Detroit Tigers Throwback Thursday: Eddie Mathews

DETROIT- SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of Tiger Stadium prior to the final baseball game played at the 87 year old Tiger Stadium as the Detroit Tigets host the Kansas City Royals on September 27, 1999 in Detroit, Michigan. There was 6,873 games played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbul streets. The Tigers won the game 8-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Gettyimages)
DETROIT- SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of Tiger Stadium prior to the final baseball game played at the 87 year old Tiger Stadium as the Detroit Tigets host the Kansas City Royals on September 27, 1999 in Detroit, Michigan. There was 6,873 games played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbul streets. The Tigers won the game 8-2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Gettyimages) /
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The 1968 Detroit Tigers featured two Hall of Famers: legendary outfielder Al Kaline and Eddie Mathews, who had a brief cameo in the Motor City.

Casual fans of the Detroit Tigers will know that the team won a World Series back in 1968. Al Kaline is one of the most notable names from that team, although older or more knowledgable fans may recognize names like Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Willie Horton, Norm Cash and Dick McAuliffe.

With last weekend’s induction of both Jack Morris and Alan Trammell into the Hall of Fame, the 1984 Detroit Tigers now have two Hall of Famers from that roster. That’s the same number as the 1968 roster – although most fans will only remember Kaline.

It takes a diehard fan to remember that Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews was a bench bat on the 1968 World Series winning team, and that he even had four plate appearances in the world series.

Mathews was known for his time on the Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. He debuted in 1952 with the Boston Braves, and then spent all 13 seasons in Milwaukee before they moved again, this time to their permanent home in Atlanta. After one season in Atlanta, Mathews was traded in 1966 to the Houston Astros. He spent a half season in Houston, hitting .238 with 10 home runs. Then, on August 17, the Tigers acquired the future Hall of Famer for two players to be named later. Those players ended up being Leo Marentette and Fred Gladding.

Mathews appeared in 36 games for the Tigers down the stretch, starting in 31. He was primarily a third baseman, although he started at first on occasion as well. He slashed .231/.331/.426 with six home runs and 19 RBI. His .231 average was looked down upon in that era, but his 120 OPS+ shows that he was actually a very productive bench bat for Detroit.

1968 saw Mathews adopt a very valuable role as Detroit’s top pinch-hitter off the bench. The designated hitter was not a part of baseball until 1972, so Mathews was often called upon to pinch-hit for the pitcher.

Unfortunately, Mathews struggled in the early going. From April until June 5, Mathews hit just .196 with three home runs in 36 at-bats. Then, an injury befell him and kept him out of action until September 2. Mathews fared better the rest of the year, going 4-for-16 with two walks and a pair of RBI. Those would prove to be the final at-bats of Mathews’ regular season career.

1968 World Series

His slight surge in September, not to mention his extraordinary resume, afforded him a spot on the World Series roster. Mathews got in on the action early, pinch-hitting for regular third basemen Don Wert in game one, where he struck out.

Mathews started in Game 4, a 10-1 blowout by the Cardinals. He went 1-for-2 with a walk, while playing the entire game at third base. He made an error, one of five by the Tigers in what looked like a season-ending loss before Mickey Lolich carried the team the two victories in the end.

Game 4 proved to be Mathews’ last big league game, although he was around for Detroit’s eventual victory in Game 7.

Next. The Five Best Tigers who weren't All-Stars. dark

The Detroit Tigers may not have been where Eddie Mathews made his legacy. In fact, he was not particularly good while wearing the Olde English D.

However, it’s always fun to remember when an iconic player suited up for the Tigers, even if only for a brief time. In this case, he was around for one of the best teams in franchise history.