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.
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 LukowskyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved