From 1890 to 1911, one man won more baseball games than any other in the history of the sport. His name: Denton True “Cy” Young. In a two-decade run, Young won 511 games. The next closest winning pitcher was Walter Johnson, who finished with 417 wins, 94 wins behind Young.
Young made his debut on August 6, 1890 for the National League’s Cleveland Spiders against the Chicago Cubs. Young got his first career win that day en route to finishing his first season with a 9-7 record.
The following season, his first full one, Young finished with a 27-22 record, not unheard of in that era as pitchers pitched more often than at any other time since.
In 1892 Young won 36 games with nine of those coming as shutouts. Those are the most wins he would get in any season, and the Cleveland Spiders would be the team that Young won the most games with, finishing with 241 wins before being sent to the St. Louis Perfectos in 1899. In two seasons with the Perfectos/Cardinals (as they were called by 1900), Young finished with 45 wins, bringing his career total to 286 wins.
Following two years in St. Louis, Young went to the Boston Americans of the newborn American League. Young played for the Americans/Red Sox organization for eight years, winning 192 games.
Young was the first pitcher to ever start a World Series game when the Americans hosted the NL-Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series in 1903.
By the time Young finished his time in Boston, he had won a total of 478 games, which would still be a record, even today, if he had stopped playing then.
Young wasn’t finished winning, though. He joined the then-Cleveland Naps, so named for their best player at the time, Nap Lajoie. Young was on the downward trend of his career as he won only 29 games over two-and-one-half seasons with the team that later became known as the Indians. He left Cleveland midway through the 1911 season with 507 career wins. The final four wins of his career would come with Boston’s National League Club, the then-Boston Rustlers, later the Braves.
Young’s 511-win record is one that will never be surpassed because baseball today is vastly different than it was a century ago. The record has stood for 101 years, and, barring some unforeseen change in the way baseball is played, it will remain unbroken.
Cy Young wins by team
1890-1898: Cleveland Spiders: 241
1899-1900: St. Louis Perfectos: 45
1901-1908: Boston Americans: 192
1909-1911: Cleveland AL team: 29
1911: Boston NL team: 4