Cleveland Plain Dealer, Friday, February 10, 1922, Page Sixteen
Supermen of Ring and Diamond
No Cleverer Pitcher Than Christy Mathewson in History of Game
Ranks Second to Cy Young by Winning 372 Games During Long Career
By Henry P. Edwards
When the subject of this sketch was but ten years of age he had an ambition, which was to be a pitcher in the National League. At the age of 14 he added another desire, which was to be able to play the slide trombone well enough to become a member of the brass band at Factoryville, Pa.
At the age of 14 he was taken into the band. At the same age he was pitching for a kid team that was consistently licking the grown-ups around his hometown. At the age of 23, Christy Mathewson was pitching for the New York Giants, realizing his first ambition and inaugurating one of the greatest pitching careers in the history of baseball.
“The first work I ever did,” Matty once told me, “was to gather old rubber boots and bones to see to a rag peddler. With the money, I would buy baseballs, none of your cheap ten centers but an honest-to-goodness $1.50 league baseball.”
Born in Factoryville, Aug. 12, 1880, Matty was pitching for the town nine in 1895. A year later, he was pitching for the Keystone, Pa. academy team. In 1898, he went to Bucknell College where he acquired fame on both diamond and gridiron; being pitcher for the college nine and fullback for the eleven. He developed into a wonderful drop-kicker and his efforts along that line resulted in Bucknell beating West Point and scoring on Pennsylvania twice. In addition he was a star of the varsity basketball team.
It was “summer baseball,” however that started Matty on the way to adopting the game as a profession. During the vacation in 1898, he played with the Honesville, Pa. semi-pro team for $20 a month and board at a $2 a day hotel. Later than season, he was induced to go to the Taunton (Mass.) team of the New England League for $90 a month. The league started to break up early in September but the players kept it going until Labor Day, Matty getting $40 as his share.
Back to Bucknell he went and the following spring he joined the Norfolk club of the Virginia league. Matty once told me about his first game for that team. He was pounded all over the lot but his manager let him take his medicine and stick it out. Matty never could thank that manager enough, saying the act gave him confidence in himself as he felt that no matter how bad he might look at the start of the game, he would be given time to steady himself. His manager’s confidence was well rewarded for Matty won twenty-two games and lost but two.
Then Matty got into a mix-up. New York bought him but turned him back. Cincinnati then drafted him but traded him to the Giants for Amos Rusie. Matty lost three games for the Giants that same fall. The war was then on between the American and National leagues and Matthewson signed to pitch for Connie Mack’s Athletics. His contract called for $1,200 and Matty accepted $50 advance money as he was in debt for school books.
And Freedman, owner of New Yorks, however, scared Matty into joining the Giants, declaring the American league was sure to blow up and Matty would be blacklisted for life. On condition Freedman returned the $50 advance money to Mack. Matty stuck to the Giants. Freedman, however, failed to pay Mack the $50 and Matty did it himself later on.
The Giants then were a second-divison team and it was not until John McGraw got them squared away in 1903 that Mathewson proceeded to acquire the reputation of being one of the greatest pitchers in the world – perhaps the greatest hurler the game ever has known.
In point of games won, Matty ranked next to Cy Young, capturing 371 games and losing 182 for the Giants during the sixteen years he went to the mound for the New Yorkers. It was his ambition to beat Cy Young’s great record of winning more than 500 games, but he lacked Young’s wonderful physique and where Young went through his entire career without knowing what it was to have a sore arm, Matty strained his whip often and finally had to make his head do what his muscles had done formerly.
Christy Mathewson, 1909-1911, Credit: Library of Congress
Matthewson well earned his title of “The Master,” for when it came to pitching craft, he had few equals. He used the head work of a Clarkson, a Keefe or a Joss. At times he had the speed of a Johnson or a Waddell. He owned a most remarkable change of pace. He could make his curve perform with uncanny mystery and when it came to control – well, there was but one Matty.
No wiser pitcher ever lived. Unlike Waddell and some others, he never sought to grab all the glory. To win games for New York was his wish, not to shut out the opposition or to come through with small-hit games.
Such well known batters as Evers, Tinker, Wagner and Magee often said: “Christy Mathewson is the easiest pitcher in the league to hit when there is no one on the bases and the hardest to hit when some of the sacks are occupied and the score is close.”
Give Matty a fair lead and he conserved his energies, depending more upon his support. The tighter a game, the tighter ball he pitched. It was such conservation of his own pitching resources that allowed him to often pitch three or four times a week of the occasion arose where is was necessary for him to do so.
Matthewson and McGraw made the New York Giants a wonderful team and saved the National league. It was Matty who was the hero of the World’s Series of 1905. He opened the series by beating the Athletics, 3 to 0. He won the third game, 9 to 0, allowing but four hits, and then grabbed the fifth game, 2 to 0, ending the series. In the three games, the hard hitting Athletics made only fourteen hits off the Factoryville man. The latter issued but one base on balls.
Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson during New York 1911 World Series, Credit: Library of Congress
In the world’s series of 1911, 1912 and 1913, Matty was not as successful. True, he scored victories over the Athletics in 1911 and 1913 and against the Red Sox in 1912 but he also was beaten and the Giants failed to win the world’s championship in any of the three years.
It was in 1911 that Matty made one of his few mistakes, that of grooving a ball for Frank Baker in the ninth inning and the Giants leading the Athletics by one run, a mistake that cost the game and possibly the championship. It was no fault of his that New York did not win from Boston in 1912. Boy, page Mr. Snodgrass, also Catcher Myers for failing to field a foul fly that would have wound up the series with the Giants leading. Fred Merkle, famous Giant goat, was blamed for the faux pas but Myers was actually the one at fault.
Harking back to Mathewson’s phenomenal control, it can be mentioned that in 624 big league games, he walked but 800 batters and hit only forty-nine and had but 103 wild pitches. He struck out 2,473 batters.
The season of 1908 was his best as he won thirty-eight and lost but eleven games. Twenty of his efforts were games in which the opposition failed to make more than five hits. Twelve of them were shutouts. Altogether, he registered eighty-two shutout victories, pitched two no-hit, four one-hit, fifteen two-hit, thirty-six three-hit, forty-six four-hit and fifty-two five-hit games, a total of 132 battles in which the opposition failed to get more than five safeties to a contest.
It was nothing for him to strike out seven men in a game and he frequently fanned as many as nine, ten, eleven or even fourteen, his best effort in that line being to breeze sixteen men in a nine-chapter affair.
His no-hit games were against the Cardinals, July 15, 1901, and against Chicago, June 13, 1905.
L to R: John McGraw, Buck Herzog of NY NL & Christy Mathewson, Cincinnati NL, 1916, Credit: Library of Congress
In 1916, Garry Herrmann, owner of the Cincinnati Reds, wanted Mathewson to manage his ball club. McGraw allowed Matty to go but, great a pitcher as Matty was, he lacked the qualities necessary for a successful manager. In 1918 he obtained his release from the Reds and enlisted in the army, being commissioned a captain. The war was over, however, before he got into active service although he did reach France. On his return he rejoined the Giants as coach and assistant manager, but his health failed and for nearly two years he has been in the Adirondacks fighting tuberculosis. Recent reports are that he never will recover. It is hoped they are untrue.
Mathewson also gained fame as a checker player, often pitting himself against a score of opponents in simultaneous play. In the card games where memory and brains were assets, he was an adept. He also was shrewd business men and, it is said was able to amass a comfortable fortune for his wife and son.
High Spots in Baseball Career of Mathewson
Aug. 12, 1880 – Born in Factoryville, Pa.
1895 – Pitched for Factoryville town nine
1898 – Entered Bucknell College where he played baseball and football
1900 – Pitched for Norfolk, Va.
1900 – Joined New York Giants
July 15, 1901 – Pitched first no-hit game
1905 – Blanked Athletics in three games in world’s series
1916 – Joined Cincinnati as manager, his pitching career ending that year
1918 – Enlisted in army and received commission as captain
1919 – Rejoined Giants as coach
1920 – Health failed and retired from game
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