Winter Premier Auction 2021


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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/3/2021

When the United States declared war on the Central Powers in 1917, millions of Americans eagerly volunteered for service. Among the first to answer the call were two baseball players, superstars known to every baseball fan: Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson. Cobb was the leading hitter in the American League and at the age of 32, a little older than the average recruit. The 38-year-old Mathewson had recently retired from pitching and had joined the Cincinnati Reds, beginning what most thought would be a long, successful managerial career.
Due to their leadership and athletic prowess, both men were made commissioned officers and detailed to the new Chemical Warfare Service. This unit, also known by their flashy nickname “The Gas and Flame Division,” was created to develop, train and counter the newest and most frightening innovation in warfare: chemical gas. Both sides were using chlorine, mustard and phosgene gas in the attempt to break through the stagnant trench warfare that had hardly moved a mile in either direction since 1914. Both Cobb and Mathewson were promoted to captain and shipped over to France in the late summer of 1918 where they served under Major Branch Rickey. The Gas and Flame Division was tasked with beating back the expected German gas attack with primitive flamethrowers, then counterattack with special gas grenades. It was in their final gas training exercise that Matty came into contact with the deadly gas that would eventually take his life. Mathewson, Cobb and some of their men missed the signal to don their masks and some of the soldiers, including Matty, inhaled a lungful of the poison.
In his 1961 autobiography, Cobb recalled Mathewson telling him, “Ty, I got a good dose of the stuff. I feel terrible.” Fortunately, neither Cobb nor Mathewson saw combat in France, and while both returned outwardly intact, Mathewson’s health steadily declined. By the early 1920s he was spending much of his time at a sanitarium in the Adirondack Mountains trying in vain to regain his health. In 1925 his ruined lungs contracted tuberculosis, and he passed away on October 27, one of the more than 18 million deaths caused by the First World War.
Captain Mathewson wore these offered “dog tags” around his neck during his military service. The standard issue aluminum U.S. Army identity tags have “C. MATHEWSON  CAPT.  C.W.S.” stamped into one side and are unstamped on the other. These tags are made to the 10 June, 1918 orders which specified two round tags as opposed to the older style which had one round and one square tag. Besides his name and rank, the tags are appropriately stamped with “C.W.S.”, the initials of the “Chemical Warfare Service,” Mathewson’s unit during the war. The tags show good use and show toning and wear from use and age. An incredible artifact that serves as a direct link to the period in which the nation’s most respected athlete sacrificed his health and subsequent life in the defense of his country.
Originally sourced from the Mathewson estate.

Estimate: $15,000+

Current Bidding (Reserve Has Been Met)
Minimum Bid: $4,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $15,071
Number Bids: 9
Auction closed on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
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