Why Does MLB Call It the Cy Young Award?

Every year, MLB hands out a Cy Young Award to the best pitcher in both the AL and the NL. But what’s the story behind this coveted award for pitchers? How does the voting work, and who is the award named after? Let’s look at Cy Young’s MLB career, the history of the honor itself, and some other interesting trivia about the award.

Who was Cy Young? 

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Cy Young was born in 1867. He debuted in 1890 with the National League’s Cleveland Spiders as a pitcher, winning an eye-popping 36 games. In 1901, Young shifted to the Boston Americans of the American League. There, he led the league in wins with 33, ERA with 1.62, and strikeouts with 158. In 1904, he pitched the very first perfect game in baseball history. 

Young’s numbers won’t likely be duplicated any time soon. He pitched for 22 seasons. In 15 seasons, he won 20 or more games. In five seasons, he won 30 or more games. Young still holds the all-time record for wins by a pitcher with 511.

Due to the way starting pitchers are used in the modern game, he’s likely to hold that record forever. It’s highly unlikely many pitchers come close to winning 300 games again, much less 500. Young also set records for the number of games started with 815 and complete games with 749. Young was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. 

What is the story behind the Cy Young Award? 

In 1956, then-MLB commissioner Ford Frick introduced the Cy Young Award as a way to honor the league’s best pitcher. The league decided to name the award after Young due to his great career. Young had passed away a year prior. From 1956 until 1967, only one Cy Young Award was given out to the best pitcher in all of MLB. Starting in 1967, two Cy Young Awards were given out to the best pitcher in both the AL and the NL. 

There are 28 Baseball Writers Association of America writers who vote on the award. Each writer votes for five pitchers in each league. If there is a tie, the pitchers would hypothetically share the award — this hasn’t happened since MLB introduced the current voting system. 

Cy Young Award facts and figures

Over the years, the Cy Young Award has obviously been given to some great pitchers. But here is some interesting trivia behind the history of the award: 

  • The most Cy Young Award victories in history belong to Roger Clemens with seven. 
  • The only player to win the Cy Young Award and the Rookie of the Year Award is Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers. 
  • The Cy Young typically goes to starting pitchers because they pitch more and therefore have a greater impact on the games. But did you know that nine relief pitchers have won the Cy Young? A few notable relievers to win the honor include Dennis Eckersley, Eric Gagne, and Bruce Sutter. 
  • While many Hall of Fame pitchers have won a Cy Young Award, not all of them have. Some Hall of Fame worthy pitchers haven’t won one either. Hall of Famer Mike Mussina never won a Cy Young, while borderline Hall of Famer Curt Schilling never won one either. Legendary San Francisco Giants’ hurler Juan Marichal never even finished among the top five vote-getters. 

Looking ahead to the next season, who will be the next Cy Young favorites? One potential sleeper in the NL is Mike Soroka of the Atlanta Braves. One thing’s for sure, however: none of them will come close to matching the career totals of the award’s impressive namesake.