Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Matty vs. Miner: Sept 4, 1916

On Sept 4, 1916, the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds met for a Labor Day doubleheader in Chicago. In the first game, the Reds lost 3-0, a not uncommon occurrence for the Reds that year. The second game, however, was something else entirely.

Earlier that season, the New York Giants traded Christy Mathewson to the Reds in exchange for manager/second baseman Buck Herzog and two other players. The trade worked wonders for the Giants, who embarked soon after on a 26 game winning streak. For the Reds, the ship of the 1916 season had sailed. While "Matty" got the Reds playing better baseball, they could only win 25 of their remaining 68 games and finished seventh. In the meantime, the Cubs were in the middle of the pack as the doubleheader started. The great club of the previous decade was long gone; only Wildfire Schulte and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown remained. Of the great rivalries of the first decade of the twentieth century, none surpassed that between Christy Mathewson and Three Finger Brown.

That Monday, Brown was 39 and Matty 35. They were opponents 23 times before that day; Mathewson won 12 and Brown 11. During the 1908 season, when the Cubs finished one game ahead of the Giants and Pirates, Brown defeated Mathewson twice during the heat of the pennant race. That year Mathewson won 37 games, Brown 29. Coincidentally, 1908 was the last time the Cubs won a World Series.

The last time they pitched against each other was July 15, 1913 at the Polo Grounds in New York. Mathewson won that game; at the end of the season Brown jumped to the Federal League. He returned to the Cubs for the 1916 season.

The matchup was touted as the farewell match of the great pitchers; both were awarded bouquets and loving cups by the Cubs, and the games was noted in newspapers throughout the United States. Baseball Magazine had this to say: "while the old speed was gone, hurlers now could take lessons from the great control exhibited by both men." The game was quite different then.

Both pitchers threw complete games, and both were hit hard. Mathewson gave up two runs in the first inning, but the Reds touched up Brown for two runs in the 3rd, 5th and 6th innings. In the 9th, Matty gave up three runs but the Reds held on to win 10-8. Were the men taking it easy? Maybe. Brown and Mathewson totaled 5 hits by themselves.

Picture a game in which both pitchers are hall of famers, both are in their last season, and both throw complete games. Since 2005, the highest pitch count in the majors belongs to Edwin Jackson, who tossed 149 on June 25, 2010. He had an excuse, as he was threw a no-hitter. Using Tom Tango's pitch estimate calculator, Brown threw 157 pitches and Mathewson 145.

This was Mathewson's 373rd career victory, and his last. When he retired, only Cy Young had won more games. He is still tied for third with Pete Alexander behind Young and Walter Johnson. He was also second in strikeouts. Brown finished with 239 wins and only 130 losses.

Between 1907 and 1910 the record for the duos are eerily similar.


Yes, Brown recorded 22 saves while he threw 29 shutouts. In those days, managers used their best pitchers at the ends of close games. In the height of the Deadball Era, Brown and Matty were the best pitchers on two of the best three teams in the National League. Mathewson is also perhaps the only pitcher who could conceivably be accused of single handedly winning a World Series. In 1905, he threw three shutouts at the Rube Waddell-less Philadelphia A's.

After the season, Brown went and pitched for a few years in Indiana, finally hanging it up in 1920 to operate a gas station in Terre Haute. He died in 1948, roughly a year before he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Old Timers Committee. It always surprised me that Brown did not get more support for the Hall than he did, topping out at 27%, behind pitchers  Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh and Herb Pennock. Brown not getting as many votes as Pennock is, well, silly.

Mathewson returned to manage the Reds the next season, and volunteered for the US Army in 1918. He joined the Gas and Flame Corps, and was exposed to mustard gas during training. He never managed or played again, but did work for the Giants as a coach in 1919-1920 and as President of the Boston Braves in 1923. He worked as a sportswriter, and with Hugh Fullerton sought to expose the Black Sox after the 1919 World Series. It should also be pointed out that when manager of the Reds in 1917 and 1918, he suspended Hal Chase for "indifferent play", widely considered a euphemism for throwing games by the sporting press.

Mathewson developed tuberculosis in 1919 and eventually died of the disease on October 7, 1925. He was elected to the hall of fame in its first class in 1936.

(all stats courtesy of Info also from the SABR bio project entries for Christy Mathewson and Mordecai Brown)

No comments:

Post a Comment