Guest Article: Looking Back at Aaron and Mathews
Ronald Sayles longtime reader of these posts shares this article he wrote about Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. Ron lived in Milwaukee during the height of the Braves best years and still lives in Milwaukee today.
863. mull that number over, that is how many home runs Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron hit in their 13 seasons as teammates with the Milwaukee, then Atlanta Braves. A record. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig hit 859 in their 12 seasons together with the New York Yankees. Admittedly if Ruth and Gehrig had that 13th season they would have hit more. Those are numbers that that will never be approached, not in today’s baseball environment of “take the money and run.” The way players go from team to team to team, ad nauseam, no two players would remain teammates long enough to break the record. That record is about the safest of all records.
In Mathews first season with the Boston Braves in 1952, he slammed 25 home runs. In his first season with the Milwaukee Braves in 1953 he hit 47 home runs, so early on the potential was there that he would be the one to break Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714 home runs.
Aaron broke in with the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. He was a shortstop and was slated for the minors when fate stepped in. Bobby Thompson broke his ankle sliding into second base. His bad break was Aaron’s good break. It was decided by Braves management to make Aaron an outfielder and to keep him on the parent club. Not only to keep him, but insert him in the starting lineup. As they say, the rest is history. Ironically Aaron broke his ankle late in the 1954 season, probably costing him rookie of the year honors. Aaron’s first two seasons did not show the same potential as Mathews first two seasons, only hitting 13 and 27 home runs. No one gave any thought that Aaron would become the eventual home run king.
Neither Aaron or Mathews had a 50 home run season. Because of Mathews hedonistic life style he was out of baseball as a player at the age of 37 with 512 home runs to his credit. Aaron played until he was 42. It was Aaron’s consistency that was his hallmark. He hit 20 or more home runs for twenty consecutive seasons, a record.
To carry the comparisons a step further. As teammates Mathews and Aaron had 4,332 hits, Ruth and Gehrig 3,980. Mathews and Aaron had 2,538 RBIs, Ruth and Gehrig 3,014.
Who was the better tandem? It is like comparing apples to oranges. In their respective eras, they were both unsurpassed.
One thing Mathews can claim that no other player can, he played in three different cities for the same team. Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
On a personal note, having lived in Milwaukee during the glorious Braves years I was fortunate enough to see many of the home runs hit by Mathews and Aaron.