Cuppy spent his entire career in the shadow of Cy Young. The two star right-handers comprised an enviable one-two punch for the old Cleveland Spiders. After many years of playing in the upper division with the Spiders, both hurlers later joined the St. Louis Perfectos before they caught on with the Red Sox when the American League became a major circuit in 1901. Although he was always second fiddle to Mr. Young, Cuppy was no slouch on the mound. In only one season did he post a winning percentage below .500 and in his first six seasons in the Majors, his winning percentage was an even .600 or higher.
Cuppy broke in with the Cleveland Spiders in 1892 and had one of the finest seasons for a rookie pitcher in baseball history. Nig went 28-13 with a 2.51 ERA in 376 innings of work. The long arm from Logansport established his career high in strikeouts as a freshman and completed 38 of his starts. The heavy frosh workload took its toll on Cuppy and his ERA swelled to 4.47 in 1893, but the Spiders of Patsy Tebeau had a terrific lineup that bailed Nig out and kept his winning percentage above .600. In Cleveland’s star lineup were such greats as Jesse Burkett, Buck Ewing, Cupid Childs, Ed McKean and Chief Zimmer.
In 1894, Cuppy exceeded 20 wins again (he would be a 20-game winner in four separate seasons) while leading the league in shutouts. Although Cuppy surrendered a lot of hits, he kept the damage to a minimum. Even better in 1895, Cuppy trimmed his ERA down to 3.54 and posted a terrific 26-14 record. He was able to keep his hits allowed down. Nig worked 353 innings and would exceed that workload the following year when he won 25 games in 1896. For the years 1894-1896, Nig averaged 25 wins each season for the Spiders.
But with four seasons of 300+ innings under his belt, Nig’s arm went south and he would never again reach 200 innings in a single season. In 1897, Nig posted a .625 winning percentage which gave him a winning percentage above .600 in all of his first six seasons in the Majors. But an overworked arm limited him to 138 innings. With Nig’s innings pitched truncated, the Spiders fell to fifth place as Cy Young had limited support on the mound crew. When Cuppy pitched even fewer innings in 1898, Cleveland felt he was through and shipped him off to the Perfectos of St. Louis. He posted a fine .579 winning percentage his only year in St. Louis.
After a solid year with the Boston Beaneaters in 1900, Cuppy left the team but remained in Beantown. The American League had established itself as a Major League circuit and Nig joined the first Red Sox squad. With the Beaneaters the year before, Cuppy’s winning percentage was an amazing .667 but for the first and only time in his career, his mark fell below .500. Nig would end his career with the 1901 Red Sox.
W 162/L 98/PCT .623/ERA 3.48/G 302/CG 224/SHO 9/IP 2,283/H 2,520/BB 609/S0 504