Year Inducted: 1936 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 205/226)
Who was the best World Series pitcher ever? Several players would seem to have a claim to that title. Don Larsen had a perfect game in 1956, Jack Morris had his masterpiece in 1991, and Whitey Ford had lots of World Series wins for his Yankees. Yet, none of them had the best single World Series. In the second ever World Series in 1905, the New York Giants were pitted against the Philadelphia A’s with four of the best pitchers of all-time slated to pitch. The A’s put their hopes on the arms of Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, but they mustered a total of three runs. All three of those runs came in Game 2 against Joe McGinnity, who would win the crucial Game 4 for the Giants. In Games 1, 3 and 5 the A’s were stymied by one of the best right handers of all-time, Christy Mathewson.
In 17 seasons, Mathewson was a master on the mound. He threw nearly 4800 innings, with a 373-188 record and an ERA of merely 2.13. The Big Six was a tall, imposing figure on the mound, and dominated the game like few ever have. In 13 of his 17 seasons, Matty won 20 or more games, including 12 seasons in a row of 20 or more wins. In 4 of those years he won more than 30, including a 37-win mark in 1908. Mathewson’s dominance of opposing batters led to more than 2500 strikeouts, a 1.06 WHIP and an average against of only .238. Mathewson was an expert at controlling his pitches, issuing a mere 1.59 walks per 9 innings and a HR rate of only 0.17 per 9 innings.
Late in the 1914 season, Mathewson began feeling pain in his side. When checked by the team doctors, Mathewson (in his age 33 season) was told that he was just getting old and there was nothing structurally wrong with him. The pain persisted in 1915 when he had the worst season of his career with an ERA of 3.58. In 1916, still struggling with pain and realizing that his career was near its end, Mathewson went to his longtime manager and friend John McGraw and wanted to manage. McGraw obliged by trading his former ace to the Reds along with two other future Hall of Famers in Bill McKechnie and Edd Roush to help him get his new career started.
Mathewson retired as a player at the age of 35 in 1916. In 1918, Mathewson was commissioned as a captain in the military and deployed to France. In a training exercise, he was accidentally exposed to mustard gas, which eventually led to tuberculosis which led to his unfortunate passing in 1925 at the age of only 45. Mathewson was the only one of the original five inductees to not be alive for the ceremony in 1939. Matty was one of the best, and will always be known as such.
The next update for today goes up at 7:00 am EDT