#Shortstops: Christy Mathewson, Insurance Agent

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Tom Shieber

Christy Mathewson. Hall of Famer. Pitching immortal. Insurance agent.

Insurance agent? Yes, indeed. Following Mathewson’s stellar 1908 campaign in which he led the National League with 37 wins, a 1.43 ERA, 259 strikeouts, 34 complete games, 11 shutouts, and 390⅔ innings pitched, the New York Giants ace announced that he intended to leave the baseball diamond for the insurance business.

“Baseball shall probably see me no more,” the 28-year-old star pitcher told the press, “for the advantages in the insurance business are so great that I either have to sacrifice a business career or baseball life.”

With that, he accepted a position with the James Perry Agency of the Prudential Insurance Company in New York City. Mathewson’s first client? His manager, John McGraw, who signed for a $20,000 policy.

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In an effort to publicize their new “special agent,” the insurance company distributed a promotional motion picture flip book of Matty.

Originally produced by the Winthrop Moving Picture Card Company of New York City in 1907, the 32-frame book shows Mathewson warming up prior to a baseball game at New York’s Polo Grounds.

The footage for the book was shot at some point during a three-game series between the Cubs and Giants played May 21 to 23, 1907.

While at the park, the motion picture cameraman not only captured Mathewson getting loose, but also recorded the movements of two other pitchers: New York’s Joe McGinnity and Chicago’s Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.

Winthrop flip books of those future Hall of Famers were also produced around the same time.

The three pitchers combined for 858 wins during their big league careers.

Ultimately, Matty’s fling with the insurance biz lasted just a few months, and was most likely just a scheme to hold out for a better contract.

But thanks to the ingenuity of the Winthrop Moving Picture Card Company and the marketing ploy of the James Perry Agency, fans today can still catch a rare glimpse of the Hall of Famer known as “Big Six” in action.


Tom Shieber is the senior curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series