Matthew F. Christopher was born on August 16, 1917, in Bath, Pa. He died in 1997 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Matt Christopher is well-known for his sports fiction novels and has won the 1993 Milner Award, given annually to the author whose books are most liked by the children of Atlanta, Georgia. Christopher was the 11th recipient of the award.
Christopher’s first award was a Boys’ Clubs of America Junior Book Award Certificate presented to him in 1958 for his book, BASKETBALL SPARKPLUG.
Back in the late 1930’s, Christopher played baseball with several teams, including Cayuga Rock Salt Baseball team and the Freeville-Dryden Baseball team. In high school Christopher played baseball, football, and soccer. He played basketball with NCR, the team sponsored by the National Cash Register Company in Ithaca, NY where he worked (while he wrote stories in the evenings).
Christopher got interested in writing while a freshman in high school. He retired from NCR in 1963 to go into fulltime writing.
In 1938 Christopher was one of the athletes selected to play in an exhibition game against the former major league baseball team, The New York Giants. The game was to raise funds for a memorial to John McGraw, former manager of the Giants. Christopher recalls batting twice against Johnny Wittig and getting one hit.
In the spring of 1938 he played Class C minor league baseball with Smiths-Falls, Ont., Canada, a New York Yankee farm team. Later that year, after returning to continue playing baseball with Freeville-Dryden, he was awarded the MVP, most valuable player, of the team.
Besides books, Christopher has had about 275 short stories and articles published in over 65 children and adult magazines. His first sale was a one-act play that was published in 1940 by Greenburg Publishers of New York. His first short story sale was a detective story, titled THE MISSING FINGER POINTS, published by Detective Story Magazine in 1943.
He wrote the text for the Chuck White series for TREASURE CHEST MAGAZINE from 1967 until 1973, when the magazine, distributed to Catholic schools, became defunct. In the late 1960’s, the International Imperial Co. of Kankakee, IL published a series of his short stories that were also dramatized on tape, including an adventure story titled RESCUE MISSION, about an airplane that crashed in the Florida Everglades among a bunch of alligators.
In the late 1970’s the READER’S DIGEST published 19 of his high interest, low reading level short stories and articles in their READER’S DIGEST school reading program. These, too, were dramatized on tape. Included in the articles was one about the Bermuda Triangle. Another was of Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon.
His first book was an adult mystery novel titled LOOK FOR THE BODY, published in 1952 by Phoenix Press. His first book for children, THE LUCKY BASEBALL BAT, was published in 1954 by Little, Brown and Co. of Boston, MA, who has published most of his books. The book was in print for 25 years, and in 1992 was reprinted in shorter form which Little, Brown and Co. has called a Springboard Book.
Three of his mystery novels for children were published under a pseudonym, Frederic Martin. Four animal books, including STRANDED and DESPERATE SEARCH, were published under his own name. All by Little, Brown.
In 1989, his book, DIRT BIKE RACER, was nominated for the Maud Hart Lovelace Award, given to the author whose children’s book is judged best in the state of Minnesota.
Other books nominated for awards, ie: THE SPY ON THIRD BASE, 1992-93 Massachusett’s Children’s Book Award; TAKEDOWN, nominated for the 1994 Kentucky Bluegrass Award; CENTERFIELD BALLHAWK, nominated for the 1993-94 Sunshine State Award Master List; SKATEBOARD TOUGH, nominated for the Black-eyed Susan Award in 1993-94.
In 1993 three new books published in hardcover include THE DOG THAT STOLE HOME, MAN OUT AT FIRST, and PRESSURE PLAY. Four paperback books that came out in 1993 are LONG STRETCH AT FIRST BASE, LITTLE LEFTY, THE LUCKY BASEBALL BAT, and THE DOG THAT PITCHED A NO-HITTER.
New hardcover books published in the spring of 1994 include TOP WING, a soccer book, THE WINNING STROKE, and ZERO’S SLIDER. Fall 1994 publication was FIGHTING TACKLE, which will be his 93rd hardcover book.
Matt Christopher and his wife Cay were the parents of four children and the grandparents of ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Matt Christopher FAQ’S
- Where did you get the idea for ICE MAGIC?
I got the idea for ICE MAGIC after my brother, Rudy, a letterman and craftsman, designed an ice hockey game.
- Where did you get the idea for CHALLENGE AT SECOND BASE?
The idea for CHALLENGE AT SECOND BASE came as most of my ideas do: working with my brain and creative impulses.
- How do you think of so many good stories and not run out?
I love writing, and do as most writers do: work on an idea until it’s the best I can come up with. then work on another… and another… and so on!
- Did you play sports as a kid?
Yes. I played basebal since my elementary school days. In high school I played baseball, football, and soccer. After I graduated I continued to play baseball, and also played basketball and bowled.
- What is your favorite sport?
Baseball was my favorite sport.
- Of the books you have written, what is your favorite?
RETURN OF THE HOMERUN KID is my favorite.
- How often do you write books?
I used to write about three to four books a year. In later years I’ve reduced that to from one to three.
- What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time I read, watch a few TV shows (like MATLOCK and MURDER, SHE WROTE), watch sports on TV or live, and listen to my favorite kind of music: easy listening.
- How long does it take for you to write a book?
It takes me from one to three months to write a book.
- Why do you only write sports books for boys? It would be neat if you wrote some sports books for girls.
I have written two books from a girl’s viewpoint, ie: SUPERCHARGED INFIELD and RED-HOT HIGHTOPS. I haven’t written more bcause my publisher says my girls’ books do not sell as well as my boys’ books do. Sorry about that!
- How old are you?
I’ll be 78 years old on August 16, 1995.
- Is Matt Christopher your real name?
My full name is Matthew Christopher. Matt is simply shorter.
- What started your career as a writer?
I became interested in writing when I was 14 years old, after I read the stories in the magazines I was selling at the time, such as COLLIER’S, THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, LIBERTY, etc.
- Are you going to write any more stories about dirt bikes?
At this time I’m not sure whether I’ll write anymore stories about dirt bikes, even though both DIRT BIKE RACER (a candidate for a state award) and DIRT BIKE RUNAWAY have been, and still are, good sellers.
- How old were you when you started writing?
Fourteen. I was 17 when I won a prize in a short story writing contest. Then I began selling short stories and articles in my early 20’s.