When it comes to great third basemen, and great players in general, one all-timer who has sort of faded from the limelight over the years is Braves legend Eddie Mathews.
It’s not hard to understand why …
Playing in the shadow of Hank Aaron, as Mathews did in Milwaukee from 1954 through 1965 (and in Atlanta in 1966), tends to make your accomplishments seem not quite as otherworldly as they might on their own.
And, while Mathews continued to garner hobby and fan attention into the 1980s as a member of the vaunted 500-home run club, the offensive explosions in the late 1990s and more recently have made that number seem almost commonplace.
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Today, Mathews stands tied with Ernie Banks for 23rd on the all-time taters list with 512, a number that used to feel magical but now just sort of blends in with all the other big tallies around it.
And then you have the hot-shot third basemen who have come along since Eddie retired in 1968, beginning with Mike Schmidt and George Brett in the 1970s and rolling right through the 2010s with Adrian Beltre and Nolan Arenado (who is not yet a surefire Hall of Famer).
Maybe the icing on the cake, or the dagger through the eye, was that one of those great hot corner men to follow was none other than Chipper Jones, who just so happened to anchor the left side of the Braves infield all through their never-ending championship run.
That was Mathews own turf!
But when you look at the stats, and line them up in the eras in which they were compiled, Mathews is still an all-time great — a .271 hitter with 512 dingers, nearly 1500 RBI, more than 1500 runs scored, and a good-to-wonderful fielder who might have copped some early Gold Gloves were it not for Ken Boyer.
And if you like Sabermetrics stuff, you should know that Mathews is in the top 35 of all-time WAR leaders (Baseball Reference version) with 96.2, and JAWS ranks him as the second greatest 3B man ever, behind Schmidt.
Of course, even though Mathews played a long time ago now, and even though others have pushed him from the limelight, he appeared on some great baseball cards over the course of his career and will always have a cadre of fans in the hobby.
Those pasteboards included a run of Topps cards from 1952 through 1966, and some sweet oddballs.
Well, how about cookies? As in Johnston Cookies?
Yeah, Mathews appeared in each of the Johnston sets the confectioner turned out from 1953-55, including the tall, skinny 1954s.
It’s an interesting issue that pumped up the card count from 25 to 35 cards over the 1953 version, with a tall-boy design that featured a full-color player photo, the player name, and a facsimile signature over a braves-head watermark.
And nothing else.
It’s a classic that’s become sort of iconic in the hobby, helped along by a checklist featuring the likes of Mathews and legendary lefty Warren Spahn.
And, oh yeah, a rookie card of a young guy named Henry Aaron.
Eddie Mathews couldn’t even get top billing in the cozy confines of a cookie break, at least not for long.
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Wow! Wax of the Day
You will very occasionally find an unopened 1954 Topps wax pack being offered for sale out there in the wild, and when you do, it’ll often set you back new-car money, depending on condition.
More common, and more affordable, are 1954 Topps wax wrappers, sans cards and gum, like this one offered up on eBay.
It’s a great period piece and a hunk of nostalgia that is only pricey, not heart-stopping pricey. Check out the full listing on eBay here.
| $2.00 |
End Date: Sunday 10/01/2023 14:52:09 EDT
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| $19.00 |
End Date: Saturday 09/30/2023 19:26:38 EDT
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