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Lot # 982 (of 1743)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1902 Christy Mathewson New York Giants Contract

Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $41,125

Presented is one of the most extraordinary baseball player contracts in existence: Christy Mathewson's official player's contract with the New York Giants for the 1902 season. Four-page fold-over contract, dated September 18, 1901, between Christy Mathewson and the National Exhibition Company ("NY Base Ball Club"), signed in black fountain pen by "Christy Mathewson" (grading "9/10") and "F. M. Knowles" ("10"), secretary/treasurer of the club. The contract has also been signed in black fountain pen by Nicholas Young ("10"), president of the National League. The one-year agreement, for the 1902 season, calls for Mathewson to receive a salary of $3,000. Mathewson contracts are exceedingly rare. This is one of only just a few examples we have ever seen, predated only by his 1900 New York Giants contract. Mathewson was just twenty-one years old at the time of this agreement in 1901, but given his success that year it's no surprise that the Giants wanted to sign him as early as possible for the upcoming season. Mathewson, who was 0-3 the year prior, quickly asserted himself as the Giants' top pitcher in 1901, finishing the season as the team leader in wins (20), ERA (2.41), shutouts (5), and strikeouts (221). September 18, 1901 was an open date for the Giants and management obviously took advantage of the off day by rewarding their young mound ace with this new contract. Although no mention of it is made in the offered agreement, Mathewson also received a $500 signing bonus at the time, which further shows just how enamored the Giants were with his performance that summer. It is interesting to note that included among the many stipulations listed in the standard player's contract are that Mathewson shall "absolutely refrain from late hours and from any excess or dissipation in eating, drinking or otherwise" and that he could be fined by the club if he were to be found "guilty of any excessive indulgence in malt or spirituous liquors." Furthermore, Mathewson could be expelled from the club should he be found guilty of "offering, agreeing, conspiring or attempting to lose any game of ball." Fortunately for the Giants, Matty's disposition and character precluded even the thought of such penalties ever having to be enforced. Mathewson was the complete antithesis of the common Major League ballplayer at the time. A graduate of Bucknell College, he was eloquent in his speech, gentle in his manners, and a man of high moral convictions. Those qualities, in addition to his skill on the mound, are what made him one of the most popular players of his era and a role model for young boys everywhere. The fact that he died prematurely in 1925 at the age of forty-five has only added to his legendary status today. As a pitcher Mathewson had few, if any, peers. A four-time thirty-game winner, Matty won twenty-two or more games for twelve consecutive seasons and his 373 lifetime wins ties that of Grover Alexander for the most wins by any National League pitcher. Named by Connie Mack as the "the greatest pitcher who ever lived," Mathewson received his highest honor posthumously in 1936 when he joined Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson as one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The contract (8.5 x 14 inches) displays three horizontal folds and light toning. Tears are evident along both the horizontal and vertical fold lines but the contract remains completely intact and free of any repairs. In Very Good condition overall. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $5,000. Estimate $10,000+++. SOLD FOR $41,125

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