Major League Baseball fans may know that Christy Mathewson, a native of Pennsylvania and star of the early pitchers, was an inaugural member of the Sports Hall of Fame – entering posthumously in 1936 with Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner.
What many don’t know is that Mathewson, who pitched for the New York Giants and Cincinnati Reds from 1900, had an early alternative career in semi-pro football. This included a stint playing with the Greensburg Athletic Association at the city’s Offutt Field, then known as Athletic Park.
One man familiar with the nine-meter connection to Mathewson’s Greensburg grid is Salem resident David L. Snyder. He discovered “Matty’s” local athletic activities while researching Walter Johnson, who faced hitters as a member of the Washington Senators from 1907 to 1927.
Mathewson “played back for the Greensburg Athletic Association from 1898 to 1900,” Snyder said. “In 1900 he went to play for the Pittsburgh Stars,” another semi-pro football team. “Then the Giants stopped him from playing football.”
Snyder is hoping to gain support in recognizing Mathewson’s time in Greensburg with a facility at Offutt Field.
“I think it’s appropriate that Mathewson is honored with some sort of plaque,” he said.
Snyder acknowledged that his proposal may have been sidelined by more pressing concerns related to the covid-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, he said, he contacted local officials in schools and municipalities, as well as sports organizations, to publicize his idea. He hopes to attract donations to cover the estimated cost of $ 2,800 for a bronze plaque.
Snyder’s proposal did not ring a bell with the current administrators of the Greensburg Salem School District, which plays college football in Offutt and is in transition between superintendents. But Snyder said many of those he contacted about the Mathewson tribute were “surprised and fascinated” to learn of the famous athlete’s stay with Greensburg Football Club.
The Seton Hill University Griffins also play Offutt, leasing the field to Greensburg Salem. Seton Hill sporting director Chris Snyder, who is not related, was among those who first heard from David Snyder that Mathewson was present at the Greensburg venue.
Regarding the plate proposal, Chris Snyder said: “I think it’s a good idea. It would be a noble gesture for an original member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. “
The land has been owned since 1916 by the local school district, which has carried out various renovations and expansions to the site over the years.
A retired McKeesport businessman David Snyder is interested in sport and the history of sport and worries that knowledge of the Mathewson-Greensburg connection “fades into the past. It is historic and worthy of having an appropriate plaque.
By the time he joined the Greensburg football team, Mathewson was a seasoned veteran of semi-professional competition, according to Snyder.
Born August 12, 1880 in Factoryville, Wyoming County, Mathewson “started playing semi-professional baseball at the age of 14,” Snyder said. “These small industrial towns had their own teams. They hired him to pitch against the rival team from nearby town. He could throw better than any adult.
Factoryville celebrates its hometown hero every August with an annual day and festival in his honor.
In his youth, Mathewson attended Keystone Academy, where he played football and baseball.
Around the same time he was playing football in Greensburg, Mathewson also attended Bucknell University, where he was a fullback and kicker with the Bison football team. He was also a member of the baseball and basketball teams.
“He would bring some of his college players from Bucknell with him,” Snyder said.
Mathewson’s highlights as a Bucknell gridder included a 70-yard kickoff return and a 45-yard field goal against Army in 1900. He was also his class president at Bucknell and a member of the glee club.
Mathewson dated Bucknell from the fall of 1898 to the spring of 1901. After his baseball debut with the Giants in 1900, he returned to play college football in the fall of that year.
“The eligibility rules were a little different back then,” said Jon Terry, associate director of athletics at Bucknell. “He retired from Bucknell in June 1901 to devote himself to baseball full time.”
Mathewson was inducted into the Bucknell Hall of Fame in 1979. The university’s Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium is named in his honor, and his final home is in a cemetery behind the Kenneth Langone Athletics & Recreation Center.
With the Giants, Mathewson became a dominant pitcher during the first two decades of the 20th century, notching 373 wins over a 17-year career. He threw three shutouts in three starts against the Philadelphia Athletics, helping the Giants win the 1905 World Series.
Mathewson enlisted in the military during World War I and was accidentally gassed during a training exercise. A long battle with tuberculosis ensued and he died on October 7, 1925 in Saranac Lake, NY