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Red Sox History: Cy Young's 1904 perfect game

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The first perfect game in Major League Baseball's history came courtesy the Red Sox and a pitcher whose name you might know.

Wikipedia

On May 10th, 1904, the first perfect game in Major League history was thrown. Conveniently for this series of articles, it was thrown by Cy Young at the Huntington Avenue Grounds against the Philadelphia Athletics, a very well-documented team due to their dominance at the time.

Prior to this date, only two pitchers had thrown perfect games, both in 1880 -- Lee Richmond and John (Monte) Ward, who accomplished their feats within five days of one another. This was prior to the establishment of what we consider the "modern rules" of baseball in 1893, meaning that it took eight balls to walk a batter, pitchers threw sidearm, and the front edge of the pitcher's box (not even a mound) was only 45 feet from home plate. Cy Young's perfecto is regarded by history as the first one to be thrown in the modern baseball era as we know it.

Before we examine this game a bit closer, we need to set the stage for it. There was a buzz surrounding this match-up well before it occurred due to previous events a few weeks beforehand. The Americans had played the Athletics back on April 25th and were defeated due to the pitching of baseball's first true eccentric, Rube Waddell (who almost certainly would be diagnosed with ADD today), who outdueled Young that day. Not long after, on May 2nd, Waddell pitched for the Athletics against the Americans again. The Americans countered with Jesse Tannehill, which really didn't matter too much since despite him being a good hitting pitcher Waddell threw a one-hitter.

Waddell began to challenge Young in the press, daring him to take him on again, and Young picked up the gauntlet. (Nowadays, pitchers just have Twitter wars, but this was the fastest way to publicly call out your opponent at the time. There was also no point in telling Waddell not to do anything -- this was a man who occasionally worked as an alligator wrestler in the offseason. I'm not making that up.)

cy young
Photo credit: Wikipedia

With the match-up becoming highly anticipated due to the build-up in the press and Waddell's comments, a reported 10,267 fans crowded into Huntington Avenue Grounds to watch the defending World Series Champion Boston Americans and their staff ace play the rematch. They wouldn't be disappointed. As it were, Waddell proceeded to give up at least one hit to every Boston batter save for Young himself, although those 10 hits only amounted to three runs by the time the game was over -- one in the sixth and two in the seventh.

For his part, Cy Young pitched marvelously, although he was assisted greatly by some excellent defense behind him. Roughly around the 6th inning or so, his teammates became aware of what Young was doing and did what all good teammates do in that situation -- completely avoided him. It worked, and Young ended the game by retiring Waddell as the final out of the ninth, reportedly yelling, "How do you like that, you hayseed?" as he sat him down. The game had taken a mere one hour and twenty-three minutes to play. Joe West would have been so proud.

The perfect game came amidst Young's 45-inning scoreless streak, a record currently held by Orel Hershiser at 59 innings (set in 1988). During this span, Young also went 25-1/3 innings without allowing a hit, sitting down 76 consecutive batters. This record still belongs to him alone.

Cy Young really doesn't need much help in cementing his legacy. Besides his perfect game, he pitched three other no-hitters, earned 511 career wins, completed 749 of the 815 career games he started, and has the most prestigious pitching award in the United States after him. Perplexingly, though, it took two ballots to elect the man to Cooperstown, and he only appeared on 76.12 percent of ballots that second year. The first perfecto in modern baseball history (and MLB history), however, absolutely seals the deal. This game, although incredibly short, has gone down as one of the most significant in Red Sox history. The first perfect game in Major League history was hurled by one of their own.