Baseball shares deep roots in Ohio and Freemasonry. Not only is our state the birthplace of professional baseball, but it has also been home to some of the greatest players in the game’s history, many of whom were Masons. Towering atop this list is Cy Young, a Major League Baseball player whose career was so incredible that the annual award given to the league’s top pitcher bears his name nearly 70 years later.
During a career stretching 21 years, from 1890 to 1911, Brother Cy pitched for five teams in the major leagues, collecting 511 wins, the most in history and a record that is all but guaranteed never to be broken. So, how did this young farm boy from Ohio become one of the most recognizable names in baseball?
The Young Ace
Denton True “Cy” Young was born March 29, 1867, in Gilmore, Ohio, to parents Nancy and McKinzie Young, Jr. The oldest of five children, his parents owned a 54 acre-farm in the small farming community in Washington Township. As a boy, he was known as “Farmboy Young,” leaving school after the sixth grade to work on the farm.
Denton began playing baseball at a young age, and by the time he was 17 in 1884, he had joined two semi-professional teams. He spent several years playing in different amateur leagues; the first known box score featuring his stats in 1888 revealed he played first base and had three hits in three at-bats.
Soon, Young earned his first opportunity with a professional team, signing a minor-league contract in Canton, Ohio. Denton was a young but imposing man, standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 210 pounds. He earned the nickname “Cyclone” while pitching in Canton, a moniker that would quickly be shortened to “Cy.” It didn’t take long for the major league teams to notice Cy, and the Cleveland Spiders purchased his contract within half a season in Canton.
When Young debuted for the Spiders on August 6, 1890, it was a portent of the career to come for the hard-throwing righty. He pitched a three-hit 8–1 victory over the Chicago Colts.
The National League
Over the next decade, Young quickly became an icon in the league. While the technology didn’t exist to measure how hard Cy threw the ball, it’s said that his catcher, Chief Zimmer, put a piece of beefsteak inside his glove to dull the impact and shield his hand from Young’s devastating fastball.
With such a long and accomplished career, it’s difficult to capture how fantastic Young’s feats were in the game of baseball. He had a tremendous debut season in 1890, leading the league in wins (36), earned run average (1.93), and shutouts (nine). During the season’s final day, Young won both games of a doubleheader.
As a reflection of the speed with which Cy Young and other elite pitchers threw at the time, the league moved the pitcher’s mound back by five feet to the current regulatory distance of 60.5 feet. Cyclone continued to dominate the majors over the next several years and, in 1895, added the “slow ball” to his pitching repertoire, now known as a changeup. That season, his team faced the Baltimore Orioles in the Temple Cup, a series that served as a precursor to the World Series. Young won three games in the series, and Cleveland won the Cup.
In 1899, Young was traded to St. Louis, where he spent two years and found his favorite catcher, Lou Criger. Criger would become Cy’s catcher for the next ten years.
In 1901, the American League declared major league status and began poaching talent from the National League rosters. Young and Criger were signed by the Boston Americans, where they would remain until 1909. The 34-year-old Young secured a $3,500 contract ($114,002 today) and continued dominating during his first season in Boston, leading the league in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average (ERA). One statistic that stands out reveals that Young won over 40% of his team’s games that season or 33 of their 79 wins. During the offseason, Cy Young took on Ivy League school Harvard, where he acted as the university team’s pitching coach.
The 1903 season saw the first modern World Series, with the winning team from the National League facing off against the winners from the American League. After a rocky start in his first game, Young finished the Series with a 2–1 record and a 1.85 ERA in four appearances; Boston defeated Pittsburgh, earning Cy his first championship.
On May 5, 1904, Young registered the modern era’s first perfect game (no player reaching first base) against the Philadelphia Athletics. This accomplishment came in the middle of an incredible pitching streak for Young, who set the major league records for the most consecutive scoreless innings pitched and the most consecutive innings without allowing a hit at 25.1 innings, or 76 hitless batters. After finally giving up a hit, Cyclone’s scoreless streak extended to 45 shutout innings.
During the offseason, Brother Young joined our venerable fraternity, becoming a member of Mystic Tie Lodge No. 194 in Dennison, Ohio, where he was raised on February 29, 1904. He was active in the Masonic community, joining the Cyrus Chapter No. 114, Royal Arch Masons in Uhrichsville, Ohio, on November 12, 1904. On December 27, 1904, Brother Young received his York Rite Council Degrees from Gebal Council No. 56 in Uhrichsville, Ohio. Additionally, he was initiated as a Knights Templar at St. Bernard Commandery No. 71, also in Uhrichsville, Ohio, on February 1, 1905. He was made a “Master of the Royal Secret” in the Scottish Rite Valley of Columbus on November 27, 1908. On November 27, 1908, he also joined the Aladdin Shrine Temple in Columbus, Ohio.
Winding Down and Retirement
In 1908, Young pitched the third no-hitter of his career at the age of 41, making him the oldest pitcher to record a no-hitter, until 43-year-old Nolan Ryan broke the record 82 years later. He finished that season with a 1.26 ERA, his lowest ever.
His ability to remain dominant was due to his impeccable control, which was particularly valuable as his fastball slowed with age. Perhaps even more impressive than his control was his endurance and ability to avoid injury. His longevity is thanks to an ability to pitch using different arm positions (overhand, three-quarters, sidearm, and even submarine). Understanding how to pace himself, Young limited his work during spring training, saying, “I figured the old arm had just so many throws in it, and there wasn’t any use wasting them.”
From 1891 until 1909 – nearly two decades straight – Young was top 10 for innings pitched. Now entering the twilight of his career, Young played three seasons for the Cleveland Indians and a final season with the Boston Braves, retiring in 1911.
After leaving the game of baseball, Young lived and worked on his farm. He became a vegetarian and briefly managed the Cleveland Green Sox of the Federal League. His wife, Roba, his lifelong companion, passed away in 1933. Following her death, Young completed odd jobs for acquaintances and participated in events for the league when he was invited.
The Cy Young Award
In 1937, 26 years after he retired from baseball, Young was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Brother Young was the first player to donate mementos and personal belongings to Cooperstown, a trend that became popular with inductees. Young died at the age of 88 on November 4, 1955, while living with friends on their farm.
One year after Young’s death, Major League Baseball created the Cy Young Award to honor the previous season’s best pitcher. When looking at his accomplishments within the sport of baseball, it is clear that he is the only player for whom such an award could be named.
Nearly 70 years after his death, Young still holds several significant league records, including:
- Most career wins (511) and most career losses (316)
- Most career innings pitched (7,355)
- Most career games started (815)
- Most complete games (749).
- 4th all-time shutouts (76)
Cy Young had 30-plus wins during five separate seasons and 20-plus wins in ten different seasons. He has almost 100 more wins than any other pitcher in history. He tossed three no-hitters, including the third perfect game in baseball history and the first in baseball’s “modern era.” The Sporting News ranked Cy Young 14th on their “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players” list in 1999, and baseball fans named him to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team that same year.
Denton True Young remains a legend of Ohio Freemasonry and the state at large. He was fiercely committed to our fraternity, journeying deeper into the teachings of Freemasonry by exploring the many appendant bodies available to Ohio Masons. His accomplishments as a baseball player are truly untouchable. As Bleacher Report wrote, “to put Cy Young’s record in perspective, let’s imagine that a 22-year-old super-phenom came into the league tomorrow. For him to break Cy Young’s record, he would have to average 20 wins a season, for a whopping 26 seasons. As any fan of the game today knows, that record will never be broken.