In a set filled with difficult and eye-appealing cards, Christy Mathewson may take first prize. As noted earlier, the 1914 and 1915 Cracker Jack sets are virtually identical in set composition and in appearance but there is one major exception. In 1914, Mathewson was depicted in an action
pose, in mid-delivery much like the Walter Johnson card from the same set, but that is where the similarities end. First, the 1914 Mathewson card is a horizontal one, which makes it different from all the other key cards in the set. Second, Mathewson is the only player featured in both sets to have two entirely different poses as his 1915 card is of the portrait variety. Finally, while no logical explanation has ever surfaced, the 1914 Mathewson is one of the great rarities in the hobby and clearly the most difficult card to find in the set. The 1915 Mathewson card, which pales in comparison to the 1914 in terms of rarity, is considered one of the most visually appealing cards in its respective set.
Christopher “Christy” Mathewson
Born: August 12, 1880 - Factoryville, PA
Died: October 7, 1925 - Saranac Lake, NY
MLB Pitching Record: 373–188
Managerial Record: 164–176
New York Giants NL (August 12, 1880 - October 7, 1925)
Cincinnati Reds NL (player-manager: 1916; manager: 1917–1918)
An easy choice for our elite team, Christy Mathewson, the pride of Bucknell College, ranks right behind Walter Johnson as the best pitcher of the era, and one of the top five or six greatest pitchers of all time. With an amazing record of 373–188, 13 twenty-plus win seasons and a 2.13 lifetime earned-run average, Matty could do it all. He actually won 20 or more for twelve straight seasons. Incredible. Christy Mathewson led the league in strikeouts and earned-run average five different times. In 1903 he won 30 games followed by 33 and 31 win seasons the next two years.
Although he played baseball in college, football and basketball were his main sports. Popular and handsome, Mathewson was class president and a member of two fraternities. The summer after his sophomore year at Bucknell, Mathewson pitched in the Virginia League and became an immediate star with his 20 wins by July. The Major Leagues came calling, and Mathewson had a choice between New York and Philly. After a rocky start over his first few seasons, Mathewson settled in and honed his skills. He was known for pitching with control and ease, and was a master of the “fadeaway,” a pitch that is now known as a screwball. Mathewson held the National League pitching title five times between 1905 and 1913, achieving the Triple Crown in 1905 and 1908.
After his stint as manager of the Reds, he enlisted in the United States Army. In 1918, while serving in France, Mathewson was accidently gassed in a training exercise and developed tuberculosis. Although he struggled physically, Mathewson returned to baseball as assistant manager of the Giants. He was hired by owner Judge Emil Fuchs to run the Boston Braves but his health deteriorated and he was forced to return to the tuberculosis hospital. He died soon after in 1925 at the age of 45. Christy Mathewson was part of the first Hall of Fame class of 1936. To this day, he is regarded as the standard for all that is good in our National Pastime. “Big Six” as he was nicknamed was as good as it gets.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html