Eddie Mathews And The National Pastime by Eddie Mathews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Eddie Mathews was a favorite player of my childhood, probably my second favorite after Norm Cash. Having read co-author Bob Bruege's excellent history of the Milwaukee Braves, I expected this to be mostly written by him. Honestly, I pretty much expected The Joe Shlobotnik Story. it wasn't like that at all. The great majority of the book is told in Mathews' own voice and it reads like spending an evening listening to an old friend. Bruege merely adds a page or two at the end of each chapter (except the final one) to add the things that the modest Mr. Mathews left out.
One of the best things about this book is that it gave me a real sense of what it was like to be a ball player in the 50s and 60s. He starts with being a minor leaguer and goes all the way through his post-playing days as a manager and scout. I really loved the early chapters about his days playing for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, and the middle section about his experiences during the heyday of the Milwaukee major league club. And, of course, as a Tiger fan, I loved reading about his final season and a half, playing for the Detroit team.
Eddie Mathews is plainspoken, down to earth, and a good story teller--but without crossing certain lines a la "Ball Four" and other expose-type baseball books. Parts of the book struck me as quite sad. The whole book fairly swims in alcohol, and after 3 marriages and a succession of jobs after his playing days ended, I felt like such a great player and decent guy ended up kind of on the down side, a little bit. I would have wished happier times for the slugger I cheered for at Tiger Stadium when I was 12 and 13 and loved baseball in a way that only kids can. Highly recommended for anyone with any interest at all in the subject matter.
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