The award was first introduced in 1956 by Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick in honor of Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young, who died in 1955. The award was originally given to the single best pitcher in the major leagues, but in 1967, after the retirement of Frick, the award was given to one pitcher in each league.
Each league's award is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, with two representatives from each team, which means 28 ballots are cast for the American League winner, and 32 ballots are cast for the National League. Each voter places a vote for first, second, and third place among the pitchers of each league. The formula used to calculate the final scores is a weighted sum of the votes. The pitcher with the highest score in each league wins the award. If two pitchers receive the same number of votes, the award is shared. The current formula started in the 1970 season. Before that, writers only voted for the best pitcher and used a formula of one point per vote.