May 5, 1904: Cy Young throws the first perfect game in modern MLB history

By: Terrance Pryor

Pitchers in baseball live to possibly throw a perfect game. It puts them in a rare class that gleefully brag about their feat at the dinner table. One Ohio native managed to make history with his perfect game. It only took some trash talking for it to happen.

Young and proud

Cy Young spent the first decade of his MLB career with the National League. When the American League was formed in 1901, he jumped ship for a then-hefty paycheck. His team of choice was the Boston Americans, and Young was showcasing his talents. At the first World Series, Young helped his team win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Young didn’t just stick to the big leagues. In between seasons, he was the pitching coach for Harvard University and Mercer University.

A worthy rival

On May 2, 1904, the Boston Americans faced off against Philadelphia Athletics. While everyone assumed Young would dominate, Athletics pitcher Rube Waddell flexed his muscles. Waddell was a strikeout maestro with 302 strikeouts in the previous year. Instead of placing Young against him, the Americans chose pitcher Jesse Tannehill. When it was all said and done, Waddell only allowed one hit from the Americans. With a 3-0 loss, Young felt horrible about not being on the field. Waddell didn’t just walk away after his amazing performance. With another game against the Americans on the horizon, he taunted Young mercilessly in the press. It was enough to make Terrell Owens crack a smile.

Perfect is the word

On May 5, 1904, the Americans were looking to get their payback against the Athletics. This time around, Young was in charge, and he had Waddell in his sights. Throughout the game, Young didn’t let one Athletics player get a hit. The final player Young retired was Waddell, who regretted awakening a monster. After retiring him, Young stated, “How do you like that, you hayseed?” With 27 batters retired overall, Young became the first modern-era pitcher to have a perfect game. Waddell learned to simply shake the hand of your opponents after a game.