Eddie Mathews
Eddie Mathews in 1963
Third baseman / Manager
Born: (1931-10-13)October 13, 1931
Texarkana, Texas, U.S.
Died: February 18, 2001(2001-02-18) (aged 69)
La Jolla, California, U.S.
Batted: Left
Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 15, 1952, for the Boston Braves
Last MLB appearance
September 27, 1968, for the Detroit Tigers
MLB statistics
Batting average.271
Home runs512
Runs batted in1,453
Managerial record149–161
Winning %.481
As player

As manager

As coach

Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Vote79.4% (fifth ballot)

Edwin Lee Mathews (October 13, 1931 – February 18, 2001) was an American professional baseball third baseman.[1] He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for 17 seasons for the Boston / Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves (1952–1966); Houston Astros (1967) and Detroit Tigers (1967–68).[1] Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978,[2] he is the only player to have represented the Braves in the three cities they have called home.[2] He played 1,944 games for the Braves during their 13-season tenure in Milwaukee—the prime of Mathews' career.

Mathews is regarded as one of the best third basemen ever to play the game.[3][4] He was an All-Star for nine seasons[5]. He won the National League (NL) home run title in 1953 and 1959 and was the NL Most Valuable Player runner-up both of those seasons. He hit 512 home runs during his major league career. Mathews coached for the Atlanta Braves in 1971, and he was the team's manager from 1972 to 1974.[6] Later, he was a scout and coach for the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Oakland Athletics.[6]

Early years

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 played 63 games that year for the Class D High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms, where he hit 17 home runs and earned a .363 batting average. The next year he hit 32 home runs for the Class AA Atlanta Crackers.[7]

MLB career

Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta Braves

After splitting 1951 between the Crackers and Triple-A Milwaukee Brewers, Mathews made the Braves' major league roster out of spring training in 1952. He hit 25 home runs, including three in one game versus Brooklyn on September 27. In 1953, the Braves moved to Milwaukee where he batted .302 and posted career highs of 47 home runs and 135 RBIs. For nine straight seasons he hit at least 30 home runs, including leading the National League twice (1953, 1959).

Mathews, along with catcher Wes Westrum and umpire Augie Donatelli, appears on the first issue of Sports Illustrated, August 1954

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 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 putout 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] Pitcher Sal Maglie noticed, however, that Mathews had a tendency to chase "the low curve on the three-and-two pitch."[8] Mathews is the only player to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.[9] By the Braves' first season in Atlanta, Matthews was the last Boston Brave still on an active roster.

Mathews is also one of just 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.[10] Willie Mays is the other, with Willie McCovey (68) and Orlando Cepeda (50), to do it.

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.

Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers

The Braves traded Mathews, Arnold Umbach, and a player to be named later to the Houston Astros for Dave Nicholson and Bob Bruce after the 1966 season.[11][12] He had spent his entire adult life up to that point with the Braves franchise. In 1967, Mathews became the seventh player to hit 500 career home runs, becoming a member of the 500 home run club on July 14 coming off pitcher Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.[13] He was the second National Leaguer to reach that milestone, behind only Ott.

During the 1967 season, Mathews was traded from the Astros to the Detroit Tigers. His final appearances came in two games of the 1968 World Series, as the Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.[14]

Upon his retirement, he was sixth in all-time home runs with 512. At the time, his 503 home runs in the National League were second in the Senior Circuit's history, behind only Ott. Over his career, he was named to the All-Star team twelve times (MLB held two All-Star Games from 1959 through 1962),[15] played in three World Series, and drove in 100 or more runs five times. He never won an MVP award (finishing second twice, behind Roy Campanella in 1953 and behind Ernie Banks in 1959), although he did win the NL Player of the Month award in September 1959 (.303, 11 HR, 25 RBI).

Career statistics

In 2391 games over 17 seasons, Mathews posted a .271 batting average (2315-for-8537) with 1509 runs, 354 doubles, 72 triples, 512 home runs, 1453 RBI, 68 stolen bases, 1444 bases on balls, .376 on-base percentage and .509 slugging percentage. He finished his career with a .959 fielding percentage playing primarily at third base but also at first base and left field. In 16 World Series games, he batted .200 (10-for-50) with 7 runs, 5 doubles, 1 home run, 7 RBI, 1 stolen base and 15 walks.[1]

Coaching and managing

In 1971, Mathews became a coach, and then in the midseason of 1972, manager of the Atlanta Braves.[6] Mathews is one of the few players to play, coach, and manage for the same baseball team. The Braves were 47–57 under Lum Harris and in fourth place in the National League West Division when Mathews took command on August 7. The 1972 Braves finished 23–27 under Mathews as manager, ending up 25 games behind the Cincinnati Reds. The 1973 Braves then finished fifth (76–85), 2212 games out of first place.[16]

Mathews was the Braves' manager when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974. But on July 21, 1974, Mathews was fired when the team went into a slump and fell into fourth place with a 50–49 record. Aaron and Darrell Evans both criticized the decision to terminate Mathews. Evans said that Mathews was a friend and Aaron said that the decision was "a blow to me."[16] Mathews said that the Braves indicated that there would be a job for him within the organization, but he said he was not sure what he would do next.[17] The Braves went 149–161 (.481) during Mathews' time at the helm.

After retirement

Eddie Mathews's number 41 was retired by the Atlanta Braves in 1969.

Mathews was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976. In 1978, Mathews was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1982, Mathews was a minor league baseball instructor for the Oakland Athletics when a spot was found on his lung. He was ultimately admitted to the hospital to investigate it. Doctors ruled out cancer, but Mathews was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was treated and returned to his work with the Oakland organization.[18]

In 1999, The Sporting News ranked Mathews 63 on their list of 100, "Baseball's Greatest Players".[19] He was also nominated that year as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. In 2020, The Athletic ranked Mathews at number 46 on its "Baseball 100" list, complied by sportswriter Joe Posnanski.[20]

Personal life

Mathews was married to Virjean Lauby in 1954 and they divorced in 1970. He was married and divorced a second time, then married Elizabeth Busch Burke, daughter of brewing executive Gussie Busch, in 1977.[21][22]

Sportswriter Bob Wolf of the Milwaukee Journal indicated that Mathews' election to the Baseball Hall of Fame may have been delayed because of his cool relationship with the media. Mathews seemed to resent the intrusion of reporters in his personal life, especially early in his career. He gestured with his fist at a reporter when he was in court on charges of reckless driving. He was angered by the presence of the media at his 1954 wedding ceremony at a county clerk's office.[21]


In February 2001, Mathews died from complications of pneumonia in La Jolla in San Diego, California, and was buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery. Later that year during the baseball season, the Atlanta Braves honored Mathews with the placement of patches bearing his retired uniform number, 41, on their jerseys.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Eddie Mathews statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Eddie Mathews at the Baseball Hall of Fame". baseballhall.org. Retrieved December 31, 2011.
  3. ^ James, Bill (2001). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press. pp. 539. ISBN 0-684-80697-5.
  4. ^ "Eddie Mathews at the Baseball Hall of Fame". baseballhall.org. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  5. ^ MLB held two All-Star Games from 1959 through 1962.
  6. ^ a b c SABR, Eddie Mathews [1] Retrieved April 10, 2015
  7. ^ "Eddie Mathews Minor League Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  8. ^ Maglie, Sal (October 14, 1957). "Braves' New World". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  9. ^ 100 Things Braves Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die: Revised and Updated, Jack Wilkinson, Triumph Books, Chicago, 2019, ISBN 978-1-62937-694-3, p.48
  10. ^ Alex Cobb's historic 13-strikeout, 14-out performance ESPN
  11. ^ "The Odessa American 01 Jan 1967, page 22". Newspapers.com. January 1, 1967. Retrieved March 1, 2023.
  12. ^ Muder, Craig. "Mathews left mark with Braves". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  13. ^ Blake, Chris. "Mathews hits 500th career home run". Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  14. ^ Foran, Chris (October 23, 2018). "A Milwaukee baseball legend makes his final bow in the World Series (1968, that is)". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  15. ^ Donnelly, Patrick. SportsData LLC. (2012). Midsummer Classics: Celebrating MLB's All-Star Game. 1959–1962, "all players who were named to the AL or NL roster were credited with one appearance per season" [2] Archived March 30, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. SportsData http://www.sportsdatallc.com. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Braves fire Eddie Mathews". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. July 22, 1974. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  17. ^ "Eddie Mathews is fired by Braves". The Dispatch (Lexington). July 20, 1974. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  18. ^ Bierig, Joel (March 18, 1983). "At last, Eddie Mathews is enjoying his ties with baseball". The Miami News. Retrieved November 22, 2014.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Baseball's 100 Greatest Players: No. 26, Sandy Koufax". The Sporting News. April 26, 1999. Archived from the original on May 7, 2005.
  20. ^ Posnanski, Joe (February 10, 2020). "The Baseball 100: No. 46, Eddie Mathews". The Athletic.
  21. ^ a b Wolf, Bob (January 22, 1978). "Early years slowed Mathews' selection". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved November 22, 2014.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "February weddings". The Bryan Times. February 21, 1977. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
Awards and achievements Preceded byVern Law & Willie McCovey Major League Player of the Month September 1959 Succeeded byRoberto Clemente