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November 02, 2000|EARL GUSTKEY

Title: "Cy Young--A Baseball Life."

Author: Reed Browning

Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press.

Price: $26.95.

Reed Browning digs deep into 19th century rural Ohio history to trace the life of a pitcher better known for a postseason award than for his remarkable career.

A history professor at Ohio's Kenyon College, Browning tells the story of Cy Young, a strapping young farm boy whose career from 1890-1911 resulted in the still-astounding total of 511 career victories, 267 of them in the 19th century.

Young died at 88 in 1955, and the Cy Young Memorial Award was instituted in 1956. The first winner was the Dodgers' Don Newcombe. Beginning in 1967, it became a dual award, to a pitcher from each league.

A central element to Browning's book is Young's durability. Not until his 10th major league season, Browning reports, did Young miss significant playing time because of an injury. And those 20 days he missed in June, 1900, because of an injured rib, remained his longest time on the bench of his career.

Some other nuggets:

* Young, on Oct. 1, 1903, threw the first pitch of the first World Series.

* He has been baseball's winningest pitcher since June 13, 1903, the date of his 361st victory.

* He won 195 games in his 20s, 241 in his 30s and 75 in his 40s.

* He's the only pitcher to win three consecutive 1-0 games.

* His real name was Denton True Young but, as a minor league pitcher, one of his errant fastballs broke a wood backstop, inspiring a teammate to call him "Cyclone." It caught on and was later shortened to Cy.

Young's salary history is as stupefying as his career victory total. His highest salary: $6,000.

Sadly, Young was financially strapped in his final years. He boarded with friends. At one point, he was a clerk in a Newcomerstown, Ohio, store. His estate consisted of $20,000 worth of stock in a bank.

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