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Friday, February 01, 2013

Werner: Eddie Mathews’ 500 HRs more glamorous given era

Yes…there were so few HR’s hit in the 50’s. (re: Carab Countless file)

There was a time when hitting 500 homers was a cause for national celebration.

It meant you joined a small club inhabited by legends Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Willie Mays.

That’s the club Eddie Mathews joined July 14, 1967, when he blasted his 500th homer off Juan Marichal at Candlestick Park.

He even beat his old Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves teammate Hank Aaron to the punch, since Aaron didn’t rip No. 500 until a year later. Of course, Aaron went on to slug 755 homers, which stood as the major league record until Barry Bonds passed him in 2007.

Now, hitting 500 homers only raises eyebrows and heightens suspicion. That’s what the steroid era has done to major league baseball. Even those players who might have been clean don’t get a free pass from the public because they played in an era when artificially induced sluggers were rampant.

When Mathews hit No. 500, he was just the seventh player in major league history to accomplish the feat. In 1978, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Feb. 18, he’ll be inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame posthumously following his death in 2001.

Repoz Posted: February 01, 2013 at 05:39 AM | 20 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: February 01, 2013 at 08:13 AM (#4359848)
Somehow, I don't think a lot of people were thinking about Eddie Mathews' 500th home run in the summer of 1967...
   2. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: February 01, 2013 at 08:36 AM (#4359856)
When Mathews hit No. 500, he was just the seventh player in major league history to accomplish the feat. In 1978, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame...


...there were 12.
   3. John Northey Posted: February 01, 2013 at 09:13 AM (#4359868)
Yup, so glamorous that it just took him 5 ballots to get in the HOF. Obviously voters thought so much of him they wanted to see his name on the ballot for a long, long time.
   4. John Northey Posted: February 01, 2013 at 09:25 AM (#4359876)
Weird looking at the HOF voting back in the 70's when Mathews was up for election. Think the results now are off, those ones are very odd. In 1975, Mathews 2nd time, Kiner got in whiel Mathews had just 40.9% (9th place). A 1B/LF who hit under 400 HR, under 1500 hits, 279 average and 149 OPS+ over a third baseman who had 512 HR, 2315 hits, 271 avg and a 143 OPS+. Kiner never was higher than 4th for MVP, Mathews was 2nd twice. Very odd. No offense to Kiner but Mathews to me seems like a more obvious HOF'er. Kiner did have his career cut short due to back problems so that probably helped him a bit but still...
   5. Greg K Posted: February 01, 2013 at 09:30 AM (#4359879)
Career numbers are probably the wrong way to look at the motivation for voting for Kiner.

EDT: I should add I agree Mathews seems like a far better candidate.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: February 01, 2013 at 09:44 AM (#4359888)

Wasn't that Kiner's last year on the ballot?
   7. OCF Posted: February 01, 2013 at 09:50 AM (#4359892)
A link to his rather short Hall of Merit thread.

Yes, an underrated player. It was quite common in the 1960's to still hear that Pie Traynor was the greatest 3rd baseman ever. Of course, Traynor never was that in the first place - before Mathews, I'll go with Frank Baker. But to still be talking about Traynor like that was an amazing insult to Mathews. And then, not so very long after Mathews retired, along came Michael Jack Schmidt. But for a while there, Mathews should have been recognized as the greatest third baseman ever.
   8. BDC Posted: February 01, 2013 at 10:02 AM (#4359903)
My impression as a little kid in 1967-68 listening to my elders was that Mathews was one of the best players of the era, but that it was a fallen era. Nobody hit .300 any more, these guys couldn't carry the bats of the old-timers, etc. Of course, that was equally a knock on Kiner, so doesn't explain the 1975 voting, but perhaps there was a sense in which Kiner had spent his time in Purgatory and could now get in, while Mathews of the even more undignified batting average would have to wait longer. It's difficult now to recapture how much the Years of the Pitcher were attributed at the time to incompetent hitting.
   9. GEB4000 Posted: February 01, 2013 at 10:15 AM (#4359911)
Mathews career petered out earlier than expected considering his impressive start and the drop off in offense in the sixties exaggerated his decline. Not a lot of hall of famers are pinch hitters at 36.
   10. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 01, 2013 at 10:17 AM (#4359914)
Mathews' problem was simply that he peaked too soon, and his declining years looked even worse due to the expansion of the strike zone, the arrival of spacious new parks that replaced the bandboxes, and the overall decline in offense. EDIT: coke to GEB

Kiner's main claim to fame during his short career was leading the NL in home runs his first seven years, which meant that in the post-WWII period he was kind of considered the gold standard for sluggers of that era. Then when Mantle with his 800 ft. tape measure shots and a new generation of sluggers emerged, memories of Kiner's accomplishment more or less receded into the background.
   11. phredbird Posted: February 01, 2013 at 11:38 AM (#4359978)
It was quite common in the 1960's to still hear that Pie Traynor was the greatest 3rd baseman ever.


this is what i used to hear when i was a kid.

eddie matthews hit his 500th homer on my 12th birthday. come to think of the cardinals went all the way that year, so i guess baseball was perfect then.
   12. just plain joe Posted: February 01, 2013 at 12:30 PM (#4360035)
Mathews' problem was simply that he peaked too soon, and his declining years looked even worse due to the expansion of the strike zone, the arrival of spacious new parks that replaced the bandboxes, and the overall decline in offense. EDIT: coke to GEB


Wasn't Mathews well-known as a party animal during his playing days? If true, all of those late nights may well have caught up with him and started to take away some of his game.
   13. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 01, 2013 at 12:43 PM (#4360044)
It was quite common in the 1960's to still hear that Pie Traynor was the greatest 3rd baseman ever.


this is what i used to hear when i was a kid.

And when Mathews arrived in the Majors the consensus was still Jimmy Collins.
   14. alilisd Posted: February 01, 2013 at 12:46 PM (#4360047)
...there were 12.


No, there were 7. He is referencing when Mathews did it, 1967, and he was the 7th. By 1978, when he was inducted, there were 12, but that is not what the writer was saying.
   15. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: February 01, 2013 at 12:46 PM (#4360048)
Wasn't Mathews well-known as a party animal during his playing days? If true, all of those late nights may well have caught up with him and started to take away some of his game.

Yeah, but the greenies brought it all back ... and more!!
   16. Steve Treder Posted: February 01, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4360059)
Wasn't Mathews well-known as a party animal during his playing days? If true, all of those late nights may well have caught up with him and started to take away some of his game.

He was a stunningly gifted all-around athlete who wasn't exactly a stickler for conditioning. Johnny Logan's famous line was that he determined how far over to play in the hole depending on how late Mathews got in last night.
   17. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 01, 2013 at 01:20 PM (#4360076)
My impression as a little kid in 1967-68 listening to my elders was that Mathews was one of the best players of the era, but that it was a fallen era.


This seems so familiar, as if it's almost identical to something that's going on today...
   18. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: February 01, 2013 at 02:07 PM (#4360143)
Not a lot of hall of famers are pinch hitters at 36.


This made me think of last year's playoffs. How many Hall of Famers* are replaced by pinch hitters, even after age 36?

*blah blah needles blah blah HGH blah blah slappy centaur bluelips blah blah
   19. alilisd Posted: February 01, 2013 at 04:24 PM (#4360323)
Not a lot of hall of famers are pinch hitters at 36.


Meh. He had over 10,000 PA's, that's top 1/3 for HOF batters/position players. I tend to think there's a limit on playing time moreso than age in some ways. Guys have a hard time staying on the field after they hit 10,000 PA's (that's a LOT of games) and some make it there sooner than others. Mathews got there quicker than most. Only 5 other HOF had 10,000 PA's by age 35.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: February 01, 2013 at 09:20 PM (#4360486)
Mathews career petered out earlier than expected considering his impressive start and the drop off in offense in the sixties exaggerated his decline. Not a lot of hall of famers are pinch hitters at 36.

As #19 points out, while this might have been the impression (Santo suffered from this), guys who play a lot as early as Mathews almost always end their careers at "younger" ages. PAs through age 30 leaders:

Ott, ARod, Yount, Renteria, Pinson, Griffey Jr, Foxx, Andruw, Cobb, Kaline, Aaron, Mantle, Santo, Mathews, Ripken

That's not a list filled with post-30 greatness. Cobb, Kaline, Aaron and Ripken lasted a long time. I suspect folks forget that Yount retired after age 37 and was pretty average after 33. Nevertheless, he's 13th all-time in PA.

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