Eddie Mathews, an example of the rare infielder who could hit with power, was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame today by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Mathews was named on 301 of the 379 ballots cast, well beyond the 285, or 75 per cent, required for election. Enos Slaughter finished second with 261, followed Duke Snider with 254, the late Gil Hodges with 226 and Don Drysdale with 219. No other player received more than 200 votes.
A year ago, Mathews finished second in the BBWAA voting, trailing Ernie Banks, the only player elected by the writers in 1977. Banks, a short-stop-first baseman, and Mathews, who played third base, both hit 512 home runs, tied for ninth place on the all-time list.
"Ernie once told me we were the only infielders to hit more than 500 homers, too" said Mathews, who batted .271 in 17 seasons with the Braves, Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers. He was elected in his fifth year of eligibility, but the delay hardly disturbed him. "I'd have waited 10 years if I had to," he said. "This is the most exciting day of may life."
Mathews was one of baseball's top run producers after starting in 1952 with the old Boston Braves. He drove in 1,453 runs and scored 1,509.
In 1954, a year after the Braves moved their franchise to Milwaukee, Mathews joined Henry Aaron to form the most explosive home-run team in major league history. They hit 863 during the 13 seasons they played together.
Mathews set numerous records for third basemen, including those for games (2,181), assists (4,322), chances (6,371) and home runs in a season (47 in 1953). He finished his career as a part-time first baseman with Detroit's 1968 world champions.
"In one game that season, I hit two home runs to tie and pass Mel Ott," he recalled. "The next morning my back hurt and shortly after that I had surgery. I never hit another home run."