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Robert T. Mathews (November 21, 1851 – April 17, 1898) was an American right-handed professional baseball pitcher who played in the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, the National League of Major League Baseball and the American Association for twenty years beginning in the late 1860s. He is credited as being one of the inventors of the spitball pitch, which was rediscovered or reintroduced to the major leagues after he died. He is also credited with the first legal pitch which broke away from the batter. He is listed at 5 feet 5 inches tall and 140 pounds, which is small for a pro athlete even in his time, when the average height of an American male in the mid-19th century was 5 feet 7 & 1/4 inches tall.
Mathews was born in 1851, in Baltimore, Maryland, and he played as a teenager with the Maryland club of that city, and he made the team a dangerous one. For the 1871 season, he and some other Maryland players signed with the Fort Wayne Kekiongas. On May 4, 1871 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he pitched a shutout in the inaugural game of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA), the first professional league. Mathews umpired a few games between 1871 and 1888 and signed with the regular staff of the Players' League in 1890, returning to the AA in 1891.
Over his 16-year career, he had 297 wins, 248 losses, 525 complete games, with a career earned run average of 2.86. He had 1,528 strikeouts compared with 532 walks. He won 20 games 8 times, including 42 in 1874 with the New York Mutuals of the National Association, and is the only player to win 50 games or to pitch 100 games in each of three major leagues. He is the 25th winningest pitcher in MLB history, yet has the 2nd highest number of wins for a pitcher not elected to the Hall of Fame along with being the pitcher with the highest number of wins for a pitcher that didn't reach 300 wins.
Mathews died in 1898 in Baltimore, at the age of 46, of paresis caused by syphilis, and is interred at New Cathedral Cemetery, also in Baltimore.