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Matthew "Matt" Frederick Christopher (August 16, 1917 – September 20, 1997) was an American writer of children's books. He wrote more than 100 novels and 300 short stories, mainly featuring sports. More than 15 years after his death, the family continues to oversee production of books by Matt Christopher created by various writers and illustrators, treating the name as a trademark.
Matthew Christopher was born in Bath, Pennsylvania, the oldest of nine children. He was a gifted athlete as a child, excelling in nearly every sport he attempted, especially baseball and football, which he played in high school when the family moved to Ludlowville, New York.
After graduating from high school in 1935, Christopher maintained his involvement in baseball, playing first in a semi-professional league in the mid-1930s before moving up to professional ball, playing 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. Christopher returned home to New York, where he played semi-professional ball until a knee injury shortly thereafter ended his career.
Christopher and Catherine M. Krupa (Cay) married on July 13, 1940 (five weeks before his 23rd birthday). Their son Martin, first of four children, was born in 1942 or 1943. Two works by Christopher were published in 1941, a one-act play and a detective story, for which he earned $5 and $50. He then worked full-time for National Cash Register in Ithaca, New York, and he retained a full-time job until he was financially able to retire and write full-time in 1963.
His son Dale Christopher later wrote a biography of his father "in the tradition of the Matt Christopher Biography Bookshelf, with exclusive photos, original letters, and memorabilia."
Christopher recalled at age 77 he won a prize in a short-story writing contest at 17. Of 200 winners, he ranked 191st. He wrote "a detective story a week for 40 weeks," among other activities at about age 20.
"I became interested in writing when I was 14, a freshman in high school," Christopher reflected in 1992. "I was selling magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Country Gentleman, and Liberty, and I would read the stories, particularly the adventure and mystery stories, and think how wonderful it would be to be able to write stories and make a living at it. I also read detective, horror, aviation, and sports stories and decided I would try writing them myself. Determined to sell, I wrote a detective story a week for 40 weeks, finding the time to marry, work, and play baseball and basketball before I sold my first story in 1941, 'The Missing Finger Points', for $50 to Detective Story magazine." —published by Fiction House.
For the next twelve years Christopher wrote novels in several genres including science fiction, mystery, adventure, and romance, but he was unable to get a single one published, even as his short stories continued to sell.
But his true success came in 1954 with the publication of The Lucky Baseball Bat. "I decided to write a baseball book for children", said Christopher. "I was living in Syracuse, New York at the time, working at General Electric. I spoke about my idea to the branch librarian. She was immediately interested and told me that they needed sports stories badly." His conversation with the librarian, along with a rejection letter from a publisher (who recommended that Christopher concentrate on writing stories for kids since he seemed to "have a talent for writing about children"), inspired Christopher to sit down over Thanksgiving in 1952 and write The Lucky Baseball Bat, whose publication by Little, Brown, and Company earned him $250 net. Thanks to that success he continued writing and his second children's sports novel, Baseball Pals, was published in 1956. Both those first two books were about 120 pages long and were published by Little, Brown with illustrations by Robert Henneberger.
By 1963, Matt had 15 novels published, most of them by Little, Brown. He was finally able to retire and concentrate solely on writing.
Though Christopher wrote about many sports, his most frequent subject was baseball. His best baseball books are considered to be Wild Pitch, Catcher with a Glass Arm, and The Kid Who Only Hit Homers. He also wrote many books about football, including Tough to Tackle, Crackerjack Halfback, and Football Nightmare, and soccer, including Soccer Scoop, Soccer Halfback, and Top Wing, basketball and hockey. He has written books centered on snowboarding, dirt bike racing, volleyball, golf and many other sports, in addition to a number of biographies of sportsmen and women. His first children's sports book published was The Lucky Baseball Bat, a 123-page novel published with illustrations by Robert Henneberger by Little, Brown of Boston in 1954.
When asked why he wrote sports books for children, Christopher once responded, "Sports have made it possible for me to meet many new people with all sorts of life stories, on and off the field, and these are grist for this writer's mill."
Posthumous Matt Christopher books
New books credited to Matt Christopher continue to be published, over 20 years after his death. Regarding On the field—with Terrell Davis (Little, Brown, 2000), nonfiction written by Catherine M. Christopher with the American football star Terrell Davis, the Library of Congress (LC) ascertained May 8, 2000, that the writer was Matt Christopher's widow and that his name was a trademark. LC now instructs libraries in a general Note:
The name Matt Christopher continues to appear on title pages of new works after his death. The name is considered by the family as a "trademark." Catalogers should consider whether the name should be treated as a statement of responsibility, part of a series statement (e.g., "Matt Christopher the #1 sports series for kids"), or an "at head of title" note. The author of the text is usually given on the t.p. verso [ title page verso ] and may be considered the creator of these posthumous works.
For instance, there are seven LC online catalog records for Matt Christopher books published during 2002:
- Dive right in, text by Robert Hirschfeld
- On the ice with—Mario Lemieux, text by Glenn Stout
- Run for it, by Hirschfeld
- All keyed up, text by Stephanie Peters, illustrated by Daniel Vasconcellos
- You lucky dog, by Peters and Vasconcellos
- On the field with—Alex Rodriguez, by Stout
- On the field with—Venus and Serena Williams, by Stout
Stephanie True Peters of Beverly, Massachusetts is the series editor (2014) and the writer of about fifteen Matt Christopher books since 2000.
- "Christopher, Matt, 1917–1997". Library of Congress Authorities. Retrieved 2014-04-07. "Browse this term in ... LC Online Catalog" for records of particular books.
- "Dacus Library Online: Archives Matt Christopher Collection (homepage for Matt Christopher Papers)". Rock Hill, SC: Winthrop University (winthrop.edu). Retrieved 2013-01-17.
- Bookshelf: Athlete Biographies". Matt Christopher: The #1 Sports Series for Kids (mattchristopher.com). Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- "Matt Christopher". Internet Public Library (ipl.org). With Christopher's replies to 15 FAQ (at age 77 in 1994 or 1995). Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- "Author Interview: Matt Christopher". Hachette Book Group. Archived from the original on 2012-10-14. Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- "About the Author" Archived 2012-09-06 at the Wayback Machine.. Matt Christopher: The #1 Sports Series for Kids (mattchristopher.com). Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- "The lucky baseball bat". Library of Congress Catalog Record (LCC). Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- "Baseball pals". LCC. Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- "Bookshelf" Archived 2008-09-13 at the Wayback Machine.. Matt Christopher: The #1 Sports Series for Kids (mattchristopher.com). Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- "Stephanie True Peters". Scholastic Teachers (scholastic.com/teachers). Retrieved 2014-04-11.
- "Making Memories Writer Gives Young Readers a Wealth of Stories", Joe Posnanski, The York Observer (York, SC), November 27, 1988
- Behind the Desk with Matt Christopher: The #1 Sportswriter for Kids, Dale Christopher, (Little, Brown, 2004), ISBN 0316109525