Boston/Milwaukee/ Atlanta Braves 1952-66
Houston Astros 1967
Detroit Tigers 1967-68
The Braves franchise spent only twelve seasons in the city
of Milwaukee, but left a lasting impression on the games' history. They made two straight World Series appearances in the
50s, winning it all in 1957, and possessed the greatest one-two-punch ever - Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. Everybody knows
that Aaron went onto shatter Babe Ruth's career home run record, among his many accomplishments, but the story of Eddie Mathews
is one that needs to be more closely examined.
Edwin Lee Mathews was born on October 13, 1931 in Texarkana, TX. His
professional career began on the night of his high school graduation in 1949 when he signed with the Boston Braves. He chose
Boston only after he and his father determined that they were the most likely to have a vacancy at third base in the next
few years. They calculated correctly and by 1952 Mathews was Boston's everyday third sacker. He posted solid, very promising
numbers, hitting .242 with 25 home runs as a rookie. He also holds the distinction of getting the last Braves hit in Boston,
a RBI double on the final day of the season.
The Braves headed west to Milwaukee for the 1953 season and Mathews adjusted
quickly to his new surroundings. He became an All Star, hitting a career high 47 home runs, driving in 135 runs, while batting
.302. In 1954 he was joined by rookie Hank Aaron. In 1956 the Braves were contenders for the first time, but ultimately finished
a game behind the Brooklyn Dodgers for the NL Pennant.
Things came together for the Braves in 1957. While Aaron was
on his way to winning the MVP, Mathews quietly hit 32 home runs and the Braves captured the NL pennant. Milwaukee defeated
the mighty Yankees in a competitive seven game World Series. Mathews hit just .227 in the Fall Classic, but his 10 inning
home run in Game 4 was the game winner and his backhanded snag of a Moose Skowron line drive sealed the deal in the ninth
inning of Game 7.
The Braves again captured the NL Pennant in 1958, but Mathews production dropped - he hit just .251
with 77 RBI. This time, the Yankees gained avenged their loss in '57 and defeated Milwaukee in seven games. Mathews struggled
hitting just .160 and striking out 11 times in the World Series.
In 1959 Mathews returned to form, leading the NL
with 46 home runs while driving in 114 runs and hitting .306. The Braves were contenders once again, but lost to the now Los
Angeles Dodgers in a playoff for the pennant. From 1960-65, the franchises' last years in Milwaukee, Mathews remained productive
hitting 39, 32, 29, 23, 23, & 32 home runs respectively.
The Braves moved to Atlanta before the 1966 season, and
Mathews became the only player to play for one franchise in three different cities. His production, however, dipped noticeably
as he hit a career low 16 home runs. He was dealt to the Houston Astros for Dave Nicholson following the season - he had 493
career home runs at the time.
On July 14, 1967 Eddie Mathews became the first third baseman to reach the 500 home
run mark, connecting off the Giant's Juan Marichal. It was about the only highlight of his short stay in Houston; he was dealt
to Detroit in July. Mathews would hit only nine home runs as a Tiger, but did pick up his second World Series ring in 1968,
his final season.
Mathews went on to serve as a coach for the Atlanta Braves during the early 70s and became manager
in 1972. He managed the Braves the next two seasons, and was at the helm when former teammate Hank Aaron set the all time
home run mark.
In 1978, on his fifth try, Eddie Mathews was finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He finished
his career with 512 home runs, 1453 RBI, 2315 hits, and batted .271 in 17 seasons. On February 18, 2001 Eddie Mathews died
of pneumonia complications, he was 69.
-David Zingler, May 2002
Simply Baseball Notebook
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