Cy Seymour Essentials

Positions:
Bats: L Throws: L
72 Weight: 200
Born: 12 9, 1872 in Albany, NY USA
Died: 9 20 1919 in New York, NY USA
Debut: 1896-04-22
Last Game: 7/17/1913
Full Name: James Bentley Seymour

 

In 1897, Cy Seymour — a 24-year-old fireballer thought by many to be the next Amos Rusie — showed signs of greatness that offered a circuitous glimpse of things to come. He finished the year, his second in the big leagues, with 18 wins, a 3.27 ERA, and paced MLB in strikeouts (156) and fewest-hits-per-nine innings (8.1). The sporadic southpaw also issued a league-leading 168 walks in 286 ⅔ innings pitched. “If Cy Seymour possessed control, he would be the greatest pitcher in the country,” said Boston’s crack first baseman, Fred Tenney, in April 1898. “He has the most baffling curves. It is impossible to gauge them.”

Led by a pair of flamethrowers ominously known as “Cyclone” and “The Hoosier Thunderbolt,” the New York Giants’ staff struck fear into the hearts of opposing batsmen. Rusie was still a force, finishing the 1898 season with 20 wins and 114 Ks (6th in the NL). Seymour’s performance, however, made him Gotham’s de facto staff ace. He posted career highs in wins (25), complete games (39), shutouts (4), innings (356 ⅔ ), ERA (3.18), and paced the majors — by a wide margin — with 239 strikeouts. Conversely, he also led the league in walks (213), hit batsmen (32), and wild pitches (19). In summing up his season, The Washington Times wrote: “Seymour was as wild as a Spanish sharpshooter, he was, however, effective and his work partook of the qualities of genius.”

Seymour’s 1899 campaign was par for the course; he went 14-18 with a 3.56 ERA while pacing the majors in walks (170) and strikeouts-per-nine innings (4.8). The powerfully built lefty — 6-foot, 200-pounds — also showed flashes of brilliance at the plate, finishing with seven extra-base hits, 27 runs batted in, and a .327 batting average in 168 at-bats.

After injuring his arm in 1900, Seymour’s days as a big leaguer seemed numbered; however, John McGraw — impressed by his hitting and all-around athleticism — installed Seymour as the Baltimore Orioles’ everyday right fielder in 1901. It turned out to be an excellent decision. Cy appeared in 134 games, hitting .303 with eight triples, 77 RBI, 38 stolen bases, and 23 outfield assists. Moved to center field upon joining the Cincinnati Reds in 1902, he hit .302 with 10 triples, 78 RBI, 20 steals, and 19 assists.

Seymour’s 1903 campaign cemented his status as one of baseball’s top batsmen. That year, he hit .342 with 25 doubles, 15 triples, 72 RBI, and 25 stolen bases. As an outfielder, Cy led the senior circuit with 318 putouts and, most dubiously, set a modern major league record with 36 errors.

In 1905, Seymour became a bonafide superstar, as he paced the senior circuit in almost every conceivable category: hits (219), doubles (40), triples (21), RBI (121), average (.377), slugging percentage (.559), and total bases (325). Described by The Associated Press as “the top notcher in long-range slugging,” Cy finished runner-up in the NL home run race (8) for the second time in three years. He also ranked among the league leaders with nine double plays turned (1st), 21 errors (2nd), 347 putouts (2nd), 25 outfield assists (3rd), and a 2.56 range factor (3rd).

Making his performance even more impressive is the fact that Seymour suffered from migraines on a near-daily basis. Though some attributed his maladies, and occasional bizarre behavior, to alcohol consumption, an article that ran in The New York Evening World in November 1905 offered another explanation: “Cy Seymour, champion batsman . . . is about to undergo an operation for the removal of a growth on his head. He suffers great pain and fears brain trouble.”

In December 1905, Seymour gave an interview in which he described the secrets to his success. “If I were asked to give two principle suggestions for good batting,” explained Seymour, “they would be: Know your pitchers and keep close tabs on the position of fielders. I ascribe a large portion of my showing this year to the hit-and-run game. I would give the runner on first base his signal for a steal and then aim to hit the ball through the shortstop’s or second baseman’s position. . . . A large portion of my base hits were made in this way. . . . For a pitcher who serves slow ones and uses his head, I use a lighter bat, but when a pitcher relies mainly on speed, I find a heavy bat more serviceable.”

Perhaps still recovering from his offseason surgery, Seymour’s batting average fell 91 points in 1906. The big lefty was still productive, however, finishing the year with eight homers (3rd in the NL), 80 RBI, 29 stolen bases, and a .286 batting average; in the field, he amassed 20 assists while ranking third among NL gardeners in range factor. Back with the New York Giants in 1907, he hit .294 (5th in the NL) with 36 extra-base hits, 75 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. Teammate Christy Mathewson later described Seymour as one of the mightiest batsmen of all-time.

Seymour began the 1908 season slowly but heated up in late-May. Batting out of the four-hole behind “Turkey Mike” Donlin, he finished the year with 30 extra-base hits, 92 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. On defense, the 35-year-old paced NL center fielders in assists (29), double plays (10), errors (21), and ranked third in putouts (340).

“There was a war in the camp of the Giants to-day,” reported the New-York Tribune on March 12, 1909, “and it ended in the sudden discharge or release of Cy Seymour. This drastic action on the part of McGraw was the result of a fist fight . . . in which Seymour knocked Arlie Latham down. . . . Seymour claims that the cause of his attack was a remark made about him by Latham in the presence of some women.” John McGraw released a statement that read in part: “Seymour is done with the New York club, and that goes. It was the worst thing I ever saw. Nothing like that can go on while I am manager.” Following a round of apologies, Mugsy relented and reinstated his star center fielder. Cy appeared in 80 games, batting .311 with 12 doubles and 14 stolen bases.

After hitting .265 with little power and struggling in the field, Seymour was released following the 1910 season; he spent the next two years in the minors. The 39-year-old hit .306 with the International League’s Newark Indians in 1912, earning himself a contract with the Boston Braves. However, Seymour’s attempt to cheat Father Time proved futile — he hit .178 through 39 games before being released in July 1913. Two months later, The Associated Press reported: “Seymour has organized a strong semi-pro team to play in and around Greater New York, which he has named ‘Cy Seymour’s Stars.’ He will be the captain, manager and center fielder of the team.”

All told, Seymour amassed 1,724 hits — 229 doubles, 96 triples, 52 home runs — 799 RBI, 222 stolen bases, and a .303/.347/.405 slash-line over parts of 16 big-league seasons. On the mound, he went 61-56 with 105 complete games, 591 strikeouts, and 659 walks in 1,038 innings pitched. According to SABR’s Bill Kirwin: “Since 1893 only one player in the history of the game, Babe Ruth, combined to ever have more pitching victories and more hits than Seymour.”

Deemed unfit for military duty, Seymour worked in a New York shipyard during World War I. Around this time, it is assumed that he contracted tuberculosis. On May 9, 1919, The Washington Herald reported: “Cy Seymour, who in the days of his prime could pole a ball just a little bit further than anyone else in the game, is seriously ill at his home in Highbridge. In the near future, the Manhattan and Bronx Catholic Baseball League will set aside a special Sunday when all proceeds . . . will be turned over to the veteran slugger.”

On September 20, 1919, James Bentley Seymour, age 46, passed away at his home in New York City. An obituary that ran in The New York Sun noted: “Seymour, who . . . had played semiprofessional ball in recent years, had been ill for some time. While with the Cincinnati Nationals, Seymour led the league in batting in 1905 with .377, and when repurchased by the New York Nationals, where he started his major league career, the purchase price, $12,000, was regarded as the largest baseball cash deal up to that time.”

✍️ Bobby King II

Sources: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ + https://www.baseball-reference.com/ + https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/75e80904