The First Year of “Cyclone” Young

This article was written by Alvin K. Peterjohn

This article was published in the 1976 Baseball Research Journal


Canton, Ohio, the defending champions of the Tri-State League, assembled for spring training at home on April 9, 1890 with five rookies on hand for the first practice. Included was a six foot two inch, 200 pound, 23-year-old pitcher seeking his first professional baseball job. Denton T. Young and four companions made the jaunt to Pastime Park for that first workout of the season. The Canton Repository, in reporting on spring practice, noted that Young had played for semi-pro teams in Leesburg and New Athens, Ohio in 1889. A day later on April 10, 1890, The Canton newspaper reported that “pitcher Young, it is said, has some wonderful curves and throws with cannonball speed.”

While the Canton team was assembling players, it did not get around to hiring a manager until April 16, when the club’s secretary-treasurer, William Heingartner was selected to fill that spot. Manager Heingartner promptly announced that he would select a team captain to direct the team on the field and first baseman Ed Cline was his choice.

The exhibition season started with a game with the Mount Union College team, and while Will Irwin was the lead-off pitcher, Tom Williams and Denton Young were also scheduled to work a part of the game. Concern was expressed about the ability of Canton’s new catcher, Henry Yaik to handle the pitches of Dent Young. The Canton Respository stated on April 18, 1890 that:

“Some difficulty, it is thought, will be experienced in securing a catcher to hold Pitcher Young in a satisfactory manner, as it is conceded by all who have seen him pitch that he throws the swiftest ball of any pitcher ever seen in this city. Yaik, it is thought will be able to fill the bill all right after he gets a little practice; at least he says he is not afraid to try it. Yaik says he never saw a pitcher he couldn’t catch.”

The first exhibition game was played on April 20 and the Canton professionals mauled the Mount Union Collegians by a score of 22 to 4. Irwin started the game for Canton, but in the fourth inning Young went to the box for a three-inning stint. He struck out seven batters, walked none, gave up a lone hit and also had a wild pitch for his first test under fire.

*This is one of the articles left by Mr. Peterjohn when he died in 1974.

On April 23 Canton met the semi-pro Columbus Clippers in the third exhibition game between the two clubs and Young received his second pitching assignment. He struck out 13 batters over the nine-inning route and limited the Clippers to one hit in a 14 to 1 victory before seven paid admissions. The Canton Repository noted that, “Yaik caught yesterday and considering his right hand was swollen to twice its natural size, he did reasonably well.” The paper did not specify the cause of the swelling.

After four exhibition wins against college and semi-pro teams Canton met Altoona in a three game exhibition series in Canton. Although Young lost one of these game 1-0 on April 27, it was announced that day that “Cyclone” Young would be a member of the three-man pitching staff for 1890 along with veteran Will Irwin and another rookie Tom Williams from Pomeroy, Ohio.

The Canton baseball team journeyed overland to Wheeling, West Virginia to open the Tri-State League season on April 30 with a morning and afternoon doubleheader. For Canton, Cyclone Young started the morning game with Henry Yaik as his catcher. He went the full route limiting Wheeling to just two runs and three hits. Striking out eight batters and giving up only one base on balls, the Canton hurler recorded his first O. B. victory 4-2. Will Irwin was clobbered in the second game losing 23 to 6 as Tom Williams, playing the outfield, hit the first Canton home run of the new season.

Cy Young made his second start for Canton on May 4 against McKeesport and recorded a 4 to 3 win. Young had four strike outs and one base on balls. Two days later Young recorded his third win beating Akron 3 to 2. The victory streak ended at three, when Akron defeated Canton on May 8 by a 7 to 6 score. Seven Canton errors indicated something less than a stellar team defensive effort. Young issued no bases on balls and hit a double in a vain effort to win his fourth game in a row.

Returning to Pastime Park, Canton started Cy Young in the box for its home opener on May 15. Cy responded to the 800 fans on hand by taming Akron 3 to 2, driving in one run with a single, and striking out 11 Opposing batters. Young’s next start was on May 18 against McKeesport and Cy dropped a 5 to 4 decision despite nine strike outs and a lone base on balls.

Three weeks of early season efforts showed Canton with a disappointing five wins and seven loss record, arid on May 19 the club replaced Will Heingartner as club manager and named veteran major league catcher Jimmy Peoples as the new team leader.

Cy Young responded to this change by winning his next two starts in an impressive fashion on May 22 and 25; however, fate can be fickle, and on May 28 Mansfield hammered Young for 13 hits as Canton lost 9 to 3. His next two starts were even worse as Mansfield routed Canton 12 to 1 and Springfield trounced them 13 to 5 with Cy giving up 1 7 hits.

Just as quickly Cy snapped back to win the next three games. This brought Canton’s season record to 12 wins and 16 losses on June 10. Young’s part of that record was nine wins and five losses. On June 12 manager Jimmy Peoples was fired and Will Heingartner again took over the managerial reins.

Cy defeated Dayton on June 13 and 15, but his winning streak ended on June 17 as he dropped a 9 to 3 decision to Youngstown. On June 29, Cy proved his versatility by catching a full game as Akron walloped Canton 22 to 5. As the Canton team really hit the skids, Young lost to Akron 5 to 2, McKeesport 14 to 4 and Mansfield 8 to 0.

On June 28 Cicero L. Hiner, the Canton Baseball Club’s Vice President, was named the team manager and shortstop George Westlake was named team captain. After the Canton loss to McKeesport by an 18 to 1 score on June 27, a club director had wired Manager Heingartner:

“Release the man who scored the run so he can sign with a baseball club.” (George Westlake scored the lone run)

By July 7 Canton’s record was 17 wins and 35 losses for a solid eighth place in the team standings. Cy Young suffered with the general ineptitude of the team, losing to Mansfield and McKeesport before splitting two decisions with Wheeling in mid-July. Additional losses to McKeesport and Wheeling occurred before Cy and Canton returned home from a disastrous road trip.

On July 25, 1890 Cy Young went to the mound at Pastime Park and the Saturday edition of the Canton Repository told the story of the game and Young’s superlative effort for his final appearance in Canton.

“WITHOUT A HIT”

“Young strikes out eighteen of the McKeesport players”

“At exactly 4:25 PM Umpire Jamison called play at Pastime Park yesterday afternoon and 600 people in attendance witnessed one of the greatest contests ever seen on a ball field, the main feature being the pitching of Mr. Denton Young of Gilmore, Ohio, the fellow who is termed by many Tri-State exchanges to be the “farmer.” Just previous to the game he remarked that he was going to pitch the game of his life and he did it. He succeeded in breaking the professional record by striking out eighteen men, not a clean hit being made off his delivery. But three of the visitors managed to reach first base, and but two got to second, white there was one run scored. Had Canton played an errorless game none of the visitors would have reached even first. It was, indeed, a great day for Young and he put the ball over the plate at a speed that would indicate it was fired from a cannon. Yaik supported him finely behind the bat and on the whole the infielders did well. But one ball was knocked outside the diamond by McKeesport and that a fly out to right fielder Hart by Hartmann. Another thing worthy of special mention was the batting of Westlake, who out of five times to bat got five hits, one a three bagger. Young also swiped the ball for a couple of hits.”

The same paper reported that the Cleveland National League baseball team had made an offer for Cyclone Young’s services, but two other clubs were also said to be bidding for him. On July 30 manager Cicero Hiner returned from a trip to Cleveland and indicated that a price had been agreed upon for Cy Young’s services and on August 2 President Thomas F. Turner of Canton took Denton T. “Cy” Young to Cleveland and a career in the National League.

For 14 weeks in Canton, Cy Young posted 15 wins and 15 losses for a last place team. He started 29 games, worked relief in two others, winning one of those appearances. He struck out 201 batters and issued only 33 bases on balls indicating exceptional control. This was Cy Young’s only appearance in minor league baseball. The Canton team folded several days after he joined the Cleveland Spiders.

The Cleveland Spiders of 1890 were owned by traction magnate Frank DeHaas Robison. The team had rejoined the National League in 1889 after an absence of five years. It had been decimated by raids of the Union Association war in 1884. Now it was engaged in a bitter battle with the Brotherhood League in yet another baseball confrontation.

Most of the Spider regulars for 1889 had jumped to the Brotherhood League and manager Gus Schmelz had only four regulars from the previous year on the team roster. Shortstop Ed McKean, catcher Chief Zimmer, outfielder Bob Gilks, and pitcher Ed Beatin were the veteran members of the club. The other players on the club were generally ineffective.

By the time Young made his first start for Cleveland, Gus Schmelz had been fired as manager, and Robert H. Leadley, who had piloted Detroit to a championship in the International League in 1889, was in charge of the club. The team had an unimpressive record of 25 wins and 61 losses, and was in seventh place in the standings. After his experience with Canton, Young was used to working for talent-poor ball clubs.

Cy Young journeyed to Cleveland on August 2 and the local newspapers indicated that the Spiders had paid Canton $300 for his services. His first pitching assignment was against the Chicago Colts of the legendary Adrian “Cap” Anson as part of a doubleheader on August 6. The story of Young’s victory over Chicago has been told many times but the reporting of the game and the picture painted of Young’s efforts are worth repeating.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer headlined it’s story of the 8 to 1 victory “Young’s Great Work”. The details included the following:

“Several days ago a big farm boy arrived in Canton on a load of hay and after selling his produce he took in a ball game. It struck him that pitching a ball was a rather easy way of earning a livelihood and he applied for a job to the Canton officials. The farmer boy was big and strong and the Canton officials, being hard up for pitching talent, in a lucky hour decided to give him a trial. He pitched a game and two or three hits were made off him and thus it was that Cyclone Young, the ex-farmer boy, turned out to be a ball pitcher.

Yesterday he appeared in Cleveland dressed in a pair of mufti pants and a baseball shirt several degrees off color. This led the wicked boys on the bleaching boards to call him “Jed Prouty Young” “Josh Whitcomb” and other derisive names. This didn’t seem to bother the ex-farmer boy and the way he mowed down Anson’s big batters was to say the least startling. He struck out five men and just three hits, all singles, were made off him.”

The Cleveland Leader and Herald was equally descriptive in its story for the day.

“Mr. Young, formerly of Canton, 0., now of this beautiful city of trees and pretty girls, made his debut yesterday at League Park. It is sincerely to be hoped that he will keep on repeating his debut throughout the remainder of the season. Cleveland can stand those performances without a murmur. Mr. Young is a tall, very well put together and athletic young man of sundry summers. He pitches the ball, not hardly that either, rather he sends lessons in geometry up to the batter with a request for solution. Mr. Young seems to know almost as much about curves as an engineer on a railroad in West Virginia.”

The box score of the game follows:

 

Cleveland

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

SB

E

Gilks LF

5

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

McKean SS

3

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

Smalley 3B

5

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

Virtue lB

4

2

1

0

0

1

0

0

Davis CF

5

1

1

1

0

0

0

1

West RF

4

1

3

0

0

0

1

0

ZinimerC

4

1

1

0

1

0

0

1

Ardner 2B

4

0

3

1

1

0

0

0

Young P

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

38

8

11

2

2

1

1

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

SB

E

Cooney SS

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Carroll LF

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Wilmot CF

2

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

Anson lB

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Burns 3B

3

0

1

0

0

0

1

1

Earl RF

4

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

Glenalvin 2B

4

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Hutchison P

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Kittridge C

3

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

Totals

31

1

3

0

0

0

2

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IP

R

H

SO

BB

 

 

Young

9

1

3

5

2

 

 

 

Hutchison

9

8

11

3

3

 

 

 

 

Some histories of this game credit Young with striking out Cap Anson, but the box scores of the game published in the Cleveland papers indicate that Carroll, Bums, Hutchison and Glenalvin (twice) were the ones Young whiffed. However, Anson did not get a hit in four times at bat.

Three days later Cy Young started again against the Cincinnati Reds at League Park. Arlie Latham had recently been secured by Cincinnati to play third base for the Reds on a veteran team that had scarcely been disturbed by the Brotherhood War. His mound opponent was the Reds’ sensational rookie pitcher, Billy Rhines, who was destined to win 28 games for Cincinnati in 1890.

While Young did not match his initial performance against Chicago, he did manage to edge Cincinnati 5 to 4. Giving up nine hits without a base on balls, Young recorded his second victory. Four Cleveland errors made the victory harder to achieve.

On August 13 Cy hurled his third straight win besting the hapless Pittsburgh team by a score of 20-9. On August 16, the winning streak ended as Cincinnati pounded Young for 17 hits and a 10-0 win. For the balance of the season, Cy continued winning and losing in equal numbers down to the last day of the season. His record stood at 7-7, including a disputed game on October 2 that ended in a 2 to 2 tie.

On October 4, Young took the mound in the opening game of a season ending twinbill with Philadelphia. Pitching in fine fashion, Cy limited the Phillies to five hits to post a 5 to I victory over the nine-inning route. Young also pitched the second game, a seven-inning affair. This game looked like a possible loss for Young until the Spiders scored seven runs in the sixth inning to put the game safely away for the Big Farmer. George Davis’ triple was the big blow for Cleveland, but five Philadelphia errors really made the big inning possible.

With these two wins, Cy Young finished the first of 22 consecutive major league seasons with the nine wins and seven losses for a seventh place team. The Spiders record for the year showed 44 wins and 88 losses. It was an excellent first year for a rookie pitcher in the National League. The 21 seasons that followed were even more impressive as Cy Young pitched a record 511 major league wins – the absolute test of pitching ability.

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