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Christy Mathewson

Born: August 12, 1880(1880-08-12)
Factoryville, Pennsylvania,
United States
Died: October 7, 1925 (aged 45)
Saranac Lake, New York,
United States
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
July 17, 1900 for the New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
September 4, 1916 for the Cincinnati Reds
Career statistics
Win-Loss record     373–188
Earned run average     2.13
Strikeouts     2,502
Shutouts     79

As Player

As Manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Induction     1936
Vote     90.7% (first ballot)

Christopher "Christy" Mathewson (August 12, 1880 – October 7, 1925), nicknamed "Big Six", "The Christian Gentleman", or "Matty", was an American right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. He played in what is known as the dead-ball era; and in 1936 was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its "first five" inaugural members.


Early life

Mathewson was born in Factoryville, Pennsylvania and attended Bucknell University, where he served as class president and played on the school's football and baseball teams.[1] He was also a member of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta.[2] His first experience of semi-professional baseball came in 1895, when he was just 14 years old.[3] The manager of the Factoryville ball club asked him to pitch in a game with a rival team in Mill City, Pennsylvania.[3] Mathewson helped his hometown team to a 19–victory, but with his batting rather than his pitching.[3] He continued to play baseball during his years at Bucknell, pitching for minor league teams in Honesdale and Meridian, Pennsylvania.[4]

Professional career


Minor league career & early major league career

In 1899, Mathewson left college and signed to play professional baseball with Taunton of the New England League. The next season, he moved on to play on the Norfolk team of the Virginia-North Carolina League. He finished that season with a 20–2 record.[5]

In July of that year, the New York Giants purchased his contract from Norfolk for $1,500.[6].[5] Between July and September 1900 Mathewson appeared in six games for the Giants. He started one of those games and compiled a 0–3 record. Displeased with his performance, the Giants returned him to Norfolk and demanded their money back.[5] Later that month, the Cincinnati Reds picked up Mathewson off the Norfolk roster. On December 15, 1900, the Reds quickly traded Mathewson back to the Giants for Amos Rusie.[6]

Career with the Giants

Mathewson, warming up before a game.

During his 17-year career, Mathewson won 373 games and lost 188 for an outstanding .665 winning percentage. His career ERA of 2.13 and 79 career shutouts are among the best all-time for pitchers and his 373 wins is still number one in the National League, tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander. Employing a good fastball, outstanding control, and, especially, a new pitch he termed the "fadeaway" (later known in baseball as the "screwball"), which he learned from teammate Dave Williams in 1898[7], Mathewson recorded 2,502 career strikeouts against only 844 walks. He is famous for his 25 pitching duels with Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who won 13 of the duels against Mathewson's 11, with one no-decision.[8]

Mathewson in NY uniform.

Mathewson's Giants won the 1905 World Series over the Philadelphia Athletics. Mathewson was the starting pitcher in Game 1, and pitched a 4-hit shutout for the victory. Three days later, with the series tied 1–1, he pitched another 4-hit shutout. Then, two days later in Game 5, he threw a 6-hit shutout to clinch the series for the Giants. In a span of only six days, Mathewson had pitched three complete games without allowing a run.

The 1905 World Series capped an impressive year for Mathewson as he had already won the National League Triple Crown for pitchers, and threw the second no-hitter of his career. He claimed the Triple Crown again in 1908, and by the time he left the Giants, the team had captured four more National League pennants, in addition to the aforementioned 1905 appearance in the World Series.[1]

As noted in The National League Story (1961) by Lee Allen, Matty never pitched on Sunday. The impact of this on the Giants was minimized, since, in the eight-team National league, only the Chicago Cubs (Illinois), Cincinnati Reds (Ohio), and St. Louis Cardinals (Missouri), played home games in states that allowed professional sports on Sunday.

Along with his brother Henry Mathewson, he holds the major league record for combined wins by brothers playing for the same team: Christy 373, Henry 0.

Three years with the Reds

On July 20, 1916, Mathewson's career came full circle when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Edd Roush. He won one game with the Reds and served as their manager for the next three seasons.

Mathewson and Brown wrapped their respective careers by squaring off on September 4, 1916. The game was billed as the final meeting between the two old baseball warriors. The high-scoring game was a win for Mathewson's Reds over Brown's Cubs.

Mathewson in Giants uniform.

WWI and after

In 1918, Mathewson enlisted in the United States Army for World War I. He served overseas as a Captain in the newly formed Chemical Service along with Ty Cobb. While in France, during a training exercise he was accidentally gassed and consequently developed tuberculosis.[1] Although he returned to serve as a coach for the Giants from 19191920, he spent a good portion of that time in Saranac Lake fighting the illness, initially at the Trudeau Sanitorium, and later in a house that he had built.[5] In 1923, Mathewson got back into professional baseball when he served as part-time president of the Boston Braves.

Death and legacy

Mathewson's private "cure cottage" in Saranac Lake

Two years later, he died in Saranac Lake, New York. He is buried at Lewisburg Cemetery in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Senators wore black armbands during the 1925 World Series. Mathewson had died on the day the Series began, October 7.

  • Christy Mathewson Day is celebrated as a holiday in his hometown of Factoryville, Pennsylvania, on the Saturday closest to his birthday.
  • Bucknell's football stadium is named "Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium."
  • The former Whittenton Ballfield in Taunton, Massachusetts is named in memory of Christy Mathewson who played for the Taunton team in the New England Baseball League before he joined the New York Giants.
  • Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver has often been compared with Mathewson.

Singer/pianist/songwriter Dave Frishberg's song "Matty" is a sentimental tribute to Christy. The song may be found on Frishberg's albums "Quality Time" and "Let's Eat Home," plus a live version on "Retromania: At the Jazz Bakery," which contains other baseball related songs. Frishberg's liner notes and occasional commentary to his audience help explain the background to many of these songs.

Statue of Mathewson in Christy Mathewson Park in his hometown of Factoryville, Pennsylvania.
  • Mathewson is mentioned in the poem "Lineup for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:
Lineup for Yesterday

M is for Matty,
Who carried a charm
In the form of an extra
brain in his arm.

Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)[9]

Baseball honors

  • In 1936, Christy Mathewson was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the famous "First Five" inductees into the HOF, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner. He was the only one of the five who didn't live to see his induction.[10]
  • His jersey, denoted as "NY", has been retired by the Giants and hangs in the left-field corner of AT&T Park. Uniform numbers were not used in those days.
  • In 1999, he ranked number 7 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, the highest-ranking National League pitcher.
  • ESPN selected his pitching performance in the 1905 World Series as the greatest playoff performance of all time.[11] During WW II, a 422 foot Liberty Ship named in his honor, SS Christy Mathewson, was built in Richmond, CA in 1943.

Other sports

While a member of the New York Giants, Matthewson played professional football in the first National Football League(NFL) in 1902. He played as a fullback for the Pittsburgh Stars. However, Mathewson disappeared from the team in the middle of their season. Some historians speculate that the Giants got word that their star pitcher was risking his life and baseball career for the Stars and ordered him to stop. While others feel that the Stars' coach got rid of Mathewson because he felt, that since the fullback's punting skills were hardly used, he could replace him with local resident Shirley Ellis.[12]


Career statistics:


373 188 .665 635 551 434 79 28 4,780.7 4,218 844 2,502 19,136 2.13 1.059


646 1,684 362 50 12 7 151 165 20 116 74 * .215 .272 .271 .543

* Strikeouts not counted for batters until 1910 in the NL, 1913 in the AL.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved 2006-10-28. 
  2. ^ "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  3. ^ a b c Kashatus (2002), p. 27.
  4. ^ Kashatus (2002), p. 33.
  5. ^ a b c d "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved 2006-10-28. 
  6. ^ a b "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved 2007-01-31. 
  7. ^ Bill James and Rob Neyer (2004). The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. p. 296. 
  8. ^ "The Ballplayers: Christy Mathewson". (September 4, 1916). Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  9. ^ "Line-Up For Yesterday by Ogden Nash". Ogden Nash. Sport Magazine. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  10. ^ Kashatus (2002), p. 120.
  11. ^ "50 Greatest Playoff Performances". Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  12. ^ Carroll, Bob (1980). "Dave Berry and the Philadelphia Story". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 2 (Annual): 1–9. 


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