Bobby Mathews

Bobby Mathews

P, 3B, OF, SS
November 21, 1851
5' 5"
140 lbs
Major League Debut:
5-04-1871 with FW1


Had Bobby Mathews stuck around to win a few more games, he would be remembered today as a Hall of Famer, but instead he is largely forgotten, despite his fine 19th century career. In the 1870s, when games were frequently won with high scoring, Mathews led the league in shutouts twice and ERA once. The Maryland-born right-hander was one of the first pitchers to master the curveball and spitter, which he used along with a sinking fastball to win 297 games, the highest total of any man not enshrined in Cooperstown.

Best Season

In the days of one-man pitching staffs, Mathews went 42-22 to help the Mutuals to a second-place finish. He hurled four shutouts, which was a very good number for that period, when teams frequently won by scores of 14-12. In 1884, Mathews had another fine season, winning 30 games for the Athletics, as he honed his skills with the spitball. In one game he struck out 16 batters with the revolutionary pitch

Factoid 1

In a three-year span for the Athletics from 1883-1885, Mathews struck out 775 batters, while walking only 137. He won 90 games against 48 defeats.


His mastery of the curveball and spitter. Mathews was hailed as "without doubt the most versatile boxman of his day," and he "hardly ever used the same delivery twice."


He was a terrible offensive player, hitting .203 with no power.


Matthews [actually Bobby Mathews] was undoubtedly the first pitcher to work the raise ball, as far back at 1869. I never saw him pitch an out-curve until 1878, and faced his pitching for several years before that. In 1878, Matthews was with the Worcesters and pitched against the Bostons, defeating them. He had changed his style altogether from previous years, and adopted one-arm Daily’s style, that is, making a double motion by drawing back before delivering the ball. With his headwork and the addition of the curve, he jumped into the front ranks once more. From former player Tim Murran's recollections in The California Spirit of the Times & Underwriter’s Journal, September 17, 1887. Credit to SABR member Carlos Bauer for this research.


Mathews will probably never be elected to the Hall of Fame, despite his 297 victories. Yet, Mickey Welch, who won just 10 more games than Mathews, is in the Hall. Pud Galvin, who won 364 games, had an ERA very comparable to Mathews', and is in Cooperstown. In 1878 and 1880, Mathews joined several other players who jumped to the International Association and the Pacific Coast League to play for more money. For several reasons, some of which are very dubious, these leagues were not sanctioned as "major leagues" in future years and none of the player's stats from those seasons were counted toward their career totals. That decision cost Mathews more than 30 victories.

Bobby Mathews
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