May 6-8, 1890: Canton’s Cy Young wins one and loses one in Akron
With an impressive 67-37 record, Canton, Ohio, won the 1889 pennant in the Tri-State League.1 After this achievement, the team’s best players moved on, forcing Canton to rebuild. One player acquired in the spring of 1890 stood out: Denton True Young, a 23-year-old farmer and semipro pitcher from nearby Gilmore, Ohio. He was tall (6-feet-2) and burly, and threw so hard that catchers wearing the meager mitts of the era had trouble holding on to his fastballs. His pitches “crack against the backstop like cannon balls.”2 His nickname, Cyclone, was born of this ferocity and contrasted with his gentlemanly deportment.
Canton opened the 1890 season with a doubleheader at Wheeling, West Virginia, on April 30. In the first game, Cyclone Young hurled a three-hitter as Canton defeated Wheeling, 4-2. In his second appearance, on May 3, he won again, a 4-3 triumph at McKeesport, Pennsylvania.3
Cy Young’s third start came on Tuesday, May 6, in the first game of a three-game series against Akron, Ohio, at Akron’s West Hill Park.4 The Akron Beacon Journal reported that it was a “dark, cold afternoon” – cloudy with the temperature in the mid-40s – and noted that the “few spectators” included some enthusiastic Canton fans.5 The teams wore colorful uniforms: Canton in blue and red, and Akron in bluish-gray and dark blue.6 Canton brought its mascot, a bull terrier.
Akron, as the home team, opted to bat first. Young yielded a solid double to the leadoff man, Charlie Pike, the Akron captain. After Frank Motz sacrificed, shortstop Mike O’Rourke singled, scoring Pike for a 1-0 Akron lead.
Canton answered in its half of the first. Leading off, Jack Darrah reached first on O’Rourke’s throwing error, moved to second on a passed ball, and stole third. John Carr was hit by a pitch from George Whinnery, and Ed “Fatty” Cline, the Canton captain, slapped a run-scoring single, tying the game. Henry Yaik singled to load the bases, but Whinnery escaped further damage when Joe Fern hit into a double play.
Both teams had men on base in the second inning but could not score. Young and Whinnery settled down and retired the batters in order for the next three innings in a pitchers’ duel.
In the top of the sixth, O’Rourke drew a base on balls from Young, advanced a base on an error by Darrah, the second baseman, and stole third. Yaik, Young’s catcher, was charged with a passed ball that permitted O’Rourke to score, giving Akron a 2-1 edge.
Darrah made amends for the error in the bottom of the seventh. After Ed Dillon reached first when Whinnery muffed his easy popup and took second on a passed ball, Darrah brought him home with a single. Canton went ahead in the eighth as Cline singled, went to third on Tom Dallas’s double, and came home on a wild pitch.
Young was sharp. He retired the Akron hitters in order in the eighth and ninth innings. The final score was Canton 3, Akron 2. Young allowed five hits, struck out eight, and walked two. After the final out, the elated pitcher hugged his manager, William C. Heingartner.
The next day, Akron won the second game of the series, 6-4. Young pitched again in the third contest, on Thursday, May 8. It was a cloudy day, but with the temperature in the mid-50s,7 a much larger crowd, about 600, attended.
Canton was the first to score. In the bottom of the first, Darrah smacked a ball that went between O’Rourke’s legs at short. Carr followed with a two-run homer. Akron got one back in the top of the second; Homer Berger singled, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice, and scored on an error by Darrah.
Randall, the Akron pitcher, was wild. Canton added a run in the fourth on two singles, a walk, and two wild pitches. Akron battled back with two runs in the fifth, from a double by Charlie Tebeau, a Canton error, and a single by Whinnery, who was in right field for Akron in this game.
In the top of the sixth, Dan Sweeney earned the distinction of becoming the first man to hit a home run off Young in a professional baseball game. His solo shot “sailed gracefully far over the left field fence.”8 This gave Akron a 4-3 lead. But Canton scored once in the sixth and once in the seventh to retake the lead.
It looked forlorn for the home team when Akron came to bat against Young in the top of the ninth trailing 5-4. The first man up was Tebeau. He got on base on Young’s fielding error, stole second, and went to third on Yaik’s wild throw. Randall’s dribbler down the third-base line was watched intently by Dallas, the third baseman, who waited for it to roll foul. It stayed fair, however, as Tebeau stormed home to tie the game.
Akron broke the game open with three more runs off Young, via a double by Pike, a single by O’Rourke, and two more Canton errors. Canton’s bull-terrier mascot “crawled under the player’s bench and shed scalding tears,” gloated the Beacon Journal.9
Canton scored a run in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little too late. The final tally was Akron 8, Canton 6, and Young was handed the first loss of his professional baseball career. He allowed 10 hits, struck out four, and walked none. Canton committed eight errors, including two by Young.
Even with the talented Young, the rebuilt Canton team of 1890 was the weakest squad in the Tri-State League. At season’s end, the team’s record was 27-47.10 Young’s record was 15-15.
For Young, his stay in Canton was a time of inconsistency. Against Springfield, Ohio, on June 2, he surrendered 17 hits in a 13-5 debacle, yet a week later he beat them, 5-3.11 McKeesport seemed to have him figured out, routing him 14-4 on June 28 and 8-2 on July 7.12 But on July 25, he threw a no-hitter against them with 18 strikeouts.13 That was his final game with Canton. He signed with the Cleveland Spiders of the National League and made his major-league debut on August 6. It was the beginning of a 22-year big-league career in which he won a record 511 games.
Game coverage in the May 7-9, 1890, issues of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Peterjohn, Alvin K. “The First Year of ‘Cyclone’ Young,” Baseball Research Journal (SABR), 1976.
1 Henry Chadwick, ed., Spalding’s Base Ball Guide and Official League Book for 1890 (Chicago and New York: A.G. Spalding & Bros., 1890), 86, 87. Baseball-Reference.com (accessed November 2021) refers to the 1888-90 Canton teams as the “Canton Nadjys.” The research for this article found no mention of this nickname in period sources.
2 “Whinnery’s Muff,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 7, 1890: 4.
3 Sporting Life, May 10, 1890: 12.
4 West Hill Park was located on Crosby Street in the West Hill neighborhood of Akron.
5 “Whinnery’s Muff”; “Meteorological Report,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 6, 1890: 1.
6 “The Akron Club’s Uniform,” Akron Beacon Journal, April 4, 1890: 3.
7 “Meteorological Report,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 8, 1890: 1.
8 “Intensely Exciting,” Akron Beacon Journal, May 9, 1890: 3.
9 “Intensely Exciting.”
10 Henry Chadwick, ed., Spalding’s Base Ball Guide and Official League Book for 1891 (Chicago and New York: A.G. Spalding & Bros., 1891), 166.
11 Sporting Life, June 14, 1890: 10.
12 Sporting Life, July 5, 1890: 11; Sporting Life, July 12, 1890: 10.
13 Sporting Life, August 2, 1890: 11.
West Hill Park
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