This day in baseball: RIP Ross Youngs

New York Giants rightfielder Ross Youngs passed away on October 22, 1927 of Brights disease.  The future Hall of Famer had a career batting average of .322, having batted over .300 for seven straight seasons, including reaching an average of more than .350 twice.  Youngs was also one of John McGraw’s favorite players, who said at Youngs’s funeral, “The game was never over with Youngs until the last man was out.  He could do everything a ball player should do, and do it better than most players.  As an outfielder he had no superiors, and he was the easiest man I ever knew to handle.  In all his years with the Giants, he never caused one minute’s trouble for myself or the club.  On top of all this, a gamer ballplayer than Youngs never played ball.”

Ross Youngs New York Giants


This day in baseball: POTUS’s first World Series

At Griffith Stadium on October 4, 1924, Calvin Coolidge became the first United States President to attend a World Series opener.  The Giants managed to defeat the hometown Senators in 12 innings that day, with a score of 4-3.

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President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge at a baseball game with Coolidge’s secretary C. Bascom Slemp at right, 1924 (Library of Congress)


This day in baseball

On September 14, 1913, pitcher Larry Cheney of the Cubs gave up fourteen hits to the Giants.  In spite of this, Cheney managed to come out victorious, 7-0.  It was the first time in major league history that a team has been shut out even while collecting that many hits.

Larry_Cheney cubs

Larry Cheney (Library of Congress)


This day in baseball: Rookie no-hitter

Christy Mathewson became the first rookie in the modern era to throw a no-hitter on July 15, 1901.  Just twenty years old, the right-hander kept the Cardinals hitless as the Giants posted a 5-0 victory at Robison Field in St. Louis.

Robison Field (digitalballparks.com)


This day in baseball: Giants win streak is snapped

The New York Giants maintained a winning streak that finally got snapped at 18 games on July 5, 1904. The Phillies beat New York, 6-5, in a 10-inning walk-off victory at the Baker Bowl.

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1904 New York Giants (Wikipedia)


This day in baseball: The first Ladies’ Day

The first ‘Ladies’ Day’ in major league history took place on June 16, 1893 when the New York Gothams (later known as the Giants) offered free admission to all women, both escorted and un-escorted, at the Polo Grounds. The lucky ladies had the opportunity to watch their Gothams defeat the Cleveland Spiders, 5-2.

Polo Grounds, View from Behind Home Plate

Polo Grounds (ballparksofbaseball.com)


Christy Mathewson

christy mathewsonConsidered the first great pitcher of the modern era, Christopher “Christy” Mathewson was born in Factoryville, Pennsylvania on August 12, 1880, the oldest of six children of Minerva (née Capwell) and Gilbert Mathewson.  He attended high school at Keystone Academy, and then college at Bucknell University. At Bucknell, Mathewson served as class president, played on the school’s football and baseball teams, and he was also a member of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta.

In 1895, when Mathewson was fourteen years old, the manager of the Factoryville ball club asked him to pitch in a game against a rival team in Mill City, Pennsylvania. Mathewson helped the Factoryville team to a 19-17 victory. He continued to play with semipro teams until he left for Bucknell.

At Bucknell, though Mathewson pitched for the baseball team, he was better known for his accomplishments as a football player, where he spent three years as the varsity team’s first-string fullback, punter, and drop kicker. It was also at Bucknell that Mathewson met his future wife, Jane Stoughton. After playing ball throughout his time at Bucknell, Mathewson signed his first professional baseball contract in 1899 with Taunton of the New England League. In 1900, he went on to play with Norfolk of the Virginia-North Carolina League, finishing the season with a 20-2 record.

In July of 1900, the New York Giants purchased Mathewson’s contract from Norfolk for $1,500. He appeared in six games for the Giants, compiling an 0-3 record before the Giants sent him back to Norfolk, demanding their money back in frustration.  In September of that year, the Cincinnati Reds obtained Mathewson off the Norfolk roster, then traded him back to the Giants that December.

Christy Mathewson won 20 games in his first full major league season in 1901. He then posted at least 30 wins a season from 1903-05 and led the National League in strikeouts five times between 1903 and 1908. In 1908, he set a modern era record for single-season wins by an NL pitcher with 37. From 1903 to 1914, Mathewson won at least 22 games each season and led the NL in ERA five times.

Christy Mathewson

Wikipedia

In postseason play, during the 1905 World Series, Mathewson pitched three complete-game shutouts in three starts against the Athletics, giving up only 14 hits total in those three games. In 1911, the Giants won their first pennant since 1905, however they ultimately lost the 1911 World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics. Mathewson and Rube Marquard allowed two game-winning home runs to Hall of Famer Frank Baker en route to the Series loss.

The Giants captured the pennant again in 1912, facing the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Though Mathewson threw three complete games in the Series and maintained an ERA below 1.00, the Giants as a team committed a number of errors, including the infamous lazy popup dropped by Fred Snodgrass in game 7, costing them the championship. Though the Giants would win 101 games in 1913, they lost the World Series that year four games to one, again to the Athletics.

Mathewson played with the Giants for seventeen years. After the 1913 season, however, both Mathewson and the Giants as a team began to decline. In 1916, Mathewson was traded back to the Reds and was named player-manager. He appeared in only one game as a pitcher for the Reds, on September 4, 1916 against the Cubs. Mathewson and the Reds won that contest, 10-8.

In his career, Mathewson posted a 373-188 record (.665 winning percentage). His career ERA was 2.13 (8th all time) and he posted 79 shutouts (3rd all time) over the course of said career. Mathewson also recorded 2,507 career strikeouts against only 848 walks.

Nicknamed the “Christian Gentleman,” Mathewson was held in high regard in his time. Mathewson was handsome, college-educated, and temperate, making him an anomaly in the rowdy world of baseball during this time period. It made him, easily, one of the most popular ballplayers of the age. “He gripped the imagination of a country that held a hundred million people and held this grip with a firmer hold than any man of his day or time,” wrote sportswriter Grantland Rice.

christy_mathewson

baseballinwartime.com

Late in the 1918 season, Mathewson enlisted in the United States Army for World War I. He served as a captain in the newly formed Chemical Service along with Ty Cobb. While he was in France, he was accidentally exposed to mustard gas during a chemical training exercise and subsequently developed tuberculosis. Mathewson served with the American Expeditionary Force until February 1919 and was discharged later that month. He returned to serve as an assistant coach for the Giants until 1921, but continued to battle tuberculosis the entire time.

After some time away, Mathewson attempted to return to professional baseball in 1923 when he and Giants attorney Emil Fuchs put together a syndicate that bought the Boston Braves.  Initially, Mathewson was to be principal owner and team president, but his health had deteriorated so much that he turned over the presidency to Fuchs after the season. Christy Mathewson died in Saranac Lake, New York of tuberculosis on October 7, 1925. He is buried at Lewisburg Cemetery in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, near Bucknell University.

In 1936, Mathewson became one of the first five players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.