Eddie Mathews

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Eddie Mathews
Edwin Lee Mathews head shot, circa 1963.jpg
Third baseman
Born: (1931-10-13)October 13, 1931
Texarkana, Texas
Died: February 18, 2001(2001-02-18) (aged 69)
La Jolla, California
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 15, 1952 for the Boston Braves
Last MLB appearance
September 27, 1968 for the Detroit Tigers
Career statistics
Batting average .271
Hits 2,315
Home runs 512
Runs batted in 1,453
Teams

As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Induction 1978
Vote 79.42% (fifth ballot)

Edwin Lee Mathews (October 13, 1931 – February 18, 2001) was an American professional baseball player[1] He played in Major League Baseball as a third baseman, most notably on the Milwaukee Braves.[1] Mathews is regarded as one of the greatest third basemen ever to play the game.[2] He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978.[3]

Early life[edit]

Mathews was born in Texarkana, Texas. He was six years old when his family moved to Santa Barbara, California. The Santa Barbara High School baseball field, where he developed into a star high school baseball player, is named after him. Mathews was signed by the Boston Braves in 1949. He continued to shine in their farm system as a left-handed hitting third baseman who hit towering home runs.

Baseball career[edit]

Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta Braves[edit]

Mathews was brought up to the major leagues in 1952, Mathews hit 25 home runs, including three in one game. In 1953 the Braves moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he batted .302, hit 47 home runs, and drove in 135 runs. For nine straight seasons he hit at least 30 home runs, including leading the National League twice (1953, 1959).

As one of 1954's superstars in American sports, Mathews was chosen for the cover of the first-ever issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. Around this time, Ty Cobb said of Mathews: "I've only known three or four perfect swings in my time. This lad has one of them."

Mathews in a 1958 ad from Life magazine.

Mathews was a powerful pull-hitter, and for many years of his career teams would implement the "Mathews shift" when he came to bat. The second baseman would shift well to his left, toward first base, and the shortstop would come to the second base side of the bag, leaving a gaping hole between second and third base. Mathews delighted in occasionally punching the ball through that hole.

The Braves won the 1957 National League championship. In the World Series, Mathews hit a game-winning home run in the tenth inning of game four. The Braves went on to defeat the New York Yankees to win the Series. Mathews made the final out of the Series, a forceout of Gil McDougald on Moose Skowron's hard-hit grounder.

Mathews was regarded as one of the strongest power hitters of his time, often being compared to American League contemporary Mickey Mantle, in terms of power hitting strength. Hall-of-Fame teammate Warren Spahn once said of the two: "Mathews is just as strong as Mantle. They don't hit the same – Mantle gets all of his weight into his swing; Mathews uses his wrists more." Spahn's comment on Mathews' use of his wrists was in reference to his unique swing, as believed by many to be one of the more graceful swings in baseball history.[citation needed] He is the only player to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.

Mathews is also one of only two players to homer with a teammate in the same game at least 50 times with two different teammates. He did this with Henry Aaron 75 times and with Joe Adcock 56 times. [4] Willie Mays is the other, with Willie McCovey (68) and Orlando Cepada (50), to do it.

Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers[edit]

Mathews was traded to the Houston Astros before the 1967 season. That year, he became the seventh player to hit 500 career home runs, becoming a member of the 500 home run club coming off pitcher Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants. During the 1967 season, Mathews was traded from the Astros to the Detroit Tigers. In the 1968 World Series, he made his final appearances in two post-season games as the Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals. Upon his retirement, he was sixth in all-time home runs with 512. Over his career, he was named to the All-Star team twelve times, played in three World Series, and drove in 100 or more runs five times.

Between 1954 and 1966 he and Braves teammate Hank Aaron hit 863 home runs (Aaron 442, Mathews 421), moving ahead of the Yankees duo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as the all-time leaders in major league history.

Managing[edit]

He managed the Atlanta Braves from 1972 to 1974. He was the manager when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run. He is also one of the few players to play, coach, and manage for the same baseball team.

After baseball[edit]

BravesRetired41.png
Eddie Mathews's number 41 was retired by the Atlanta Braves in 2001.

Eddie Mathews was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976.

In 1978, Mathews was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He ranks second all-time among MLB third basemen in home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and total bases.

In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Mathews 63 on their list of 100, "Baseball's Greatest Players".[5] He also nominated that year as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

In 2001, Mathews died from complications of pneumonia in La Jolla, California. He is buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery. Later that year, the Braves honored his memory with the placement of patches bearing his retired uniform number, 41, on their jerseys.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Eddie Mathews statistics". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  2. ^ James, Bill (2001). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press. p. 539. ISBN 0-684-80697-5. 
  3. ^ "Eddie Mathews at the Baseball Hall of Fame". baseballhall.org. Retrieved December 31, 2011. 
  4. ^ Alex Cobb's historic 13-strikeout, 14-out performance - ESPN
  5. ^ 100 Greatest Baseball Players by The Sporting News : A Legendary List by Baseball Almanac

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Vern Law & Willie McCovey
Major League Player of the Month
September 1959
Succeeded by
Roberto Clemente