Year Inducted: 1937 (BBWAA, ballot #2, 153/201)
Every record is meant to be broken. That’s the saying that most people in baseball live by. No matter how improbable it may have seemed at the time, Babe Ruth’s homerun records, Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak, Ty Cobb’s career hits and even Walt Johnson’s strikeout totals have all been surpassed and in some cases multiple times. Still, there are those records that just seem like too much has to happen in order for them to be broken. Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak seems pretty safe, as does Orel Hershiser’s shutout innings streak and Johnny Vander Meer’s consecutive no hitters are probably untouchable. But, perhaps no one is more associated with unapproachable records than Cy Young.
There’s no denying that Young was the best pitcher from the early years of the game, and still remaining one of the best of all-time. His career marks speak for themselves. In his 22 years as a Major League Pitcher, Young won 511 games while pitching over 7300 innings and having an ERA of only 2.63. He still holds the records for career wins, losses, innings, starts and complete games, all of which look as if they are unsurpasable due to the changing nature of starting pitchers. This is primarily why Young is constantly hearalded as the greatest pitcher of all-time. Young did many things better and more often than most pitchers ever did in two careers.
However, there are better pitchers in history than Young when the idea of quality of pitching is discussed. Young threw a lot of innings, so therefore a lot of his numbers could be considered somewhat inflated due to that (especially his decisions). Still, the counter to that is only the best pitchers throw a lot of innings, and it makes sense then that he is still considered one of the best pitchers ever. The only ones that really rank ahead of him (no spoilers, sorry) are the ones that either did a better job at getting their own outs (ie more strikeouts or higher frequency) or dominated during major power years like the steroid era.
Still, it would be unwise to sell Young short. When he retired, he was obviously the best pitcher of all-time and was a fairly dominant pitcher overall. The question that a lot of people ask is why he wasn’t inducted in the first class like Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. The true reason for that is the timing of Young’s career. Young nearly perfectly split his career in the 1890’s and 1900’s, so the BBWAA were confused on whether he would be eligible for the first class (which was tasked with the more recent players like Johnson and Ruth). Despite the confusion, Young did garner plenty of support on that first ballot, but not quite enough to be inducted alongside his compatriots on the mound. This mistake was quickly rectified the next year with Young gaining induction easily in 1937.
Young’s longevity and strength are legendary, and evidence of one of the greatest pitchers to ever toe the rubber. While he may not rank the highest among all Hall of Fame pitchers, he certainly belongs in the pantheon of the greats.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/19/16:
#63- This was the older brother of another Hall of Fame outfielder
#62- The finest defensive third baseman ever