When all-time pitching great Christy Mathewson died of tuberculosis in 1925 at the age of 45, it touched off a wave of national mourning that remains without precedent for an American athlete. The World Series was underway, and the game the day after Mathewson's death took on the trappings of a state funeral: officials slowly lowered the flag to half-mast, each ballplayer wore a black armband, and fans joined together in a chorus of "Nearer My God to Thee." Newspaper editorials recalled Mathewson's glorious career with the New York Giants, but also emphasized his unstinting good sportsmanship and voluntary service in World War I. The pitcher known to one and all as "Matty" or "Big Six" was as beloved for the strength of character he brought to the national pastime, as for his stunning 373 career victories. "I do not expect to see his like again," said his best friend and former manager, John McGraw. "But I do know that the example he set and the imprint he left on the sport that he loved and honored will remain long after I am gone."
In Matty, Ray Robinson tells the story of a man who became America's first authentic sports hero. Until Mathewson, Robinson reveals, Americans loved baseball, but looked down on ballplayers and other athletes as hard-drinking, skirt-chasing ne'er-do-wells. Deprived of real-life role models, millions of readers followed the serialized exploits of Frank Merriwell, a fictional hero who excelled at sports from baseball to billiards and never drank, smoke, or swore. Robinson shows how an eager public greeted Mathewson as a flesh-and-blood version of Merriwell from his first year at Bucknell University, where he shone as star pitcher, premier field-goal kicker, and class president. Lured into the big leagues before he could graduate, the tall, handsome pitcher soon won over men, women and children with his sense of fair play and his arsenal of blazing fastballs, sweeping curves, and infamously deceptive fadeaway pitches. Robinson skillfully details the highlights of Mathewson's career, including his showdowns against the great batters of his day and his encounters with the young Brooklyn, Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis teams. Here are the six remarkable days in October, 1905 when Mathewson became the only pitcher ever to hurl three straight shutouts in a World Series, and the afternoon at West Point when he won $50 in a bet that he could throw 20 of his best pitches to exactly the same spot. Robinson does not underplay Mathewson's occasional failings, but the most surprising aspect of this fascinating portrait is just how close America's first Hall of Fame pitcher came to living up to his image.
Drawing on rare interviews, press clips, and long overlooked eyewitness accounts, Matty brings baseball's golden age to life--not only the great teams and the early superstars, but the long train trips between games, with cramped berths and no air conditioning; the small town ballplayers let loose amidst big city vice; and the two-bit gambling that eventually led to the infamous Black Sox Scandal of the 1919 Series (a scandal that might have escaped detection if the sportswriters in the press box with Mathewson had not been able to rely on his experienced eye for clues to how ballplayers might throw games). Offering rare insight into the making of an early twentieth century American hero, Matty is must reading for anyone who loves baseball.
"Ray Robinson's enjoyable and dramatic new biography, Matty, makes it clear that this was a man who was born under a lucky star....Everything Christy Mathewson touched became a golden triumph."--Philadelphia INquirer
"In his carefully researched and very readable story, Robinson has cleared away much of the hero-worshipping claptrap that inevitably attaches to a public figure as widely and extravagantly admired as was Mathewson....The book also incorporates sufficient biographical information to sustain a narrative covering Mathewson's entire professional career. Supplementing the text are seven appendices, treating many aspects of the Mathewson record, and some rare
photos."--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Effectively mixing his ruminations on the nature of heroes with a detailed examination of Mathewson's career, Robinson emerges with a rich portrait of a complex man who lived in a rapidly evolving society. A commendable effort."--Booklist
"Straightforward, concrete and interesting."--The Boston Sunday Globe
"Robinson crisply lays down the facts of the player's professional and personal life, conveys the exuberance and color of the early days of baseball and amusingly explores the 'implausible' friendship between 'the near-saintly pticher' and Giants manager John McGraw."--The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Ray Robinson traces Matty's career in a way that contrasts Mathewson's time with baseball before and since. A book like this sharpens a young fan's appreciation of baseball, giving some feel for the rhthyms of earlier times."--Houston Chronicle
"Robinson recalls this true hero, a fitting resurrection in today's sports' world, a real-life Merriwell who was mourned nationally when he died from TB in 1925 at age 45."--Publishers Weekly
"Ray Robinson has not only done a masterful job in revealing what an extraordinary player and person Christy Mathewson was, but he has also shown us, so very vividly, what it was like almost a hundred years ago when baseball first became such a part of New York and of America. A warm and as Christy would have said--a bully read."--Frank Deford, author of Love and Infamy
"This book is a great melting pot of baseball lore. It's fun to read about a glorious time in baseball's past, when pitchers like Matty finished almost every game they started."--Tim McCarver, Mets Broadcaster
"While Matty was probably the greatest right-hander of all time, this fascinating book explains why he meant so much more to the game than the victories he compiled. he was my own hero and now I know why I chose him."--Tom Seaver, Hall of Fame pitcher
"Ray Robinson specializes in writing compelling, intelligent biographies of intelligent athletes. atty is the latest in this Robinson genre."--Dick Schaap
"I guess there are lots of people still around who are older than me, but the fact of the matter is that I actually knew many big leaguers who were close to Matty--his catcher, Chief Meyers, his shortstop, Al Bridwell, his center fielder, Fred Snodgrass, and dozens of others. All of them, without exception, would have loved this book and given Ray Robinson three hearty cheers and a tip of the cap for writing it."--Lawrence S. Ritter, author of
Glory of Their Times
"For more than half a century, Christy Mathewson has dwelled in the twilight realm of the praised but unwritten about. Ray Robinson has accomplished the amazing feat of giving flesh to a myth--of putting a uniform on a ghost."--Allen Barra, New York Observier