He even beat his old Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves jerseys teammate Hank Aaron to the punch, since Aaron didn’t rip No. 500 until a year later. Of course, Aaron went on to slug 755 homers, which stood as the major league record until Barry Bonds passed him in 2007.
Now, hitting 500 homers only raises eyebrows and heightens suspicion. That’s what the steroid era has done to major league baseball. Even those players who might have been clean don’t get a free pass from the public because they played in an era when artificially induced sluggers were rampant.
When Mathews hit No. 500, he was just the seventh player in major league history to accomplish the feat. In 1978, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Feb. 18, he’ll be inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame posthumously following his death in 2001.
For 17 years, the third baseman was one of the most feared left handed sluggers in major league baseball. That swing graced the cover of the first issue of Sports Illustrated in 1954.
“I’ve only known three or four perfect swings in my time,” legendary major leaguer Ty Cobb once said. “This lad has one of them.”
Mathews was born in Texarkana in 1931 but moved with his parents to California at age 6. He came back to Texas in 1967 after the Atlanta Braves jerseys traded him to the Astros jerseys. His time with the Astros jerseys was short since they traded him to the Detroit Tigers jerseys in August 1967, a month after blasting his milestone homer.
The best days of his career came in Milwaukee, where he teamed with Aaron and Joe Adcock to form one of the most lethal lineups in baseball.
When the 20 year old Mathews made his major league debut in 1952 with the Boston Braves jerseys, it didn’t take long to prove he belonged with the best as he pounded 25 homers.
That was just an appetizer for the next three seasons, during which Mathews slugged more than 40 homers each year after the Braves jerseys’ move to Milwaukee. With a .302 batting average and a career high 47 homers and 135 RBIs, Mathews finished second in National League MVP voting behind Brooklyn Dodgers jerseys catcher Roy Campanella in 1953.
Braves jerseys pitcher Warren Spahn claimed that Mathews was just as strong as New York Yankees jerseys slugger Mickey Mantle. Since Mathews was such a powerful pull hitter, opposing teams often shifted the shortstop to the second base side of the bag to try to stop him. They rarely did.
Mathews enjoyed one of his biggest moments of his career in the 1957 World Series when he blasted a two run homer off Yankees jerseys pitcher Bob Grim in the 10th inning to lift the Braves jerseys to a 7 5 win in game four. Mathews’ homer tied the series at two games apiece and the Braves jerseys went on to win in seven games.
Mathews went on to finish his 17 year major league career with a .271 wholesale mlb jerseys batting average, 512 homers and 1,453 RBIs. He came back to manage the Atlanta Braves jerseys from 1972 74, and was on hand when Aaron hit his 715th homer to pass Ruth as the all time home run king in 1974.
Mathews was 69 years old when he died of complications from pneumonia in 2001. Five years earlier, his health began to decline after his pelvis was crushed when he fell off a boat on a Caribbean cruise.
It was a sad day for many of his old teammates and peers when Mathews died, since he was one of the most respected players of his generation. He hit 512 homers in an era when no one questioned their validity.
“He could hit them just as well as I could,” Aaron said after Mathews died. “I was there to shake his hand quite a few times when he crossed home plate.”