Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#500 Eddie Mathews

#500 Eddie Mathews
Just in time for spring training, we have a Hall of Famer standing in front of palm trees! But what's this "Ed" Mathews business, anyhow? They got it right on the back of the card. Weird stuff.

Fun facts about Eddie Mathews:

-Hailing from Texarkana, TX, Eddie played high school ball in Santa Barbara, CA before signing with the Boston Braves in 1949.

-Debuted with the Braves in 1952, hitting 25 home runs at age 20. Over his career, he would be the only player to represent all three of the franchise's home cities (Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta).

-Led the National League with 47 home runs in his sophomore season, the first of nine straight years in which he topped 30 longballs. He also had "slash" stats of .302 AVG/.406 OBP/.627 SLG, and was runner-up to Roy Campanella in MVP voting. (He would add another second-place MVP finish in 1959.) His All-Star selection marked the first of nine years in which he'd receive the honor.

-Was the first athlete on the front cover of Sports Illustrated in 1954. In the accompanying article, the great Ty Cobb remarked, "I've only known three or four perfect swings in my time. This lad has one of them."

-Much more than a slugger, Mathews was known for his ability and willingness to take a walk (topping 90 BB nine times) and to slap the ball to the left side of the infield to confound the exaggerated defensive shift that teams employed against him. He was also a capable fielder at third base.

-Though his performances were not extraordinary in the Braves' 1957 and 1958 World Series appearances against the Yankees, he did hit a walkoff two-run homer in Milwaukee's Game 4 win in 1957 and made the final putout in their Game 7 triumph that year.

-Though he was overshadowed by teammate Hank Aaron for much of his career, the duo worked well together, hitting 863 home runs (Aaron 442 and Mathews 421) during their time together (1954-1966) to break a record set by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

-Eddie finished his career with the Astros and Tigers, going out on top with a World Series-winning Detroit team in 1968. He hit .271 in 17 seasons with a .376 on-base percentage, 354 doubles, 512 home runs (he was the seventh player ever to top 500), and 1,453 RBI.

-Mathews returned to Atlanta to manage the Braves from 1972-1974. His record was 149-161, and the club finished fifth in his only full season at the helm. However, he was in the dugout when Aaron hit his 715th career homer to pass Ruth.

-Was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1978, in his fifth year of eligibility, proving that baseball writers may have been even dumber back then than they are now. He died due to complications from pneumonia in 2001 at age 69.
#500 Eddie Mathews (back)


  1. As a sportswriter, I disagree with the popular belief that baseball writers' "stupidity" prevents deserving players from reaching the Hall.

    Yes, there are "stupid writers," just as there are "stupid people" in every profession.

    I think people's real problem with the Hall and who gets in is not with the writers, but with the Hall's strict voting rules, in which only players who win a certain very high percentage of the vote are allowed in. Any group voting -- writers or otherwise -- would have a difficult time getting players into the Hall under these guidelines.

    In Eddie Mathews' first year of eligibility, in 1974, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford were elected by the BBWAA. In 1975, Ralph Kiner was elected. In 1976, Robin Roberts and Bob Lemon were elected. In 1977, Ernie Banks was elected.

    I wouldn't argue that any of these players shouldn't have gone in before Mathews, except for Lemon and maybe Roberts. So the argument is not with WHO was elected during this time, but HOW MANY players were elected.

    Therefore it's an issue with the Hall's rules, not who is voting.

    Sorry for being long-winded. I just think the blame is misplaced and has been for too long.

  2. Second straight appearance by a 'Guy Who Picked Up An Easy Check At The End Of His Career With The Astros' and fourth in the last few weeks. (See also Gene Freese and Don Larson).

  3. night owl - You make some good points on behalf of your brethren. Still, you get to choose up to 10 players on the HoF ballot, right? If 75% of the BBWAA couldn't agree that Eddie Mathews was a Hall of Famer for the first four years of his eligibility, I stand by my hindsighted condemnation. ;)

    Bob - There's a definite Houston flavor to this recent batch of cards. Next on the agenda is another (less notable) Astro!

  4. I forgot to mention (or didn't want to make the comment any longer!) that the last five years of Mathews' career were not very good. That probably played a part, too.

  5. Sure, his career tailed off at the end, as most do. I guess it's a "what have you done lately" mentality.

  6. Wasn't Eddie the youngest player ever to reach 100 hrs? If not, I know he is in the top 3.