Who is the first player you think of when you think of the Braves? Hank Aaron, right? Of course. Maybe Warren Spahn. If you’re a child of the 80s, perhaps Dale Murphy. A 90s kid? Greg Maddux, right? Why is Eddie Mathews never mentioned?
Mathews is one of the greatest third basemen of all-time. JAWS actually puts him at #2 behind Mike Schmidt, and ahead of Wade Boggs, Adrian Beltre, George Brett, and Chipper Jones. He hit 512 home runs…the magic number for Hall of Fame entry in the pre-steroid era. Except it took five ballots to get Mathews in the door. Can you believe that on his first ballot, Mathews only received 32.3%? How on earth does 67.7% of the electorate not see him as an all-time great? His first three years, actually, he came in with less than 50% of the vote! In his fifth year, 1978, finally 79.4% of the voters decided he was worthy of immortal status.
Everyone knows that #42 is retired league-wide for Robinson, and will probably be retired by the Yankees when Mariano Rivera hangs it up, but there is another who wore #42.
Bruce Sutter, St. Louis Cardinals
I’ve never been shy about my disdain toward the relief pitcher position, but my angst is directed more at the middle reliever than the closer. A legitimate position that deserves to be recognized by the Hall of Fame voters, and perhaps no one epitomized the role of the dominant closer more than Sutter in the 1970s and 80s. Though his career was relatively short (12 seasons), he was able to compile 300 saves while being named to six All-Star squads. He won the Cy Young Award in 1979 with the Cubs, and received votes in four other seasons. If it weren’t for relievers like Sutter, we might not have guys like Rivera today.
Eddie Mathews, Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves
Tom Seaver, New York Mets
Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers