Unquestionably one of the finest hurlers the game has ever seen.
One of the five original greats inducted into the Hall in 1936, Mathewson was the dominant pitcher of his era along with Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown. More than Brown, Mathewson looked the part of the modern American hero - he was tall, blond, and blue-eyed - and his reputation for clean living and good sportsmanship was often held up as a splendid example for the nation's youth. However, some say that he was arrogant, brusque and rude off the field, and that his gentlemanly reputation was undeserved.
Mathewson came from landed gentry, and served as class president at Bucknell University. He left Bucknell in 1899 to pitch for Taunton (New England League), then advanced to Norfolk (Virginia League), and the following year he went 20-2. The New York Giants bought him for $1,500, but returned him to Norfolk when he lost his first three decisions, declaring the deal cancelled and demanding their money back. He was then drafted by the Cincinnati Reds for $100 and traded to the Giants for a sore-armed Amos Rusie - Rusie had not pitched since 1898. In 1901 Mathewson won 20 games with a 2.41 ERA for the Giants; from 1903 to 1914 Mathewson never won fewer than 22 games.
Mathewson was an intelligent pitcher, had great control, and sound mechanics. His major weapon was a "fadeaway pitch" - known today as a "screwball," it was a reverse curve that broke in to right-handed batters. Throughout his career, he walked just 1.6 batters per 9 innings.
At least two Hall of Fame managers - John McGraw and Connie Mack - considered him the finest called him the greatest pitcher they had ever seen. He led the league in strikeouts 4 times, in wins 4 times, and in ERA 5 times. His 1.14 ERA in 1909 remains the fifth-best single season mark of all time, and the 37 wins he registered in 1908 remains a modern National League mark.
But his most remarkable accomplishment is one that may be the most unbreakable record in baseball - three shutouts in the 1905 World Series.
Enlisting as an Army captain in 1918, he served overseas and was gased in a training exercise, thereafter suffering from tuberculosis. He coached with the Giants in 1919-20, but spent much of his time upstate, fighting TB. He served as part-time president of the Braves in 1923, and died two years later at the age of 47.
Mathewson retired with 373 career wins (fourth all-time, after a recount gave him an additional win), 78 shutouts (third), and a 2.13 ERA (fifth).
"A pitcher is not a ballplayer."
— Christy Mathewson
"Mathewson was the greatest pitcher who ever lived. He had knowledge, judgment, perfect control
and form. It was wonderful to watch him pitch when he wasn't pitching against you."
— Connie Mack
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