NEPA Sports Nation

NATION NOSTALGIA: Mathewson an original Baseball Hall of Famer

Early August is a time to celebrate Christy Mathewson in the Factoryville area.

Mathewson, one of the original inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. was born Aug. 12, 1880 in Factoryville. The town of Factoryville and Keystone College in LaPlume have combined for the last 25 years to present Christy Mathewson Day, a celebration that was held Saturday.

Walter Johnson and Mathewson were the two pitchers who joined Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner as the first five Hall of Famers selected Feb. 2, 1936. The first Induction Ceremony was not held until June 12, 1939 by which time Mathewson was one of 20 players to be honored.

Mathewson died in 1925 so he was not among the 11 living members who all took part in that first ceremony.

Nearly 100 years after his death, however, Mathewson’s place in baseball history remains secure.

Nicknamed “Big Six”, Mathewson attended Keystone Academy, a high school at the time which later became Keystone College, before heading off to Bucknell University to play baseball and football.

Mathewson first pitched for a Factoryville semi-professional team when he was 14 and moved on to the Honesdale Eagles before pitching in college and signing his first professional contract when he was 19.

Two years later, Mathewson won 20 games for the New York Giants in his first full season in 1901. He won at least 30 games each year from 1903 to 1905, starting a stretch of a dozen seasons in which he averaged more than 27 wins and posted at least 20 every year. Mathewson led the National League in strikeouts five out of seven years from 1903 to 1908.

His best seasons included staggering numbers: 31-9 with a 1.28 earned run average in 1905; 37-11 with 5 saves, 11 shutouts and a 1.43 ERA in 1908; and 25-6 with a 1.14 ERA in 1909.

Mathewson threw shutouts in all three of his starts in the 1905 World Series. His 37 wins in 1908 were the most by a National League pitcher in the Modern Era of baseball records, which began in 1900.

The 6-foot-1 right-hander ranks among baseball’s career leaders in many categories.

Mathewson’s 373 wins is third behind Cy Young and Walter Johnson and tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander for the National League record. His 79 shutouts is third and his 2.13 ERA is tied for eighth. All those totals were built while fulfilling a promise to his mother to never pitch on Sunday.

When his New York Giants career ended in 1916, Mathewson became a player-manager in Cincinnati, pitching one last game and remaining as manager until enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1918 to fight in World War I in France.

The impact of chemical warfare left Mathewson battling health problems, including tuberculosis, when he returned to the United States. He died October 7, 1925 in Saranac, N.Y. and was buried in Lewisburg.

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