Bob Gibson came out top in both of the polls, though with only 27% and 22% of the vote respectively, it’s clear there was really no wrong choice here. With two slots up, as previously discussed, the other slot therefore goes to the highest scoring runner-up across the two polls. That spot belongs to Cy Young, whose 19% edged out Walter Johnson (16%).
Gibson wasn’t the healthiest of children, but overcame both rickets, breathing issues and a heart murmur to win an athletic scholarship to Creighton University - albeit for basketball. Indeed, after graduation, he traveled for a year, playing with the Harlem Globetrotters, before joining the St. Louis Cardinals, the organization with which he would play his entire professional career. His opening season in 1957 was unimpressive, Gibson walking 61 batters over 85 innings, while striking out only 49. But he improved the following season, posting a 2.84 ERA in Triple-A. He made the major-league club out of spring training in 1959, and made his debut on April 15, out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.
It was far from a Hall of Fame appearances. He was charged with five earned runs in just one inning, taking the loss. Indeed, his first two seasons were unremarkable, Bob’s ERA being 4.55 (ERA+ 91) over 162.1 IP as a swingman. But new manager Johnny Keane moved Gibson more or less permanently into the rotation, and the pitcher blossomed with a more consistent role. In 1962, he made his first of nine All-Star appearances, going 15-9 on a mediocre club, with a 2.84 ERA (a league-best 151 ERA+). Two years later, the Cardinals edged the Phillies for the NL pennant. In the World Series against the Yankees. Gibson started three times, including Game 7 on two days rest where he gutted out a complete-game win, and was named MVP.
As well as a pitcher, Gibson won nine Gold Gloves and was no rabbit at the plate. In 1965, he batted .240 with five home-runs, and had 24 HR in his career. But on the mound, he’d lead the Cardinals to another World Series win, and another MVP award in 1967. Again, Gibson started three of the seven games, this time going 3-0 with a 1-0 ERA as St. Louis beat Boston. However, it was the folloiwing season that Gibson’s legacy would be made. In 1968, he went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA which remains the lowest in the live-ball era. In the 22 wins, he had a 0.57 ERA, and peaked in June and July. Over those two months, he made 12 starts, threw 12 complete games, went 12-0 and allowed sjx earned runs over 108 innings, a 0.50 ERA
Including that period, during which Gibson had a 41 inning scoreless streak, he tossed 18 complete games in 19 starts. The 19th was a 13-inning loss, where Gibson “only” worked 11 frames. Over his nine losses, Gibson received only 12 runs of support. St. Louis reached the World Series again, but this time fell short, despite three more complete games, including a 17 K performance in Game 1, and a 1.67 ERA from their ace. A unanimous choice for Cy Young winner, Bob was also voted NL MVP over Pete Rose. It’s be 46 years before another pitcher would win it. The mound was lowered at the end of the season, a change resulting from the dominance of Gibson and others, unmatched since the days of dead-ball.
He would win another Cy Young in 1970, going 23-7 with a 3.12 ERA (133 ERA+), in his age 34 campaign. It would be his final 20-win season, though he continued to pitch for five more seasons, finally retiring at the end of 1975. His final record was 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA (ERA+ 127) and 3,117 strikeouts.
There’s a reason the award for the premier pitcher in each league is named after Young, whose 511 career victories likely ranks among baseball’s most unbreakable records. Born an Ohio farmboy in 1867, he left school after the sixth grade to work on his family’s acreage. His professional career began with the Canton Nadjys in the Tri-State League. Originally going by Dent Young, he picked up the nickname “Cy” because of the backboards destroyed by his fastball, leaving them looking like they had been hit by a cyclone. After one season, he signed with the Cleveland Spiders, then not the laughing stock they’d become. Still, they won 21 more games in Young’s first full season of 1891.
The next year, Young went 36-12 with a 1.93 ERA (ERA+ 176) and was worth 13.9 bWAR. That helped Cleveland reach the equivalent of the World Series, on the sole occasion participants were decided by a split season. But the Spiders lost 5-0-1 to the Boston Beaneaters, Young throwing three complete games, including the contest which ended in a scoreless tie. Much like Gibson, the dominance and power shown by Cy and his colleagues forced a rule change in 1893, with the mound being moved back a whopping five feet to its present 60’6” distance. Young would spend six more years in Cleveland, including the first of his three no-hitters, which came on September 18, 1897.
After the 1898 season, the Spiders’ owner bought the St. Louis Browns, and transferred all Cleveland’s best talent, including Young, to the Browns. [This set up the Spiders for their historically wretched 20-134 record] Cy spent two years on the new team, going 46-34 with a 2.78 ERA (ERA+ 137), but the new Browns largely failed to live up to expectations. 1901 saw the arrival of the upstart American League, who sought to poach NL talent, and Cy agreed to jump ship to the new league’s Boston franchise, the Americans, for a then-outrageous $3,500 contract. He proved his worth immediately, providing 33 of the team’s 79 victories to win the Triple Crown in the AL’s inaugural year. He’d lead it in wins the next two seasons as well.
Cy threw the first pitch in modern World Series history in 1903, and the Americans went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3, Young started three games and had a 1.85 ERA. On May 5, 1904, Young threw a perfect game against the Philadelphia Athletics, the first in the modern era or AL history. The contest was completed in just 83 minutes, and was part of a 45-inning scoreless streak by the pitcher, as well as a 251⁄3 inning hitless record, which still stands. A third no-hitter followed in 1908: he walked one batter, who was caught stealing. That season, at age 41, Cy went 21-11 with a 1.99 ERA (ERA+ 129). He pitched three more years, and was part of the Hall of Fame’s sophomore class in 1937.