Matty Great in Face of Defeat

Damon Runyon

Buffalo Courier/October 18, 1911


New York Expert Praises Big Six’s Game Fight


Damon Runyon Describes Work of McGraw’s Star Boxman—

Coombs Great, He Says, But Big Six Greater

Deserves His Title

by Damon Runyon

New York, Oct. 17. Pitching with consummate craft, Christy Mathewson, master workman of baseball, held the champion Athletics runless for eight wonderful innings at the Polo Grounds this afternoon, then in the last half of the ninth, with one out and a 1 to 0 victory at the Giants’ finger tips, Frank Baker, the Maryland butcher boy, slashed a home run into the right field stand and broke through that big blonde twirling barrier just as he crashed through the twirling defense of Rube Marquard at Philadelphia on Monday.

It was such a game as men recount in after years. It was such a game as sends the blood boiling through the veins. It was such a game as makes baseball great, bringing all the uncertainties and excitement and tense situations of sport, with all the spectacular features that could be worked into a single afternoon.

Out of it all, out of the hundred incidents that crackled across the eleven innings—out of the hubbub and the turmoil, there arises a picture that will live in the memory long after the very score can be recalled but vaguely, and that is the picture of Mathewson, shambling, stoop-shouldered, from bench to box, inning after inning, and of how he pitched in the face of disaster, and demonstrated why he has been called the greatest of his kind.


Matty’s Work Spectacular

Opposed to him was John Coombs, the Kennebunk express, pitching one of the best games of his career—and he has had many of them. The box score shows that the Giants made but three hits off the Colby collegian. That in itself stamps his record great, but Mathewson’s work was the more spectacular because he frequently faced situations of danger. Coombs was rarely in trouble and he went booming through the long session like a carefully timed machine, beaten down to the ninth inning only because of the wonderful work of Mathewson.

Granted that the Athletics should have won in the eighth, when some poor base running by Lapp upset a brightly blooming rally, Mathewson’s pitching through the other innings up to the ninth was nothing short of magnificent.

Mathewson gave himself a one-run lead with the aid of his battery mate, Meyers, in the the third and one run is usually a good many when Mathewson is pitching. But thereafter he was harassed by ragged support and he shouldered along in front only because the Athletics were dead men on the bases.

Philadelphia hope was dead when Eddie Collins came to bat in the ninth. Chance after chance to win had been frittered away by the world’s champions. They had played thickly behind Coombs’ beautiful pitching, but most of all they had been unable to overcome the work of Mathewson. It looked like the one-run lead would win. Then thousands of Philadelphians from the stands raised a wild yell when the young second baseman hit the ball. The cry died away as Herzog grabbed it and flung to Merkle a yard ahead of Eddie.

Baker Breaks Up Game

Baker’s appearance revived the Quakers a little. They recalled his home run slash off Marquard on Monday. The Giant infield shuffled about uneasily, while the outfielders dropped back toward the distant walls. Mathewson had handled the Marylander carefully throughout the afternoon and he maintained his caution as he dealt with the slugger on this occasion, but caution went astray somewhere.

One strike and two balls had been laid across the plate by “Big Six” when he dropped in a thigh-high, slanting shoot and Baker pulled upward on it with that powerful swish of the bat which carries enormous driving power. A gray dusk was drifting in over the big bowl, and it was hard to follow the ball with the eyes. With the sharp crack of the bat meeting the ball the thousands of spectators rose to their feet and gazed around dully for an instant, unable to immediately discover the course of the drive.

Then the ball broke through the mist, climbing upward like a golf ball leaving the tee and flying into the mass of humanity banked in the right field stand.

The thousands of Philadelphians in the stand gave Baker a wild greeting as he trotted slowly around the diamond, and even the rapid New York fans had to join in, for the home run drive when hope is dead is, after all, the big spectacular play of baseball.



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