Today we look at 1956 in my “Cy Young” thread regarding the imagined 1975 Topps sub-set of cards celebrating the game’s top pitching performances.
And with this we get to the very first year the award was actually given out, albeit one award for the entire Major League.
So while the National league “winner” is a given being that he won the very first Cy Young Award in 1956, Brooklyn Dodger Don Newcombe, the American League’s supposed winner (as picked by the guys at SABR as mentioned in an earlier post) is Cleveland Indian young phenom Herb Score.
First let’s take a look at the card design:
Sadly I didn't have to create a card for either of these players since they were included in the 1956 Topps set. I had way too much fun with the last couple of posts in this thread!
For Don Newcombe, 1956 was a magical year. He was a monster on the mound, going 27-7 with a 3.06 earned run average and five shutouts and leading the Dodgers to another face-off with the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Not only did that get him the very first Cy Young Award, but it also bagged him a Most Valuable Player Award, thus making him the answer to a clever trivia question: who was the only pitcher to win a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and M.V.P.? (He would be joined in this by Detroit Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander in 2011)
Sadly for Newcombe it would be his last good year in the Majors, as he’d finish out his career four years later with the Cleveland Indians after some mediocre years with the Reds.
For Herb Score, it seemed that he had everything in the palm of his hand after his second year in the Majors.
After breaking in a year before with a 16-10 record for the Indians with a league-leading 245 strikeouts and 2.85 E.R.A. and winning the Rookie of the Year in the American League, he surpassed those numbers and knocked the baseball world on it’s butt by going 20-9 with a 2.53 E.R.A and league-leading 5 shutouts and 263 strikeouts. All this by the age of 23!
In 249.1 innings over 33 starts he had an astonishing 5.8 hits-per-nine-innings! The kid was well on his way to super-stardom.
But sadly, we all know how this would turn out.
On May 7th, 1957, pitching against the Yankees and facing Gil McDougald, Score threw a low fastball that McDougald rocketed back to the mound on a line drive, striking Score in the face and breaking his facial bones and injuring his eye.
Though he did eventually recover, he did miss the rest of the 1957 season, and much to everyone’s dismay was never able to catch that lightning in a bottle again.
Over the course of his final five seasons (1958-1962) he managed a record of 17-26 pitching for Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox.
Honestly it’s a testament to Score’s ability and will to make it back that he even won that many games on the Major League level again!
In 1959 he even managed to lead the American League in strikeouts per nine innings when he K’d 147 batters in 160.2 innings while going 9-11 in his last year pitching for the Indians.
Funny enough, the only American League pitcher to get a vote for the inaugural Cy Young Award was Yankee ace Whitey Ford, who went 19-6 with a 2.47 E.R.A., but I do agree with the folks at SABR and think that Score would have (should have) gotten the award based on a more dominant performance overall.
Next up, 1957 and one of my all-time favorite pitchers, Warren Spahn, along with who the SABR folks thought would win the A.L. vote: Jim Bunning.