Description1918 Christy Mathewson World War I Chemical Warfare Orders. Provided document sealed the doom of one of the game's noblest figures, directing Matty upon a fateful path that would end with his passing in 1925 at age forty-five. Though Mathewson had concluded his playing days on September 4, 1916 in one last pitching battle with fellow legend Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown (who was likewise making the final appearance of his career), the inaugural class Hall of Famer was a healthy thirty-eight year old as he obeyed these "Travel Orders...for transportation abroad to France" rather ominously dated September 11, 1918.
The Great War, as it was then called, was just two months from its cessation inked with the Treaty of Versailles, but paragraph 2 ensured that combat would not be necessary to claim Mathewson as a casualty of war. It reads:
"Upon arriving at your destination, you will report to The Commanding General, American Expeditionary Forces, for assignment to duty under the Chief of Chemical Warfare Service."
It was during a training exercise while on this assignment that Matty was accidentally exposed to the poisonous mustard gas responsible for immeasurable horror in the trenches of World War I, gravely searing the star pitcher's lungs. Mathewson would return to the States to coach for the Giants (1919-21) and to serve as President of the Boston Braves (1923), but his health progressively deteriorated until his passing on the first day of the 1925 World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Senators wore black armbands in his honor.
The single 8.5x11" page of onion skin paper survives in remarkably fine condition, with light toning and a few scattered creases doing nothing to lighten the enormous gravitas of the document. Collectors may scramble for autographs, trading cards and photos commemorating the life of the celebrated Big Six, but none begins to equate the supreme, fatal relevance of this offering.
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