(* this article originally appeared as a two part feature July/August 1996 in OLDTYME BASEBALL NEWS just prior to the run of MATTY in New York. It gives a near complete development history of the piece)
PITCHING TODAY FOR NEW YORK --- CHRISTY MATHEWSON!
Actor Eddie Frierson Nears the End of His Quest to Bring "MATTY" to New York
by Davis Edwardes
Special for Oldtyme Baseball News
For the better part of this centurys first quarter, Christy Mathewson was New York. He was the Giants. He was baseball. No other player was loved more or touched the hearts of Americans, young and old, more deeply than Christy Mathewson. At a time when the professional game of baseball was facing a "change or die" scenario, the clean-cut, college educated "Matty" --- fresh from his junior year of college at Bucknell University --- stepped off the train and into New Yorks national spotlight. A soft-spoken man, Mathewson was never quite comfortable with the burdens that his immense popularity and fame placed upon him, but he accepted the role with an integrity that perhaps no other player, before or since, has equaled. If not for the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, Christy Mathewson would still be known to fans today as the true hero and symbol of Americas Pastime, but the Black Sox destroyed much of what would be our pre-1919 baseball memories. For the most part, only the names and numbers remain in todays fans eyes, although the personalities, stories and legends were greater than those that followed. And Mathewson was the king of the game walking among princes. Now, more than seventy years after his death, actor Eddie Frierson has almost completed his quest to bring Christy Mathewson back to New York and into the spotlight.
Perhaps no other major leaguer ever epitomized the sport of baseball and the nation more than Mathewson, one of the inaugural members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In his 16 seasons with the New York Giants, Matty not only compiled 373 victories (ranking third on the all-time lists and tops for a National Leaguer) but the "Big Six" gave the sport and its fans someone to idolize with an impeccable combinations of values, incomparable professionalism and glorious life. Mathewson held himself to high personal standards. He espoused the virtues of honesty and self confidence. And, while he never was fully at comfort with his fame, he felt that, due to the number of persons he was able to reach through baseball and the newspapers, he had an obligation to live up to the role model status thrust upon him. Perhaps the shining example was his refusal to play ball on Sundays due to a promise he once made to his mother.
In the 1920s, Christy Mathewsons role as "grand master" of the game was passed, deservedly, to Babe Ruth. Without Ruth, the professional game, arguably, could have fizzled out and disappeared following the Worlds Series of 1919. At a time when baseball had lost the publics trust, Ruth energized ballparks with a new brand of offense and personality. But, without Matty, the game may never have had a chance to flourish. He was the icon that the press used to symbolize the cleaned up game --- and "Matty" was the role model used to bring women, families, businessmen and entertainers to the ballparks.
In 1982, Eddie Frierson began researching several different historical figures, in order to develop a one-man theatrical piece when his father (a renowned educator) came across a dusty book in an antique book store. The book was an old baseball reader written in 1912 by the legendary "Big Six." The title was Pitching In A Pinch: Or, Base Ball From The Inside. The end of the search had fallen in Friersons lap, but Eddie didn't know it yet.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee and the fifth out of six children (including two sets of twins) Eddie pitched his Hillwood High School Baseball Team to a State Championship in 1977 before going on to throw collegiately for the UCLA Bruins. While at UCLA, he obtained his degree in Theatre Arts and by-passed a professional baseball career in order to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Making the subject for his one-man show an historical baseball figure was a natural choice, combining both of his worlds. Soon, Eddie would find Christy Mathewson more than a "natural choice." This was an important story that needed to be told. Christy Mathewson was in no way an ordinary "historical figure." This was a special man who advised a president, was revered by the public and changed the course of the Nation.
That old, dusty book sat on Friersons shelf for over two years until the Summer of 1984 when, traveling to a family reunion, Eddie picked up the volume to read on the plane. The rest, as they say, is history. Here was a book as great as Mathewsons pitching. There were stories from the early days of the Big Leagues that never made it into the papers. It was a true tale of the turn-of-the-century, of legendary Big League ball-players, and the game of baseball. Springing to life off the page were little Johnny Evers, the great Honus Wagner, the fiery John McGraw and the man himself, Christy Mathewson. But reading the book was only the beginning. By the time Friersons plane touched down in Florida, the launch of a never-ending quest had kicked into full swing. The more he looked, the more Eddie found that Mathewson still had something to say to todays public.
"The words from the pages leapt out at me. Here was a man much like myself. His philosophies, size, ideas --- it was as if I were reading my own words, looking into a mirror. But there was so much more," Frierson says. "The characters from baseballs early days were written so clearly, so theatrically, that I thought this was a natural place to start with a theatrical project. I knew of Mathewson. I knew he was in the inaugural class of Baseballs Hall of Fame. I knew that he was known as the first man to throw the fadeaway --- todays screwball. But there was no way that I could be prepared for what I was about to learn. This man was so much more than just a baseball player. I had no idea."
Talking over the project with his father, the elder Frierson came up with the idea that, when they got back to their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, Eddie should take the familys old, beat-up Dodge Colt north for a Mathewson Trip. "See if anyone is still alive that knew or remembers him," Eddies father counseled.
Frierson didnt spend much of that reunion trip with his family. He searched for everything he could with the limited resources in the Pompano Beach, Florida beach community. There was more available than he expected. He dug out maps in the library. He found books. He listened to old recordings and glued himself to microfilm. He found a dot on a map --- Factoryville, Pennsylvania (Mathewsons hometown). And, upon his return to Nashville, he hopped into that old Dodge Colt and started driving. Frierson tells his story best:
"I had no idea of what to expect. Here I was, a 24-year old kid, all but fresh out of school, full of dreams --- taking the journey of my life. But its funny. The purpose of that trip when it started out was a completely selfish one. I was looking to research a vehicle to showcase my acting talents. That vehicle turned out to be Christy Mathewson, the baseball card. But it only took my first stop, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, to turn the focus off of myself and on to this wonderful man. He became very real and not a card at all.
"I rolled into Lewisburg after a long haul and pulled the car over to the side of the road and the first thing I noticed was the Memorial Gate in Mathewsons honor right there at the entrance of Bucknell University. I thought it odd to learn that every Big League Club at the time it was erected (1927 --- two years after Matty passed away) donated funds to make the memorial possible. It was unheard of. Imagine, every team today donating money to ANY one cause! And as I read on, there were two plaques on the brick and iron structure. One listed all of his baseball accomplishments. But the other listed Mattys many accomplishments at Bucknell and outside of baseball. He was his class historian, class president, member of the glee club, member of two literary societies, a member of two fraternities, a member of the band and he was a played for the varsity football, basketball AND baseball teams. He was the first ever All-American Football player at the position of kicker. Walter Camp called him the greatest all-around football player I ever saw. I was blown away by his accomplishments. Manager of the Cincinnati Reds, President of the Boston Braves, World War I hero --- and tragic figure. It was clear that I had many layers to uncover.
"So, I moved on to the logical place --- the Bucknell Library Archives. And when I got down to the basement, Ill never forget it. I was met by a delightful lady, Doris Dysinger, who was actually preparing to close up for the day but I explained who I was and what I was trying to do and she smiled from ear to ear and sighed, Oh, Christy! We set up the time for me to return the following day.
"That evening, I got a $14 room at the Lewisburger Hotel on Market Street and walked all over town in the moonlight, imagining where Mathewson may have walked, discovering the spot on the Bucknell campus that used to be Loomis Field, where he played, the gym where the basketball team gathered, the home of hymnist Robert Lowry, the Susquehana River. It was surreal and I threw myself back into a turn of the century time. That night, it turns out, was the only night in all the years of my research that I ever spent in a hotel. The Mathewson Family and his friends opened their arms to me and, Ive got to say, those relationships that I have forged are worth more than any fame that I could possibly gather from this project.
"The next morning I sifted through baby books, learned that Matty had authored a series of books for boys (with Bozeman Bulger and Jack Wheeler), co-authored a Broadway play (with Rida Johnson Young, acted in the movies and on vaudeville, was a close friend of President Taft (a one-time part owner of the Chicago Cubs), wrote (and proofed all ghosted) articles in newspapers and magazines and that he was STILL, today, loved by Lewisburg and the Bucknell community. Legend has it that if you are a student at Bucknell and you have a special girl that you want to keep forever, you take her up to the Mathewson grave at midnight and give her a kiss! It must work because one survey listed Bucknell as the top University in the country for least divorces to successful marriages!"
Thousands of travel miles followed with visits to Mathewsons hometown of Factoryville, Pennsylvania, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum and Library in Cooperstown, New York, a stop in Saranac Lake, New York (where Mathewson died), Boston (where Matty was president of the Braves at the time of his death), Cincinnati (where Mathewson spent two and a half seasons as manager of the Reds) and, of course, a stop in the library, newspaper and performing arts archives of New York City. Dozens of interviews and hundreds of uncounted hours in college, library and museum archives later, Eddie began to put onto paper the words of the man, Mathewson.
"With that trip," Frierson says, "the focus was taken immediately off of me. Christy Mathewson was so special, so real, so NEEDED by audiences of today. It became much more important for me to get his word, ideals and message across. Selfish no more became my personal motto. I just needed to get this thing done. But putting together a biographical theatrical piece isnt the easiest thing in the world to do. I was pretty naive as a 24 year old. I thought it would be a piece of cake. What this project became was hard, albeit gratifying, work."
For three years Frierson sat on buckets of research. He made two more cross country trips and met the remaining Mathewson family members including Grace Mathewson Van Lengen, Mathewsons niece (daughter of Henry Mathewson). It was in 1987 that Frierson got himself "booked" to do a performance at the Society for American Baseball Research National Convention in Washington, D.C.
"Its crazy to think that I hadnt written word one when I decided to send a letter to the organizers of the SABR Convention. Within days of sending off the note, I got the call that they wanted to make Lunch with Christy Mathewson one of the highlights of the week. I got writing right away!"
But it wasnt easy. Frierson pounded away at his typewriter (the experience forced him to obtain his first computer shortly thereafter). "I typed all day and night, re-typed, and typed some more. All this while trying to maintain my coaching duties at Santa Monica High School."
Even with his theatrical career at the forefront, Eddie always remained close to his athletic roots. For eight seasons he "directed" things at Santa Monica High as the Varsity Baseball Coach. In his four terms as Head Coach, his teams won three international tournaments, three consecutive League Championships and he was bestowed with "Coach of the Year" honors. One of his student-athletes, Tony Tarasco, currently plays for the Baltimore Orioles. "Im more proud of Tonys success than just about anything Ive ever had a hand in, including the Matty project. Its wonderful to see how far someone can go with hard work and determination."
But Frierson employed his own hard work and determination. Just a few short weeks before the first performance at the SABR Convention, he sat down to do the first read through. "I had a lot of material," Eddie explains, "but I had no idea how much. I started reading through the script at about 10 a.m. By 1:30 p.m. it was time to head up to SAMOHI for the afternoons practice. When I got done there at about 6 p.m. I sat down again to finish up the read. It was after midnight by the time I got done. I hadnt written a play at all --- it was a LONG novel!"
Quick cutting and pasting was the only answer and all the "great ideas" went out the window as Frierson tried to just get SOMETHING up and on its feet in time for the June Convention. All the while, his sister Suzan was madly cutting and sewing in Tennessee to get a uniform costume finished (made completely from scratch off of pictures and a model) for the event. And, it all, somehow, came together.
Frierson premiered MATTY (then titled, MATHEWSON: Reflections From America's First Sports Idol) in June of 1987 at the Washington, D.C. SABR Convention.
"That performance was a miracle," Frierson recalls. "It was ninety minutes solid of a baseball monologue. There was nothing theatrical about it. I tried to make it something that the baseball junkies there at the Convention would enjoy and, I believe, they really did. But my standards are pretty high and, while it went over very well, I knew that what I did that week was little more than a stand-up research project. If you didnt like baseball or know something about Christy Mathewson --- you were going to snore. Having my folks, my younger brother Bobby and Suzan there really helped get me through it with flying colors. And my other three sisters were there in spirit. It really helped.
"Really, Suzans work with my mother to get that uniform done was about as inspiring as anything Ive ever seen. Up to the week before she was still seeing to it that REAL pockets were sewn in, the belt loops in the right place, buttons perfect, the NY symbol on the sleeve --- all from nothing. She made the pattern herself from scratch. You could almost say the costumed wowed the crowed. It far outshone that first script."
But, raw as that first performance was, it led to the missing link of the entire project. After the "show," Frierson was invited to participate, as Mathewson, in the Cracker Jack Classic Old-Timers Game the following night at R.F.K. Stadium (a game featuring Joe DiMaggio, Luke Appling, Hank Aaron, Gaylord Perry, etc.). "Being there for that game gave me the final piece in the puzzle to really get to know Christy Mathewson, the man," says Frierson. "I was in the American League locker room almost the entire pre-game, between Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio. Outside, on the field, Luke Appling chased me around telling me that when he was a kid someone stole his glove that was much like the one I was wearing and he wanted it back! It was tremendous fun --- except for the fact that my first pitch of B.P. knocked down Bill Mazerowski. Boy, was he ticked off! Guess I needed more warm-up time."
Frierson spent the game in the National League dugout chewing the fat with Gaylord Perry. "Gaylord is one of the most genuinely nice baseball men I have ever met," Eddie says. "Hes so down to earth, fun and amusing. He explained the finer points of making a ball move," he laughed. "There are many fine ways to hide substances --- but I wont betray those secrets." What Eddie really gained from that weekend wasnt just the beginning of the evolution for "MATTY" --- the play --- but a realization that these baseball cards and legends were and are "just normal guys who love the game and are very much like you and I," explains Frierson. "Christy Mathewson ceased to be a legend and a photo in a book . . . he became a very real man and an extremely close friend. That game, along with my time spent with Grace Van Lengen, Alvie Reynolds and other family members turned the corner for me in the project."
Reynolds was Mathewsons second cousin and recounted hours of stories and anecdotes for Frierson. "Alvie and his wife, Carolyn, made me a part of Factoryville and gave me a real flavor of Christy. Alvies accounts of Matty teaching him to fish through the ice and of the day, as a five year old, he caught Christy chewing tobacco --- his stories are more than priceless, they are treasures. I sure miss him." Reynolds passed away in March of 1994, but Carolyn and Eddie still keep in touch.
Grace Van Lengen was 16 when her Uncle Christy passed away prematurely from tuberculosis. Her father, "Hank" actually played for a blink in the big league with the Giants but didnt pan out and died in 1917 of tuberculosis himself. "It was too bad," Christy Mathewson once said of his brother, "He was brought up before he was ready because I got the diphtheria at the start of the 06 season. The Giants management thought that they could sell tickets if there was still a Mathewson pitching at the Polo Grounds. But, they should have waited and played to an empty Polo Grounds. It cost them a good ball-player. Hank just wasnt ready." Hank set the big league record by walking 14 men in a single ball game and for the better part of 60 years, Henry and Christy Mathewson were the big league brother combination with the most big league wins --- 373. Christy won them all.
Eddie and Grace have traded many family stories through the years. "Im convinced," says Van Lengen of Frierson, "that Eddie knows more about the family now than I do. He even looks like Uncle Christy. Hes wonderful, very personable, easy to talk to. I am proud to call him one of the family. I am thrilled to endorse what hes doing and I know that Uncle Christy would be pleased."
In the years that followed after the 1987 premiere, Frierson hacked away to try and hone his script into shape --- to turn it into a theatrical event. But it wasnt until 1989 that he started to turn the corner. "I used the High School team as a vehicle to develop the piece," Eddie admits. "Every year I would do a performance or two as a benefit to try and raise money for the baseball program at SAMO. It was at one of these shows that Kerrigan Mahan came aboard."
Frierson had been making his living for several years in the world of voice-over acting and one of his contemporaries, Mahan, expressed interest in seeing a performance of "Matty." "It surprised me," says the actor. "Kerry was a friend but more on the acquaintance side. We worked together all the time but $20 a ticket is tough to ask any friend to throw out for a show that is entertaining . . . but definitely not ready for general public consumption. He told me he wanted to come and bring a date and I put him on the list." What happened after that was a surprise to both Mahan and Frierson.
"I was at a point in my life where I was very receptive to the material," reveals Mahan. "I was never exposed to baseball as a kid and, as a result, I always felt that I missed out on something. I could see right away that this man, Christy Mathewson, was very special. Eddies performance brought to life a person that I could tell wasnt just a baseball player. He had a message that transcends time. And, I was entertained even though I wasnt a baseball man. But there was something missing. I have always had a good eye and I could see, then, how brilliant Eddie could be and how theatrical this piece could be. If that early workshop version could touch me --- what, possibly, could we do together to extend that reach to a huge variety of potential audience members? Something in Mathewsons words spoke to me and I knew that I had to be involved with the future development of this play."
A few days following the benefit, Mahan called Frierson to say how much he had enjoyed the performance and how much it meant to him. "I was shocked," Frierson reveals. "I knew Kerrigan wasnt much into the sports world but he truly was touched by Mattys words. I felt in my heart all along that Mathewson could touch audiences today. Kerrigan was living proof. I told Kerry that it was very important to me to get Christy Mathewson and his message back into the public eye. The personal notoriety, really, had become a non-issue. I was tickled that he was moved enough to wish to be involved. He asked me if I wanted an extra eye looking at the piece and that, if I did, he would love to be a part of the project. That Fall I was asked to perform at Bucknell and I asked Kerrigan if he wanted to direct the show to help me out. We started rehearsing in a classroom under the gymnasium at Santa Monica High. It was the beginning of a dream partnership."
That performance was a stepping stone in Eddies efforts to bring Christy Mathewson back into the public spotlight (more than seventy years after his death in 1925). The week of September 30, 1989 at Bucknell was in Mathewsons honor. The University had renovated their football stadium and Frierson was influential in the schools re-naming it that weekend in Mathewson's honor. The Bisons now play their home games in "Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium." Mathewson attended Bucknell from 1898-1901 and was an All-America football hero. The weekend was a huge success and Frierson was honored to give the response, for Mathewson, at the dedication ceremony (attended by many baseball notables including Howard Talbot, former director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame). "Its always been important to have excellent role models," Frierson told the crowd. "Theres no reason they need be alive to influence our lives and those of todays youth. If Christy were here today he would beam to know that he was being remembered not only for his strong character and baseball heroics but for his days, here on campus, out on Loomis field kicking and running the football --- the most cherished days of his life. I, for him, thank you."
After the Bucknell performance, Frierson dug into the script. His special regard for every minute detail was meticulous. He knew that never before had a sports figure been brought to life more completely. The Bucknell show worked, like most of the performances before it. But there was something missing and the answer was in honing down the script. On stage, Friersons goal was to have Christy Mathewson speak to todays audience like an old friend wed be sorry we never met before. He found new ways of looking at it. After interviewing, as Mathewson, with Roy Firestone on ESPNs "SPORTSLOOK" program, Frierson realized that he could cut some of the extra stories and perhaps not lose a thing by adding a question/answer session with the audience toward the end of the show (the highlight of the show today). But then, where to cut?
"There was so much good stuff in the script," director Mahan recalls, "but Eddie wasnt able to stand back from it and cut the excess. Not being the author, it was much easier for me to make suggestions and cuts."
"Kerrigan really helped me dig into the words and slice out the superfluous phrases," admits Frierson. "We spent hours cutting and pasting, looking at the stories, playing with the order of the anecdotes, tying them together, working out transitions and then breaking it all down again until we came up with a book that would play to any theatre audience. Kerry has wonderful instincts and is terrific at seeing what looks good and sounds right. My strengths are researching, compiling, checking the accuracy and writing it all down. But, its pretty safe to say that I would not have the show I have today if not for Kerrigans incredible patience, time, generosity and help."
So, by directing things in the creativity room as well as in the staging, Mahan added his own touch to the project. He says, "We were able to mold Eddies script and performance into a complete and total portrait of the man Christy Mathewson was. And what amazed me was that, here I was, a non-baseball man --- and yet I had such an ease with the subject matter and also in Eddies and my working relationship. Its tough to be working hours on end with just one other person. Here you are, in a room together, pounding away at shaping a show. Its not easy. But Eddie took all of my suggestions, incorporated them, trusted me every step of the way --- and its that kind of trust that really allowed us to make the most of the situation and, I believe, it is how we were able to make Matty so entertaining. Sure, Eddie had to explain certain things to me along the way that had to stay in or else a story wouldnt make sense, but I cant say as if I have ever had an easier person to work with in the theatre."
The show was prepared for a March 1991 gala performance at the Norris Center for the Performing Arts in Palos Verdes, California. "It went great, without a hitch, just as I knew it would," Mahan would later state. "The house was packed with 450 strangers, mostly elderly women, and they were all standing at the final curtain. Christy Mathewson, through Eddie, came alive and touched these people who didnt even know who he was prior to that evening. I knew we had a hit. All we had to do was keep the momentum going and this show would take off."
But, after several more spot performances in 1991, the momentum abruptly slammed to a halt in February of 1992. Suzan Frierson, Eddies eldest sister and also the costumer for the show and a constant support during the plays evolving years, was killed in a solo automobile accident on a rainy Nashville evening. "Suzans death, without question, was the single most difficult time of my life. She meant so much to all of us and I didnt know what I was going to do without her. I went back to Nashville to spend some time with my family. Things in my life took on new priorities."
It took time, months later, for Frierson to begin rebuilding his acting career. During that time he began to become increasingly busy with voice work and it was in the Fall of 1992 that he met his wife to be, Natalie Beck. "She turned my life around. I have always been positive and taken every day in stride but Natalie gave me a new and different sense of family. I could face putting on the uniform that Suzan made with a smile instead of tears. In fact, every performance, I put that uniform on and I get a warm feeling all over, remembering how remarkable the person was that sewed it together and how extraordinary the man is that I pretend to be for two hours in the theatre."
Frierson began booking spot performances across the country. During that time he completely re-wrote the script two more times (and re-titled it as well). He performed "THE BIG SIX" at Mathewsons hometown of Factoryville, Pennsylvania in 1993 for Keystone Junior Colleges (formerly Keystone Academy where Mathewson attended grammar school) 125th Anniversary. In 1994 he was called to Honesdale, Pennsylvania to perform "MATHEWSON: AN EVENING WITH THE BIG SIX" as fund raiser for the Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary and Dorflinger Glass Museum. Eddie was also asked to perform ten area school assemblies and to take part in the inaugural induction ceremony for the Wayne County (PA) Sports Hall of Fame (he accepted Christy Mathewsons induction certificate for the family). But it was in 1995 that a theatre man, running a tiny playhouse in Studio City, California, gave the play, "MATTY," the title and break that it had been swinging for.
Edmund Gaynes runs the 48-seat Two Roads Theatre. In the Summer of 1995 he took on the dubious task of mounting a series of 64 one-person plays (which became known as "SIXTY-FOUR SOLOS" to Los Angeles theatre-goers) over the course of several months. Quite an undertaking for a man who was the veteran of dozens of Broadway and Off-Broadway plays himself (not to mention dozens more producing credits). "MATTY: AN EVENING WITH CHRISTY MATHEWSON" was a natural for Gaynes. "I love baseball and I asked Eddie to be a part of the series," Gaynes says. "I was also looking to take the best one or two plays from that series and producing them for a full run. After the performance of Matty in August I didnt have to search for my choice any further. I knew it was the one and asked Eddie that night if he would be interested. We met a couple of days later and sewed up the deal."
"MATTY" had its official opening on November 25, 1995 and has been running ever since to tremendous audience response and unparalleled critical acclaim. It is on every Critics Choice, "Pick of the Week"and "Best Bet" list. The Los Angeles Times dubbed the play, "Ordained by the baseball gods!" Showcase Entertainment Magazine summed it up this way: "Friersons MATTY is always entertaining, often philosophical, but never moralistic. The transitions in this multi-level biography are flawless and, surprisingly, you may not feel youre watching a one-man show at all. Make no mistake about it, this show merits a long future. And you dont need to be a baseball fan. You just need to appreciate life, and noteworthy theatre."
"Bingo!" director Mahan says. "That was what we were trying to accomplish. But were not finished. It has been a tremendous amount of work and dedication and that hard work has paid off. But Christy Mathewson belongs in New York. He was New York. And he will be New York again."
The trio of Frierson, Mahan and Gaynes is seeing to it that Mathewson does return to New York. Theyve made a front trip to the City and plan to move the play from the Two Roads to Off-Broadway by Fall. "Thats the goal," says Frierson. "We have many different possibilities and the theatre community opened its arms to us. Weve raised most of the capital we need and now all we need to decide is which venue."
"Ive spent a lot of years involved with theatre in New York," Gaynes relates, "and while no play opening ever has a guarantee of success --- I have never felt stronger about a project. This isnt just a play about baseball. It touches people. They come back. They bring families and friends. And then they come back again. I have never seen this kind of repeat business. People even return just to ask another question of Matty at the end of the show! Its terrific fun for all ages!"
The success of "MATTY: AN EVENING WITH CHRISTY MATHEWSON" does not come as a surprise. Eddie Frierson is no newcomer to the stage. He has performed on both coasts in dozens of theatrical productions including many of the classics (he is one of the founding company members of the much honored Nevada Shakespeare In The Park). He received a New England Drama Critics Award for his portrayal of the dim-witted "Tank" in Steve Klugers critically-acclaimed Boston Red Sox comedy, "BULLPEN." He has appeared in numerous television shows and commercials and, theres little doubt youve heard one of Eddies myriad of voice-overs on the airwaves.
Frierson has also formed the non-profit MATHEWSON FOUNDATION, promoting the love of baseball and its traditions. The Foundation sponsors, among other things, performances of "MATTY" in schools and for underprivileged youth groups. Frierson has also undertaken the task of completing Christy Mathewsons autobiography. "Matty started to write it himself on many different occasions," Eddie explains, "but when he would proofread chapters he thought he came off as haughty or self-serving so he stopped and put the pages away. Its quite a project but Im now in the process of piecing all those pieces together. However, that will have to go on the back burner for now. New York and bringing Matty back into the limelight is priority one."
And, based on Friersons history and that of his partnered Mahan/Gaynes production team, Christy Mathewson wont just be pitching to get Off-Broadway. Come playoff time this Fall, the great Matty will be playing for New York.