Less than three years before his pitching debut with the New York Giants, Christopher Mathewson entered his senior year in 1897 at Keystone Academy in Factoryville.
It was a senior year to remember, but one that was easily forgotten as the future professional baseball Hall of Famer pitched his way to greatness over 18 years with the Giants.
Just for fun and instruction, we thought we’d take a look at Mathewson’s final year at the Academy, which began a mere three weeks after his 17th birthday, 120 years ago this coming Saturday.
Teammate and classmate Ernest Sterling, who boarded with the Mathewson family during his Keystone days because his family resided at Brooklyn about 15 miles north of Factoryville, recalled many years later that his chum was not “the boy wonder” at Keystone which his Hall of Fame numbers implied.
Arguably, Mathewson was better known in his school days at Keystone and later at Bucknell for his prowess on the football field.
For the Bisons, Mathewson made an appearance on the Walter Camp All-American football team as a dropkicker, but he also saw time in his sophomore and junior years at college as a fullback, with Sterling the Bison center.
Records from both the football and baseball seasons of his senior year at the academy have not been easily accessible, but during the fall, Keystone clobbered Tunkhannock, 36-0, and 20-0, in a home-and-home arrangement.
In addition to Matthewson at fullback, newspaper accounts of the period have Keystone also suiting up Forest Dershimer or W.S. Green (at left end); O.N. Norton (at left tackle); Clinton Cook (at left guard); Ernest Sterling (at center); George Tillinghast (at right guard); Scott Viall (at right tackle); Clarence Austin (at right end); Victor Luchsinger (at quarterback); John Richards at left halfback; and Milo Reynolds (at right halfback).
In mid-November 1898, Keystone’s eleven played St. Thomas College (later to be known as the University of Scranton), losing to St. Thomas, 10-0.
The Scranton Republican noted that Mathewson did a bit of punting in that game played at the Scranton baseball park which the paper labeled as a “hoodoo park for the Keystone boys” as they had lost three straight games there: Scranton High School, the Lackawannas and St. Thomas.
Despite playing basketball at Bucknell his sophomore season, there was no organized basketball at Keystone as the institution’s recruitment catalog in the year after Mathewson graduated suggested a new gymnasium 20x40 feet is being fitted up on the first floor of Main Hall.
In the spring of 1898, Keystone offered baseball, though, and its varsity squad played all of the local teams.
In a game May 21 against Tunkhannock High School, Keystone travelled to Triton Park - located where the PennDOT maintenance headquarters is today at the end of Franklin Avenue in downtown Tunkhannock.
The Scranton paper said the field was muddy and the ball was wet in what amounted to an offensive blast with Keystone coming away with an 18-15 win. It noted that starting THS pitcher Fred Barlow had given up 14 runs before the first Tunkhannock player got a chance to bat. Marshall Reynolds came on in relief giving up only four runs. There was no box score in the paper to suggest who pitched for Keystone.
On Decoration Day May 30, after the ceremonial stuff was out of the way with a new 24-foot American flag “swinging to the breeze,” the two teams met again in Factoryville, and this time Tunkhannock pulled off the win, 7-5.
The Scranton paper was blunt in saying that Keystone played “much the faster game and only lost through errors at vital points.”
Visitors were treated that day to a pitcher’s duel with Mathewson striking out 16 and Marshall Reynolds striking out 10.
Suiting up with pitcher Mathewson for Keystone was H.E. Spencer or Milo Reynolds (at second base); E. Green (at center field); Milo Reynolds or Kehoe (at third base); W.S. Green (at first base); Rupert Bard (at short stop); Carl Tiffany or Gardner (at right field); Victor Luchsinger or David Jayne (at left field) and Colvin or Grier (at catcher).
Suiting up with pitcher Marshall Reynolds for the victorious Tunks were Victor Avery (at third base); P. Boyce (at left field); Henry Flummerfelt (at second base); Steadman Harding (at center field); John Borden (at short stop); James Hight (at right field); Frank Frear (at first base); and Gennett (at catcher).
Keystone wanted a rubber match with Tunkhannock, and that took place June 2, again at Triton Field.
Keystone won, 6-4, with fans treated to another pitcher’s duel. This time Mathewson struck out 14 while Marshall Reynolds again struck out 10.
That marked the end of Matty’s Keystone playing days as he readied for graduation on June 17.
The Scranton Republican noted that during Keystone’s commencement exercises, Carl Tiffany was valedictorian and Earl Manchester salutatorian, with Mathewson also giving an oration on ‘Humanity’s Right’ perhaps alluding to the Spanish American War then in progress.
Baseball, however, could not be too far from Mathewson’s mindset as five days after graduation, he was found pitching for the Scranton YMCA team in a win over the Taylor Reds, giving up only one hit and striking out 12.
The Republican noted, “The YMCA team has found a splendid new pitcher in Mathewson of Factoryville.”
He would also throw out great numbers against Minooka on June 26 and against a semi-pro club at Easton July 4.
But by the end of July, he was playing professional ball for the Honesdale Eagles.
Not a bad deal for a young man still awaiting his 18th birthday.