Add to GoodReads

Christy Mathewson, the Christian Gentleman

How One Man's Faith and Fastball Forever Changed Baseball

Bob Gaines

Nearly a century after his final major league appearance, Christy Mathewson is still considered one of the greatest right-handed pitchers in the history of baseball. Mathewson ranks in the top ten among pitchers for wins, shutouts, and ERA, and in 1936 he was honored as one of the inaugural members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Playing in the early twentieth century, Mathewson was the nation’s first All-American hero, a man of Christianity inspiring the values of millions while bringing dignity to a game that had previously been reserved for rougher characters.

Christy Mathewson, the Christian Gentleman: How One Man's Faith and Fastball Forever Changed Baseball, Bob Gaines delivers a close and personal look at the extraordinary life and soul of a gifted man living in a unique time. After growing up in a loving, Christian home and attending Bucknell University under the careful watch of his childhood pastor, Mathewson struggled to find his footing in the unsavory world of professional baseball. Seen as an “intellectual college boy” whose shy personality was misinterpreted as an aloof arrogance, Mathewson’s faith and character were put to the test. Through strong will and an unusual partnership with John McGraw—a manager his exact opposite in everything but a desire to succeed and a fervent belief in God—Christy became the most admired and respected man on his team.

Christy Mathewson, the Christian Gentleman features details on Christy’s childhood and college years not documented by other sports historians—information discovered by the author in Mathewson’s hometown, the churches he attended, and college archives. Including timeless images, this book brings to life Mathewson’s amazing career, faultless character, and unwavering faith.
« less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 294Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/8
978-1-4422-3314-0 • Hardback • November 2014 • $40.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-4422-3315-7 • eBook • November 2014 • $38.00 • (£24.95)
Bob Gaines was an award-winning sportswriter and columnist for The Times-Advocate (North San Diego County) before he became the director of development communications at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He edited The Beauty of Bucknell (2001) and has been the key writer for hundreds of university publications.
1 – The Boy Wonder from Bucknell (1901)
2 – A Near Perfect Boyhood (1889)
3 – Breathing in the Smoker (1900)
4 – Dumping on the Yannigan (1901)
5 – Don’t Call Me Muggsy (1902)
6 – Matty and the Iron Man (1903)
7 – A Busy Mind (1905)
8 – Tinkers to E
vers to Chance, Oh My (1906)
9 – Nickel Plate Road (1907)
10 – The Smartest Bonehead in Baseball (1908)
11 – A Deeply Private Grief (1909)
12 – High Spikes for the Chief (1911)
13 – A Fateful Day at Fenway (1912)
14 – Pebbles on a Barren Shore (1913)
15 – The World’s Longest Baseball Adventure (1913-14)
16 – Say It Ain’t So, Joe (1916)
17 – The Shadow of Greater Days (1920)
18 – A Family of Faith (1929)
Appendix A: The Ups and Downs of Pitching Genius
Appendix B: Old Giants
Appendix C: Deadball Players in the Hall of Fame
About the Author
New York Giant pitcher Christy Mathewson accumulated an astonishing 373 wins during his 17-year career, 1900–16, and he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Baseball Hall of Fame with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson. At a time when baseball players were perceived as one step above criminal, The Christian Gentleman, as Mathewson was known, stood out as devout, polite, and intelligent. Gaines draws on dozens of books, news articles, and historical documents to piece together an impressively detailed, if at times cumbersome, narrative of Mathewson’s life, emphasizing his glory years with the Giants. Alongside fiery manager John McGraw (neither a Christian nor much of a gentleman), Mathewson led the Giants to five National League pennants and, in 1905, a World Series win. There are plenty of more readable biographies of Mathewson available, including Ray Robinson’s Matty (2003), but this one is notable for its emphasis on Mathewson’s strong religious faith (he refused to pitch on the Sabbath) and may have special appeal to readers interested in iconic Christian athletes.

Gaines' new book ... Christy Mathewson, the Christian Gentleman: How One Man's Faith and Fastball Forever Changed Baseball is an eye-opener.

[Christy Mathewson, the Christian Gentleman] is an entertaining read that may provide inspiration for Christian baseball fans or 'Matty' enthusiasts[.]
Sport in American History

If you want to learn about the life and character of the American icon Christy Mathewson, read this book. Deftly written and superbly researched, the book plows significant new ground and is full of new insights, anecdotes, and stories about Big Six, his faith, his beloved wife Jane, their son Christy, Jr., and his remarkable and enduring “odd couple” friendship with John McGraw. It’s simply a great read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the history of our great game.
C. Paul Rogers III, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) chapter president and coauthor with Robin Roberts of The Whiz Kids and the 1950 Pennant

This book was time well spent. I learned things about Christy Mathewson, about baseball and about life. A magnificent look at the life and career of a true game-changer.
Kevin Acee, sports columnist for U-T San Diego

Gaines takes on two demanding tasks in Christy Mathewson, the Christian Gentleman. The first is to try to find the man behind the myth in his account of Mathewson, and the second is to attempt to capture the mad-cap atmosphere of professional baseball at the beginning of the twentieth century. He succeeds at both in this enjoyable read. It would be easy to lose Mathewson in a welter of statistics or a mountain of platitudes. Yes, the Big Six was an admirable role model for the nation's youth and he did amass an enviable career record, but the human figure responsible for that compilation of remarkable achievements is clearly visible in this account. A product of his upbringing, education and religious training, Mathewson excelled in a variety of sports in addition to baseball, taught Sunday school, performed on the stage, appeared in silent films and collaborated in the writing of Broadway plays and musicals. Yet, as his wife, Jane, pointed out, if he had been a saint, she wouldn't have married him. He could make a bet, take a drink, play cards into the late hours and occasionally enliven his speech with an expletive. With great effort he was able to break into the locker room culture and become a "regular guy" without compromising his principles as a church elder and advocate for the muscular Christianity of his day. And of course, he stood out on and off the field against the background of a collection of colorful characters the likes of which are too rare among today's professional athletes. Sports fans and cultural historians alike who are unfamiliar with the role of professional baseball in the years leading up the First World War will delight in Gaines' description of the goings on in the dugouts, playing fields and trains as these 'boys of summer' captured the fancy of an America growing in wealth, influence and national pride.
Gary Sojka, President Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Bucknell University

A great bridge from the sports world to the spiritual world! I wish I could've met Christy Mathewson because I'm convinced after reading about his life he would have made me a better person. Great Read!
Allen Jessee, Lead Pastor at Highlands Fellowship