|DANGEROUS WITH OR WITHOUT A BAT.|
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THE FRONT PAGE
- While never winning any awards or Gold Gloves, Eddie Mathews did hit home runs -- lots of home runs -- 512 to be exact, joining the 500 club in 1967 and the Hall of Fame in '78. When he wasn't slugging baseballs, he was cracking heads as an NHL-style enforcer who could lead the charge from the dugout with the best of them. He was only 36 when he hung up his spikes because of back and shoulder problems.
THE BACK PAGE
- Mathews, a nine-time All-Star, would end his career after the '68 season seventh all-time in homers. Too bad he couldn't have played longer.
- Standard head-and-shoulders pose. For some reason, Topps always referred to Mathews as "Ed.'' At least his last name is spelled correctly.
- Mathews and teammate Hank Aaron are the all-time leading home run duo with 857. They played together for 12 seasons with Mathews hitting 415, Aaron 442. Mathews hit 190 home runs in his first five seasons alone.
- Only 20 when he made his debut in '52, Mathews finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and second in the MVP race in '53 and '59.
- Hit the winning homer in the 10th inning against the Yankees in Game 4 of the '57 World Series, which the Braves won in seven games.
- Mathews is the only player to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
- From '53-'61, he hit 30-plus homers each season.
- Had his lowest full-season batting average (.233) in '64, but still hit 23 homers and drove in 74.
- He was on the cover of the first issue of Sports Illustrated on Aug. 16, 1954.
- No less of an authority than Ty Cobb said Mathews had a "perfect'' swing.
- He managed the Braves from '71-'74, compiling a 149-161 record before being fired midseason.
- Mathews left quite an impression when I got his autograph on my 500-HR ball.
- While a boy, his mom would pitch to him and she turned him into a pull hitter because she didn't want the ball hit near her.
- Known almost more for his brawling on the field as his power at the plate. He had notable fights with Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson and Don Drysdale.
- The '60 fight with Frank was especially memorable. Mathews had warned him about sliding spikes-high, but he did it a final time while making an out at third on Aug. 15. DING! DING! The glove came off and Mathews was on Robinson like brat on wurst, leaving Robby wobbly and bloodied.
- With the Tigers, he was first to the mound during a May '68 game after Jim Northrup was hit in the helmet by Oakland's Jack Aker. DING! DING! Mathews cold-cocked him to start a 10-minute donnybrook. Umpire Jim Runge said it was the best brawl he'd ever seen. Mathews' role in that pier-6er was cited as sparking the Tigers' pennant push.
- Got the nickname "Eddie Mattress'' because of the way some of the old German residents in Milwaukee pronounced his name.