Christy Mathewson was a baseball pitcher who played in the major leagues for 16 seasons. Known by many nicknames including “Big Six,” “The Christian Gentleman” and “Matty,” Mathewson was among the first players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mathewson was born in Factoryville, Penn., on Aug. 12, 1880. At Bucknell University, he played on both the football and baseball teams. After leaving college in 1899, Mathewson signed on with Taunton of the New England League. After one season there, he moved to the Norfolk team in the Virginia-North Carolina League. A right handed pitcher, Mathewson finished with a 20-2 record that season.
After that incredible record, the New York Giants paid $1,500 for Mathewson’s contract. However, after six appearances and a record of 0-3, the disappointed Giants returned him to Norfolk, demanding their money back. The Cincinnati Reds drafted Mathewson in the Rule 5 draft. Oddly enough, only days later, the Reds traded Mathewson back to the Giants for another player.
Fortunately for the Giants, it would prove to be a great trade. Over his career, Mathewson’s win/loss record was 373/188 with an earned run average (ERA) of 2.13. Mathewson used his fastball, screwball and pitching control to earn 79 career shutouts and recorded 2,502 career strikeouts.
Mathewson had one of his best ERAs in 1905 with 1.28. That year, the Giants beat the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series. Mathewson started game 1, 3 and 5, not giving up a single run in all three games. That season, Mathewson won the pitching Triple Crown, having the best earned run average, getting the most wins, and most strikeouts. He would win the Triple Crown again in 1908 with 37 wins and an ERA of 1.43.
During his time with the Giants (he would play with them through the 1916 season), Mathewson had 13 seasons with 20 wins or more and four season with 30 wins or more. He was both a five time ERA champ and a five time strike out champ. He also pitched two no-hitters, finishing his career with an average ERA of 2.13.
In 1916, the Giants traded Mathewson back to the Reds. He played only one game, which he won, but managed the Reds for three seasons afterwards. Mathewson left baseball in 1918 to serve in World War I in the United States Army. He was a Captain in the Chemical Service, working beside Ty Cobb. He contracted tuberculosis after being accidentally gassed during a training exercise.
After the war, Mathewson coached the Giants from 1919-1920, but spent time at Saranac Lake, New York, fighting the tuberculosis. He was the Boston Braves part-time president for the 1923 season.
During an exhibition game, Mathewson was punched in the stomach during a fight, which resulted in his catching the Spanish Flu. He died two years later at Saranac Lake on the opening day of the 1925 World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Senators both wore black armbands during the series.
Mathewson was honored with a Christy Mathewson Day by Factoryville and the town erected a statue of him in Christy Mathewson Park. Bucknell University named its stadium after him. He was one of the first inducted into the Hall of Fame along with other legendary players Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, and Honus Wagner. His jersey was retired by the Giants. Mathewson was listed as No. 7 by The Sporting News in their 100 Greatest Players list.