Christy Mathewson
Personal information
Date of birth: (1880-08-12)August 12, 1880
Place of birth: Factoryville, Pennsylvania
Date of death: October 7, 1925(1925-10-07) (aged 45)
Place of death: Saranac Lake, New York
Career information
Debuted in 1900 for the New York Giants
Last played in 1916 for the Cincinnati Reds
Career history

As Player

As Manager

Career highlights and awards
  • World Series champion (1905)
  • 373 career wins (3rd all-time)
  • 2.13 career ERA (8th all-time)
  • 1.058 career WHIP (5th all time)
  • .665 career Win-Loss percentage
  • Won 20 games or more 13 times, won 30 games or more 4 times.
  • Pitched 79 shutouts (3rd all time)
  • Five sub-2.00 ERA seasons
  • 435 complete games out of 552 games started
  • Won NL Pitcher's Triple Crown in 1905 and 1908
  • Five-time ERA champion (1905, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1913)
  • Five-time strikeout champion (1903, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1908)
  • Pitched two no-hitters.
  • Name honored by the Giants.
  • Major League Baseball All-Century Team
Christy Mathewson
Career information
Position(s): Fullback
College: Bucknell
High school: Keystone Academy
 As player:
Greensburg A. A.
Pittsburgh Stars
Career highlights and awards
  • Pittsburgh Stars 1902 Championship team
Military service
Allegiance: United States United States
Service/branch: United States Army seal U.S. Army
Years of service: 1917-1918
Rank: 20px Captain
Unit: Chemical Warfare Service
1st Gas Regiment
Battles/wars: World War I
Western Front

Christopher "Christy" Mathewson (August 12, 1880 – October 7, 1925), nicknamed "Big Six", "The Christian Gentleman", or "Matty", was an American Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher. He was among the most dominant pitchers of his (or any) era and ranks in the all-time top-10 in major pitching categories such as wins, shutouts, and ERA.[1] In 1936, Mathewson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its "first five" inaugural members.

Mathewson grew up in Factoryville, Pennsylvania, and he began playing semi-professional baseball when he was 14 years old. He played in the minor leagues in 1899 with a pitching record of 20 wins and two losses. He then started an unsuccessful tenure with the New York Giants the next season but was sent back to the minors. Mathewson would eventually return to the Giants and go on to win 373 games in his career, which is a National League record. In the 1905 World Series, he pitched three shutouts, leading to a Giants victory. Mathewson never pitched on Sundays due to his Christian beliefs, lending to his nickname. The pitcher also played professional football for the Pittsburgh Stars for a short period of time before quitting. Mathewson served in World War I and died in Saranac Lake, New York of tuberculosis in 1925.

Early lifeEdit

Mathewson was born in Factoryville, Pennsylvania and attended high school at Keystone Academy (now Keystone College). He attended college at Bucknell University, where he served as class president and played on the school's football and baseball teams.[2] He was also a member of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta.[3] His first experience of semi-professional baseball came in 1895, when he was just 14 years old.[4] The manager of the Factoryville ball club asked him to pitch in a game with a rival team in Mill City, Pennsylvania.[4] Mathewson helped his hometown team to a 19–victory,[clarification needed] but with his batting rather than his pitching.[4] He continued to play baseball during his years at Bucknell, pitching for minor league teams in Honesdale and Meridian, Pennsylvania.[5] Mathewson was selected to the Walter Camp All-American football team in 1900. He was a drop-kicker.[6]

Professional careerEdit

Minor league career & early major league careerEdit

File:Christy Mathewson, New York NL (baseball) (LOC).jpg

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.[7]

In July of that year, the New York Giants purchased his contract from Norfolk for $1,500 ($39,468 in current dollar terms).[7][8] 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.[7] 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.[8]

Football career Edit

Mathewson played professional football as early as 1898 with the Greensburg Athletic Association.[9] In 1902, while a member of the New York Giants, Mathewson played professional football in the first National Football League 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, Willis Richardson, got rid of Mathewson because he felt that, since the fullback's punting skills were hardly used, he could replace him with a local player, Shirley Ellis.[10]

Career with the GiantsEdit

File:Mathewson in NY uniform.jpg

During his 17-year career, Mathewson won 373 games and lost 188 for a .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,[11] This reference is challenged by Ken Burns documentary Baseball in which it is stated that Mathewson learned his "fadeaway" from Andrew "Rube" Foster when New York Giants manager John Joseph McGraw quietly hired Rube to show the Giants bullpen what he knew. Mathewson recorded 2,507 career strikeouts against only 848 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.[12]

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 while giving up only 14 hits.

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.[2]

As noted in The National League Story (1961) by Lee Allen, Mathewson was a devout Christian and 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.

Mathewson played with his brother Henry Mathewson, also a pitcher, in 1906 and 1907; Mathewson had 1 win and no losses.

File:Christy Mathewson Baseball.jpg

Three years with the RedsEdit

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.[clarification needed]

Mathewson and Brown wrapped up 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.

Personal lifeEdit

Mathewson was one of four brothers: one died in infancy, Nicholas killed himself in 1909 at the age of 19, and Henry died of tuberculosis in 1917. Christy Mathewson and Jane Stoughton were married on March 4, 1903. They remained married until Mathewson's death.

World War I and afterEdit

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 subsequently developed tuberculosis,[2] which more easily infects lungs that have been damaged by chemical gases. Although he returned to serve as a coach for the Giants from 19191921, 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.[7] In 1923, Mathewson got back into professional baseball when he served as part-time president of the Boston Braves.

Death and legacyEdit

File:The Christy Mathewson Cottage.jpg

Two years later, he died in Saranac Lake, New York, of tuberculosis. He is buried at Lewisburg Cemetery in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, adjacent to Bucknell University. 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. According to the Ken Burns' documentary series, Baseball, one of Mathewson's last words were to his wife: Now Jane, I want you to go outside and have yourself a good cry. Don't make it a long one; this can't be helped.

  • Christy Mathewson Day is celebrated as a holiday in his hometown of Factoryville, Pennsylvania, on the Saturday closest to his birthday.
  • Christy Mathewson Day and Factoryville, PA, are the subjects of the Documentary, "Christy Mathewson Day" [13]
  • Bucknell's football stadium is named "Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium".
  • The baseball field at Keystone College is named "Christy Mathewson Field."
  • Christy Mathewson Park in Factoryville is home to the community's Little League field, as well as basketball courts and other athletic facilities, public gardens, walking trails and a picnic pavilion.
  • 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.
  • Actor Eddie Frierson wrote and performs Matty: An Evening With Christy Mathewson, a biographical one-man play about 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.
  • The band Family Groove Company has a song on their first album Reachin' titled "Christy" that relates some of Mathewson's achievements.
  • Mathewson is mentioned in the poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:
  • Published in 1983, Eric Rolfe Greenberg's The Celebrant offers a fictional biography about Mathewson from the perspective of Jack Kapp, a Jewish American jewelry designer.
File:Mathewson statue.png
Line-Up 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)[14]

Baseball honorsEdit

  • 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.[15]
  • 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.[16] During World War II, a 422 foot Liberty ship named in his honor, SS Christy Mathewson, was built in Richmond, CA in 1943.
  • His plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame says: "Greatest of all of the great pitchers in the 20th century's first quarter" and ends with the statement: "Matty was master of them all"

See alsoEdit


  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved 2006-10-28.
  3. "Christy Mathewson". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Kashatus (2002), p. 27.
  5. Kashatus (2002), p. 33.
  6. Russell, Fred. "Sidelines: Little-Known Fact About Matty", Nashville Banner, December 22, 1958.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved 2006-10-28.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved 2007-01-31.
  9. Goodwin, Stew (Summer 1994). "Hall-of-Famers on the Early Gridiron". The National Pastime (Cleveland, OH: Society for American Baseball Research) 14: 97–98. ISBN 0-910137-56-0. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. Carroll, Bob (1980). "Dave Berry and the Philadelphia Story". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 2 (Annual): 1–9.
  11. Bill James and Rob Neyer (2004). The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. p. 296.
  12. "The Ballplayers: Christy Mathewson". (September 4, 1916). Retrieved 2009-04-03.
  14. "Line-Up For Yesterday by Ogden Nash". Ogden Nash. Sport Magazine. Retrieved 2008-08-20.
  15. Kashatus (2002), p. 120.
  16. "50 Greatest Playoff Performances". Retrieved 2008-08-20.


External linksEdit

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