Joss, MacPhail, Mathews inducted as Class of 1978
On Aug. 7, 1978, three of the game’s legends were inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: Pitcher Addie Joss, executive Larry MacPhail and third baseman Eddie Mathews.
Of the three, Joss may have had the most unique story. Joss only played nine major league seasons before shockingly succumbing to a fatal case of tubercular meningitis following his 31st birthday.
The rule requiring all Hall of Fame candidates to play at least 10 big league seasons was waived for Joss.
“It seemed as if every player in the league were anxious to show how much he loved Joss by doing something to help in making the day a success,” said Ernest Barnard – a member of the Indians’ front office – following a memorial service held for Joss in Cleveland.
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In his short time with Cleveland, Joss put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career. He still holds the second-lowest career earned-run average in a big league history with a dazzling 1.89. Out of his nine years, he won 20-plus games four times and never experienced a losing season, ending his career with a record of 160-97.
Joss collected 45 shutouts in nine years, and on Oct. 2 1908, he threw just the fourth perfect game in major league history, a feat that took just 74 pitches to accomplish. “He was probably a better pitcher while he was dying than Dizzy Dean was in his tenth season,” said former sports editor Jerry Nason of The Boston Globe.
MacPhail was widely regarded as one of the most innovative minds in baseball history. The Veterans Committee took note, as he got the nod to join baseball’s elite with election to the 1978 Induction Class.
The list of accomplishments credited to MacPhail stretch from floor to ceiling. Some of his notable undertakings include introducing night baseball to the big leagues, adding regular broadcast coverage to individual teams and helping develop – as well as promote and implement – batting helmets.
As baseball historian Glenn Dickey put it, “He was a pioneer, a man who went ahead though others told him he was crazy. He had the last laugh, and all of baseball profited from his determination and foresight.”
MacPhail first made his mark in baseball with the Cincinnati Reds as their chief executive and general manager. After building a strong team in the Queen City, MacPhail bolted to serve as the president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He then found his way across the city to the Bronx, as the Yankees president and GM, where he would eventually retire from baseball.
Mathews – the only player to play for the Braves organization when it was located in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta – was the seventh member of the 500 home run club.
Born in Texarkana, Texas, Mathews knew growing up he wanted to play baseball. He signed with the Boston Braves out of high school in 1949 and spent 15 of his 17 seasons with the Braves organization.
During his time with the Braves, Mathews was a nine-time All-Star and finished as high as second in the NL’s MVP voting.
Mathews led the league in home runs twice and – along with fellow Hall of Famer Henry Aaron – made up one of the most revered and powerful duos in the majors.
There was more than just power for Mathews. A career .271 hitter, Mathews led the league in walks four seasons as well.
“There’s nothing I can show him,” remarked Braves batting instructor and fellow Hall of Famer Paul Waner. “He’s just a natural.”
Mathews ended his career on top – as he was a member of the 1968 Detroit Tigers World Series team. All in all, he tallied two world championships, the other being with Milwaukee in 1957.
In his fifth year of eligibility, Mathews was named on 301 of 379 of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s ballots and joined Joss and MacPhail in the Class of 1978.
“The greatest honor of my career,” said Mathews following his induction into the Hall. “I’m just a small part of a wonderful game that is a tremendous part of America today. Baseball has been so good to me, everything I’ve got, I owe to it. I’ve tried to give it all I had.”
Andrew Kivette was the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development