Sunday, January 15, 2012

Clifford Virgil Matteson

C.V. Matteson

[Clifford Virgil] Matteson was born in Seville in 1861, one of seven children.  His mother, Mary, was a Hulbert, one of the pioneer families of Westfield Township.  Their home sheltered runaway slaves, and for this the Hulberts faced much derision from neighbors and fellow church members. 
Matteson's father, Horace, was a schoolteacher who boarded with the Hulberts...Horace later worked for Ohio Farmers Insurance, now Westfield Group, and reportedly wrote one of the company's first policies in 1848.  He eventually operated a dry goods store in Seville, which C.V. took over. 
Matteson's sister, also Mary, traveled the world with her husband, Hollis, in his work for the YMCA.  Her letters and memoirs are on file in the Harvard University library.  She noted her brother was a gifted storyteller--and marksman.  He was said to have owned the Medina County record for clay pigeon shooting, once hitting 50 of 50. 
His eye for the strike zone probably wowed them on the local baseball circuit, where town rivalries were taken very seriously.  Big-league competition is a different matter.  In his first and last game, Matteson allowed nine hits, three walks and struck out three.  After pitching six innings, he finished the game in center field.  He went 0-4 in the batter's box that day... 
How a 22-year-old kid from Seville was handed the baseball on that day 125 years ago this summer is a mystery.  Maybe an upstart team in an upstart league was a small-town player's only shot. 
He went on to a short stint in the minors in 1886 with the Augusta (Georgia) Browns.  Matteson was 1-1 on the mound and 1-10 at the plate.  Sometime after that, he must have come home to Seville to join his dad at the store and start a family.  He was active in civic groups and loved to hunt and fish. 
Matteson was serving his second term as village mayor when he died in 1931 at age 70.  His wife passed away a few years before.   
He had attended "an entertainment" in the town hall, put on as a fire department fundraiser.  The newspaper report said he ate a late dinner, laughed with friends and family over the jokes in the firemen's show, and died early the next morning of "acute indigestion..." 
Of his early life as a young man, the obituary said only that Matteson's "early days were marked by his activity as a baseball player" and he "retained his interest in the national pastime to the end."
-The Medina (Ohio) Gazette, July 15, 2009

The above comes from an article written by John Gladden and the photo comes from Gladden's blog.  Gladden did an outstanding job of putting the story together so I encourage you to head over to his site or the online version of the Gazette and read the whole thing.

SABR's Biographical Committee had a short piece on Matteson in their March/April 1998 newsletter.  Come to find out, Richard Malatzky, one of the editors of Base Ball Pioneers, 1850-1870, was the one who figured out who Matteson was and found all of his biographical information.  That might not sound like much but when all you have to go on is a name and the name is wrong (Matteson was originally identified as C.V. Matterson), it took a great deal of research to figure everything out.

My hat's off to both John and Richard for their great work in putting together all of this information.

Matteson's grave

There is an entry for Matteson at Find A Grave that was put together by Carol Tessein.  Interestingly, while all references and records I've seen refer to Matteson as Clifford Virgil Matteson, his gravestone identifies him as Virgil Clifford Matteson.  

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