It’s appropriate the first perfect game in the 20th century belongs to the pitcher whose moniker adorns baseball’s most prestigious award for hurlers. Denton True “Cy” Young.
Young’s feat on May 5, 1904 decimated the Philadelphia Athletics, secured a 3-0 victory for the Boston Americans, and provided the “treat of a lifetime” as described by the Boston Daily Globe. Two pitchers threw perfect games in the 19th century, but the Globe drew distinction between their achievement and Young’s: “Comparing the phenomenal performance of Cy Young to that of John M. Ward and Lee Richmond is like comparing the speed of a crew in a working boat to that of the same crew in a racing shell.”
The Globe continued, “The pitchers 20 years ago ran about the box with no restrictions and let the ball go from a distance of 45 feet, while now the pitcher is practically tied to the pitching slab 60 feet distant. Since the performances of Ward and Richmond every new rule has been made with a view to hampering the pitcher until now great performances are the result of head work [sic] and phenomenal skill, such as was shown by Young in the game against the hard hitting Athletics on Thursday.”
Richmond and Ward also benefited from the allowance for pitchers to run before releasing the ball and the granting of a walk after seven balls. By the time Young threw his perfect game, baseball had both eliminated the running start and restricted a walk to four balls. George Edward “Rube” Waddell pitched for Philadelphia—he flied out to centerfield for the last out of the game. Though he dominated Boston in his most recent start—allowing one hit—Waddell scattered 10 hits and gave up two runs on Young’s perfect day.
A misconception about Young’s name manifested with the tag “Denton Tecumseh Young” in the press—a 1939 Associated Press article gave Young an opportunity to clarify: “My dad, who soldiered with a captain named True in the civil war [sic], decided to call me ‘True’ in memory of his pal. Back in the old days I always signed by name Denton T. Young. It was in 1904 that Bob Unglaub, who played first and third base at Boston when I was there, started that ‘Tecumseh’ stuff.”
While training in Little Rock, Young’s teammates gave him a party for his 43rd birthday. “The boys gave me a loving cup and the name on it was ‘Denton Tecumseh Young.’ I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by objections, so the newspapers carried my name the same way. Unglaub said later, when I told him about it, that he thought my name was Tecumseh because he had heard some of the boys call me ‘The Chief,'” explained Young.
Cy, of course, became a shortened moniker for Cyclone, an indication of Young’s pitch speed. In addition to the perfect game, Young pitched no-htiters in 1897 and 1908, led his league five times in number of wins for a season, and holds the record for most number of career wins—511.
The Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Young in 1937.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on January 5, 2016.