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What if Christy Mathewson had remained a Red?

What if Christy Mathewson had remained a Red?
MLB.com

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will explore intriguing 'What If?' scenarios in Reds history.

Christy Mathewson

What Happened: On December 15, 1900 the Reds trade pitcher Christy Mathewson to the New York Giants for pitcher Amos Rusie.

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will explore intriguing 'What If?' scenarios in Reds history.

Christy Mathewson

What Happened: On December 15, 1900 the Reds trade pitcher Christy Mathewson to the New York Giants for pitcher Amos Rusie.

The Background: In the early years of the last century, baseball did not prohibit individual owners from holding ownership shares in multiple clubs. Reds owner John T. Brush was one such owner, holding an interest in the New York Giants while also serving as principal owner of the Reds. Brush had long had designs on owning the Giants and was actively negotiating to take control when Christy Mathewson was signed by New York in 1900. Mathewson struggled in six games with the Giants and was summarily sent back to the minor league club he had been acquired from. The Reds jumped at the chance to sign him and did so for $100. Brush knew what he had in Mathewson and also knew that he wanted him to be pitching in New York when he took over the Giants. Brush engineered a trade that found the 20-year old Mathewson being sent back to the Giants in exchange for Amos Rusie, a star pitcher in the late 19th century who had not pitched in two years because of a sore arm.

The Aftermath: John Brush becomes the Giants' principal owner in 1902. Amos Rusie appears in three games for the Reds in 1901, loses his only decision and goes back into retirement. Christy Mathewson becomes the most famous baseball player in the country, winning 373 games over the next 16 seasons as the Giants win five pennants with him in the rotation. Back in Cincinnati, the Reds are a perennial second division club, managing to finish at or above the .500 mark only five times over the same period.

What if Mathewson had not been traded?

Considering how dreadful the Reds were throughout the entirety of Mathewson's career it is doubtful if even he would have been enough to improve matters significantly. While Mathewson was unquestionably a magnificent pitcher, in New York, he was teamed with Hall of Fame manager John McGraw who annually assembled strong teams to support his ace pitcher. The Giants were awash in money, playing before large crowds in a huge ballpark. Mathewson's games were particularly well attended as his polished demeanor and good looks combined with his tremendous pitching talents to make him appealing to both male and female fans. The extensive New York press corps spilled a great deal of ink covering Matty's exploits and he quickly attained national fame.

Cincinnati would not have afforded Mathewson either the press coverage or the huge fan base that contributed so much to his national fame. He would have given the Reds a marquee talent, however, that would have brought in more fans and the Reds would certainly have benefited from having him on the mound on a regular basis. But unless John McGraw would have accompanied Christy to Cincinnati, the Reds would still have been a bad team. And if Mathewson had stayed in Cincinnati, a Hall of Fame career would probably have still unfolded but the fame and reverence the came along with a Hall of Fame career played in New York would likely not have occurred.

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