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Katherine Wright | | November 16, 2023

The 60 Cy Young Award winners who played college baseball

All 18 strikeouts from Shane Bieber's 2016 postseason with UCSB

First given in 1956, the Cy Young has been awarded annually to the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. One representative from the American League and National League make up the pair of honorees. 

We've accumulated a list below of 60 former MLB Cy Young Award winners who once played college baseball for current NCAA institutions (including repeat winners). We also picked a Cy Young standout from each decade to be featured in a brief summary of their college careers.

Last decade's decisions were the most excruciating due to the influx of talent that journeyed from college to Major League Baseball.

MVP: The 53 MLB MVP winners who played college baseball

Sandy Koufax | Cincinnati | 3x Cy Young winner ('63, '65, '66)

One season at the University of Cincinnati was all it took for the Brooklyn Dodgers to sign Sandy Koufax.

He was not the same pitcher at that point. Cincinnati prepped him for professional ball by teaching him pitch control. And when his fastball and curveball reached refinement, the Koufax of MLB lore appeared. 

"All he needed was somebody to teach him control. A kid his age throwing 90 miles an hour – this was 1954 we were talking about. He was strong. He wasn't at all cocky — just a nice guy," Cincinnati teammate Ike Misali said of Koufax in 2014.

Originally, the southpaw enrolled as a liberal arts major with the intention of transferring to the school of architecture. Walking on to the basketball team was the next priority. One semester later, he joined the baseball team. He found his groove in his lone season as a Bearcat, going 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA and leading the team with 51 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Dan Gilbert, his catcher at Cincinnati, reveled in 2014 at how unbelievable the break on his curveball was, "but the blazing fastball I will never forget. You couldn't hit it." His battery mate would place a sponge inside his catcher's mitt to help absorb any residual shock from the 90-plus miles per hour fastball.

Spending all 12 seasons of his career with the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, the eventual first ballot Hall of Famer pitched four no-hitters and a perfect game, and was a three-time Triple Crown winner, five-time National League ERA leader and two-time World Series MVP — one of the greatest to ever man the mound.

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Honorable mention: Bob Gibson | Creighton | 2x Cy Young winner ('68, '70)

Two star basketball and baseball athletes were strong contenders at the pitching position in the 1960s, and Bob Gibson continued the theme with his standout performances at both posts while at Creighton. Sadly, his college baseball stats have been lost, according to the university. But his basketball numbers remain intact, including several school records. Gibson currently ranks 21st in career points (1,272) and top-five in free throws made (418), free throw attempts (575) and scoring average (20.19 points per game).

"The steppingstone to the success I had as a professional was getting the opportunity to go to Creighton University," Bob Gibson told the Omaha World-Herald.

Randy Jones | Chapman | '76 Cy Young Award winner

Randy Jones' No. 10 was retired by Chapman in 1985 after an impressive college career that included being a four-year letter winner (1969-72). In 1970 and '72 he was the Panthers' most valuable pitcher, earning All-American honors as a senior and finishing runner-up at the NCAA Far West Regionals.

In 1972, his 155 strikeouts set a single-season school record. His 311 career strikeouts is also best in Chapman history.

Honorable mention: Ron Guidry | Southwestern Louisiana | '78 Cy Young Award winner

Not many athletes have the ability to excel in their freshman year. But for some, that first season can set the tone for a future in pro ball, and Ron Guidry did just that in 1969. He put on one of the best performances in Gulf State Conference history, posting a 1.57 ERA and allowing just 10 earned run on 36 hits and 50 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. He finished that season 5-1 and was a member of the second team All-Gulf State Conference.

Guidry finished 12-5 with a 2.03 ERA and 137 career strikeouts in his two-year stint at Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana).

Roger Clemens | Texas | 7x Cy Young Award winner ('86, '87, '91, '97, '98, '01, '04)

Seven Cy Young Awards is the most by any Major Leaguer in history. What led to Roger Clemen's spectacular career? It started at Texas where he dove in with a 1.99 ERA as a freshman in 1982. His astounding ERA and 12-2 record led the Longhorns to College World Series that year. 

He led the Longhorns back to the College World Series in 1983, going 13-5 with a 3.04 ERA. Clemens proved himself a competitor and earned the starting role for Texas in the 1983 title game, earning the win over Alabama — and ultimately a reservation at the Texas Sports and Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Honorable mention: Mike Scott | Pepperdine | '86 Cy Young Award winner

The decision to place Mike Scott underneath Clemens was difficult. He captured the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year honor in 1974 and helped the Waves win three consecutive conference titles. He left campus as the school-record holder for career wins (26), strikeouts (232) and games started (42). He currently ranks fourth in ERA (2.10) and had a perfect game against Cal Lutheran on Feb. 17, 1976.

But Clemens' performance at the College World Series gave the edge to the former Longhorn.

Bob Welch | Eastern Michigan | '90 Cy Young Award winner

An appearance at the 1976 College World Series and a second-place finish to Arizona was the pinnacle of Bob Welch's college career at Eastern Michigan.

Scratch that.

The whole season was like a dream for Welch. He threw a no-hitter at Central Michigan on April 24 and nearly one month to the day on May 23, he pitched a perfect game against the University of Detroit. After posting a 1.82 ERA and 111 strikeout season in 1976, he was named to the United States Federation team and was selected in the first round of the 1977 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

His tenure would be the first and final time Eastern Michigan appeared in a CWS final. 

Honorable mention: Doug Drabek | Houston | '90

Doug Drabek has a collegiate no-hitter to his name as well. In 1983, the right-hander threw the University of Houston's third no-hitter in program history — the cherry on top of a memorable season. He holds the Cougars' record for most career wins (27), helped by his 12 wins and .800 winning percentage in '83 — which are both the second-best records in their respective category in Houston history.

Tim Lincecum | Washington | 2x Cy Young Award winner ('08, '09)

The two-time Cy Young Award winner began his professional career right after reaching the elite mark in college. As a junior at Washington, he won the 2006 Golden Spikes Award, annually awarded to the best amateur baseball player.

His success quickly transferred over to the pros. In his first full year with the San Francisco Giants, he won the 2008 Cy Young Award. And then he won it again in 2009.

So let's look at that mind-numbing 2006 season for the Huskies: He posted a 1.94 ERA in 125.1 innings. His 199 strikeouts was the most of his college career, and his opponent's batting average of .173 was the lowest.

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Honorable mention: Barry Zito | UC Santa Barbara, Pierce, Southern California | '02 Cy Young Award winner

Transferring in college baseball is not uncommon, and Barry Zito twice took that route in his collegiate career. His first stop at UC Santa Barbara included Freshman All-American honors, paired with 125 strikeouts in 85.1 innings. As a sophomore, he transferred to Los Angeles Pierce College (NWAC) and posted a 2.62 ERA, before being named to the all-state and all-conference teams.

Southern California then entered the mix in 1999 as his final spring board toward MLB stardom. He was the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year as a Trojan and earned first-team All-American honors after going 12-3 with a 3.28 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. 

ALL-TIME NINE: We picked USC baseball's all-time starting nine

David Price | Vanderbilt | '12 Cy Young Award winner

David Price perfected the dream for every college player with one of the most dazzling college careers in history. Among other accolades, he earned the Dick Howser Trophy, Brooks Wallace Awards, Golden Spikes Award and Co-National Player of the Year. Through 133.1 innings, he finished his final year in 2007 with a 2.63 ERA and 194 strikeouts — shattering Vanderbilt's previous single season record of 155. The Commodores were 16-1 in games he started that season. 

As a first-year player in 2005, he was honored as a Freshman All-American after he went 2-4 with a 2.86 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 69.1 innings.

ALL-TIME NINE: We picked Vanderbilt baseball's all-time starting nine

Honorable mention: Max Scherzer | Missouri | 3x Cy Young Award winner (2013, '16, '17)

The three-year career of Max Scherzer at Missouri is a close second to Price's. Scherzer broke out as a sophomore, leading the Big 12 in ERA (1.86) and strikeouts (131) en route to becoming the conference's Pitcher of the Year.

Though his junior year was tormented by injuries, Scherzer still managed to lead Mizzou to win its first ever NCAA regional and paced the Big 12 with a 1.95 ERA.

Here is the full list of MLB Cy Young Award winners who played college baseball:

Year Player School MLB Team
1963 Sandy Koufax (NL) Cincinnati Los Angeles Dodgers
1965 Sandy Koufax (NL) Cincinnati Los Angeles Dodgers
1966 Sandy Koufax (NL) Cincinnati Los Angeles Dodgers
1967 Jim Lonborg (AL) Stanford Boston Red Sox
1968 Bob Gibson (NL) Creighton St. Louis Cardinals
1969 Tom Seaver (NL) Southern California New York Mets
1970 Jim Perry (AL) Campbell Minnesota Twins
1970 Bob Gibson (NL) Creighton St. Louis Cardinals
1972 Gaylord Perry (AL) Campbell Cleveland Indians
1973 Tom Seaver (NL) Southern California New York Mets
1975 Tom Seaver (NL) Southern California New York Mets
1976 Randy Jones (NL) Chapman San Diego Padres
1978 Ron Guidry (AL) Southwestern Louisiana New York Yankees
1978 Gaylord Perry (NL) Campbell San Diego Padres
1979 Mike Flanagan (AL) Massachusetts Baltimore Orioles
1979 Bruce Sutter (NL) Old Dominion Chicago Cubs
1980 Steve Stone (AL) Kent State Baltimore Orioles
1982 Pete Vuckovich (AL) Clarion Milwaukee Brewers
1986 Roger Clemens (AL) Texas Boston Red Sox
1986 Mike Scott (NL) Pepperdine Houston Astros
1987 Roger Clemens (AL) Texas Boston Red Sox
1987 Steve Bedrosian (NL) New Haven Philadelphia Phillies
1988 Frank Viola (AL) St. John's Minnesota Twins
1988 Orel Hershiser (NL) Bowling Green Los Angeles Dodgers
1990 Bob Welch (AL) Eastern Michigan Oakland Athletics
1990 Doug Drabek (NL) Houston Pittsburgh Pirates
1991 Roger Clemens (AL) Texas Boston Red Sox
1993 Jack McDowell (AL) Stanford Chicago White Sox
1995 Randy Johnson (AL) Southern California Seattle Mariners
1997 Roger Clemens (AL) Texas Toronto Blue Jays
1998 Roger Clemens (AL) Texas Toronto Blue Jays
1999 Randy Johnson (NL) Southern California Arizona Diamondbacks
2000 Randy Johnson (NL) Southern California Arizona Diamondbacks
2001 Roger Clemens (AL) Texas New York Yankees
2001 Randy Johnson (NL) Southern California Arizona Diamondbacks
2002 Barry Zito (AL) UC Santa Barbara
Southern California
Oakland Athletics
2002 Randy Johnson (NL) Southern California Arizona Diamondbacks
2004 Roger Clemens (NL) Texas Houston Astros
2006 Brandon Webb (NL) Kentucky Arizona Diamondbacks
2008 Cliff Lee (AL) Arkansas Cleveland Indians
2008 Tim Lincecum (NL) Washington San Francisco Giants
2009 Tim Lincecum (NL) Washington San Francisco Giants
2011 Justin Verlander (AL) Old Dominion Detroit Tigers
2012 David Price (AL) Vanderbilt Tampa Bay Rays
2012 R.A. Dickey (NL) Tennessee New York Mets
2013 Max Scherzer (AL) Missouri Detroit Tigers
2014 Corey Kluber (AL) Stetson Cleveland Indians
2015 Dallas Keuchel (AL) Arkansas Houston Astros
2015 Jake Arrieta (NL) TCU Chicago Cubs
2016 Max Scherzer (NL) Missouri Washington Nationals
2017 Corey Kluber (AL) Stetson Cleveland Indians
2017 Max Scherzer (NL) Missouri Washington Nationals
2018 Jacob deGrom (NL) Stetson New York Mets
2019 Justin Verlander (AL) Old Dominion Detroit Tigers
2019 Jacob deGrom (NL) Stetson New York Mets
2020 Shane Bieber (AL) UC Santa Barbara Cleveland Indians
2020 Trevor Bauer (NL) UCLA Cincinnati Reds
2021 Corbin Burnes (NL) Saint Mary's Milwaukee Brewers
2022 Justin Verlander (AL) Old Dominion Houston Astros 
2023 Gerrit Cole (AL) UCLA New York Yankees
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