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Cure Cottage Immortals

Christy Mathewson & Larry Doyle

Big League TB patients

Forever Inspiring Saranac Lake Youth League Baseball


There Once Was A Time

When Every Town Had A Team

Every Team Had A Star

Every Boy Had A Dream


Author’s Note: This is the third in my planned series of six baseball card stories.  The first two are about Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, respectively. Folks are welcome to read them on my blog.

     I have collected baseball cards since I was a boy. I’m that one kid whose mom never threw his cards out.  For me, baseball cards are time capsules, transporting me back to childhood ballfields.  They are my wax pack-bubble gum- cardboard-baseball card hero fountains of youth.

       Each story in the series features select cards from my own personal collection. Cards that I have either a special connection to, or interesting story behind how I acquired them. Sometimes, it’s both.


     Christy Mathewson, a.k.a. “Big Six”, a.k.a. “The Christian Gentleman”, a.k.a. “Matty”, was a turn of the century Hall of Fame Pitcher, primarily for the New York Giants.  He won 373 games during his major league career, still the National League record. He was a WWI veteran, one of the first five Hall of Fame inductees into Cooperstown, enshrined alongside fellow immortals Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson.

     “Big Six” contracted Tuberculosis in 1920 and moved to Saranac Lake to convalesce. His son later graduated from Saranac Lake High School. “The Christian Gentleman” never pitched on Sundays. He died in Saranac Lake in the fall of 1925. Saranac Lake’s “Matty League” is named in his honor.


     Larry Doyle, a.k.a. “Laughing Larry”, was a Major League second baseman. He played from 1907-1920. For most of his career, Larry Doyle manned the keystone sack behind Christy Mathewson for the New York Giants.  He was the National League’s top second sacker for over a decade during the early 1900’s.  He batted .290 for his career, winning the National League batting title in 1915.

     Larry Doyle & hist teammate Matty won three National League Pennants during their years together on the New York Giants. Despite three valiant efforts, their New York Giants team never won the World Series.

    Diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1942, “Laughing Larry” followed his Hall of Fame teammate’s footsteps to Saranac Lake’s Trudeau Sanitorium. When it closed in 1954, he was its last resident.

     Larry Doyle remained in Saranac Lake until his death on March 1, 1974. He lies buried in St. Bernard’s Cemetery.  Saranac Lake’s version of “Babe Ruth” youth baseball was re-named in his honor. Contemplate that for just one moment. The Saranac Lake community held Larry Doyle in such high esteem, that they re-named a league already named for the immortal Babe Ruth in his honor.


Author’s Note: Historic Saranac Lake Wiki contains excellently written articles detailing the lives and accomplishments of both Christy Mathewson and Larry Doyle. They proved very useful references for this article. I highly recommend both of them to anyone interested.   


     As a result of Saranac Lake’s youth baseball leagues’ honorary redesignation, I never played Little League or Babe Ruth League baseball. Instead, I played three years in the Matty League, followed by three more seasons of Larry Doyle.

    Looking back, it’s a bit of a shame really, but growing up playing youth league baseball in Saranac Lake, I’ll confess, I had no idea who either “Matty” or Larry Doyle even were.

My family moved to Saranac Lake from Lake Placid in the spring of 1973, once the school year finished. I played Lake Placid Tee-Ball the year before.  We moved just in time for that season’s Saranac Lake “Matty League” sign-ups. Larry Doyle had passed away just three months earlier. 

    My first Matty League Season, I manned third base for Rotary Club.  That’s where I first met an Enterprising Lad named Steve, my best friend and mentor on the ways of the Adirondack Outlaw.  Our team wore blue and gold uniforms. I batted seventh or eighth.  We had a good team.

     The next year I pitched and played infield for Rosebud Creamery. I batted in the middle of our line-up. That year I made the All-Star team. I was quite proud.

     My third and final Matty League season, I played for Ayres Insurance. Our Ayres coach was Coach Holser, but we all called him “Giff”. Giff took me under his wing, helped me work on my pitching, even taught me a change-up. Giff made me really believe in myself. Giff was the best baseball coach I ever had.

I was our team’s primary starting pitcher. I remember my 1st game on the mound that year. It was our opening game. We played Vermontville. I plunked three batters early in the game. The umpire warned Giff that if I hit one more, I’d have to come out. I didn’t hit any more batters but did manage to walk a whopping nine batters total. I imagine Giff must have been pulling his hair out.

Despite that, I took a no hitter into the 7th. After another pair of walks and back-to-back doubles, I finally struck out the last batter and we won 7-3. Control remained an issue for me throughout the rest of my career.

“Control may have been an issue.”

Despite my penchant for plunking pitched balls off batting helmets, I made the All- Star team once again.

     The next year, no more Matty League, I was thirteen years old by then. I had aged out. I moved up. I would from there forward play “Larry Doyle”.  

     Larry Doyle varied from the Matty League in one key way. We did not change teams every season. Once assigned to a team, we stayed there for the rest of our career, no “Free Agency”.  My team was American Legion. To put it bluntly, we were stacked.  I pitched, played center field and first base. I was pretty fast, and one of our better hitters. I usually batted second.

     In 1979, my third and final season, our American Legion Team was Saranac Lake’s Larry Doyle regular season league champion. Nearly our whole team played high school football. Coach Raymond’s infamously grueling “two-a-day” football practices had just started.  I remember we were all so stiff, sore and tired we could hardly swing a bat or lift our arms to throw baseballs. We lost in the playoffs to Moose Club.

Our 1979 American Legion Team. Front row, left to right: Tim Coventry, Joe DeNicolo, Ted Bach, Spike Reynolds, Dick Monroe. Back row: John Sweeney, Kevin Munn, Don Quinn, John Derby, Ron Muncil, Don Irvine, Manager Buzz Coventry, Pat Reilly, Mike Howard, Bill Branch, Ed Duffy, and Coach C.P. Coventry. (Adirondack Daily Enterprise Photo)


     There is no particularly special story about how I acquired any of either my Christy Mathewson or Larry Doyle cards.  At some point in my adult life, I decided it was important, for nostalgia’s sake, to add them to my personal collection.  So, I did some research and then found a few select vintage cards I really liked (and could afford) on Ebay.

1911 T-201 Mecca Double Folder
“The Big Six”
Christy Mathewson

1911 T-201
Mecca Double Folder
Larry Doyle

     My matching pair are from the same set; 1911 T-201 Mecca Double Folders.  (The “T-201” is an official set designation, all the early sets have them.)  They are cigarette cards. They came in packages of Mecca Cigarettes. They are called “Double Folders” because when folded over at the crease, they show a second player. I avoid actually folding my cards over, because they are so fragile.

     In Christy Mathewson’s case, the second player is NY Giants shortstop Albert Bridwell.  On Larry Doyle’s card, it’s Giants catcher J.T. Meyers.

     There are fifty cards in the set, including Matty’s fellow hall of Fame Immortals, Tyrus Raymond Cobb and Walter “The Big Train” Johnson.  I now have collected almost all of the cards from that set.

     The felt looking Larry Doyle Card is actually flannel. It’s set designation is “1914 B-18 Blanket”. They came wrapped around several different brands of tobacco. On the reverse of most cards, the brown tobacco stain remains visible.

     They were called “blankets” because folks back then actually collected individual squares and sewed them together to make blankets. Imagine having one of those as a bed cover! (Complete vintage hand sewn B-14 Blanket bed covers can still occasionally be purchased on Ebay. I do not own one. Bring your wallet.)

     The other ‘Matty” card in this story is not truly vintage. It’s part of the 79 card 1960 Fleer “Baseball Greats” set. “Fleer” is a baseball card company, a rival to TOPPS, which, at least in Saranac Lake, buying all our baseball cards at Hoffman’s Pharmacy, were the cards we grew up with.

     “All Time Greats” sets, while not truly vintage, can be an affordable way to own nicely done but otherwise often prohibitively expensive cards of Hall of Fame players. There are a number of nice sets of this type out there.

     Regardless, when I hold these cards, or sit and look at them on my display shelf, I am immediately transported. I find myself suddenly in a simpler time, when life revolved around baseball, in youth leagues honoring Saranac Lake’s Cure Cottage Immortals. Priceless memories that I shall forever treasure.  The true value of baseball cards can’t be measured in dollars.


     Note: Sports Collector’s Digest’s “Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards” is a comprehensive baseball card reference. Nearly every set ever made has an entry and complete set checklist there. I consulted it repeatedly while writing this story.  It’s my baseball card bible.


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