While we’ve all been dribbling basketballs for the past few weeks the baseball season has jumped on top of us. Major League baseball has returned as well as college and high school. Ah, “Take me out to the ball game”. That tune is in the air! All of that leads me to a story about the award for the best pitcher in baseball and Larned’s Ralph Terry.
Though Terry was born in Big Cabin, Oklahoma, he has, for years, made his home in Larned, Kansas. So much so that Larned claims him as one of their own. It is hard to believe that Terry’s last Major League appearance is now fifty-two years ago when he pitched in 1967, for the New York Mets. Still, as a New York Yankee hero, as a 1962 World Series hero for the Yankees, his aura of fame remains today.
In 1962 Terry went 23-12 with a 3.19 ERA, to lead the American League. In the 1962 World Series, he went 2-1 with a 1.80ERA and 16 strikeouts in 25 innings over three games against the San Francisco Giants. His performance earned him the World Series MVP that year. You would think that all of that would have garnered him the Cy Young award as the American League’s best pitcher, right? Wrong!
The Cy Young Award was first introduced in 1956, to honor the Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young, who died in 1955. From 1956 to 1966, the award was given to just one pitcher in all of Major League baseball. Due to fan requests, beginning in 1967, Commissioner William Eckert decreed that each year the award would be given to a pitcher in each the National League and American League. That process is still in practice today.
Thus, in 1962, Ralph Terry’s banner season, the Cy Young Award was given to only one pitcher and Terry’s great season happened to coincide with another great season by Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale. Drysdale posted a record of 25-9 with 232 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.84.
Older fans will remember the terrific pitching staffs that the Dodgers put together in the 1960’s that began with Don Newcombe and finished with the incomparable Sandy Koufax. Koufax would go on to win three Cy Young Awards himself. Thus, the Dodger pitching staff won four of five Cy Young Awards between Drysdale’s 1962 and Koufax’s last in 1966. That was the competition that Terry faced in a battle for Cy Young recognition.
There is a terrific organization known as the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR) that is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. If you are a baseball statistic guru, they are the place for you. They have compiled every statistic ever known to man and baseball , from the very beginning to the finale of the 2018 season.
Last year, while attending one of their conventions, Terry learned that their organization, had determined that IF Major League Baseball had been giving a Cy Young Award to both the National League and American League pitchers in 1962, in all likelihood he would have been the 1962 Cy Young winner for his 23-12 season with the Yankees in 1962. SABR called it the Retroactive SABR Awards. A page with Terry’s 1962 season as the probable Cy Young winner for the American League is part of the memorabilia in Terry’s home.
Early in Terry’s career when he was assigned to Class A Binghampton, New York, a Yankee farm team, he was at the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown, N.Y., and during pre-game festivities the 18-year-old Terry was busily introducing himself to anyone at the game and in the dugouts. Terry stuck his hand out and said to one older man, “Hi, I am Ralph Terry, a ball player with Class A Binghampton.” The older gentleman responded, “Nice to meet you, I’m Cy Young.”
As a modest man, Ralph Terry doesn’t need more awards to justify his career. His outstanding accomplishments in the Major Leagues stand on their own. However, as a fan of baseball, a fan of Small Town U.S.A., and a former Yankee fan, it is great to see Ralph Terry’s recognition as the best pitcher in the American League in 1962. “ Hello, Cy Young, I’m Ralph Terry.”
Buddy Tabler is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune and his views don’t necessarily reflect those of the paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.