33-10, 1.62/0.972/.236, 371.1 IP, 158 K, 37 BB, 7.9 H/9, 3.8 K/9, 0.9 BB/9, 4.3 K/BB, 5 SHO, 216 ERA+
There are plenty of reasons why Cy Young – the first dominant pitcher of the American League – is deserving of so high a rank for his 1901 campaign. The pitching Triple Crown (the first and only time he would manage that), the stratospheric ERA+ (fourth-highest in team history), the silly-low walk rate (which he would actually surpass three times in Boston).
But the real reason is because without Cy Young performing so well, American League baseball may never have survived in Boston. Granted, players like Buck Freeman and Eddie Collins also played roles, but Young was the fan favorite, and his 33 wins equaled 42 percent of the team’s total of 79 (in 2008 terms, that’s 94 wins, and a pitcher would have to win 39 games to equal Young’s percentage, which stood as a big-league record until Steve Carlton broke it in 1972). It should be no surprise that the pitcher whose blazing fastball was partially responsible for moving the mound back 10-and-a-half feet played such an important role in Boston.
Boston scored a coup, making headlines across the country when it signed Young on March 10 – something the Trenton Times called a “clever trick.” He opened the Huntington Avenue Grounds less than two months later with a 12-4 win. In July, he won 12 straight games, including his 300th. He won 20 games by his first start in August and 25 wins before September. Although the Americans slumped in August and fell from the race, Young was the Red Sox’ first superstar, enshrining Boston’s love with its superstar pitchers – those who won or contended for the award named for Young himself, from Lonborg to Clemens to Martinez to Schilling to Beckett.
Key game: Aug. 27. With Boston and Chicago fighting in the first American League pennant race, Young is lights out against Detroit, giving up just a first-inning run. But Roscoe Miller is just as good, allowing Boston to tie in the second but giving nothing more. They match zeroes for another 12 innings before Boston breaks through for a second run in the top of the 15th. Young retires the side in the bottom half, having managed to scatter 11 hits and two walks for his 25th win.