On August 11, 1929, Babe Ruth became the first major-league player to hit 500 home runs. The history-making swing took place in Cleveland’s League Park and was Ruth’s first at-bat of the game. (Despite home runs by Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Cleveland won.) With the World Series just a couple of months away, this seems like a good time to highlight some of Ohio’s own baseball greats.
Pitcher and Ohio native Cy Young retired in 1911 with a record 511 career victories. He began his career in the National League with the Cleveland Spiders, but later played in the American League as well, where he pitched the first perfect game in American League history.
In the years during and after Young’s career, there was no Major League Baseball award that specifically recognized pitchers. Shortly after Young’s death in 1955, baseball commissioner Ford Frick started working to establish an award for the best pitcher in the major leagues each season. In honor of the all-time wins leader, it was called the Cy Young Memorial Award (later shortened to the Cy Young Award). Over time other great pitchers have emerged, but it seems fitting that the award still bears Young’s name; his career victories record still stands to this day.
On June 10, 1944, fifteen-year-old Ohio native Joe Nuxhall became the youngest person to play in a major league baseball game—a record that remains unbroken. After a short time with the Cincinnati Reds he spent some time in the minor leagues, then regained amateur status so he could play sports during his senior year of high school. He played on several minor league teams over the next few years before rejoining the Reds 1952, where he spent most of his professional career before announcing his retirement in 1967.
However, Nuxhall gained a second career with the Reds when joined the broadcast team. During this time, he often pitched batting practice for the Reds. Nuxhall retired from the Reds in 2004 and died in 2007. His is one of eight statues at the entrance of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.
Johnny Vander Meer
Johnny Vander Meer was born in New Jersey but made his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds and spent much of his career with the team. In 1938 he became the first—and only—major league player to throw two straight no-hitters, first against the Boston Bees and then against the Brooklyn Dodgers during the first night game held at Ebbets Field.
After retiring as a player, Vander Meer became a minor league manager with the Reds for ten seasons before retiring from baseball in 1962. He died at his home in Florida in 1997.
You can read about more Ohio baseball firsts in this blog post. We hope you enjoy the last full month of summer and are able to root for your favorite team in the playoffs!
Thank you to Stephanie Michaels, Research and Catalog Services Librarian at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!