This is the 228th. Sports Junkie article dating back to 8-9-01. I thoroughly enjoy writing them, and I’m most gratified by the many responses I receive from my readers from literally all over the world. (It amazes me how you find me. What did we ever do without computers?!) Thanks and here’s wishing all of you a very Happy New Year.
I’m not at all happy about:
My not having been invited to join the Vikings on their “love boat.”
The recent Todd Bertuzzi court ruling. More about that another time.
Lousy officiating in sports. All sports! Where do they get these guys?!
The terrible ESPN Sunday night team of Maguire, Patrick & Theismann.
The trite generalizations used by sports announcers.
Pro athletes who don’t appreciate how good they have it.
Pro athletes who have college degrees and can’t speak correctly.
Sports fans who think they know sports……………..and don’t.
Bandwagon sports fans who jump on the latest fad team.
Lack of loyalty in sports by both ownership and players.
The NFL for depriving me of watching players’ scoring celebrations.
The illegitimate numbers game as practiced by handicapping services.
Small market MLB teams that don’t have a chance to win. No salary cap.
The absolutely stupid Miller Lite television commercials.
Again, my not having been invited to join the Vikings on their “love boat.”
Story of the Week
Third baseman Eddie Mathews played in the major leagues for 17 years (1952-1968). He did it primarily on the strength of his strength; he compiled a career 512 home runs, 1453 runs-batted-in, and a slugging percentage of .509. His power numbers more than offset his .271 lifetime batting average.
The left-handed-hitting Mathews had a distinct advantage. Although opposing pitchers had great respect for Mathews in the number three slot in the Braves’ batting order, and justifiably so, they had more respect for the guy who batted clean-up, namely the great Henry Aaron. So Eddie got to see some good pitches, and although he was a strikeout victim 1487 times, he took advantage of hitting in front of the incomparable #44 in the lineup.
Mathews was a seven-time All-Star. He hit 30 or more home runs for nine straight seasons. He led the National League’s third basemen three times in assists. And he is the answer to an interesting trivia question per my article of July 7th; he is the only Brave to have played for Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
Mathews had his choice of teams. He was scouted by nine, but by virtue of the fact that Boston had the oldest third baseman (Bob Elliott), Eddie became a Brave the day following his high school graduation in 1949. He spent a couple of years in the minor leagues, and while there was seen by the immortal Ty Cobb in 1951; Cobb put his personal endorsement on Mathews.
In April, 1952, Bob Elliott was traded to the New York Giants, and Mathews became the Braves’ third base fixture. He became the first MLB rookie to homer three times in a game. He hit 25 homers that rookie year, and proved there was no sophomore jinx by winning the home run title the following year with 47, finishing second only to Roy Campanella in the MVP voting.
Mathews starred in the 1957 World Series. He won Game Four with a tenth-inning homer, scored the only run in Game Five, and doubled in the first two runs of Game Seven. With the bases loaded with Yankees and two out in the bottom of the ninth, he made a lunging stop of Bill Skowron’s shot down the third base line, and stepped on third to give the Milwaukee Braves their only championship.
In 1959, Eddie won his second home run crown. He eventually found himself on the Houston Astros and the Detroit Tigers, and played in his final World Series in 1968 as a member of the Tigers, who (I write this painfully) defeated my hometown Cardinals in that year’s World Series. He managed the Braves briefly from 1972 to 1974.
Eddie Mathews was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1978.
Last Week’s Trivia
In 1962, the Cleveland Browns made a deal with the Washington Redskins. Cleveland acquired the draft rights to the great Syracuse back, Ernie Davis, the first African-American to ever win the Heisman Trophy. In exchange, the Redskins acquired running back Bobby Mitchell, whom they immediately converted to a wide receiver. Davis would have run in the Browns backfield along with another great Syracuse legend, Jim Brown. Ernie Davis contracted leukemia, and died before the season began. The Browns retired Davis’ number 45. Bobby Mitchell is enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame.
Trivia Question of the Week
He played in 105 regular season MLB games and three World Series games over two seasons. He was not a pitcher. Incredibly, he never went to bat during his entire MLB career. Name him. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.