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Bucknell renames stadium for Christy Mathewson

LEWISBURG, Pa. -- Bucknell University Saturday renames its football field for its most prominent dropout -- baseball great Christy Mathewson.

Mathewson left school after his junior year to pursue a career as a pitcher that would lead to baseball's Hall of Fame.

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Bucknell President Gary Sojka acknowledged the irony of naming the stadium after a dropout, especially at a time when graduation rates among college athletes are under increasing scrutiny.

'Christy Mathewson is exactly the kind of role model we should be holding out to student-athletes,' he said. 'He achieved at an entirely different level.'

So a few hours before Saturday's kickoff against Dartmouth, Bucknell will christen its 65-year-old football field Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.

Mathewson starred in three sports at Bucknell before joining the New York Giants in 1901. However, he left a legacy few college athletes today could match.

The Factoryville, Pa., native was a straight-A student. He was class historian and president of his junior class. He sang first bass in the glee club and played bass horn in the band. He was a member of the Euepia literary society, the Phi Gamma Delta social fraternity and Theta Delta Tau honorary society.

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'Those are aspects of his career we would hope any athlete or any student would try to emulate,' Sojka said. 'Literally, he was a scholar, a singer, a musician, a writer, a leader -- the whole works.'

And Mathewson was an athlete. He was the basketball team's starting center. In his sophomore year, his only season on the baseball team, he compiled a 7-3 record. His biggest success came at football, where he played fullback and kicker. In three seasons, Mathewson scored 13 touchdowns and kicked eight field goals.

A 48-yard field goal from a difficult angle against Army in 1899 so impressed Walter Camp that the legendary coach proclaimed Mathewson the 'greatest drop kicker in intercollegiate competition.'

Apartment-like dormitories now sit on the site of Loomis Field, where Mathewson played football and baseball, but there are plenty of reminders he passed that way.

Shortly after his death from tuberculosis in 1925, professional baseball erected the Christy Mathewson Memorial Gateway at Bucknell's main entrance. Down the street, fans still place flowers at his grave in Lewisburg Cemetery, where he is buried next to his wife, Jane, a Lewisburg native.

The 13,100-seat stadium was completed in 1924. Its rededication follows a $1.2 million renovation, the first overhaul of the facility since its construction.

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Sojka said a donor who made a significant gift toward the renovation asked the stadium bear Mathewson's name, in tribute not only to his athletic achievements but 'his integrity of character and high ideals.'

Brad Tufts, Bucknell's sports information director, said the hyphen in Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium is significant.

The facility was originally named Memorial Stadium in honor of wartime veterans in the Bucknell community. As a war veteran, Mathewson is already listed on a plaque in the stadium.

'The stadium is being dedicated to Christy Mathewson, but it remains dedicated to those people it was previously dedicated to,' Tufts said. 'We want this to continue to honor him and all those who served their country.'

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