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Christopher Mathewson was born in Factoryville, Pennsylvania on August 12, 1880 to Christopher and Minerva Mathewson. All of the Mathewson children were educated at Keystone Academy that had been founded by their great-grandmother. Mathewson began playing baseball at age 11. In 1898, the 17-year-old enrolled at Bucknell College in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. While there, he was the class president, a member of the glee club, and a member of two literary societies. He also played football, basketball and baseball for Bucknell and pitched semi-pro baseball with a local team.

Mathewson signed his first pro contract in 1899 and was earning $90 per month when he joined the Taunton, Massachusetts team in the New England League. He seldom received his full pay however, since the club was not making a profit at the time. While there, Mathewson worked on his fade-away pitch that later became famous. In 1900, Mathewson joined the Norfolk team of the Virginia League. That summer he won 21 out of 23 games that he pitched. His success gained the attention of Philadelphia and New York of the National League. Mathewson chose the New York Giants since they needed pitchers. He only appeared in 6 games his first year but by the following year he made his mark by winning 20 games. John McGraw became the Giant's general manager in 1902 and the Giants finished in last place due in part to Mathewson's slump of 14-17. For the next 3 seasons however, Mathewson pitched at least 30 wins per year. The Giants rebounded back into second place and won the league championship in 1904. Mathewson pitched an impressive 3 shutouts against the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1905 World Series.

Between 1906 and 1914 Mathewson did not win less than 22 games per season and dominated the league with his pitching. Mathewson won 37 games in 1908, which was his finest pitching year. He captured the National League record for number of victories for a single season and threw 12 shutouts that year as well. Mathewson began to tire in 1915 and it showed with his 8 out of 22 wins. In 1916, he left the Giants to take over as pitcher-manager for the Cincinnati Reds. At his retirement, Mathewson had a then National League record of 373 career wins. During his 17-year career Mathewson led the league 4 times in wins and earned 5 strikeout titles. Later, when World War I broke out, he enlisted in the Army. When he returned to baseball, Mathewson became a coach with the New York Giants under his former boss John McGraw. In 1921, Mathewson contracted tuberculosis and left baseball for a long time during his recovery. He really missed baseball and returned in 1923 as president of the Boston Braves. In the process of rebuilding the team Mathewson collapsed from overworking himself and he later died in Saranac Lake, New York on October 7, 1925. He is buried at Lewisburg Cemetery in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Mathewson was one of 5 charter members in the Baseball Hall of Fame when it was established in 1936. Mathewson was in the company of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson as one the first five players inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.