"An aggressive, hustling ballplayer with a great attitude" was Wes Westrum's description
of Gary Matthews as a young outfielder with San Francisco, and the description fit
until his retirement 16 seasons later. Matthews teamed with Garry Maddox and Bobby
Bonds with the Giants to form one of the best NL outfields in the 1970s. Matthews
hit .300 with 10 triples and 17 stolen bases to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award
in 1973, and was an amazingly consistent hitter throughout his career, never hitting
below .278 or above .304 until 1985. His aggressive playing style was evident on
the basepaths, where he grabbed extra bases and upended fielders with a formidable
takeout slide, and in the outfield, where he was only average overall, but still
made many astonishing catches. The Giants switched him from leadoff to cleanup hitter
in 1975, but he broke his thumb and missed 50 games. Then, after a contract dispute
to start the '76 season, he hit .279 with 20 HR and was traded to the Braves.
had his best season in Atlanta in 1979 (.304, 27 HR, 90 RBI, 97 runs) and made the
All-Star team for the only time in his career. He slumped early in 1980 but recovered
to post respectable numbers, and when he was traded to Philadelphia in March 1981,
he was reunited in the outfield with Garry Maddox. Matthews hit .301 in his first
year in Philadelphia, and was brilliant in the 1983 LCS, winning MVP honors with
a .429 average, three HR and eight RBI. He homered in each of the final three games,
including a three-run shot off Jerry Reuss in the first inning of the finale, which
the Phillies won 7-2. The Phillies began to unload their aging veterans in the off-season,
and Matthews was dealt to Chicago, where the Cubs hoped he would provide inspired
leadership. He led the NL in walks in 1984 as the Cubs won the NL East, and he quickly
became a favorite of the Wrigley Field bleacher fans. After 1984 his contributions
diminished. He was released by the Cubs in mid-1987, and played 45 games with the
Mariners before he retired.
»September 11, 1977: In Atlanta, the Braves pull off a triple steal in beating the Padres, 7–3. The thieves are Gary Matthews, Biff Pocaroba, and Pat Rockett.
»May 9, 1979: Four bench-clearing brawls and two grand slams (Gary Matthews and John Milner) highlight the Pirates wild 17–9 victory over the Braves. Substitute umpires eject five players, four managers, and a coach.
»September 25, 1981: The Phils drub the Cubs, 9–2, behind Mike Schmidt and Gary Matthews. Mathews drives in five runs while Schmidt adds his 11th homer in his last 12 games at Wrigley. He has hit 33 there.
»October 7, 1983: The Orioles waltz in game 3, beating the Sox 11–1. In the National League game, rookie Charlie Hudson goes the distance for Philadelphia, winning 7–2, aided by Gary Matthews's 3-for-3 with four RBI.
»October 8, 1983: The Phillies and Orioles each win game four of their respective LCS to advance to the World Series. Philadelphia gets home runs from Gary Matthews and Sixto Lezcano in another 7–2 victory, while Baltimore's Tito Landrum hits a solo home run in the top of the 10th inning to break a scoreless tie and spark the Orioles to a 3–0 win.
»March 27, 1984: The Phillies trade outfielders Gary Matthews and Bob Dernier and pitcher Porfi Altamirano to the Cubs for reliever Bill Campbell and catcher Mike Diaz. Matthews was the MVP of the NLCS last season, while Campbell led the National League with 82 appearances. Dernier will win a Gold Glove in CF for Chicago and help them reach the playoffs. His 45 steals will be the most by a Cub since 1907.