The Mystery Behind the Death of Christy Mathewson
History tells us that baseball legends Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb volunteered as Captains in the World War I Chemical Warfare Service. After the 1918 baseball season ended, both shipped out for France where they were exposed to poison gas during a training exercise. Mathewson got by far the worst of it, and died just a few years later, in 1925, of tuberculosis that was brought on by his exposure.
History has it wrong.
The year was 1918. The country was at war, and Baseball was under pressure to support the war effort. The year before, teams had begun various activities, including players performing close-order drills, often using bats as their rifles, to demonstrate the patriotism of the National Pasttime. By the summer of 1918, however, that was not enough. More men were needed for military service than were volunteering. So in June of that year. Secretary of War Newton Baker instituted a draft. But he granted an exemption to major league baseball players.
It took about a month for that exemption to become politically untenable. Why, the public wondered, should these able-bodied athletes not be expected to serve like everyone else? In July, Secretary Baker withdrew the exemption. From that point forward, players were offered the choice of taking jobs in war-related industries or joining the military. Many opted for the first of these, and of those a large number ended up being employed primarily to play in the then-extensive industrial baseball leagues. Many others joined the service.
The Army faced a particular challenge in recruiting soldiers to serve in the newly created Chemical Warfare Service. So the commanding general of the service, William Sibert, called together the most influential Washington journalists of the day to announce his plan to enroll prominent baseball players and other athletes in the unit to serve as role models to improve recruitment. Working through Branch Rickey, Sibert recruited both Cobb and Mathewson to the Chemical Warfare Service. According to the delivered history, both joined up in the fall of 1918, were assigned the rank of Captain, and shipped off to France for training. It was during that training, we are told, that the exposure to poison gas occurred.
But some genuine and recently rediscovered military papers suggest the true story is quite different. They tell of a unit comprised mostly of future Hall of Famer players, a unit put together for propaganda purposes to help the Army's recruitment efforts. Yet this propaganda unit never generated any publicity at all. Instead, it disappeared into one of history's dark holes. Why would the Army and baseball invest so heavily in creating such a unit, then bury its existence forever?
That is the question. This Never Happened offers an answer. It's a twisty-turny tale that has it all: A dead reporter's buried notes. A lost journal. A secret code. And one really shocking event that triggers a cover-up, and prompts new questions.
Award-winning writer Adam Wallace and his friend Jason Drumm are on the trail, and you won't believe what they discover. But maybe you should.
Although This Never Happened is a work of fiction, certain facts woven through the drama are beyond dispute, leaving readers to wonder, if this never happened, what did?
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
"Dan Brown meets George Will."—D. Bruce Brown, Curator Horsehide Trivia
"Wow! If ever there was a rip-roaring narrative, This Never Happened by JB Manheim is it! ... The result is an absorbing page-turner that I could not put down." —Francis Deborah Kerr-Phillips, Readers' Favorite
"The book is great. I'm neglecting everything else around the house to finish it. My wife's not too happy about that." —Rob Goldman
BOOK ONE OF THE DEADBALL FILES
by J B Manheim
Page Count: 244
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Publish Date: September 5, 2023
Imprint: Milford House