#Shortstops: Father and Son

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Janey Murray

Christy Mathewson is remembered as one of the game’s greatest pitchers, and he is forever enshrined in history as a member of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction class of 1936.

His son, Christy Mathewson Jr., made a name for himself in his own right, though it was in the military rather than baseball.

Both father and son produced a long list of accomplishments during lives that were tragically cut short.

The two were captured playing baseball in a photograph, likely taken in 1915. At the time, Mathewson was in his penultimate major league season, while Mathewson Jr. was just nine years old.

In the photo, Mathewson sports a New York Giants world tour sweater, which is part of the Hall of Fame’s collection. He wore the sweater during an exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox on Oct. 28, 1913, that was part of a barnstorming tour across the globe for the two clubs. It marked the only time Mathewson faced off against fellow Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, who was hired to face Mathewson that day.

The world tour came 14 years into Mathewson’s historic MLB career, and seven years after his wife Jane Stoughton gave birth to Mathewson Jr. in October 1906, in New York, N.Y.

Mathewson Sr. was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1921 following his stint in the Army during World War I, and the family later moved to Saranac Lake, N.Y., so that Mathewson could be treated at the tuberculosis sanitarium there. Mathewson succumbed to the disease four years later, dying on Oct. 7, 1925, at 45 years old.

Though he didn’t seriously pursue baseball, Mathewson Jr. did follow in his father’s footsteps in other ways. He attended his father’s alma mater, Bucknell University, where he majored in electrical engineering. Just weeks after Mathewson Sr. passed away, Mathewson Jr. – then a junior at Bucknell – was elected to succeed his father on the Boston Braves’ board of directors.

In 1928, one year after his graduation from Bucknell, Mathewson Jr.’s career path changed course, as he decided to become a flying cadet with the United States Army Air Corps. In 1932, he was assigned to duty in Hangzhou, China.

Just two weeks after he and his wife Margaret Phillips were married, Mathewson Jr. took his new bride for a plane ride on Jan. 8, 1933. A mere 30 seconds after the plane left the ground at a Shanghai airfield, it nosedived, killing Phillips and severely injuring Mathewson Jr., necessitating the amputation of his left leg.

The road back to normalcy was not easy for Mathewson Jr., who battled for years to regain use of his arms and learn to walk with a prosthetic leg. He eventually worked his way back to earn a new commission from the Army Air Corps and a promotion to captain on active service during World War II.

After he was discharged from the Air Force in 1946, Mathewson Jr. moved to Helotes, Texas. Four years later, a butane explosion went off while he was installing an electric dishwasher in his home. Though he was able to escape and reach a neighbor, he was badly burned and died the following day, Aug. 16, 1950, at 43 years old – two years younger than Mathewson Sr. was when he passed away.

Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the SHORT STOPS series