Christy Mathewson
Mathewson in 1910
Born: (1880-08-12)August 12, 1880
Factoryville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: October 7, 1925(1925-10-07) (aged 45)
Saranac Lake, New York, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
July 17, 1900, for the New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
September 4, 1916, for the Cincinnati Reds
MLB statistics
Win–loss record373–188
Earned run average2.13
Managerial record164–176
Winning %.482
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Vote90.7% (first ballot)
Football career
Career information
High schoolKeystone Academy
Career history
As player
1898Greensburg A. A.
1902Pittsburgh Stars
Career highlights and awards
  • Pittsburgh Stars 1902 Championship team
Military career
AllegianceUnited States United States
Service/branchUnited States Army seal U.S. Army
Years of service1918–1919
Rank Captain
UnitChemical Warfare Service
1st Gas Regiment
Battles/warsWorld War I

Christopher Mathewson (August 12, 1880 – October 7, 1925), nicknamed "Big Six", "the Christian Gentleman", "Matty", and "the Gentleman's Hurler", was an American Major League Baseball right-handed pitcher, who played 17 seasons with the New York Giants. He stood 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall and weighed 195 pounds (88 kg). He was among the most dominant pitchers in baseball history, and ranks in the all-time top 10 in several key pitching categories, including wins, shutouts, and earned run average.[1] In 1936, Mathewson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its first five members.

Mathewson grew up in Factoryville, Pennsylvania, and began playing semiprofessional baseball when he was 14 years old. He played in the minor leagues in 1899, recording a record of 21 wins and two losses. He pitched for the New York Giants the next season, but was sent back to the minors. He eventually returned to the Giants and went on to win a National League record 373 career games, tying Grover Cleveland Alexander for the third most career wins of all time. He led the Giants to their first World Series championship in franchise history in the 1905 World Series by pitching a single World Series record three shutouts. Mathewson never pitched on Sundays, owing to his Christian beliefs. Mathewson served in the United States Army's Chemical Warfare Service in World War I, and was accidentally exposed to chemical weapons during training. His respiratory system was weakened from the exposure, causing him to contract tuberculosis, from which he died in Saranac Lake, New York, in 1925.

Early life

Mathewson was born in Factoryville, Pennsylvania, and attended high school at Keystone Academy.

College career

He attended college at Bucknell University, where he served as class president and played on the school's football, basketball, and baseball teams.[2] Mathewson 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 Mathewson to pitch in a game with a rival team in Mill City, Pennsylvania.[4] Mathewson helped his hometown team to a 19–17 victory, 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 football career

Mathewson played football at Keystone Academy from 1895 to 1897.[7] He turned pro in 1898, appearing as a fullback with the Greensburg Athletic Association.[8] While a member of the New York Giants, Mathewson played fullback for the Pittsburgh Stars of the first National Football League. However, Mathewson disappeared from the team in the middle of the team's 1902 season. Some historians speculate that the Giants got word that their star pitcher was risking his 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.[9]

Professional baseball career

Minor leagues

Mathewson warming up as a New York Giant in 1910

In 1899, Mathewson signed to play professional baseball with Taunton Herrings of the New England League, where he finished with a record of 2–13. The next season, he moved on to play on the Norfolk Phenoms of the Virginia League. He finished that season with a 20–2 record.[10] He continued to attend Bucknell during that time.

New York Giants (1900–1916)

In July 1900, the New York Giants purchased his contract from Norfolk for $1,500 (equivalent to $55,000 in 2023).[10][11] 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.[10] 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.[11]

Mathewson in his New York Giants uniform

During his 17-year career, Mathewson won 373 games and lost 188 for a .665 winning percentage. His career earned run average of 2.13 and 79 career shutouts are among the best all time for pitchers, and his 373 wins are still number one in the National League, tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander. He employed 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.[12]

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 McGraw quietly hired Rube to show the Giants bullpen what he knew. Many baseball historians consider this story apocryphal.

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.[13]

Mathewson was a very good-hitting pitcher in his major league career, posting a .215 batting average (362-for-1687) with 151 runs, seven home runs, and 167 runs batted in. In 10 of his 17 years in the majors, he was in double figures in runs batted in, with a season-high of 20 in 1903. He batted .281 (9-for-32) in 11 World Series games.

By 1903, Mathewson's stature was such that when he briefly signed a contract with the St. Louis Browns of the American League, he was thought to be the spark the Browns needed to win the pennant. The Browns had finished a strong second in 1902, five games behind the Philadelphia Athletics. They offered him four times what he was making with the Giants. However, as part of the settlement that ended the two-year war between the American and National Leagues, Mathewson and Browns owner Robert Lee Hedges tore up the contract. Hedges later said that ensuring the return of peace to the game was more important, even if it meant effectively giving up a pennant.[14]

From 1900 to 1904, Mathewson established himself as a premier pitcher. Posting low earned run averages and winning nearly 100 games, Mathewson helped lead the Giants to their first National League title in 1903, and a berth in first World Series. Though no World Series was held in 1904, the Giants captured the pennant, prompting McGraw to proclaim them as the best team in the world.

Mathewson strove even harder in 1905. After switching to catcher, Roger Bresnahan had begun collaborating with Mathewson, whose advanced memory of hitter weaknesses paved the way for a historic season. Pinpoint control guided Mathewson's pitches to Bresnahan's glove. In 338 innings, Mathewson walked only 64 batters. He shut out opposing teams eight times, pitching entire games in brief 90-minute sessions. Besides winning 31 games, Mathewson recorded an earned run average of 1.28 and 206 strikeouts. He led the National League in all three categories, earning him the Triple Crown.[15]

Mathewson's Giants won the 1905 World Series over the Philadelphia Athletics. Mathewson was the starting pitcher in game one, and pitched a four-hit shutout for the victory. Three days later, with the series tied 1–1, he pitched another four-hit shutout. Then, two days later in game five, he threw a six-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 next year, Mathewson lost much of his edge, owing to an early-season diagnosis of diphtheria. McGraw pulled over 260 innings from him, but these were plagued with struggle. Though he maintained a 22–12 record, his 2.97 earned run average was well above the league average of 2.62. His 1.271 walks plus hits per innings pitched, quite uncharacteristic of him, was due to an increased number of hits and walks.

Mathewson with the Giants, c. 1913

By 1908, Mathewson was back on top as the league's elite pitcher. Winning the most games of his career, 37, coupled with a 1.43 earned run average and 259 strikeouts, he claimed a second triple crown. He also led the league in starts, innings pitched, complete games, and shutouts, and held hitters to an exceptionally low 0.827 walks plus hits per innings pitched. He even led the league in saves, racking up 5 of them in 12 relief appearances. Unfortunately, the Giants were unable to take home the pennant due to what was ultimately known as Merkle's Boner, an incident that cost the Giants a crucial game against the Chicago Cubs, who eventually defeated the Giants in the standings by one game.

Mathewson returned for an outstanding 1909 season; though not as dominant as the previous year, he posted a better earned run average (1.14), and a record of 25–6. He repeated a strong performance in 1910 and then again in 1911, when the Giants captured their first pennant since 1905. The Giants ultimately lost the 1911 World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics, the same team they had defeated for the 1905 championship. Mathewson and Rube Marquard allowed two game-winning home runs to Hall of Famer Frank Baker, earning him the nickname, "Home Run".[15] Mathewson, the team's "star pitcher", signed a three-year contract with the Giants in late 1910, for the upcoming 1911, 1912 and 1913 seasons, the first time he had signed a contract over a year in length.[16]

In 1912, Mathewson gave another stellar performance. Capturing the pennant, the Giants were fueled by the stolen-base game and a superior pitching staff capped by Rube Marquard, the "11,000-dollar lemon" who turned around to win 26 games, 19 of them consecutively. In the 1912 World Series, the Giants faced the Boston Red Sox, the 1904 American League pennant winners who would have faced the Giants in the World Series that year had one been played. Though Mathewson threw three complete games and maintained an earned run average below 1.00, numerous errors by the Giants, including a lazy popup dropped by Fred Snodgrass in the eighth game (Game 2 was a tie), cost them the championship.[17] The Giants also lost the 1913 World Series, a 101-win season cemented by Mathewson's final brilliant season on the mound: a league-leading 2.06 earned run average in over 300 innings pitched complemented by 0.6 bases on balls per nine innings pitched.

For the remainder of his career with the Giants, Mathewson began to struggle. Soon, the former champions fell into decline. In 1915, Mathewson's penultimate season in New York, the Giants were the worst team in the National League standings. Mathewson, who had expressed interest in serving as a manager, wound up with a three-year deal to manage the Cincinnati Reds effective July 21, 1916.[15]

Cincinnati Reds (1916–1918)

Mathewson in 1904

On July 20, 1916, Mathewson's career came full circle when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Edd Roush. He was immediately named as the Reds' player-manager. However, for all intents and purposes, his playing career was over. He appeared in only one game as a pitcher for the Reds, on September 4, 1916. He faced Brown in the second half of a doubleheader, which 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, 10–8.[18]

Mathewson retired as a player after the season and managed the Reds for the entire 1917 season and the first 118 games of 1918, compiling a total record of 164-176 as a manager.[18]

Personal life and literary career

Mathewson married Jane Stoughton (1880–1967) in 1903. Their only son, Christopher Jr., was born shortly after. Christy Mathewson Jr. served in World War II, and died in an explosion at his home in Texas on August 16, 1950.[19] During Mathewson's playing years, the family lived in a duplex on the Upper West Side, at Columbus and 85th,[20] alongside Mathewson's manager John McGraw and his wife Blanche. Mathewson and McGraw remained friends for the rest of their lives. In the 1909 offseason, Christy Mathewson's younger brother Nicholas Mathewson committed suicide in a neighbor's barn. Another brother, Henry Mathewson, pitched briefly for the Giants before dying of tuberculosis in 1917.

Mathewson and his wife Jane, c. 1916

Mathewson was highly regarded in the baseball world during his lifetime. As he was a clean-cut, intellectual collegiate, his rise to fame brought a better name to the typical ballplayer, who usually spent his time gambling, boozing, or womanizing. As noted in The National League Story (1961) by Lee Allen, Mathewson was a devout Christian and never pitched on Sunday, a promise he made to his mother that brought him popularity among the more religious New York fans and earned him the nickname "The Christian Gentleman". However, the impact of this practice 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.

In his free time, Mathewson enjoyed nature walks, reading, golf, and checkers, of which he was a renowned champion player. The combination of athletic skill and intellectual hobbies made him a favorite for many fans, even those opposed to the Giants. Sportswriters praised him, and in his prime every game he started began with deafening cheers. Sometimes, the distraction prompted him to walk out 10 minutes after his fielders took the field. Mathewson soon became the unspoken captain of the Giants.

He was the only player to whom John McGraw ever gave full discretion. McGraw told many younger players to watch and listen to his wisdom.

Mathewson garnered respect throughout the baseball world as a pitcher of great sportsmanship. He was often asked to write columns concerning upcoming games. In 1912, with the editing and ghostwriting aid of sportswriter John Wheeler, Mathewson published his classic memoir Pitching in a Pinch, or Pitching from the Inside,[21] which was admired by poet Marianne Moore[22] and is still in print.[23] Years later, Mathewson co-wrote a mildly successful play called The Girl and The Pennant, which was inspired by Helene Hathaway Britton's ownership of the St. Louis Cardinals.[24] Mathewson went on to pursue more literary endeavors ending in 1917 with a children's book called Second Base Sloan.[25]

One of the journalists to unmask the 1919 Black Sox, Hugh Fullerton, consulted Mathewson for information about baseball gambling. Fullerton trusted Mathewson for his writing intellect, as well as his unbiased standpoint. As a player and manager, Mathewson also had several seasons of experience playing alongside Hal Chase, a veteran major league player widely rumored to have been involved in several gambling incidents and attempts to fix games.

Representing the only former ballplayer among the group of investigating journalists, Mathewson played a small role in Fullerton's exposure of the 1919 World Series scandal.[15]

World War I and afterward

Late in the 1918 season, Mathewson enlisted in the United States Army during World War I. His wife Jane was very much opposed to the decision, but Mathewson insisted on going.[26] He served overseas as a captain in the newly formed Chemical Service along with Ty Cobb. When he arrived in France, he was accidentally gassed during a chemical training exercise and subsequently developed tuberculosis,[2] which more easily infects lungs that have been damaged by chemical gases. Mathewson served with the American Expeditionary Forces until February 1919 and was discharged later that month.[27]

Although he returned to serve as a coach for the Giants from 1919 to 1921, he spent a good portion of that time in Saranac Lake fighting the tuberculosis, initially at the Trudeau Sanitorium, and later in a house that he had built.[10] In 1923, Mathewson returned to professional baseball when Giants attorney Emil Fuchs and he put together a syndicate that bought the Boston Braves. Although initial plans called for Mathewson to be principal owner and team president, his health had deteriorated so much that he could perform only nominal duties. He turned over the presidency to Fuchs after the season.

Death and legacy

Mathewson's private "cure cottage" in Saranac Lake
Mathewson's gravesite at Lewisburg Cemetery in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

After contracting tuberculosis, Mathewson moved to the frigid climate of Saranac Lake, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, where he sought treatment from Edward Livingston Trudeau at his renowned Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium. He died in Saranac Lake of tuberculosis on October 7, 1925. Mathewson 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 Baseball, some 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."

Baseball honors

Christy Mathewson was honored alongside the retired numbers of the San Francisco Giants in 1986.


(compiled per IMDb)


See also

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)[36]


  1. ^ "MLB & Baseball Leaders & Records". Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Christy Mathewson". Archived from the original on May 15, 2015. Retrieved October 28, 2006.
  3. ^ "Christy Mathewson". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Kashatus, William C. (2002). Diamonds in the Coalfields: 21 Remarkable Baseball Players, Managers, and Umpires from Northeast Pennsylvania. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company., p. 27.
  5. ^ Kashatus, William C. (2002). Diamonds in the Coalfields: 21 Remarkable Baseball Players, Managers, and Umpires from Northeast Pennsylvania. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company., p. 33.
  6. ^ Russell, Fred. "Sidelines: Little-Known Fact About Matty", Nashville Banner, December 22, 1958.
  7. ^ "Keystone Adds Football as 22nd Varsity Sport". Keystone College Athletics. January 3, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  8. ^ Goodwin, Stew (Summer 1994). "Hall-of-Famers on the Early Gridiron" (PDF). The National Pastime. 14. Cleveland, Ohio: Society for American Baseball Research: 97–98. ISBN 0-910137-56-0. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  9. ^ Carroll, Bob (1980). "Dave Berry and the Philadelphia Story" (PDF). Coffin Corner. 2 (Annual). Professional Football Researchers Association: 1–9. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 27, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved October 28, 2006.
  11. ^ a b "Christy Mathewson". Retrieved January 31, 2007.
  12. ^ Bill James & Rob Neyer (2004). The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. p. 296.
  13. ^ "Christy Mathewson Biography". September 4, 1916. Retrieved April 3, 2009.
  14. ^ Dennis Pajot; Greg Erion (October 2, 2018). "St. Louis Browns team ownership history". Society for American Baseball Research.
  15. ^ a b c d Robinson, Ray (1994). Matty : an American hero. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509263-9.
  16. ^ "Matty Signs up for Three Years". The Ogdensburg Journal. Ogdensburg, NY. November 15, 1910. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  17. ^ Vaccaro, Mike (2009). First Fall Classic. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385526241.
  18. ^ a b Okrent, Daniel (1988). The Ultimate Baseball Book. United States: Hilltown Press. p. 80. ISBN 0395361451.
  19. ^ "Mathewson's Son Is Fatally Burned – Christy Jr. Dies After Blast in Texas Home – Won Health After Air Crash Injuries". The New York Times. No. August 17, 1950. August 17, 1950. p. 17. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  20. ^ "Giants Among Men". Sports Illustrated. August 25, 2003.
  21. ^ Mathewson, Christy (1912). Pitching in a Pinch, or Baseball from the Inside. G.B. Putnam & Sons. ISBN 0812821963.
  22. ^ Grace Shulman (November 30, 1986). "A Gusto for Dumbo and Balanchine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  23. ^ Mathewson, Christy (1994). Pitching in a pinch, or, Baseball from the inside. Greenberg, Eric Rolfe; Wheeler, John N. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803282124. OCLC 29430072.
  24. ^ "Christy Mathewson, Helene Britton and the theater". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  25. ^ Mathewson, Christy (1917). Second Base Sloan. New York: Dodd, Meade & Co.
  26. ^ Hartley, Michael (2004). Christy Mathewson: a biography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-0-7864-1653-0.
  27. ^ Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, World War 1917-18. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Adjutant-General's Department. 1926. p. 10886.
  28. ^ "Christy Mathewson Day". 23circles Productions. 2011. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  29. ^ Fitzgerald, F. Scott; West, James L. W. (1995). This Side of Paradise. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-40234-7.
  30. ^ Greenberg, Eric Rolfe (1983). The Celebrant: A Novel. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-7037-4.
  31. ^ McEntegart, Pete. "The Top 100 Sports Books of All Time". Sports Illustrated Vault | Sports Illustrated. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  32. ^ Kashatus, William C. (2002). Diamonds in the Coalfields: 21 Remarkable Baseball Players, Managers, and Umpires from Northeast Pennsylvania. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, p. 120.
  33. ^ Haft, Chris (March 11, 2019). "Giants' all-time retired numbers". Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  34. ^ Kassel, Ethan (August 11, 2019). "San Francisco Giants to retire Will Clark's No. 22 jersey". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  35. ^ "50 Greatest Playoff Performances". Retrieved August 20, 2008.
  36. ^ "Line-Up For Yesterday by Ogden Nash". Ogden Nash. Sport Magazine. Retrieved August 20, 2008.

Further reading


Achievements Preceded byNoodles HahnJesse Tannehill No-hitter pitcher July 15, 1901June 13, 1905 Succeeded byNixey CallahanWeldon Henley