CHAPTER TWELVE

1905 —1908: Old Cy Young

VER THE YEARS Cy Young had endured spells of bad luck and bad performance. But even in his worst hours and least glori- O ous outings, the success that attended the bulk of what he did eased the pain of temporary failures. Still, aging is inevitable, and for the athlete it is invariably accompanied by a diminution of skills. It was in the campaigns of 1905 and 1906 — seasons that saw Cy Young's victory totals dip below his loss totals — that the hurler first felt the force of that universal truth. What did he make of his disappointing work? There is no contemporary testimony from Young that gives voice to any worries. But it is hard to avoid speculation that two consecutive losing seasons, added to his impending fortieth birthday, took a toll on the pitcher's psychological resiliency. The fault was not all his. Some of the blame for the losses could be attached to a team that visibly faltered. But a pitcher stands alone in the middle of the diamond; that is why his work is measured by special statistics. Young could read those figures as well as anyone. He spent the two seasons on the mound every fifth or sixth day, and by October 1906, even if he dissented from the rumors, he surely understood why many observers of the game believed that time had finally overtaken the most durable pitcher in the history of baseball.

But the mood had been very different when, twenty months earlier, Young traveled to Arkansas in the late winter of 1905 to begin preparing for the coming season. Affectionately styled “Old Cy Young” in the press, he arrived in Hot Springs trimmer than he had been for several springs and hearing nothing but predictions for a third straight Boston pennant. The grounds for such confidence were clear. Already in possession of the strongest pitching staff in the American League, the club had moved to

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