Nickname: Matty or Big Six
Born: Aug. 12, 1880 in Factoryville, Pa.
Died: Oct. 7, 1925 in Saranac Lake, N.Y.
H: 6'1.5" | W: 195 | B: R | T: R
>> Visit the Christy Mathewson biography on Baseball Almanac for complete statistics.
When Christy Mathewson retired from his playing career, he was one of baseball's immortals in the area of pitching. One of the original five entrants into the Hall of Fame, Mathewson finished with 372 wins and a 2.13 earned run average.
Mathewson was the original boy scout, a clean-cut player with blond hair and blue eyes. Born into a farming family, Mathewson attended Bucknell University, where he was class president. He also played on the football team as a placekicker and was a star pitcher on the baseball team. In 1889, he joined Taunton (New England League) as a pitcher. He went to Norfolk (Virginia League) the following year and finished with a 20-2 record.
The record caught the attention of the New York Giants. They purchased Mathewson's contract for $1,500. Mathewson, however, drew the ire of the Giants when he lose his first three games and posted a 5.08 earned run average. The Giants sent him back to Norfolk, declared the deal dead and demanded their money back.
In another career twist, Mathewson was drafted by the Reds who paid $100 for him and then traded him to the Giants for Amos Rusie. John T. Bush, who owned the Reds, was on the verge of purchasing the Giants and he wanted to make sure the team had a promising young pitcher.
In his first full season with the Giants in 1901, Mathewson finished with a 20-17 record a 2.41 earned run average. Manager Horace Fogel wasn't convinced that Mathewson could become a consistent winning pitcher, so he forced Mathewson to practice at first, shortstop and in the outfield. That all changed with John McGraw took control of the Giants in mid-1902. From 1903 to 1914, Mathewson never won fewer than 22 games.
The hallmark of Mathewson's mound work was his incredible control. Mathewson only walked 1.6 batters per 9 innings in his career. It wasn't odd for Mathewson to breeze through a game, throwing on 75 or 80 pitches.
The 1905 World Series turned Mathewson into a star. He shut out the Athletics in Games One, Three and Five and allowed his opponents just 14 hits. The Giants won the series, 4-1.
His brother, Henry, pitched three games for the Giants, going 0-1. Christy and Henry were the top brother pitching combination in baseball until Gaylord and Jim Perry broke their record for wins.
One of Mathewson's greatest seasons came in 1908. He put together a 37-11 record with a 1.43 earned run average in 390.2 innings pitched. Despite his efforts, the Giants finished a game behind the Chicago Cubs.
Mathewson was considered the game's best pitcher until he finished the season at 8-14 in 1915. That left the door open for Grover Cleveland Alexander to take over. Alexander won 31 games in 1915.
In 1916, Mathewson was traded to the Reds. He pitched in one game before he became a manager and led the club to two four-place finishes. As a pitcher, Mathewson led the League in ERA and strikeouts five times and in wins and shutouts four times.
Mathewson also made a name for himself with his actions off the field. For some, Mathewson just rubbed them the wrong way. However, he played a crucial role in players' efforts to form a union in 1912. As a manager, he suspended a player for "indifferent playing." He was also one of the few to publicly state he thought the White Sox were throwing the 1919 World Series.
In 1918, Mathewson enlisted in the Army and served overseas. He was gassed during a training exercise and developed tuberculosis. He returned to the Giants in 1919-1920 to serve as a coach, but most of his time was spent fighting tuberculosis. He served as part-time president of the Braves in 1923, and died two years later at the age of 47.