Simply Baseball Notebook's Forgotten In Time

Bobby Mathews

Hilton Smith
Larry Doby
Seattle Pilots
1994 Expos
Ray Chapman
Flashes in the Pan
Steve Blass
St. Louis Browns
Wally Pipp
Rocky Colavito
Dom DiMaggio
Ellis Valentine
Bill Buckner
Jim Bottomley
The Federal League
Stuart 'Slim' Jones
Billy Hamilton
Ed Delahanty
Eddie Waitkus
George Davis
Riggs Stephenson
1920 White Sox
Luke Easter
Herb Washington
Eddie Robinson
Bobby Mathews
Jimmy Ryan
A.G. Spalding
"Dummy" Hoy
Albert Belle
Jack Quinn
Ken Williams
Al Oliver
Jack Taylor
Fred Lindstrom
Jim Thorpe


Fort Wayne Kekiongas 1871
Baltimore Canaries 1872
New York Mutuals 1873-76
Cincinnati Reds 1877
Providence Grays 1879,81
Boston Red Caps 1881-82
Philadelphia Athletics 1883-87

Although it's been nearly 106 years since his death and 117 since he last took the field, Bobby Mathews remains a interesting, if not forgotten, footnote in the Grand Old Game's history.  Mathews started and won what is recognized as the sport's first professional game, and retired 16 years later with 297 wins; the most of any Hall of Fame eligible pitcher that is not enshrined.

Robert T. Mathews was born on November 21, 1851 in Baltimore, MD.  Although he stood just five foot, five inches tall and weighed a mere 140 pounds, Mathews was able to distinguish himself on the diamond because of his innovative mind.

Credited as the first pitcher to throw the spit ball, which he did as a 16-year-old in 1868, Mathews also invented what he called an "out curve" the following season.  Although, both pitches were later outlawed, Mathews was able to use them with great success throughout his career.

In 1871, Mathews signed with Ft. Wayne of the newly formed National Association and became their opening day starter.  On May 4, he pitched a five hit shutout, defeating Cleveland 2-0, and became the first player in professional baseball history to record a win.  That win would be the high point of his season however, as the rookie posted a 6-11 record and 5.17 ERA.

The following season, Mathews found himself with the league's Baltimore team, where he began to establish himself as a star, winning 25 games.  After joining the New York franchise in 1873, the diminutive hurler upped the bar, winning 29 games.

In 1874 Mathews had his best season. Starting all 65 of the team's games (he completed 62 of them), Mathews won a career high 42 games against 22 losses, and led the league with 4 shutouts and a 2.30 ERA.  In 1875 he led the National Association with 70 starts, 69 complete games, 38 losses, and 626 2/3 innings pitched, all while winning 29 games and posting a 2.41 ERA.

In 1876 the New York Mutuals moved to the newly established National League, and Mathews continued to act as the staff ace, compiling a 21-34 record and 2.86 ERA.  The following season the right-hander was sent to the NL's Cincinnati club, where his production fell off dramatically (3-12, 4.04).

After sitting out the 1878 season, Mathews returned to action in 1879 with Providence where he pitched in a staff that included future Hall of Famers Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourn and John Montgomery Ward.  Mathews pitched in 27 games, fashioning a fine 12-6 record and appeared in 26 more games as an outfielder and third baseman.

Mathews, nursing an arm injury, sat out the 1880 season before returning to Providence in 1881, only to be dealt to Boston mid season.  He rebounded with a 19-15 season in 1882, his last in the National League.

Prior to the 1883 season, the veteran jumped to the Philadelphia Athletics of the American Association.  In the City of Brotherly Love, he returned to form, winning 30 games each of the next three seasons.  By 1887 however, arm problems had caught up with him and Mathews retired after pitching just 58 innings.

Bobby Mathews finished his career with 297-248 record and 2.89 ERA.  He is the only man in history to start at least 100 games and win 50 in three major leagues (the National Association, the National League, and the American Association).  Since the Hall of Fame didn't inducted it's first class until 1936, 38 years after his death, Mathews never knew that the three victories he didn't get would prevent him from being immortalized in baseball's Hallowed Hall.

-David Zingler, February 2004


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