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Sunday, August 15, 1999

Christy Mathewson Jersey Stolen

Jersey shown here in 1993 with Hall of Fame Staffer Tim Wiles        jersey.jpg (87719 bytes)


Reward offered by Keystone College for information leading to the safe return of items.  Call the MATTY Hotline at Keystone College at 570-945-5141 ext. 3206 or Trooper Sean Doran with the Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Investigation Unit at 570-963-4322 with information.  If the thief views this page, realizes the mistake and wishes to return the items annonymously (and avoid prosecution) call The Mathewson Foundation toll free at 800-75-MATTY to arrange the safe return!

BY MARITA LOWMAN THE SUNDAY TIMES
Irreplaceable memorabilia from baseball Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson's collection was stolen from Keystone College in La Plume this weekend, marring annual festivities in honor of the famous pitcher.

Gone is the championship wool jersey he wore in 1906 after the Giants captured the 1905 World Series. The words "World's Champions" are sewn across the chest. Mr. Mathewson had cut the right sleeve off at the elbow so it wouldn't interfere with his pitching.

Mr. Mathewson's contract with the New York Giants, bearing his signature and dating to the early 1900s, and his player-manager contract with the Cincinnati Reds from the 1917-18 season are also missing.

Keystone College President Edward Boehm described the loss as devastating.

A financial value on the stolen items could not be determined. National Baseball Hall of Fame officials in Cooperstown, N.Y. said it was their policy not to provide appraisals.

"The memorabilia was left to us by Christy's widow, Jane," Dr. Boehm said. "It's a collection we've held in trust for the family for more than 30 years. We bring it out of the vault just once a year for Christy Mathewson Days so the community can enjoy it."

'BEST COLLECTION'

Tim Wiles, a research librarian at the Hall of Fame, examined the collection three years ago and called it "the largest and best single collection of Mathewson's stuff," and said it was far superior to the Mathewson collection at the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Mathewson's baseball and military clothing, baseball items, books written by him and books written about him, baseball pictures and family pictures were displayed on shelves behind locked Plexiglas windows in the lobby of the gymnasium.

One of the panes was shattered and the locking mechanism was broken. But most of the memorabilia on the shelves appeared undisturbed.

The theft occurred between 10:45 p.m. Friday, when the gymnasium was closed, and 6:15 a.m. Saturday, after it was opened, Dr. Boehm said.

State police from Dunmore are investigating.

A volunteer setting up for the 8 a.m. Christy Mathewson 6K Race discovered the theft Saturday when she entered the gym about 6:15 a.m. to use the rest- room.

Campus security officers who patrolled the grounds overnight and who were told to put special emphasis on the gymnasium did not notice any activity overnight, Dr. Boehm said.

Investigators are looking at several possibilities, including whether the thief hid in the building when it was being closed Friday night.

To meet fire codes, some of the building's doors can be opened from the inside even though they are locked to outsiders. Opening them would not trigger an alarm, said Pam Willmot, a Keystone public relations employee.

Numerous people were in the gymnasium Friday night to participate in a baseball roundtable discussion and view the collection.

Actor-playwright Eddie Frierson, who staged his one-man play, "Matty: An Evening with Christy Mathewson," on campus Friday night, said he believed he was the last one to see the collection.

"I was in there at 10:45 and everything was fine," he said.

Police and college officials are asking for the public's help.

TIPS SOUGHT

The college opened a hot-line Saturday morning for tips about the theft.

"We're appealing to the public for help," Dr. Boehm said. "Call our hot-line (945-6986) with any information that could help us get our collection back intact."

In addition to the hot-line, college officials were turning to the Internet, auction houses and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown for help.

"Anytime something of great historical and educational value is taken, it's a devastating loss, said Jeff Idelson, vice president of communications and education for the Hall of Fame. "Hopefully, they'll recover this and it will be returned to where it belongs. Intrinsic and educational value make the loss even that much more unfortunate."

Mr. Mathewson, a Factoryville native, was among the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was selected in 1936, 11 years after he died of tuberculosis.

He attended Keystone from 1895 to 1898, earned an associate's degree and continued his education at Bucknell University until launching his major-league baseball career. He pitched for the Giants from 1900 to 1916, then joined the Cincinnati Reds for two years. By the time he retired, he pitched a record-setting 373 winning games.

He served overseas in World War I, wrote a series of books about baseball for young boys, enjoyed the theater, opera and debates about politics.

Roadside markers around Keystone's campus honor his memory, as does the athletic field which is named for him.

Four years ago, the college initiated the annual Christy Mathewson Days, scheduled on the weekend closest to his birthday, Aug. 12.

Each year, the festival grows.

After Saturday morning's race, residents gathered for breakfast and the Christy Mathewson parade along College Avenue.

But the theft deflated their high spirits.

Tom Davis, a local businessman, Keystone alumnus and a Mathewson fan, summed it up this way: "It's a great loss for Keystone. It's a great loss for the community. It's tragic."

The collection, entrusted to the college by Mrs. Mathewson, is part of the college's heritage, Dr. Boehm said.

Viewing the annual display is a family tradition for the community, Dr. Boehm said.

"Christy's our hero," Dr. Boehm said. "I feel as if our heart and soul has been ripped away from us."

MICHAEL RUDOLF of the Wyoming County Bureau contributed to this report.