"But I'm All Alone, and This May Be Sort of Fun": The Ageless Cy Young on the mound in 1934-35.
His dear wife Robba died in 1933 when he was 65 years old. Having no children and a farm to tend to, Young found a lot of empty time to fill. (2) As he took the hill for the local County All-Stars against the Cleveland Indians at the Tuscarawas Fair in September that year, perhaps the roar of the crowd stirred something inside him. If not the crowd, then striking out the side probably did. (3)
As the calendar turned to 1934, Young was active in local politics, spoke at picnics and other gatherings, and threw out the first pitch at a junior baseball game. (4,5,6) He fought hard to save the Peoli post office from being closed, taking the fight all the way to Washington. He didn't claim the business was needed, but that he and his buddies needed a place to gather and gab: "The boys won't have any place to loaf!" (7) The Postal Service decided to stay open and preserve their get-togethers, and also deliver mail, based on his plea. It was Cy Young, after all. The post office burned down six months later, but the fellas needed it, so it was rebuilt. (8) Where else can a geezer loaf, after all?
The transitions of life seemed to stir restlessness in Young's geriatric bones, and soon he would be on a mound once again, if only for a third of an inning. An old-timers game was played at League Park in Cleveland between the games of a double-header on the last day of the season in 1934. It was a "cold and miserable day" according to the Plain Dealer. The game actually ended in a brawl. The contest was a two-inning affair between the Antiques and the Has-Beens. Young was hailed as "an old man in brilliant red socks ... who warmed up by giving the ball an underhand toss." (9) He had nothing on the ball but "the good will of 10,000 fans." The game included some of Cleveland's baseball heroes of yesteryear, with faint resemblances to their former selves. Red Nelson "seemed about to pop out of his uniform," while Paddy Livingston "stretched his suit." Bill Bradley was hit by a pitch, but fortunately "in a fairly well padded section of his anatomy." (10)
The game ended when an outfielder for the Has Beens (they had five, so no one could be sure who it was] "sneaked in from deep center field in an attempt to get Larry [Napoleon] Lajoie off second base." (11) The lone umpire, working behind the plate, called the runner safe on the pickoff attempt. Roger Peckinpaugh, playing shortstop for the Has Beens, rushed the umpire with other players behind him. The umpire went down amidst this crowd of literal "has beens." The police interceded and escorted the umpire from the field. The official scorer ruled the game a no-contest. Some believed the entire incident was staged, but apparently other fans took the whole thing seriously. "That Rog Peckinpaugh always was a scrappy son of a gun," the Plain Dealer remarked. (12)
Young left the Has Beens and a week later was playing on a team of "hope to be's" called the Peoli All-Stars. This was a group of boys aged 12 to 15 who were looking for a pitcher, and they asked old Cy. He agreed to it, "for dear old Peoli." The image of a battered 67-year-old pitcher among a team of testosterone-filled teenagers is a bewildering one. But it happened. "Those kids we played," Young boasted to the Associated Press, "took a hefty cut at everything I tossed to 'em, but the old arm had plenty of stuff left in it and I won a couple of games." Things went downhill quickly, however, when the youngsters exploited a weakness. In the fourth inning of a game, a batter accidentally bunted the ball back to Young. "I tried to bend over to field it, but couldn't reach it," Young bemoaned. Those kids were quick learners. "I'm telling you," the senior citizen said, "no pitcher ever had so many bunts poked at him as those youngsters rolled at me." Baseball's all-time leader in wins was paid a visit to the mound. "The freckle-faced 14-year-old manager of our team waved 'enough' and to the showers I went," Young described. "In all my baseball experience I never had one that made me feel quite as washed up as that one did." (13)
He didn't feel washed up for long. Over the winter months he was alone in a big farmhouse filled with memories. Robba was the girl next door, and the couple had lived together for decades in the farm where Cy had grown up. Now the memories were piercing him. "Somehow after she died, I didn't want to live there anymore," Young said in 1944. "So I sold the place and moved down the road." (14) His farm sold in March 1935 and his chattel property sold at public auction on April 4, where a crowd of 2,000 turned out. (15) Someone even bought Cy's rake for $1.50. (16) He also sold his personal library of about 400 volumes to the Brewster, Ohio, High School Library. (17)
Before he "moved down the road," Young joined an old-timers barnstorming tour. "I'll come back to Peoli from time to time," he optimistically exclaimed, "to visit my friends and hunt rabbits." (18) He was off to Augusta, Georgia, for spring training at age 68. While it seems utterly ridiculous, it was all Young had left. "I'm all alone, and this may be sort of fun," he said just prior to leaving. (19)
The tour was advertised as a "Traveling Baseball School" and was organized by Walter J. Foley of Framingham, Massachusetts. Baseball old-timers would barnstorm the country to the delight of nostalgic crowds everywhere. That was the plan at least. Boys under 16 were eligible for instruction classes prior to the game, gaining admission by simply having The Sporting News in hand. These boys would receive training from some of baseball's all-time greats. Five weeks of spring training in Augusta helped get the guys in shape. A 19-game schedule was planned for the summer with opponents being major, minor, independent, and college teams. The planned locations for the ambitious tour included Milwaukee, Chicago, Toledo, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Kansas City, Des Moines, Albany, Baltimore, Danville (West Virginia), New York City, St. Stephen (New Brunswick), and Bangor (Maine). (20)
Young was contracted to pitch one inning per game and receive $250 per month. (21) Players arrived in Augusta and found lodging at the YMCA. (22) Besides Young, the expected players included Jimmy Archer, Sam Agnew, Jess Orndorff, Rube Marquard, Hap Collard, Paul Zahniser, Rube Bressler, Al Bashang, Eddie Miller, Larry Kopf, Jimmy Collins, Bob Veach, Rolla Mapel, Zack Wheat, Dick Loftus, Bob McGraw, Pat Duncan, and Bob Meusel. Many of those stars of yesteryear never appeared, or, if they did, only briefly. Instead, we see box scores with names of lesser-known major leaguers and others from who knows where: Dick Cox, Frank Oberlin, Chet Nichols, and Jack Smith. "The trouble was," Young said later, "that there were only half a dozen of the boys who really were former major leaguers, and I was the only one who was well known. We traveled by bus, as economically as possible." (23)
Their reported first game was April 26 against the Bona-Allen Shoe Company from Buford, Georgia. The "Shoers" got the better of the old-timers, 12-2, before several hundred fans. Young started and saw "successive wallops" by the opposition, whose players decided to have mercy on their elders and "deliberately popped up or rolled out," to get the game over with. (24) The legends lost a rematch the next day, 7-6.25 On April 30 they defeated a team in Barnwell, South Carolina, 3-2. (26)
Their bus rolled into Greenville, South Carolina, for a matchup with Furman University on May 2. Despite beating the college kids, 7-1, Scoop Latimer of the Greenville News said the extent of Young's work that day was "a vigorous assault on a plug of chewing tobacco as he sat on the end of the player's bench." The team was also described as 6 of 9 young fellows, as "there were no footprints of the presence of" Bressler, Wheat, Archer, Bill Wambsganss, or Sam Crawford, who were all advertised to appear. The result was a paltry $12 from 48 paying customers, which Latimer said kept Young from pitching because he was too busy "figurin' on his supper." (27)
A crowd of 600 turned out in Rowland, North Carolina, on May 3 to see the old-timers play a local team, with Rowland winning, 5-3. The old-timers' runs were the result of eight Rowland errors, while they themselves committed three. Paul Zahniser and someone named Muzlick pitched for the old-timers, while Young "pitched to five Rowland batters not counting as a part of the game, and then coached third base." (28) On May 8 they defeated a team in Ehrhardt, South Carolina, 11-7. (29) They played Rowland again on May 9, defeating them, 6-1. (30)
On May 28, Young and his team lost, 3-2 to Danville, Virginia, a team of the Bi-State League. The old-timers had reportedly won 13 of 14 games before losing to the Leafs, although prior newspaper accounts would say otherwise. The Leafs lineup included future major league infielder Red Barkley and a local guy named Guy who came in to pitch a scoreless inning although he was "far advanced in years." (31) Young, perhaps not the oldest pitcher that day, threw a scoreless first inning.
On May 29 the old-timers defeated Washington and Lee University, 7-3, when Rolla Mapel scattered ten hits and struck out five. Young pitched a scoreless ninth. (32) A crowd of 500 came out on May 30 at McCurdy Field in Frederick, Maryland, as the hometown Hustlers won, 8-2, over the legends. Many of the advertised players failed to show, but Young, "the noblest old-timer of them all" according to Frederick's The News, "was on hand to give an exhibition of his former mound prowess by pitching to three batters." Young pitched a scoreless inning and "stepped from the peak with the applause of the fans ringing in his ears." (33) "It is still just as loose as it used to be," Young said when asked about his arm. "The only trouble is I haven't any speed," but could still "lob a hook up there." (34) Fans saw Young and his "strands of gray hair escaping from beneath his blue cap, and his ruddy face and light blue eyes radiating enthusiasm." (35) The picture of a boy at heart.
A game in Baltimore against an all-star team under the direction of Joe Cambria yielded only $8.75 to split between the players. That money was needed to fix the team bus when it broke down. (36) A May 31 game in Alexandria, Virginia, ended when the old-timers refused to play when they didn't receive a $25 guarantee. The game was to be with the St. Mary's Celtics, whose manager, Theodore Beach, offered 75% of the gate receipts, but only $20 had been taken in when the game was about to begin. The old-timers made their request and "when it was refused they filed off the field amid the boos of the spectators," wrote the Evening Star. (37)
On June 3, the old-timers were in Hagerstown, Maryland, to play against the local Hoffman-Chevies team, presenting Hagerstown with "the most colorful array of baseball players ever offered in this city," wrote the Daily Mail. (38) A children's baseball clinic was held, and any child with a ticket could attend the instruction free. "Plenty of future Ruths, Youngs, Gehrigs and other stars in the making are expected to be on hand to be instructed by these old veterans," the Daily Mail wrote. (39) However, the team encountered "financial difficulties," and the old-timers left. (40)
A June 5 contest in Cumberland, Maryland, also didn't happen. Cumberland manager Eddie Eichner had warned local fans that the old-timers being advertised often did not appear. (41) A June 7 game in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, against the Shade A.C. team was also cancelled for what was reported as injuries on the team. (42) The tour was on its last legs, and within days was scrapped when they were in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Young was back in Ohio on June II. (43) "Now the one-time great hurler," lamented the writer of the "Sport Snap Shots" column in the Xenia Daily Gazette, "is described as a tired, shabby old man, who traveled around the country in a clattering second-hand car, living from hand to mouth with the Old-Timers." (44)
Young took up residence in a Newcomerstown hotel and found a job working in a five-and-ten, creating rumors that he was in poor financial shape. "Shucks, that doesn't amount to anything," he said. "I wasn't doing anything, and the manager said 'Cy, why not come in here and give us a lift,' and so I did." Young told this story to John Dietrich of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who tracked down the pitching legend as he was on his way to buy a train ticket. "I was just going down to the railroad station to buy a ticket to Bangor (Maine) when you came along," Cy told him. The scrapped tour was resurrected for one more game. "That was one of the stops arranged on our tour and I guess the promoter has decided to go through with it there. Anyhow, he sent me expense money, and I'm leaving tonight." (45) A Fourth of July game in Bangor was his next adventure.
The old-timers, or in the words of the Bangor Daily News, the "immortal troupe of stars," met in Boston at noon on July 3 and boarded a bus for Bangor, getting there by early evening. The event was made possible by the VFW, and Earl Heal of the Bangor Police Department had organized a team of "leading players in this locality." (46) This would definitely be a highlight for the Maine town. "For the first time in a batch of years," boasted the Bangor Daily News, "the sports fraternity of Bangor will not have to leave town for their entertainment on the joyous, powder-scented 'Fourth of July.'" (47)
The game would be played at the "recently beautified" Bass Park, and was preceded by horse racing. At 3:20, the legends hosted a mentoring session to "baseball minded youngsters" and answered questions until 4:30. The ball game began an hour later. Besides Young, this group of legends included players with brief careers and others not identified: Nick Altrock, Billy Jones, Barney Friberg, Buck O'Brien, Freddy Parent, Ed Walsh, "Big Jeff" Pfeffer, Roy Rock, Chet Nichols, Bucky Burke, Morrie Baschang, Frank Fahey, Joe Casey, Jack Ryan, Gene Demoe, Joe Cole, and Tom Connelly. "Judging from the brisk demand for tickets during the past week, the Veterans of Foreign Wars will run their sparkling sports program off before a capacity holiday crowd this afternoon," the Bangor Daily News excitedly announced. (48)
"The time-yellowed pages of baseball history were thumbed back some twenty years," wrote Bill Geagan of the Bangor Daily News, describing the unique outing. "Old Cy Young and his immortals of the diamond stepped from between its musty covers, to once again wear the spangles and spikes of the game they love." (49) Fans at Bass Park were delighted to see the "time-taxed, yet surprisingly capable veterans from the upper crust of the National Pastime," including Young, "a wrinkled remnant of his once great self" who still "showed fleeting flickers of his old form." (50)
Young retired the young whippersnappers in a scoreless first inning, and then took a seat to watch the rest of the game. It was a far cry from his performance on the Fourth of July 30 years earlier when he threw 20 innings in a 4-2 loss. Even so, Young "served with flashes of the same vigor that made him one of the game's most outstanding hurlers in his prime," wrote the Bangor Daily Commercial. (51) Big Ed Walsh, whose 1.82 ERA in a 14-year pitching career still ranks number one all-time, followed Young and it was said "time has been kind" to him, "touching him but lightly." (52) Walsh "steamed his deliveries down the groove and across the plate with the power and accuracy of top flight youth," the Daily News summarized. (53) The same could not be said for the youthful local pitcher, Jimmy Vanadistine, who gave up five runs in the first and three each in the second and third innings. More entertainment was found when Nick Altrock, the clown of baseball at the time, did his usual routine of silly antics and jokes, than in the old-timers 12-5 win. Altrock, "served to keep the small crowd of fans in good humor," wrote the Daily Commercial. (54)
"The attraction was unique," the Daily News reported, "the ball playing was good, the weather man smiled brightly and the day was a big success except for the very poor attendance, which totaled only a few hundred people. "ss Such was the story for Young and his barnstormers. "We had a good time but didn't draw near enough to pay our expenses," Sam Dungan, one of the old-timers on the tour, said in an interview later that summer. "Young and I were the only real veterans. Zach Wheat and Bob Meusel, originally booked, dropped out. We got as far as Alexandria, Va., paying most of our own traveling and living expenses. Then we decided to call off the schedule which was to have taken us into major league cities this summer." (56)
Young's swan song was anything but memorable. Cy Sherman in the Lincoln Star looked upon Young as a victim of "an ambitious eastern promoter, a misguided chap who figured that the public would pay substantial money for the privilege of seeing the heroes of 30 and 40 years ago in action on a diamond. He knows better now--knows it because of the dent in his bankroll." (57)
Young returned to the five-and-ten store in Newcomerstown. (58) He seemed to have enjoyed the senior baseball experience despite its flaws. "As it turned out," Young said, "we found out the promoters had no money to start with. They had a big payroll to meet, and couldn't do it. So finally I told the boys there was no use going on. I think the idea was pretty good, and with good backing, would have gone over. Anyhow, I had a good time. I wanted to see how the country had changed since I was down south last, 25 years ago, and I enjoyed it." Young had also reached into his own pocket to help out his fellow ballplayers. "The boys had to eat," he said modestly. (59)
Young's disappointment with the tour didn't quash his enthusiasm for life, however. He regularly fought to keep the Peoli post office open, right up until his death at 88 in 1955. The volume of fan mail Young received mainly kept it open, to the delight of the 11 other families in the area. Probably most of his fan mail was from fans who remembered the Cy Young of 50 years before, who threw hard and won more games than any other pitcher in history. It is doubtful anyone remembered his 1935 barnstorming tour, when old legends in a beat-up bus failed to spark the public's imagination. Young didn't complain, however, or ask for sympathy. He was first and foremost a pitcher.
"They didn't get a run off me in five games," the old veteran beamed. (60)
Special thanks to Elizabeth Stevens of the Bangor Public Library for research assistance.
Browning, Reed. Cy Young: A Baseball Life. (Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003).
Southwick, David, "Cy Young," SABR BioProject. Retrieved May 25, 2017. sabr.org/bioproj/person/dae2fh8a.
(1.) "'Cy' Young Enjoys Quiet Life on Farm in Tuscarawas County," Coshocton Tribune, March 18, 1934, 9.
(2.) "'Cy' Young's Wife Summoned by Death at Dover Hospital," Coshocton Tribune, January 26, 1933, 1.
(3.) Associated Press, "Cy Young Hurls as Indians Win," Evening Review, September 29, 1933, 10.
(4.) In 1934 he was running for his fifth term as "Republican central committeeman of Washington Township," according to the Coshocton Tribune, June 13, 1934. The report said he was not interested in "heavy politics but was "satisfied as Republican 'boss' of his farming community." No information was found on whether he won.
(5.) "Cy Young Will Attend Picnic of 'Old-timers' on Saturday," Evening Review (East Liverpool, Ohio), August 31, 1934, 10; "Cy Young Addresses Church League Softball Champs," Daily Times (New Philadelphia, Ohio), September 22, 1933, 8; "Father-Son Banquet Has Baseball Theme," Repository (Canton, Ohio), February 25, 1934, 8.
(6.) "'Cy' Young to Hurl First Ball for Juniors," Coshocton Tribune, June 3, 1934, 9.
(7.) "Young Sent to 'Showers' by U.S." Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio), December 14, 1933, 3.
(8.) "Post Office Burns at Peoli Despite Cy Young's Work," Coshocton Tribune, June 4, 1934, 1.
(9.) Roelif Loveland, "Old-timers Stage Ruckus, but Umpire Lavelle's Safe," Plain Dealer, October 1, 1934, 1.
(10.) Ibid, 3.
(11.) Roelif Loveland, "Old-timers Stage Ruckus, but Umpire Lavelle's Safe," Plain Dealer, October 1, 1934, 1.
(13.) Associated Press, "Cy Young Gets Final Release," printed in the Boston Herald, October 9, 1934, 20.
(14.) "Old 'Cy' Young Lives on Farm," Leader-Republican (Gloversville and Johnstown, New York), March 14, 1944, 10.
(15.) "Cy Young Has Sale; Will Leave April 20," Coshocton Tribune, April 5, 1934, 4.
(16.) "Fans Make Ready to Greet Vets In Games This Week," Augusta Chronicle, April 22, 1935, 5.
(17.) "Library of Cy Young Bought by High School at Brewster," Evening Independent, April 26, 1935, 8.
(18.) "'Cy' Young Will Tour U.S. With Ex-Big Leaguers," Coshocton Tribune, March 26, 1935, 1.
(19.) "Cy Young Starts Spring Training," Coshocton Tribune, April 21, 1935, 9.
(20.) "Old-Timers to Tour," The Sporting News, January 10, 1935, 2.
(21.) "'Cy' Young Will Tour U.S. With Ex-Big Leaguers," Coshocton Tribune, March 26, 1935, 1.
(22.) "Fans Make Ready to Greet Vets in Games This Week."
(23.) John Dietrich, " 'Don't Say Cy Young Needs Charity,' Old Hero, Now 5-and-10 Clerk, Declares," Plain Dealer, July 3, 1935, 19.
(24.) "Fast Buford Team Subdues Old-timers in Loose Game," Augusta Chronicle, April 27, 1935, 3.
(25.) "Textile Clouters Meet Veterans in Sabbath Contests," Augusta Chronicle, April 28, 1935, 9.
(26.) "Old-timers Win Contest," Augusta Chronicle, May 1, 1935, 6.
(27.) Scoop Latimer, "Youths Tagged as Old-Timers Defeat Furman," Greenville News, May 3, 1935, 15.
(28.) "Rowland Defeats the Old Leaguers," The Robesonia (Lumberton, North Carolina), May 6, 1935, 8.
(29.) "Ehrhardt Beaten by Old-timers," Augusta Chronicle, May 9, 1935, 6.
(30.) "Old-Timers Win," The Robeson, May 13, 1935, 4.
(31.) "'Leafs' Trim 'Old-timers' Score 3-2," Danville (Virginia) Bee, May 29, 1935, 6.
(32.) "Old-timers' Beat Generals, 7 to 3," Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), May 30, 1935, 5.
(33.) "Old-timers Lose to the Hustlers," The News (Frederick, Maryland), May 31, 1935, 6.
(34.) "Cy Young Talks of Better Days," The News (Frederick, Maryland), May 31, 1935, 6.
(36.) Harry McCrea, "Around Our Town," Canton Repository, April 21, 1935, 4; Harry Grayson, "By Harry Grayson," News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania), June 8, 1935, 7.
(37.) "Old-Timers Quit," Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 1, 1935, 25.
(38.) "Old-timers and Chevies will Clash," Daily Mail (Hagerstown, Maryland), June 3, 1935, 11.
(40.) "Sport of Sorts," Daily Mail, June 5, 1935, 9.
(41.) From the Joe Sephus' Cullings column in the Cumberland (Maryland) Evening Times, June 4, 1935, 10; "Colts to Meet Strong Negro Outfit Friday," Cumberland Evening Times, June 26, 1935, 13.
(42.) "Injuries Force Cy Young's Club to Delay Joust," The Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), June 6, 1935, 17.
(43.) "Cy Young's Old-Time Team Has to Disband," Omaha World-Herald, June 12, 1935, 17; "Barnstorming Tour Featuring 'Cy' Young Closes a Failure," Palladium-Item (Richmond, Indiana), June 12, 1935, 8.
(44.) "Sport Snap Shots Framed by Phil," Xenia Daily Gazette, July 5, 1935, 5.
(46.) "Old-timers Will Arrive in Bangor Tonight at 10 P.M." Bangor Daily News, July 3, 1935, 8.
(47.) "Old-timers Here For Bass Park Game Today," Bangor Daily News, July 4, 1935, 6.
(49.) Bill Geagan, "Cy Young Squad Win 12-5 Game," Bangor Daily News, July 5, 1935, 10.
(51.) "Old-timers Whip Local Cluster in Holiday Feature," Bangor Daily Commercial, July 5, 1935, 8.
(52.) "Cy Young Squad."
(54.) "Old-timers Whip."
(56.) Eddie West, "Sam Dungan Looks Back on Career as Happy Adventure," Santa Ana Register, August 15, 1935, 6.
(57.) Cy Sherman, "Brass Tacks," Lincoln Star, July 31, 1935, 8.
(58.) "Cy Young Now Clerk in Store," Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1935, 20.
Caption: Cy Young left the quiet of his Ohio farm to become a barnstorming pitcher at the age of 68.
Caption: Young said he didn't have the speed he once had but could still "lob a hook up there."
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|Publication:||The Baseball Research Journal|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2017|
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