“The 76-year-old gray-haired man puffed contently on an ancient, battered pipe,” wrote Burton Hawkins of The Washington Star, referring to Cy Young, whom he interviewed in May 1943. The sprightly septuagenarian—MLB’s career leader in wins (511), losses (315), complete games (749), innings (7,356), and batters faced (29,565)—discussed a variety of topics with Hawkins, including pitching, longevity and the all-time greats.
“I guess the reason I was good was because I had great control and a lot of good stuff on the ball,” explained Young. “Hans Wagner said I had two great curve balls and he was right—one of them didn’t break as wide as the other. I had a fine fastball, too, but the secret to my pitching success was being able to get all that stuff over the plate. I could throw anything with a count of three and two on the batter and be reasonably certain of pitching a strike. Bob Feller is the best pitcher I’ve seen among the modern boys. He was crude when he started because he had a hitch in his delivery, but he overcame that. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging on myself, but Feller wasn’t as fast as Walter Johnson or myself. . . .
“I’m still in good shape. Last summer I got out on the mound here [Cleveland’s League Park] and pitched to a batter in practice. Right now, I could get out there and get the ball over, but it wouldn’t have anything on it. I still have a little money left, but it’s running out. Guess I’m living too long. Some of my best years, I never made more than $2,400—that was the salary limit then—but I’m not complaining. I saved enough to retire on, and I guess some of the modern boys don’t handle their money that well.
“I pitched 874 major league games in 22 years and never had a sore arm until the day I quit. My arm went bad in 1912 when I was in spring training—and I guess it was about time. I was 45 years old then. I never had a trainer rub my arm the whole time I was in baseball. That doesn’t mean pitchers make a mistake now by having their arms rubbed. The explanation, in my case, was that a good arm hung from my shoulder and in my early years in the game, we didn’t even have trainers.
“I pitched every third day and I remember one Eastern trip we took in which we played 18 games, and I pitched every other day. The biggest thrill I ever got out of baseball was pitching that perfect game against [Rube] Waddell, but I never realized what a nice game I had pitched until it was over. . . . I just never realized nobody had gotten on base. Another game I like to remember was when I pitched 20 innings against the Red Sox and didn’t give up a base on balls.
“[Ty] Cobb was the greatest batter I ever pitched to. [Honus] Wagner was great, too, but Cobb did a better job of outguessing the pitchers. On my all-time team, I’d put Cobb, Tris Speaker and Babe Ruth in the outfield. Pop Anson at first base, Nap Lajoie at second, Wagner at shortstop, Jimmy Collins at third, Roger Bresnahan behind the plate and pitching would be [Walter] Johnson, Waddell, Grover Alexander, Ed Walsh and myself.”
◾Source: Hawkins, Burton. “Win, Lose or Draw.” The Washington Star, 14 May 1943: C1.