Thorn: Re-reviewing ‘Pitching in a Pinch’ by Christy Mathewson

From SABR member John Thorn at the Wall Street Journal on April 26, 2013:

In his preface to the original 1912 publication of “Pitching in a Pinch,” the book’s ghostwriter, John Wheeler, wrote that “introducing a reader to Christy Mathewson seems like a superfluous piece of writing and a waste of white paper.” Who, back then, did not know the baseball idol of the age? Today, when not a soul breathes who saw him pitch, Matty’s reputation might have been expected to follow the path of his signature pitch, the fadeaway (a reverse curve that broke away from a right-hand batter). But Mathewson has stayed famous, as the man with the most wins in the National League (373) and as one of the first five men elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936—along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner.

As a pitcher, Christy Mathewson (1880-1925) was at his best when the going got tough. In “Pitching in a Pinch,” he explained how he would conserve his energy and make sparing use of his fadeaway. “I have always been against a twirler pitching himself out,” he wrote, “when there is no necessity for it, as so many youngsters do. They burn them through for eight innings and then, when the pinch comes, something is lacking. . . . A man should always hold something in reserve, a surprise to spring when things get tight.”

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Originally published: April 26, 2013. Last Updated: April 26, 2013.