Christy Mathewson

From BR Bullpen


Christopher Mathewson
(Big Six or Matty or The Christian Gentleman)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1936

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

Painting showing Mathewson pitching, Roger Bresnahan is the catcher. Bresnahan is tagging out the Philadelphia Athletics runner while Manager John McGraw, far right, looks on.

"His sense of justice, his integrity, and sportsmanship made him far greater than Christy Mathewson the pitcher." - Kenesaw Mountain Landis

Christy Mathewson was highly respected both as a ballplayer and as a human being. He ranks # 1 on the Hall of Fame Standards test of measuring major league pitching performance. He is # 3 on the all-time win list. He led the league in ERA five times. The most similar pitcher, according to the similarity scores method, is Pete Alexander, although the two were very different individuals. Mathewson died young.


Captain Christy Mathewson, US Army photo, World War One

Mathewson attended Bucknell University from 1899-1901. He appeared with the New York Giants for 6 games in the second half of the 1900 season after being purchased from Norfolk, and after the season was assigned back to Norfolk, where the Cincinnati Reds drafted him. The Giants, managed by George Davis, traded veteran Amos Rusie to get Mathewson back on their team. While Mathewson had not been successful at the major league level in 1900, he was much better in 1901. He finally ended up with the Reds at the tail end of his career, in 1916, for one game.

John McGraw took over the managerial duties on the Giants in the middle of the 1902 season and was Mathewson's manager for the rest of Christy's years with the Giants. McGraw was fond enough of Mathewson that Mathewson's picture was one of only two that McGraw in later years put on his wall.

Mathewson was a key participant in the famous Merkle Bonehead Play that was important in determining the 1908 National League pennant winner. He holds the record, tied with Carl Mays, for most consecutive wins by a pitcher against one team, with 24 against the St. Louis Cardinals between 1904 and 1908. Surprisingly, he also occupies third place on this list, with 22 straight wins against the Cincinnati Reds, from 1908 to 1911. The two streaks overlapped briefly during the 1908 season.

He led the National League in strikeouts six times. However, his sixth title, in 1910 was unknown for over a century due to a clerical error: in the game of September 7th against the Boston Doves, he was accidentally credited with the pitching totals of his opponent on the mound, Sam Frock in the league's official tallies. One of the major differences between the two hurlers in that 2-0 Giants win was that Frock struck out 5 batters, but Mathewson had 11. The six missing strikeouts were enough to give the strikeout title to Earl Moore, 185 to 184, whereas Christy's true total was 190. He also led the league in innings pitched as a result of this error and similar ones affecting the purported leader, Nap Rucker.

He appeared in four World Series, posting an ERA of 0.97.

He was one of a very few players to speak out against players or teams he thought were throwing games.

Mathewson also managed the Reds for parts of three seasons, from 1916 to 1918. The team's winning percentage steadily improved during his time with them. He also was a member of the Giants coaching staff in 1919 and 1920. He was an umpire for two National League games in 1901 and another one in 1907.

Christy also played professional football. A league, called the National Football League although not related to the later successful league, was formed in 1902 and Mathewson played fullback for Pittsburgh. He had been a kicker in college, and at least one observer of the time thought he was the best ever.

Starting in 1923, Mathewson served as president of the Boston Braves.


"Big Six" drinks Coca-Cola, from an advertisement ca. 1914.
Henry, Christy, and Nicholas Mathewson

"There is no doubt, but that Mathewson was the greatest pitcher of all time. He was the perfect pitcher... He had all kinds of stuff, and he knew just when to use it." Roger Bresnahan

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL Pitcher's Triple Crown (1905 & 1908)
  • 5-time NL ERA Leader (1905, 1908, 1909, 1911 & 1913)
  • 4-time NL Wins Leader (1905, 1907, 1908 & 1910)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (1909)
  • NL Games Pitched Leader (1908)
  • NL Saves Leader (1908)
  • 2-time NL Innings Pitched Leader (1908 & 1910)
  • 6-time NL Strikeouts Leader (1903-1905, 1907, 1908 & 1910)
  • 2-time NL Complete Games Leader (1908 & 1910)
  • 4-time NL Shutouts Leader (1902, 1905, 1907 & 1908)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 13 (1901 & 1903-1914)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 13 (1901 & 1903-1914)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 8 (1903-1905, 1908-1911 & 1913)
  • 30 Wins Seasons: 4 (1903-1905 & 1908)
  • 35 Wins Seasons: 1 (1908)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 14 (1901-1914)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 11 (1901, 1903-1905, 1907, 1908 & 1910-1914)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 5 (1901, 1903-1905 & 1908)
  • Won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1905
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1936

Preceded by
Buck Herzog
Cincinnati Reds Manager
Succeeded by
Heinie Groh

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1916 Cincinnati Reds National League 25-43 8th Cincinnati Reds Replaced Buck Herzog (34-49) and Ivey Wingo (1-1)
on July 21
1917 Cincinnati Reds National League 78-76 4th Cincinnati Reds
1918 Cincinnati Reds National League 61-57 -- Cincinnati Reds Replaced by Heinie Groh on August 28

Further Reading[edit]

  • Frank DeFord: The Old Ball Game, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, NY, 2005.
  • Chuck Kimberly: The Days of Rube, Matty, Honus and Ty: Scenes from the Early Deadball Era, 1904–1907, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2019. ISBN 978-1-4766-7610-4
  • Martin D. Kohout: "Saint Matty and the Prince of Darkness: The strange and awful bond between Christy Mathewson and Hal Chase", in The National Pastime, SABR, Number 20 (2000), pp. 124-131.
  • J.B. Manheim: This Never Happened: The Mystery Behind the Death of Christy Mathewson, Summer Game Books, South Orange, NJ, 2021. ISBN 978-1-938545-92-4
  • Ronald A. Mayer: Christy Mathewson: a Game-By-Game Profile of a Legendary Pitcher, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008 (originally published in 1993).
  • Ray Robinson: Matty: An American Hero: Christy Mathewson of the New York Giants, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1993. ISBN 978-0195092639
  • Amber Roessner: Inventing Baseball Heroes: Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and the Sporting Press in America, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8071-5611-7
  • Warren N. Wilbert: What Makes an Elite Pitcher? Young, Mathewson, Johnson, Alexander, Grove, Spahn, Seaver, Clemens, and Maddux, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7864-1456-7

Related Sites[edit]