Cieradkowski: Joe Styborski, the mystery man of the 1927 Yankees

From SABR member Gary Cieradkowski Jr. at The Infinite Baseball Card Set on October 13, 2013:

If you look closely, he’s there, standing on the top right, between the bear-like outfielder Ben Paschal and the diminutive trainer Doc Woods. It’s the official team portrait of the legendary 1927 New York Yankees, commonly referred to as “The Greatest Team of All-Time”. As the subject of countless books and thousands of articles, they’re undoubtedly the most documented lineup in baseball history, so why has this one tall young man who stares straight at the camera remained anonymous and mislabeled until recently?

First of all, the young man’s name is not “unknown” or “Walter Beall” or “John Stiborski”. His name is Joseph Styborski.

He was born in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of Antoni and Helen Styborski, immigrants from Russian Poland. The family would have 4 more children before moving to the rural Cambridge Springs, tucked away in the upper western corner of Pennsylvania. Antoni rented a dairy farm on which he and his family worked. Joe developed into a husky teen, just shy of six feet tall. Somewhere, like almost every other American boy, he learned baseball. For Joe it wasn’t so much a game; it was his ticket to a better life.

After high school Joe matriculated to Penn State. By his sophomore year the big righty was the mainstay of Penn’s pitching staff. Like many young pitchers, Styborski got by on just his speed ball, which by all newspaper accounts, was something to behold. Along with his tremendous velocity came the inherent wildness and Penn’s coach Hugo Bezdeck worked with him to achieve greater accuracy. The extra work paid off and he was the undisputed ace of the university’s 1926 staff. In a May 20th game against Princeton, Styborski gave up a pair of walks in the first inning and then a run scored on two errors, but he held the Tigers to a just two hits, striking out 4 through nine innings, only to lose the game 1-0.  It was a rare loss for Styborski, who soon got the nickname “Cy”, a comparison to the great Cy Young. (Plus, “Cy Styborski” is just fun to say – try it).

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Originally published: October 14, 2013. Last Updated: October 14, 2013.