Christy Mathewson was born August 12, 1880, in Factoryville, Pennsylvania. The son of well off parents he studied forestry at Bucknell University where he was class president, an All-America college football player, and, star pitcher.
Mathewson left Bucknell in 1899 and pitched for Taunton in the New England League. The following year he pitched for Norfolk of the Virginia League, posting a record of 20-2. Christy first pitched for the Giants in 1900 when the Giants paid $1,500 for him. However, when he lost his first three decisions he was returned to Norfolk. The Reds drafted him for $100 and then traded him to the Giants for veteran pitcher Amos Rusie.
In 1901, Mathewson went 20-17 with a 2.41 ERA. This was the first of his 13 twenty-win seasons. In addition to his mechanics and amazing control Christy Mathewson had his 'fadeaway' pitch. Known today as a screwball, it is a reverse curve that breaks in to right handers. However, it places a great deal of strain on the arm and Mathewson would, on average, only throw one an inning.
Although Mathewson would only win 14 games whilst losing 17 in 1902 he lead the league with eight shutouts and posted a 2.11 ERA. In 1903 he won 30 games, the first of three straight 30+ seasons, and led the league in strikeouts, something he would repeat in 1904 and 1905. Christy had a great year in 1905 leading in the league in wins (31), strikeouts (206), ERA (1.28) and shutouts (8). His form continued in to the World Series where the Giants played the Philadelphia Athletics. In a six day span, Mathewson shut out the Athletics in Games One, Three, and Five as the Giants took the series in 5 games.
It is widely accepted that Christy Mathewson's finest season came in 1908. Not surprising really when you consider his numbers. He led the league in wins (37), ERA (1.43), games pitched (56), games started (44), complete games (34), innings pitched (390.2), strikeouts (259), and shutouts (11). In spite of this the Giants were just edged by the Cubs.
Over the next six years, Mathewson would win a further 150 games never slipping below 20 wins in a single season. He would lead the league in ERA in 1909 (1.14, his lowest total ever), 1911 (1.99) and 1913 (2.06). However, Mathewson was starting to feel the effects of pitching over 300 innings in all but three of his major league seasons. In 1915, Christy Mathewson would only pitch in 27 games, his lowest total since 1900 when he first broke into the team. He would only win 8 games and lose 14.
1916 was Christy's last season with the Giants. He posted a 3-4 record with a 2.33 ERA but only 16 strikeouts in 65.2 innings of work. He was traded to the Reds during the season where he would win the only game he pitched in. Mathewson went on to manage the Reds for two years leading them to two fourth place finishes.
Mathewson volunteered for the U.S. Army in August 1918 and joined a chemical warfare unit in France. Though he never saw combat, he was accidentally exposed to poison gas in a training exercise that weakened his lungs. Mathewson coached with the Giants for the 1919 and 1920 seasons before he was appointed president of the Boston Braves in 1923. He held this post until he died from tuberculosis on October 7, 1925 (opening day of the World Series) in Saranac Lake, New York, aged 47.
When he retired, Christy Mathewson had lead the league in ERA and strikeouts five times as well as wins and shutouts four times.
In 1936 - along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson - Christy Mathewson was one of the five immortals first elected in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Red type indicates when Christy Mathewson lead the league.