Red Sox trade Cy Young to Cleveland

Written by: Craig Muder

For Cy Young, the 1908 season resulted in only 21 victories with the Red Sox. And though he posted the lowest earned-run average of his career – 1.26 – he did appear in only 36 games, the lowest total since his rookie season.

For any other 41-year-old pitcher in big league history, it would have been an historic season. For the great Cyclone, it precipitated a trade that sent him to Cleveland on Feb. 16, 1909.

Born March 29, 1867 in Gilmore, Ohio, Denton True Young debuted with the National League’s Cleveland Spiders in 1890. By 1892, Young was the ace of a Spiders’ pitching staff that posted 93 wins – the high-water mark for a franchise that would famously go 20-134 just seven years later.

“I thought I had to show all my stuff,” said Young of his tryout with the Spiders. “I threw the ball so hard a tore a couple of boards off the grandstand. One of the fellows said the stand looked like a cyclone had struck it. That’s how I got the name that was later shortened to ‘Cy.’”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Young went 36-12 in 1892 with a league-best 1.92 earned run average. Over the next six seasons with the Spiders, Young never won fewer than 21 games.

Cy Young of the 1898 Cleveland Spiders at spring training in Hot Springs, Arkansas, March 1899. - BL-1898-4824-83 (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

The owners of the Spiders also owned the National League’s St. Louis Perfectos (the modern day Cardinals), and prior to the 1899 season many of the Spiders’ best players – including Young – were transferred to St. Louis.

After winning 45 games over two seasons, Young jumped to the American League’s Boston outpost, helping give the new league instant credibility. Young led the AL in wins in each of his first three seasons, and capped the 1903 campaign by winning two games in the first modern World Series, helping Boston capture the title.

Young remained an effective pitcher into his 40s, and went 19-15 with a 2.26 ERA at the age of 42 in his first season with the Indians (then called the Naps) in 1909 following the trade that sent Charlie Chech, Jack Ryan and $12,500 to the Red Sox.

Young hung on for two more years, which included his 500th win, coming on July 19, 1910. He ended his career with 11 appearances with Boston’s National League team – following his release by Cleveland – at the tail end of the 1911 season.

His final totals: 511 wins, 316 losses, 815 games started and 7,356 innings pitched – all of which remain big league records.

Young was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937, and in 1956 was posthumously honored with an annual award of excellence for pitchers that bears his name by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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