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The Player: Christy Mathewson, Baseball, and the American Century Hardcover – August 31, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Printing edition (August 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568582684
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568582689
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,742,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his laudatory testimonial to Mathewson (1880-1925), Seib leaves no doubt that he considers the New York Giants pitcher to be one of the outstanding men of his generation. Mathewson's credentials are indeed impressive-a multisport athlete at Bucknell, Hall of Famer baseball player, author, actor and army captain in World War I. Moreover, Mathewson's behavior on and off the field was always beyond reproach, and he was one of the first athletes considered suitable to be a role model. Seib cites Mathewson as "a gentleman in a ruffian's game, a sportsman among brawlers" who "exemplified personal virtue as an American characteristic." Because of his talent and demeanor, Seib argues convincingly that Mathewson played a key role in making professional baseball accepted by the American public. In addition to his exploits on the field, Seib writes that Mathewson's high morals, strong work ethic and honesty reflected what was best in America in the early decades of the 20th century. There is no argument that Mathewson was an admirable man who crammed in a lot of living before he died at 45 from tuberculosis, but unfortunately, Seib's portrait of his life is more drab than colorful. Indeed, Mathewson's archrival, the nasty Hal Chase, comes across as a more exciting character, proving again that it's often more fun to read about the sinners than the saints.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

We all watch with amazement as today's athletes become media darlings seemingly far out of proportion to their accomplishments. Seib, an award-winning journalist, explores the nature of fame by studying the career of baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, the first athlete to become a mass-media darling. He was handsome and self-effacing, a perfect role model, and he set new parameters for sportsmanship in baseball. He volunteered for duty in World War I and was exposed to poison gas; the lung damage was a contributing factor in his premature death at 45. Of course, as a New York Giant, he was in the media capital of the world, and every aspect of his life was related in great detail by the press. As the nation's love affair with him grew, so did its interest in baseball. His hold on the country's imagination became still greater during his losing battle with the lung infections that took his life. This is a fascinating, revealing biography, both for the story it tells about Mathewson and for the context it gives to today's media assault. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

If there is a better Christy book out there I will consider reading it.
Roderick T. Leupp
A great read if you want to get a much clearer insight into one of the greatest ball players of all time.
Richard Heitz
I was hoping for some sort of foul play, foul language but there was nothing.
James B. Franko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of baseball history, I have been looking for a modern, definitive biography of Christy Mathewson ever since I grew to admire him many years ago. I was hoping that Philip Seib's The Player would be that elusive work, but I was wrong. Although it covers the major events of Matty's life, Seib works very hard to put him in context as the first major baseball star and the times that he lived in, so what we're left with is less of a biography and more of a social history.
This is all well and good, and the premise is an interesting one, except that Seib doesn't take it far enough and when he tries to expound on his theory, he ends up giving more info on other figures of the times like Billy Sunday and Woodrow Wilson than on Mathewson.
Almost contradictorally, the main problem is that it all just feels too thin. At less than 200 pages it's a one and a half day read at best and you come away not knowing anything more about Mathewson than you would reading any history of baseball. Were I Seib's editor, I would have recommended that he go in the opposite direction and really blow out his research. Joseph Durso wrote an excellent double biography of John McGraw and Casey Stengel that captured the general history of American society as well as baseball and that is clearly what Seib is aspiring to but falls short.
I don't want to knock the book too much since I enjoy general history as much as anyone, but I guess I just expected so much more. Also, Seib labors in spots to draw his conclusions and ends up being extremely repetitive. His reverence for Mathewson is well-appreciated, but borders on overindulgence.
If you are interested in reading more on Mathewson, I would recommend seeking out the Jonathan Yardley essay "The Real Frank Merriwell" for a terrific mini-bio and tribute to a great pitcher.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on October 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's been almost 90 years since Christy Mathewson last threw a pitch in a major league baseball game, and more than 75 years since his untimely death from tuberculosis. Yet time has left his on-the-field achievements and his greater legacy undiminished. His 373 career wins are still third highest in major league history. In this slim, gracefully written volume Philip Seib explores not only Mathewson's role in the game, but in the context of the larger society as well.

Professional baseball at the dawn of the 20th century was still seen as a haven for rowdies. The college-educated Mathewson represented a new standard, one in harmony with President Theodore Roosevelt's affirmation of the active life. As America moved toward involvement in World War I under the idealistic Woodrow Wilson, Mathewson's willingness to serve was once again in synch with the mood of the era. When Matty stood against the corruption that infected the game in the late teens, it was a precursor to greed and scandals that seemed to dominate national life in the 1920s.

Seib's book is a worthy tribute to a great player, and more significantly, a great man.--William C. Hall
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Armstrong on May 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is a decent read but it is less a biography of Mathewson than it is a commentary on the times and events that he lived through. I had hoped to learn about who Christy Mathewson was and what made him so great and instead I felt like I read an overview of the major events in baseball and history during the late 1800's to the mid 1900's.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JoeV VINE VOICE on August 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I was given this book, the gift-bearer informed me that it was the perfect gift for me, "... a book about baseball AND U.S. history.". Being the grateful recipient of said gift I of course bit my tongue, didn't respond, "How do you separate the two?", and accepted the gift in the spirit it was given. Now, after reading it, I realize how smart my niece is. The book is indeed about both, and without wandering too far from its subject, (Christy, in case there is some confusion), is a very engaging read. Similar books about this time period in baseball tend to get repetitive and somewhat choppy to read by piecing together newspaper reports and box scores. This author alleviates that problem by also tracking events in the U.S., (and the world as 1914 approaches), while Christy pitches his way through his baseball career. This is recommended for baseball novices, hard core fans and anyone in between as it's a nicely written book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on November 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Considering the book is less than 200 pages long I wondered what this book would tell me about Christy Mathewson I haven't already read somewhere else. Author Philip Seib emphasizes the positive role model Matty played both as a player and as a private citizen. The author also provides us with details of former major leaguer Eddie Grant who lost his life fighting in World War I. His monument used to appear in center field in the Polo Grounds, and I was pleased to read details I hadn't read before. Mathewson enlisted in World War I, and came in contact with poisonous gas in a training drill in Europe shortly before The Great War ended. He returned from Europe to help McGraw as a coach with the Giants, and once again encountered the crooked Hal Chase whom Matty had in his brief tenure as manager of the Cincinnati Reds after his (Matty's) playing days were over. He was an observer of the 1919 World Series between the White Sox and Reds, and to his dismay, observed what he believed to be crookedness in the play of the Chicago team. His cough persisted, and progressed to tuberculosis. Matty spent time at Saranac Lake in upstate New York where the dry air was thought to be helpful to patients. He felt well enough to join the Boston Braves in the front office, but had to return to Saranac Lake where he died during the 1925 World Series. This would be an excellent book for both beginning readers of Christy Mathewson, or those who have a more extensive knowledge of one of the first five members elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame.
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