This week in baseball history featured the memorialization of an all-time great and the birth of another.
February 4, 1956
On this date, to commemorate his passing the year before, Major League Baseball established the Cy Young Memorial Award. This award would be presented each season to the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. For 11 years, only one man would have the honor of receiving the award. In 1967 this changed and one pitcher from each league was given the award.
Cy Young began his illustrious career in 1890 at the age of 23 with the now-defunct Cleveland Spiders of the National League. It took just three years for him to establish a name for himself in the league. In 1892, he led the league in wins with 36 and ERA at 1.93. He recorded 9 shutouts that season, also a league high. In his first seven years, he averaged 377 innings pitched per season, almost twice as many as starting pitchers today.
Cy Young ended his career in 1911 at the age of 44. When he finally hung up his spikes, he had compiled an overall record of 511-316. His win and loss mark is a league record that still stands to this day and is unlikely to ever be broken.
On top of his ridiculous win-loss total, he also had the all-time league record for games started (815), complete games (749), innings pitched (7,356), hits against (7,092), earned runs (2,147) and batters faced (29,565).
Quite a few of these record seem as if they are unfortunate records to hold, specifically his losses, runs against, and earned runs. This summation is unfair and falsely proclaims a deficiency in skill on the part of Young. Rather, it speaks to his longevity in the league and his ability to constantly produce for his team on the mound. His ability to put his body through that kind of work is unseen in the game today.
It only seemed fitting that the award for best pitcher in baseball should be named after the best pitcher the game had ever seen. When it was first presented in 1956, Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers was named the recipient. Since that first presentation, the Cy Young has been given to many men, among them being 7-time recipient Roger Clemens, a record for the title, followed by Randy Johnson, who won the award five times in his career.
https://calltothepen.com/2015/11/25/week-baseball-history-1122-1128/[=”#” teaser=”Read more about Don Newcombe’s historical Cy Young winning Year”]
February 5, 1934
Also in this week in baseball history, the ‘Home Run King’, Hank Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama.
Hank Aaron began his career in the Negro Leagues, as did many other black baseball players of the time. In his 26 games with the Indianapolis Clowns, Aaron batted .366 with 5 home runs and 33 RBI, as a six-foot, 180-pound shortstop.
Because of his success with the Clowns, Hank attracted the wealthy suitors of Major League Baseball. He was courted by the New York Giants and Milwaukee Braves. The Braves ultimately offered him $50 more than the Giants, and he signed with Milwaukee.
The Braves bought the contract of Hank Aaron for $10,000 in June of 1952. His first assignment as a professional was with the Class-C Braves affiliate, named the Eau Claire Bears. In his time with the Bears, Aaron refined his raw skills that he had developed in the Negros leagues and by 1954, Hank showed he was ready for the big leagues. On April 13, 1954 he made his debut with the big-league ball club.
After making it to the big leagues, the biggest transition for Hank was his position shift. For much of his baseball life, he had been an infielder, and when he made the Braves roster, they had him play in the outfield. Being adaptive, Hank quickly became accustomed to his new position and played his position very well. In his first season, he had a fielding percentage of .970 with just 7 errors on 235 total chances.
His second season in the league would see the beginning of the longest streak of consecutive All-Star appearances in baseball history. From 1955 until 1975, Hank Aaron would not miss a single mid-summer classic.
He would only capture the ultimate personal achievement award – league MVP – once in his career. That achievement came in his fourth year, in 1957. He batted .322 with 118 runs scored, 44 home runs and 132 RBI and racked up 369 total bases that year.
“Hammerin’ Hank” would make his way to Atlanta with the team when they became the Atlanta Braves in 1966. He ended his Hall of Fame career back in Milwaukee with the Brewers in 1975 and 1976. By the end of his career, he had amassed numerous all-time records.
Among these records was the home-run record of 755, which has since been passed by Barry Bonds. Aside from his records that have been broken, he still holds two incredibly impressive records. In his career, he drove in 2,297 runs and collected 6,856 total bases, unprecedented records for the time, and still untouched.
In 2000, Major League Baseball introduced a new annual award for the best hitter in each league. This award is named Hank Aaron Award. The winner is determined by a number of points awarded for several different achievements, such as home runs, hits and other batting statistics of the sort.
Some of the game’s best hitters in recent history have won this award. Among these men are Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. The most recent recipients, for the 2015 season were Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals and Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays.