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Matt Christopher Papers

Finding Aid (PDF)

Digitized Collection

"I'm a dreamer.  Writing fulfills my Dreams......I am my own fantasy island."
-- Matt Christopher "What Writing Means To Me" 

Matt Christopher Matthew Frederick Christopher (1917 - 1997) was born Aug. 16, 1917, in the mining town of Bath, PA, the first of nine children Fred and Mary Christopher were to have.  His father, a recent Italian immigrant, struggled financially during the Great Depression as a laborer in the mining industry.

Amid his humble beginnings, it was evident early on that 'Matty', as he was then called, was gifted athletically.  When not performing his daily chores, he was outside playing baseball in the pastures or basketball in the barn.  Young Matt excelled in nearly every sport he attempted, especially baseball and football which he played in high school when the family moved to Ludlowville, NY.

After graduating in 1935, he continued to play sports. His talents were most pronounced as a switch-hitting third baseman.  While working for the Cayuga Rock Salt Co. as a laborer in the mid-30s, Matt played in a semi-professional league during his off hours.

In a two month stint in 1937, Matt realized his dream of becoming a professional baseball player.  He played third base for the Smith Falls Beavers of Ontario, Canada (an affiliate of the Class C Can-Am League.)  Despite having two hits  and two RBIs in four at-bats in his first game, Matt soon found that he could not hit minor league pitching consistently and was cut from the team. Although he was offered a spot on the Brockport Blues in the same league, he decided that he was not good enough to play at that level and declined their offer.

Returning home, Matt continued to play semi-professional ball in New York.  While playing for Freeville-Dryden, he suffered a severe knee injury which, despite his receiving team MVP honors, essentially ended his baseball career.

Matt would take consolation later when he played against the New York Giants in an exhibition game in Truxton, New York, in 1938.  In front of 10,000 fans, he managed to go one for two, hitting a single of of the Giant's Johnny Wittig in his first at-bat.

 Christopher's Team  

 

Matt Holding Check for Story Sale
Matt Holding $50 Check for First Short Story Sale in 1941

This athletic experience provided the background and foundation for his future writing career.   He had long had a passion for reading and at the age of fourteen he began writing poems and short stories.  The following year Matt convinced his father to buy him a typewriter since it was an essential piece of equipment for an aspiring author. His early short stories were inspired by his favorite literature, the dime detective novels.  In fact, most of Matt's early works were detective mysteries and not the sports-oriented children's books for which he would later be known.

In 1935 Matt won a prize in a Writer's Digest short-story contest, placing 191st out of 200 winners.  Five years later, after many rejection slips, the budding author made his first sale.  His one-act play, Escape, was published in 1941 in the Anthology of 100 Non-Royalty One-Act Plays .  While he only received five dollars, it encouraged him to apply even more of his energy towards his writing career. 

In the meantime, Matt married Catherine M. Krupa on July 13, 1940, adding family life to his ever increasing responsibilities.  Along with working full time at the National Cash Register Co. (NCR) in Ithaca, NY, supporting his family (which would include four children:  Martin, Dale, Pamela, and Duane), and playing baseball and softball, Matt was determined to write a detective story a week.  For 40 weeks he labored on his writing before making his first short story sale.  He received $50 for "The Missing Finger Points" when it was published by Fiction House, Inc, in 1941.  Matt, however ecstatic over the sale, knew that $50 for 40 weeks of work was not going to allow him to make writing his full-time job.
 

Matt with Wife Cay and Son Martin 1943
Matt with Wife Cay
and Son Martin 1943
 

He began writing novels with varying themes, including science fiction, mystery, adventure, and even romances, but he found it difficult to get any of his major works published.  While his short stories continued to sell, the money he received for them never exceeded the level of mere supplemental income.

Finally in 1953, Matt sold Look for the Body, his 60,000 word detective novel to Phoenix Press for $150.  While it still wasn't sufficient income to allow him to quit NCR and devote himself to writing full-time, he was nevertheless determined to succeed as a writer.  Over the course of his early career, Matt averaged nearly 15 rejection slips for every story he sold.  Sometimes he would submit the same story more than a dozen times before it was accepted.

Then one day Matt received a rejection slip that changed his life.  The publisher recommended that Matt concentrate on writing stories for children since he seemed to "have a talent for writing about children."  This comment, combined with a conversation he had with a local librarian about the dearth of sports-centered books for children, sparked an idea.

 

Cover of the Lucky Baseball Bat Over the 1952 Thanksgiving weekend, Matt wrote The Lucky Bat and sent the manuscript to Little, Brown and Company.  Not expecting a favorable reply for an unproven author, he was pleasantly surprised when the editor praised his work and agreed to publish his novel under the title The Lucky Baseball Bat.  It appeared in 1954 and netted Matt $250.  This event invigorated Matt and he quickly began writing again.  He submitted a few more manuscripts to Little, Brown and Baseball Pals was published in 1956.

Over the next few years, while he continued to work full time at NCR., Matt wrote every spare minute he could.  His efforts were rewarded when Little, Brown published several more of his works.  By 1963, Matt had 15 novels published, most of them by Little, Brown.  He was finally able to retire from NCR to concentrate solely on his writing.

 

Matt was to publish over 100 novels and 300 short stories, mostly in the area of sports. He also wrote in other genres, including authoring the "Chuck White" comic strip adventure series in Treasure Chest magazine. 

In the course of his writing career, Matt Christopher endeared himself to generations of children, many of whom credit him for sparking their interest in reading.  His books are still so popular that the spirit of his work continues to flow. On September 20, 1997, Matt Christopher passed away from complications of surgery for a non-malignant brain tumor.

 

Matt and his wife, Cay, moved to Rock Hill, SC in 1981 to be near their youngest son Duane.  He continued to write and quickly became an integral part of the surrounding community.  In 1983, he donated a portion of his personal papers to the Winthrop University Archives.  The Matt Christopher Family Trust donated more in 2003 and 2004, while another portion was given by Duane Christopher in 2005. 

The Matt Christopher Papers include 70,000 pieces and 800 bound volumes.  The collection, extending from the 1910s to 2004, include most of his published and unpublished manuscripts (poems, short stories and articles, screenplays and novels) as well as his notes, outlines, synopses and drafts.  Matt Christopher's galleys, leather bound author's editions, and bound editions of his books are also part of this collection.  Other items included are his research materials, contract agreements, royalty statements, correspondence, fan-mail, memorabilia, personal book collection, and biographical information.

Matt as Grand Marshall of Come See Me parade 1997
Matt as Grand Marshall of the Come-See-Me parade in Rock Hill 1997

Matt Christopher Website
  
http://www.Mattchristopher.com


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