- OF, 2B
- April 10, 1897
- 5' 8"
- 162 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-25-1917 with NY1
- Hall of Fame:
"He was a smaller Ty Cobb. He was built like Enos Slaughter - had the same hustle, and even more ability." — Waite Hoyt "Everybody has Cobb. Ruth and Speaker on his all-time outfield. But, somehow, I've got to find a place for Pep Young. Don't ask me to take one out, I've just got to put Pep in there somewhere." — Ford C. Frick
A fine outfielder with an excellent arm and a beautiful batting stroke, Ross Youngs died tragically at the age of 29 when he was struck with Bright's Disease. Purchased for $2,000, he was one of John McGraw's favorite players and he played on four Giant pennant-winning teams in the 1920s, providing exuberant hustle and an aggressive approach on the basepaths. He is credited with teaching Mel Ott the finer points of playing right field in the Polo Grounds.
Born in Shiner, Texas and educated at Texas Military Institute, Youngs made his major league debut in 1917 with the New York Giants and played his first full season in 1918, placing 6th in the league with a .302 batting average. Youngs batted .300 or higher in every season until 1925, and higher than .350 twice, scored 100 or more runs three times, and posted a career high 102 RBI in 1921 and 10 home runs in 1924. The Giants went to the World Series four consecutive years (1921 - 1924) and won twice (1921, 1922).
Youngs's career was abruptly cut short in 1926 when he was diagnosed with the kidney disorder which at the time was called Bright's disease. He played in 95 games that season and died the following year, on October 22, 1927, at the age of 30. Nevertheless, Youngs posted impressive numbers over his abbreviated ten year career, including 812 runs, 42 home runs, 592 RBI, 153 stolen bases and a .322 career batting average and .399 career on base percentage.
Youngs was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. They explained what they called "the Smoky Joe Wood Syndrome," where a player of truly exceptional talent but a career curtailed by injury or illness should still - in spite of not owning career statistics that would quantitatively rank him with the all-time greats - be included on their list of the 100 greatest players.
The Tragic Death of Pep Youngs
As early as 1925, something was wrong with Ross Youngs. He began to suffer from virus invections, stomach ailments, and headaches. His performance on the ballfield took a nosedive. He batted just .264 in 1925 and lacked his usual zest on the basepaths. The next season he missed nearly half the schedule and left the team in August. He had managed to hit over .300 in just fewer than 100 games, but he was sick. He lost 15 pounds that summer.
Doctors were not able, at first, to identify the problem. But eventually it was determined that he had a kidney ailment, known as Bright's Disease. He received all sorts of treatments that were common in those days, but none were effective, and he slipped fast. At one point he weighed less than 100 pounds.
One of the last people to visit Youngs was Dick Kinsella, the scout who had signed him to his first pro contract. Kinsella was very disturbed by the encounter.
"What I saw made me want to weep," Kinsella said. "From one of the diamond's most aggressive and colorfully successful figures, Young, through illness, is now the most heartrending tragedy in baseball. I do not think he will ever play baseball again. The hand of fate is heavy upon him. From a player who weighed 170 pounds he is down to 120 pounds. He has had numerous blood transfusions. He divides his time being carried from his home to the hospital... Baseball's slashing terror [has been] transformed into its' most helpless individual."
In an era that fostered much myth and confusion over rare diseases, some felt that Youngs' had been felled by his very own athletic ability. There was an opinion that Ross had injured his kidney during a collision on the basepaths, or that he acquired an infection from the ballfield or a hotel room.
By the spring of 1927, it was obvious to his doctors that Ross, who had just turned 30, would never play baseball again. Youngs rallied a few times, but he eventually succumbed on October 22, 1927, in San Antonio. His funeral service attracted dozens of baseball officials, thousands of fans, and nearly all of his former Giant teammates.
His manager, John McGraw, who treated Youngs like his own son, said at the funeral:
"He was the greatest outfielder I ever saw on a ballfield. The game was never over with Young until th last man was out. He could do everything a ballplayer should do, and do it better than most players. As an outfielder he had no superiors, and he was the easiest man I ever knew to handle. In all his years with the Giants, he never caused one minute's trouble for myself or the club. On top of all this, a gamer ballplayer than Young never played ball."
A plaque was installed at the Polo Grounds in 1928 to honor Youngs. It read: "A brave untrammeled spirit of the diamond, who brought glory to himself and his team by his strong, aggressive, courageous play. He won the admiration of the nation's fans, the love and esteem of his friends and teammates, and the respect of his opponents. He played the game."
In the ensuing years of his managerial career, until his own death in 1934, John McGraw kept two framed photos in his office at the Polo Grounds. One was of Christy Mathewson, and the other of Ross Youngs.
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