Had the Reds not been looking
for a veteran pitcher who might help them win the National League
pennant in 1901, the great Christy Mathewson most likely would have done
his pitching in Cincinnati rather than in New York.
During the 1900 season, the
New York Giants had purchased the 19-year-old Mathewson from the
Norfolk, Virginia, club; however, when he lost three games and was
treated roughly by National League hitters, he was returned to the minor
league team in Norfolk. The Reds then drafted him for only $100.
But manager Bid McPhee wanted
a veteran pitcher, not the young and untested Mathewson, so he traded
the young player away. McPhee went back to the Giants for Amos Rusie, a
one-time star who won 243 games in his career, but who was finished by
the time he came to the Reds.
The deal was a bomb, an
atomic bomb. Rusie never won a game for the Reds. Mathewson went on to
win 372 for the Giants, the third highest total in baseball history.
The first year after
Mathewson was traded by the Reds, he won 20 games. He would go on to win
at least 20 in 12 consecutive seasons, our times winning at least 30.
The great debate of the era was: Who is the better pitcher? Christy Mathewson or Walter Johnson, the Washington Senators speedballer?
The Reds were Mathewson's
favorite team. He picked on them relentlessly. In his career he won 64
games and lost only 18 to Cincinnati. In one stretch he beat Cincinnati
22 consecutive times, a National League record.
Mathewson eventually did
pitch for the Reds, but by the time they got him, he was washed up,
In July 1916 manager Buck
Herzog of the Reds was traded to the Giants. In return, the Reds
received Bill McKechnie, Edd Roush and Mathewson, who was named the
Matty figured on pitching
some, too, but after one turn on the mound he retired. He won the game,
his 373rd and final victory, but he gave up eight runs and immediately
announced that he was retiring.
"I thought I could pitch a
few more games," Mathewson said after beating the Cubs on September 4,
1916, "but I find that I haven't got the stuff anymore. I shall never
attempt to pitch in a championship game again. If I ever go into the box
again, I will buy everyone of you a suit of clothes."
Christy never had to. He remained solely the club's
manager and moved the team up from seventh to fourth place
in 1917 and had them in third in 1918 when he went into military action
in World War 1.
It was assumed after the
Armistice that Mathewson would be back to skipper the 1919 Reds, but
because club president Garry Herrmann couldn't reach his manager,
Mathewson finally was replaced by Pat Moran who had been on the coaching
staff of the New York Giants.
Ironically, when Mathewson
returned home and found his job taken by Moran, Christy took Moran's
vacated spot with the Giants under John McGraw.
Six years later one of the
greatest pitchers in baseball history was dead. He had been gassed while
in the service and had never fully recovered. In 1936, when the first
five members of baseball's Hall of Fame were inducted, Christy Mathewson
was one of them. That great record might have been accomplished as a
Red, but ...