Christy Mathewson — The Author
The stories and lore around Christy Mathewson have become almost mythical. His athleticism, good looks, and integrity made him a real-life American hero. Mathewson was one of only a few ball players to be college educated–at Bucknell–where he starred in both Football and Baseball. Matty or “Big Six”, as he was called, helped dispel the deservedly tarnished reputation of his baseball-playing peers.(Picture to right is from Arthur K. Miller, noted baseball artist.)
During his career, he won 373 games with a 2.13 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He threw two no-hitters and won 3 games during the 1905 World Series. Mathewson was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1936.
In 1918, Mathewson enlisted in the United States Army for World War I. He served overseas as a Captain in the newly formed Chemical Service along with Ty Cobb. While in France, during a training exercise he was accidentally gassed and consequently developed tuberculosis. Although he returned to serve as a coach for the Giants from 1919–1920, he was in ill health the remainder of his life and passed away in October 1925.
Beyond his Hall of Fame pitching career, Christy Mathewson was also an author and entrepreneur. He had a board game named after him: “Big Six” Christy Mathewson Indoor Baseball Game and authored several books.
His first book was entitled Pitching in a Pinch and was published in 1912. This insider’s view of baseball is considered perhaps the first of the tell-all books by players that were to follow. Mathewson provides anecdotes about his fellow players and his managers, gives tips on how to handle difficult situations on the field, and offers suggestions on how the game itself can be improved. Among the greats that Mathewson writes about are Joe Tinker (his toughest out), Fred Clark, and Honus Wagner.
Below is an excerpt from the book about his fade-away pitch.
Many persons have asked me why I do not use my “fade-away” oftener when it so effective, and the only answer is that every time I throw the “fade-away” it take so much out of my arm. It is a very hard ball to deliver. Pitching it ten or twelve times a game kills my arm, so I save it for the pinches.
Many fans do not know what this ball really is. It is a slow curve pitched with the motion of a fast ball. But most curve balls break away from a right-handed batter a little. The fade-away breaks toward him.
Below is an excerpt from Mathewson talking about the famous “Merkle” game.
Several newspaper men have called September 23, 1908, “Merkle day,” because it was on that day he rant to the clubhouse from first base instead of by the way o second, when “Al” Bridwell whacked out his hit that apparently won the game from the Cubs. Any other player on the team would have undoubtedly done the same think under the circumstances, as the custom had been in vogue all around the circuit during the season. It was simply Fred Merkle’s misfortune to have been on first base at the critical moment.
Beyond his pitching book, there were four books in an alliteratively-titled series of baseball novels for boys, known as the Matty Books, purportedly written by Mathewson, but actually ghostwritten by John N. Wheeler:
- Pitcher Pollock (1914)
- Catcher Craig (1915)
- First Base Faulkner (1916)
- Second Base Sloan (1917)
Bonus feature of Mathewson pitching from Ken Burns Baseball.