Cy Young and the first perfect game

Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE

On May 5th, 1904, Cy Young took the mound for the Boston Red Sox against the Philadelphia Athletics. What followed was nine innings of history.

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You probably don't know the name "Lee Richmond," and unless you're really big on baseball history, Hall of Famer John Montgomery Ward has probably escaped your notice as well. These two men are noteworthy for having pitched perfect games less than a week apart in 1880. Those were the first two perfect games in major league history.

But they don't really count. The rules were not what they are today. The first pitcher to throw a perfect game by today's standards did so in 1904. His name was Cy Young, and he did so while playing with a team that is now known as the Boston Red Sox.

Cy Young, of course, is one of the best the game has ever seen. You usually have to be to get one of the game's major awards named after you. But his opponents that day were no slouchers. The Philadelphia Athletics went 81-70 in 1904, and their lineup that night featured Topsy Hartsel, who would lead the American League in walks over the next three years, and Harry Davis, a first baseman who took the home run title every year from 1904 through 1907.

Those accolades did nothing for the Athletics on May 5th at Huntington Avenue Grounds, however. Hartsel struck out once in the only at bat he had before leaving the game in favor of Danny Hoffman, and Harry Davis was himself fanned twice. Young would pick up eight whiffs on the night as he mowed down the Athletics in order, from 1 to 27. The Red Sox, meanwhile, provided him with three runs, bringing the team their 12th win just 15 games into the season.

By itself, any perfect game is an incredible feat, but to pass Cy Young's accomplishment off as nothing more than nine historic innings would be to sell it far short. After all, that would be ignoring the eight hitless innings he had split between April 25th and April 30th leading into this game, not to mention the six hitless frames he put up afterwards. That's right, these nine were just nine in the middle of 23 straight innings without a hit.

It's a record that won't be broken anytime soon.

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