1. Both men were hit hard, with Boston outhitting the Reds 12 to 8. And one of those 12 was Old Cy's first hit as a Boston National Leaguer. He pitched well, nice and smoothly like he used to in his best days, but his slow fielding cost him two runs. He couldn't field bunts with his bulging waistline and his slowness afoot was noticeable when covering first on grounders to the first baseman.
He was to make only one more hit as a batter and that came in his next, and last, major league game. It was played in Brooklyn October 6, 1911 and was a sad ending for the great all-time hurler. Cy was clobbered in this game. He was left in until the Dodgers had scored 11 runs, seven crossing the plate in the seventh inning.
Cy Young went South with Boston in the Spring of 1912 and pitched well in Regular vs. Yanigan games and in exhibitions. He was with the club when the season opened, but never played in a game during April and into May, and his name seldom appeared in the papers. On May 19, 1912 it was reported in the papers that he might pitch the next day in Pittsburgh where he had been successful in the past, but he didn't appear in the game.
Finally it all ended on May 24 when the papers carried the story that Cy Young was retiring from baseball. The decision, he said, was his. The club's management said they wanted him to remain as a player.
Young had looked good in spring training, yet for the first six weeks of the regular season he did not get into a game. In his retirement statement to the papers he said, "My arm will no longer do the work that was so easy."
Cy Young’s Pitching Record with Boston in 1911