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1918 Christy Mathewson Signed WW I Document
Starting Bid - $2,000, Sold For - $12,000
One-page military document, titled "General Headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces" and dated "France, 26 December, 1918," signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson. This document, labeled "Special Orders No. 360, " officially relieves Christy Mathewson of his duty as "Assistant Division Gas Officer" of the 28th Division, and orders him to "proceed to Chinon (Indre-et-Loire) reporting upon arrival to the Commandant, C. W. S., O. and T. Center, for assignment. The travel directed is necessary in the military service." Mathewson has signed the document, "Christopher Mathewson" in black fountain pen (grading "9/10") along the base in acknowledgment of the order. His signature appears directly below the line reading "A true copy:" and above his printed name and title "Christopher Mathewson/Captain. C. W. S."
Mathewson's military service in World War I as a captain in the newly formed Chemical Warfare Service is well documented, for it was during that time that he was accidentally exposed to poison gas during a training exercise. As a result, he later suffered from tuberculosis, an illness which eventually took his life in 1925. The Chemical Warfare Service was a new military unit that was established to combat the Germany's use of chemical weapons. The unit was stationed on the front lines and in the case of a gas attack it was to counterattack with flame throwers. Because of that, the division was often referred to as the "gas and flame" division. Mathewson served as a Captain in the division, which also included Ty Cobb and Branch Rickey. (Cobb, like Mathewson, was commissioned as a Captain, while Rickey was commissioned as a Major.) In his 1961 autobiography, My Life in Baseball, Cobb recalled the fateful training accident that befell Mathewson: “I will never forget the day when some of the men, myself included, missed the signal (to snap their mask into position). Men screamed. . . . when they got a whiff of the sweet death in the air, they went crazy with fear and I remember Mathewson telling me ‘Ty, I got a good dose of the stuff. I feel terrible’. . . . I saw Christy Mathewson doomed to die."
Even though an armistice was signed with Germany on November 11, 1918, a month prior to these orders, Mathewson was not discharged from the service until late February 1919. (The United States' involvement in World War I did not officially end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.) This is an outstanding Christy Mathewson signed document in that it not only features a rare "Christopher" signature, but is also directly related to the tragic circumstances of his military career. The document (8.25 x 10.5 inches), which is typed on onionskin, displays a horizontal and vertical fold line, as well as a few moderate tears along the borders. In Very Good condition overall. Full LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $12,000
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