Christy Mathewson: The Greatest Pitcher of Them All- New York Giants (1900-1916)

Christopher Mathewson was born on August 12, 1880 in Factoryville, Pennsylvania. He was nicknamed "Big Six", & "Matty". Matty was arguably the greatest right-handed pitcher in Baseball history.

He attended Bucknell University served as the class president, sang in the glee club & belonged to a literary society. He was a star player on the school's baseball & football teams.

In 1899 he signed to play pro baseball in the New England League, then the Virginia-North Carolina League going 20-2. In July of that year, the New York Giants purchased his contract for $1,500.

In 1900 he arrived with the Giants that July appearing in six games going 0-3. The Giants were not impressed with him & returned him to Norfolk demanding their money back. Later that month, the Cincinnati Reds drafted him but traded him back to the Giants in exchange for Amos Rusie in December.

As soon as John McGraw took over as the Giants manager, he immediately took Mathewson under his wing. In spring of 1903 Mathewson married a Sunday school teacher & they celebrated their honeymoon at the Giants' training camp.

John McGraw's wife Blanche became close friends with Jane Mathewson & so did the manager & pitcher. In New York, the McGraws and Mathewsons even shared a ground-floor apartment near Central Park.

Mathewson was one of baseball’s first superstars, serving as the perfect role model. He was a true hero living a squeaky clean life on & off the field. He was a devout Christian, earning the nickname “The Christian Gentleman” and never pitched on Sunday. 

He was respected by his team mates & opposing players as well. In a time of hard living, hard drinking ball players, Matty helped transform that image to one of a more professional clean cut athlete. He was one of the few college graduates of players from his era, well spoken & very intelligent.

Mathewson also wrote a series of children's books, and a book on pitching. The popularity of baseball along with the success he and his Giants had, made him one of the games first big stars. He had board games named after him as well as many other endorsements of the time.

Matty had a good fastball, with outstanding control, but his best pitch was, a new pitch he developed from a team mate Dave Williams, called the "fade away". The pitch would later be known in baseball as the "screwball".

Matty became the most dominant pitcher of his era, during the first two decades of the twentieth century. He would go on to win thirty or more games four times & have thirteen seasons or more with twenty victories, leading the league in victories four times. 

He won five different ERA titles, posting ERA’s under one five times as well. Matty led the league in strike outs five times & struck out over 200 batters five times as well. He led the league in shut outs four times, complete games twice, starts twice, innings, saves & winning % one time each. He also threw two no hitters in his fabulous career.

In 1901 he won 20 games going 20-17 (sixth most wins in the NL), pitched 336 innings with 221 strike outs (4th in the NL) & a 2.41 ERA which would be the highest ERA he would post for the next five years.

Beginning in 1903 he would win thirty games for the three straight seasons. That year he was 33-12 posting a 2.03 ERA (both 2nd in the NL) , striking out a league leading, career high 267 batters pitching in 366 innings (2nd most in the NL).

It was the only time he ever walked 100 batters but considering his innings pitched it’s a low total. In 1904 he went 33-12 (2nd most wins in the NL), while pitching in an incredible 367 innings (3rd in the NL). He threw 33 complete games with four shut outs, posting a 2.03 ERA leading the league once again with 212 strikeouts, walking only 78 batters.

In 1905 he may have had his best seaso & one of the best any pitcher has ever had. He was incredible winning the pitchers triple crown, leading the league in wins (31-9) ERA (1.28) & strikeouts (206).

 He also led the league with 8 shut outs, pitched 339 innings (3rd in the NL) walking only 64 batters & throwing 32 complete games (5th in the NL).

1905 World Series: In the 1905 World Series, Matty may have had the best pitching performance over one week than anyone in the history of the game. He was the starting pitcher in Game #1 throwing a complete game, four hit shutout victory. He struck out six and walked no one along the way. Three days later, with the series tied 1-1, he pitched another four hit shutout victory in Game #3.

In that game he struck out eight and walked only one. Two days later in Game #5, he threw his third shutout of the World Series, a six hitter in which he allowed no walks. In that game he clinched the Giants World Series victory. In a span of only six days, Mathewson pitched three complete game shutouts, allowing just 13 hits in 27 innings pitched.

His control was outstanding as he just allowed one walk, it is the best World Series pitching performance ever and one that will certainly never be matched. The 1905 Championship would be the only World Series Matty would win, although he would go on to play in three more Fall Classics.

After another twenty win season in 1906 going 22-12, he lhad another super season in 1907. He ed the league in victories again in 1907 (24) as well as strike outs (178) & shut outs (8).

In 1908 he won another pitching triple crown, posting another of the best seasons any pitcher ever has had. He went 37-11 posting a 1.43 ERA with 259 strikeouts. Matty also led the league in shut outs (11) complete games (34) innings (390) games (56) starts (44) & saves (5).

 In 1909 he won back to back ERA titles (1.14) also leading the league in winning % (.806) going 26-6 with eight shut outs & 149 strike outs in 275 innings with 26 complete games.

In 1910 Matty topped the NL in wins (27) & complete games (27) with a 1.89 ERA in 319 innings pitched. In 1911 the Giants won another pennant, Matty led his staff ahead of Rube Marquard winning 26 games, leading the league with his fourth ERA title at 1.99. As he did in 1908 he also led the league allowing 303 hits, pitching in 307 innings.

Quotes: "You must have an alibi to show why you lost," he once told a reporter. "If you haven't one, you must fake one. Your self-confidence must be maintained."

1911 World Series: In the 1911 World Series Matty won Game #1 allowing just two runs on six hits in the 2-1 complete game win, striking out five while walking only one.

He took the loss in Game #3 allowing three runs in 11 innings pitched. The Series was delayed seven days, and Matty returned to pitch Game #4 at Shibe Park. He allowed four runs & exited in the 7th inning, taking a loss to Chief Bender. John McGraws Giants would fall to Connie Macks Philadelphia A’s in six games.

During the Series the New York Herald paid him $500 to serve as a reporter for the Fall Classic. Matty publicly criticized his team mate, pitcher Rube Marquard, after he gave up a game winning HR in the Series, after throwing a pitch Manager John McGraw warned him not to throw.

In 1912 Matty finished second on his staff to Rube Marquard winning 23 games (23-12). He posted the league’s second best ERA at 2.12 pitching 310 innings with 27 complete game victories.

1912 World Series: In the 1912 Series Matty lost two games to the Boston Red Sox, going 0-2. In the opening Game #1 he pitched 11 innings allowing six runs but go no decision as the game ended in a tie due to darkness.

In Game Five he took a loss after allowing only two runs & five hits over nine innings. In the deciding Game #8 Matty went head to head with Smokey Joe Wood. The two pitchers went into the 1th inning tied 1-1, Fred Merkle singled off Wood to drive in the go ahead run in the top of the 10th. But in the bottom of the 11th, the Red Sox scored two runs, as the game ended on a run scored after a sacrifice fly.

In 1913 Matty was 25-11 winning his fifth & final ERA title (2.06). He still pitched over 300 innings (306) only striking out 93 batters while throwing four shut outs & 25 complete games.

1913 World Series: In the 1913 World Series, the Giants once agin went at it with the Philadelphia Athletics. Mathewson threw another complete game shutout in Game Two at Shibe Park in Philadelphia. He then took the loss in the final Game Five allowing three runs & six hits while also pitching a complete game.

In World Series play in his career he started 11 games, threw four shutouts, with 10 complete games while posting a 5-5 record. He allowed only 11 runs in 101 innings pitched for a 0.97 ERA.

In 1914 he had his last great season going 24-13 with a 3.00 ERA.  By 1915 the 35 year old Mathewson was wearing down as he dropped to an 8-14 record.

In July of 1916, Mathewson's career in New York ended as he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with another future Hall of Famer Ed Roush. He won one game with the Reds and then served as their manager for the next three seasons.

Career: During his 17-year career, Mathewson won 373 games third most wins all time, going 373- 188, posting a 2.13 ERA (9th all time) with 79 shutouts (3rd all time) 2507 strikeouts (39th all time) a .665% winning percentage (21st all time) 435 complete games (14th all time) 552 games started (30th all time) 4788 innings pitched (18th all time).

Among all his other accomplishments, Mathewson served a crucial role in the players' efforts to form a union as far back as 1912. He was one of a very few players to speak out against players or teams he thought were throwing games illegaly. He made his opinion known during the 1919 World Series as the Chicago White Sox (aka- Blacksox) allegedly threw the World Series.

In 1918, Mathewson enlisted in the United States Army to serve in World War I. Overseas he became a Captain in the newly formed Chemical Service section, a division also featuring Ty Cobb.

In France, during a training exercise he was accidentally gassed with mustard gas and eventually developed tuberculosis. He did return to serve as a coach for the Giants, &in 1923, he even served as part-time president of the Boston Braves. In his later years he spent a lot of time in upstate Saranac, New York fighting the illness.

Passing: In 1925 Matty passed away in Saranac Lake, New York from complications of lung damage caused by the poison gas. He is buried at Lewisburg Cemetery in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He passed on the day the 1925 World Series began and the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Senators wore black armbands during the Series in his honor.

Honors: In 1936, Christy Mathewson was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the First Five inductees. His Giants uniform, showing NY, because there were not any uniform numbers at the time he played, is retired by the Giants.

He has the most wins in Giants franchise history (372) with 79 shutouts and over 2500 strikeouts.

He ranked # 7 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players. ESPN selected his pitching performance in the 1905 World Series as the greatest playoff performance of all time. In 1943 during WW II, a 422 foot Liberty Ship was named in his honor, the SS Christy Mathewson.

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."

Trivia: 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.

The book “The Old Ball Game” published in 2005 is a great account of Matty & Mcgraws Giants, as well as baseball at the turn of the 20th century.


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