The roots of the Atlanta Braves date back to the creation of the National League in 1876.
Originally known as the Boston Beaneaters, the team claimed eight championships in the NL’s first 21 years. When the rival American League formed and placed the Boston Americans on Huntington Avenue, the fortunes of the Beaneaters changed.
A trio of name changes followed. First to the friendlier sounding Doves, then one season as the Rustlers and finally, in 1912, the name Braves. Through the period, the team graced the second division. A miracle in 1914 changed everything as the Braves shocked the sports world by not only winning the NL, but sweeping the Philadelphia Athletics to win their first modern World Series.
During the 1930s they changed names again, spending five seasons as the Bees, before becoming the Braves again for good.
The postwar years brought success. In 1948, they captured a second pennant, nearly playing the crosstown Red Sox, but the Cleveland Indians prevailed over both, winning their last championship.
As the 1950s dawned, it became apparent Boston could no longer support two teams. With the country expanding and travel easier, the Braves left the Jimmy Fund for the Red Sox to sponsor while the team moved west to Milwaukee. That move turned the Braves into a contending team with a rabid fan base.
Two consecutive pennants hit in 1957 and 1958. In two thrilling World Series, the Braves bested the New York Yankees in seven in ’57 while losing to them in seven in 1958.
After dropping the best-of-three playoff in 1959 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Braves never reached the playoffs again in Milwaukee. The inviting markets of the new South came calling and, after a court forced the Braves to stay in 1965, they moved to Atlanta in 1966.
Two trips to the new National League Championships followed in 1969 and 1982. Magnate Ted Turner purchased the Braves in the mid-70s and, with the advent of cable television, beamed the Braves coast-to-coast nightly for over 20 years. Known as “America’s Team,” the Braves created new fans in markets that craved Major League Baseball. Before having every game on television was normal, the Braves filled endless hours of summer television while the local teams graced the television once a week, if that.
Although those teams were not good, everything changed in 1991 as Atlanta stormed into their first World Series since 1958. In 1995, the Braves won their lone championship in Atlanta with a six-game victory over the Indians. Several more trips followed, but they ran into the powerful Yankees and never could grab another ring.
Today, the team eagerly awaits a move into new Sun Life Stadium in 2017, bringing in 141 years of tradition and excellence with them.
Let’s meet their all-time roster!
JOE TORRE – C
In his nine years with Milwaukee and Atlanta, Joe Torre set the bar for the next generation of offensive-minded catchers.
Signed out of Brooklyn’s St. Francis Prep in 1959, Torre made the Braves by the end of 1960. A full-time catcher in 1961, he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting after a 21-double and .330 on-base percentage campaign. He made the first of five straight All-Star teams in 1963, won a Gold Glove in 1965 and had his best season with the Braves in their Atlanta debut season in 1966.
As Georgia fell in love the Braves, Torre slugged a career-high 36 home runs, drove in 101 while hitting .315. With a rifle arm, he threw out a whopping 49 percent of would be base stealers in ’66 and 47 percent in ’67.
Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in March 1969—where he would win the 1971 MVP—for Orlando Cepeda, Torre’s 12 seasons with the Braves were productive. With the Braves, he smacked 142 home runs in 1,037 games. Torre’s 33.3 career WAR is still in the Braves’ top 20 all-time.
A borderline Hall of Famer based on his playing career, most of you know him from his years managing the Yankees. Hard to believe, but Torre’s playing career flew under the radar.
DALE MURPHY – LF
The question for Dale Murphy was, is there anything he cannot do?
Drafted with the fifth overall pick out of Brigham Young in 1974, the ever popular Murphy practically did everything for the Braves in the late 1970s until he blossomed into a superstar centerfielder in the early 1980s.
Originally a catcher, the free-swinging Murphy became an everyday player in 1978 and changed to a first baseman. As he developed into a mature hitter, the Braves moved into him the outfield for the 1980 season where he never looked back.
When the Braves started 1982 with an unexpected 13-game winning streak, it was Murphy who led the charge. Winning the first of two consecutive MVP’s, he propelled Atlanta to an NL West title with 36 home runs and a league-high 109 RBI. In his lone playoff appearance, he hit .273 in the Cardinals sweep of the NLCS.
Murphy continued his torrid play in 1983. With another 36 homers, a healthy .302 average and 121 RBI, he breezed through to another MVP. As the Braves fortunes sank, his did not. Between 1982 and 1987, he made six straight All-Star teams, five Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers and top ten in the MVP vote.
Because they were on television virtually every night, Murphy’s star rose well outside the South. By the mid-80s, he was the reason to watch.
His 371 home runs in 15 years and 1,926 games more than earns him a starting spot. He sneaks in at left field because the superstar who replaced him is a legend on his own.
ANDRUW JONES – CF
Imagine yourself as a 19-year-old rookie from Curacao. You have spent six weeks in the Majors and you get to start your first World Series game at Yankee Stadium. How do you react? Striking out four times?
If you are Andruw Jones, you homer twice. Not a bad way to introduce yourself to the sports world. For 12 years, he kept his name at the top of the Braves and the sport.
One of the better defensive center fielder’s ever to play, Jones won a Gold Glove 10 straight seasons. There was never a fly ball he could not track down.
When not shagging them, he crushed baseballs. Seven times, he smashed over 30 home runs. In 2005, he nailed a career-high 51, driving in 128. The next year, he sent 129 Braves across home plate. If they needed a stolen base, he did it. At the plate or in the field, Jones was a machine.
Ten times, Jones’ Braves made the postseason, reaching the NLCS five. In the 2004 NLDS, he hit .526 with two home runs. The next season, he hit .471.
During the golden era of Atlanta Braves baseball, Jones turned potential into championship talent. Thrilling fans at Turner Field night after night.
HANK AARON – RF
How good was Henry Louis Aaron? Some would tell you the best, and they have a legitimate argument. From 1955 until 1973, he never finished out of the top 20 in MVP voting. At 37 in 1971, he was third.
Signed out of the Negro League’s in 1952 by Boston, Aaron broke in with Milwaukee in 1954 and stayed. Always shy and reserved, the kid from Mobile transitioned from an All-Star to a legend.
His pursuit of Babe Ruth’s home record is well known. From the hate mail to the stresses of breaking the best known record ever, Aaron did it with a grace and elegance that still resonates 40-plus years later. Seven times, he slammed over 40. Four times, he led the NL.
His most famous home run came on April 8, 1974. The Atlanta home opener found the Braves on a rare NBC national television game. Facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, Aaron cracked an Al Downing fourth-inning pitch over the head of a leaping Bill Buckner into the left-center bullpen. The Babe moved over, Aaron earned the crown
To consider him only a home run hitter sells Aaron well short. To this day, he holds the RBI record at 2297 and total bases mark with 6,856. Not only Braves’ records, but MLB. With the Braves, his slash line comprised .310/.377/.567. In 21 years, he recorded 3600 hits, scored 2107 runs and slammed 600 doubles.
For 20 years, he made the All-Star team. In the era of Roberto Clemente patrolling right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Aaron won three straight Gold Gloves from 1958-60. His three home runs helped secure the 1957 World Series. Another three in the 1969 NLCS against the miracle New York Mets kept Atlanta respectable.
To talk about Aaron with only numbers does not tell his story. As incredible as he was on the field, Aaron is twice the man off it.
FREDDIE FREEMAN – 1B
The only current Brave player on the list, Freddie Freeman is turning into the new face of the franchise. He can also hit a little.
A second-round pick in 2007 out of El Modena High School in Orange, CA, Freeman joined the club as a September call up in 2010 before becoming a regular in 2011. In his first full year, he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting after nailing 21 homers and hitting .282.
His best year, so far, came in 2013. Earning his first All-Star trip and a top five in the MVP voting, Freeman hit .319, drove home 109 while slugging 23 homers. Atlanta won the NL East, but lost to the Dodgers in the NLDS in four. In his six full seasons, he earned another All-Star Game appearance and consideration for the MVP.
Although he is not a great defender, he is improving. For the franchise, as they leave downtown for the suburbs, Freeman’s role as player-ambassador expands. With a nice young core of players, he has the chance as they improve to be a mentor and a superstar.
Signed with Atlanta through 2021, he takes his new role on a team headed in the right direction.
MARK LEMKE – 2B
If history went another way, Mark Lemke’s performance in the 1991 World Series would go down as one of the greatest performances in team history. In that seven game classic, he slashed three triples, giving Atlanta a chance for their first championship since 1957.
The second baseman known as “Lemmer” was a 27th round pick by Atlanta in the 1983 draft. From Utica, NY’s Notre Dame High, Lemke made the Braves at the end of the 1988 season. A regular for 1990, he settled in at second for the next eight seasons, going from worst-to-first and never leaving.
As a regular season player, you would say he was below-average. When the white-hot lights of October shined, he became another player. Trailing two games to none in the 1991 Series, it was his RBI single in the 12th that won Game 3. In Game 4, his triple in the bottom of the ninth set up his game-winning run to tie the series. His two triples in Game 5 sparked the Braves to a big win.
A red-hot NLCS comeback in 1996 against the St. Louis Cardinals sparked by Lemke’s 12 hits, five RBI and .444 batting average. You need guys like him on a team. The Braves leaned on him for years. Now you know why.
RABBIT MARANVILLE – SS
Rabbit Maranville was so highly regarded in his day, he nearly won two MVP awards hitting under .250. One of the better defensive shortstops ever to play baseball, Maranville’s ability propelled the Boston Braves to their only World Championship in New England.
A member of the “Miracle Braves” that defeated the Philadelphia Athletics, he was your above-average player for the time. Maranville stole bases, 194 in his 15 Braves seasons. He hit for extra-base hits, including 103 triples. He was also a good bunter, dropping 220 sacrifices.
What he did best was field. In the era where groundskeeping was not the art it is today, Maranville gobbled every ball he could. In the Braves championship season, his dWAR of 4.2 is considered the second best in Braves history, Andrelton Simmons 5.4 in 2013 sets the mark, and the 13th best score of all-time. On those rock hard and lumpy infield, he patrolled them like a boss.
From nearby Springfield, Maranville was a durable player. His first stint with Boston lasted nine years before a trade to Pittsburgh. He returned, at 37, in 1929 and remained an everyday player for another five seasons. He played Major League Baseball for 23 years, 2,670 total games with 1,795 of those in a Braves uniform.
EDDIE MATHEWS – 3B
The only man to wear an active Braves uniform in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta, Eddie Mathews pounded baseballs and pitchers for a generation.
Signed out of Santa Barbara High School in 1949, Mathews broke camp with Boston in 1952 and landed at third base. Over the next 15 years, his eagle batting eye and power to slam home runs protected Hank Aaron in the lineup while pushing the Braves to two pennants.
When they left spacious Braves Field for County Stadium in 1953, his 47 homers led the NL. Six years later, in the heat of trying to clinch a third-straight crown, Mathews again led the league with 46.
A free swinger, Mathews walked a great deal. Four times, his totals topped the NL. Five times, he drew over 100 walks and drove in 100 or more runs. At his best, he was as feared as Aaron.
Nine times an All-Star, Mathews never won an MVP. He had four top tens including finishing second twice. Although not a base stealer, he flashed enough on the base paths to record 338 doubles and 70 triples.
A solid defender, Mathews played 2223 games with the Braves. In an era where speed was not exploited, he played one of the better all-around games during the 1950s. Whether it was his bat, eye for walks, or his glove, it is no accident he was a part of a team in Milwaukee who never had a losing record.
CHIPPER JONES – DH
As important as Hank Aaron is to the entire Braves franchise, Chipper Jones plays that role for the Atlanta era. The face of the franchise.
The first overall pick of the 1990 draft from Jacksonville’s The Bolles School, Jones turned into every scout’s dream with the Braves. In 19 seasons, he entered legendary status. Whether it was his battles against the New York Mets around the turn of the century or his veteran leadership, Jones retired as the most beloved player to only play in Atlanta.
His timing could not have been better. Breaking into the Braves full time in 1995, he earned second in the Rookie of the Year voting and a World Series ring. As he learned to play third in the big leagues, his power and ability to be a complete hitter matured.
The first All-Star nomination happened in 1996, the first of eight. Six times, he finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting with Jones winning in 1999. That year, as they held off those pesky Mets to win the NL, he hit.319, slammed a career-high 45 homers while driving in 110. More amazing, he did not lead the league in any category.
As Jones aged, he became a better hitter. In 2004, his average slumped to .248. Four years later, he won the batting title hitting .364. Even at 40, his last year, he hit .287 in 112 games.
To say Jones is better than Eddie Matthews is a fool’s errand. Sure, you could swap their positions, but both players deserve to be starters on an all-time roster.
Like Aaron, merely talking about Jones and his numbers, 2,726 hits and 468 homers for starters, masks his value to the Braves as a team and Atlanta as a city. It is cliche, but as with Aaron, Jones really is a living legend.
JOE ADCOCK – BENCH
Joe Adcock became a Milwaukee Brave in February 1953 in a complicated four-way trade involving half the NL. By the time he moved on to Cleveland in 1963, he left a champion and a solid player on a successful team.
A left fielder with the Cincinnati Reds, Adcock manned first for the Braves. Although he topped 140 games twice in his 10 seasons with Milwaukee, he slugged 239 homers and hit .285. Only an All-Star once, never registered an Adjusted OPS+ under 108. During his decade in Milwaukee, his OPS+ sat at 131 or 31 percent above league average.
His best year came in 1956 as the Braves chased the Brooklyn Dodgers for the pennant. The team fell short, but he slammed 38 homers while driving in 103. Five years later in 1961, Adcock hit 35 homers and 108 RBI.
Adcock never earned a Hall of Fame vote, or will ever be considered a top player in an era chocked full of stars. But, his decade of steady play and ability to hit lands him a spot on the roster. Injuries curtailed his playing time in 1955 and 1957. In both the World Series, he played in only nine of the 14 possible games. Sometimes, the best players are the ones who deliver without grabbing headlines.
FRED TENNEY – BENCH
During the 19th century, if you needed a star first baseman in the NL then look no further than Beaneater Fred Tenney.
A Massachusetts native, Tenney joined the club in 1894. By 1897, he was an everyday player who anchored first for Boston. In the deadball era, he hit for average and speed. With 1994 hits for Boston, he slapped 242 doubles and 74 triples. In 1899, he slashed 17 triples into the gargantuan outfields of the day. An excellent bunter—a popular tactic at the time—Tenney led the league with sacrifices in 1902 with 29. Four other times, he hit over 20 and he never had a year where he failed to drop less than 10.
With no All-Star games or awards to mark a player’s progress, it is hard to say how good he was compared to others in his era. The WAR formula used by Baseball-Reference lists him over five twice and over three eight times. A good defender for his day, Tenney gets a full 1.2 WAR at first in 1899.
Although subjective, the combination of those numbers and the 1,737 games with Boston tells us he was a good player. Deadball hitters rarely get their due today. Tenney deserves his.
TOMMY HOLMES – BENCH
One of the few players that missed no playing time to World War II, Tommy Holmes was a .300 career hitter who helped bring a pennant to Boston in 1948.
Traded to the Braves from the Yankees two days after the Pearl Harbor attack, Holmes broke camp as a regular and remained one until 1950. His ability to collect extra-base hits made him a vital part of their offense.
Braves field was huge. To poke one out to dead center was over 460 feet. In those days, parks were built to fill the city block they owned, the main reason why dimensions were never standard. In 1945, Holmes slammed a league-best 28 in a park that rarely allowed any. When the better pitchers returned after the war, he never hit over nine.
His ability to hit doubles never wavered and his 47 in 1945 earned him the MVP runner-up. Between 1943 and 1948, Holmes never had less than 170 hits, with 224 being his best in 1945. Surprisingly, his lone All-Star Game came in 1948, when he hit .328 and 35 doubles.
Although his lone World Series with the Braves was a disappointment, hitting .192 in their six game loss, his ability to get on base snapped a 34-year pennant drought, the last in Boston.
Whether he was in right field or at first base, Holmes was the best batter in that era.
BOB HORNER – BENCH
Bob Horner never played a moment of minor league ball before joining the Atlanta Braves in 1978.
In desperate need of bolstering attendance and drawing viewers to their superstation, the Braves made Horner the first overall selection of the 1978 draft out of Arizona State and plugged him at third base. He would remain in the infield until 1986.
His impact was immediate, winning the Rookie of the Year after slamming 23 homers in 89 games. For a power hitter, his approach showed patience. In 960 games with Atlanta, Horner whiffed 489 times.
A forgotten player by most, his ability to make baseball’s disappear played a crucial part in the successful 1982 season. Earning his only All-Star credit, Horner slugged 32 homers while driving in 97. Along with MVP Dale Murphy, they made a lethal combination for NL pitchers who dared hang a curveball.
Not blessed with speed or a great glove, Horner in his time was considered a one-dimensional player. That seems harsh. In 1980, he finished ninth in the MVP voting after slugging 35 homers and, in 1983, he hit .303 in 104 games.
With 215 homers as a Brave and 994 hits, his ability to just smash a baseball and protect Murphy earns him a spot on the bench.
WALLY BERGER – BENCH
Although Wally Berger’s stay with the Braves was short, his impact in the 1930s for Boston was huge.
The Braves traded for the centerfielder from San Francisco from the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels in 1929. If there was such a thing as a Rookie of the Year award in 1930, Berger would win in a landslide. Slamming 38 homers while driving in 119 in baseball’s great offensive era sent shivers down the spine of any pitcher in the NL.
In his eight years with the Braves, Berger became the most feared slugger in the city until the Red Sox acquired Jimmie Foxx from the Athletics. An original 1933 All-Star, he made the next three teams based on his mammoth power. In 1934 and 1935, he hit 34 homers, leading the NL in ’35. A good hitter, batting .300 during his Braves stint, he topped 30 doubles five times and slashed 52 triples.
A shoulder injury in 1936 cut his career short. Traded to the New York Giants, Berger could never find the power that made him a star in Boston. By 1940, he was off the field totally. Considering his ability to launch baseball’s at the large Braves Field, watching him take batting practice must have been a great show.
HERMAN LONG – BENCH
You can look at Herman Long and his career two different ways. A speedy superstar in the 1890s, he led the Beaneaters to five NL titles before the modern World Series. Or, he is the all-time leader in errors by a shortstop with 1,070. Trust us when we say he was an above-average fielder. Baseball Reference’s defensive WAR is tricky to understand, but his 2.2, with 75 errors, in 1894 was the best in the NL.
When it came to his star power, he was the big guy in Boston as baseball took hold. For his time, Long was a big bopper. His 12 homers in 1900 topped baseball. Triples were more common in those days and four times he slashed double-digits.
A true five-tool player, six times he stole over 30 bases and scored over 100 runs. In 13 seasons with Boston, he logged 1,647 games and 1,902 hits. Long’s 35.4 WAR is still in the Braves top ten despite playing his last game with Boston in 1902. Think he would love today’s smaller ballparks with manicured infields?
Although Long has slipped away from history, what he did during the first golden age of Braves baseball merits inclusion as an all-time great.
KID NICHOLS – SP
The second-winningest pitcher in Braves history is Kid Nichols, an arm from the 1890s who threw 4,549 innings in 12 seasons.
Coming to Boston from Surrey, British Columbia, Nichols became the staff ace the moment he started in 1890. Completing 476 of his 502 starts with the Beaneaters, he tossed 1,680 strikeouts while walking 1,163. The modern pitching game is miles away from his day. For all the stress he put on his right arm, facing 18,977 batters, his WHIP is 1.234 and Adjusted ERA+ is 143.
When you perform 43 percent better than average, you are special. As the lead pitcher on a team winning five championships, you have to be.
As the game evolved in the 1890s, his innings dropped. His career-high of 453 in 1892 did not lead the league, but his 368 in 1897 did. Six times, Nichols won 30 or more games. When he left Boston in 1900, his career ERA was 3.00.
Again, along with others of his day, we have no awards to judge his overall success. Voted on by the Old Timers Committee into the Hall of Fame in 1949, Nichols is enshrined in Cooperstown. If we were to guess how many of his peer, Cy Young, awards he might have earned, he led the NL three times in WHIP, including a 1.034 mark in 1898. A season he went 31-12 with an ERA of 2.13.
In any era that spells success.
WARREN SPAHN – SP
The greatest left-hander of his time, Warren Spahn spent 20 seasons with the Braves. If not for losing three seasons to World War II, he may have won 400 games. Instead, his 356 will have to do.
The crafty pitcher from Buffalo joined the rotation in Boston for good in 1947. Along with Johnny Sain, the 1948 battle cry of “Spahn, Sain and two days of rain,” was heard bunches as the Braves captured the pennant.
A 20-game winner 11 times, he was the key pitching link on three NL championship teams. In eight World Series games, Spahn won four. His 2-1 record in three starts in their 1958 loss to the Yankees was his personal best. At 37, threw 28.2 innings with a 2.20 ERA.
Not what we would call a strikeout pitcher today, he led the NL four times, but recorded 2,493 in total with the Braves. The 1957 Cy Young winner and ’58 runner up, Spahn made 14 All-Star teams and finished in the top three five times for the Cy. Amazing since the award was invented in 1956 when he was 35.
So consistent was Spahn, he won an ERA title in three different decades. The first in 1947 followed by 1953 and 1961. He won 23 games in 1953 and 1963. In all, he started 635 games for the Braves, finishing 374. Nine times, he led the league in complete games.
A career remembered forever in Wisconsin, Georgia and Cooperstown.
PHIL NIEKRO – SP
He did not become a regular starter until turning 29. Tossing a pitch not even he knew where it was going, Phil Niekro and his knuckleball danced in Atlanta for 20 years.
A reliever when the team moved from Milwaukee, Niekro tamed his pitch well enough to get the Braves into the first NLCS in 1969. Thirteen years later, the same knuckler danced against the Cardinal in 1982. Between, the Braves played bad baseball in front of empty stadiums often. Every fourth day, he would throw a complete game and hope his offense scraped up enough runs to win.
You have to be a good pitcher to lose 20. Niekro did twice. In 1979, he won and lost 20 with a 3.39 ERA. Throwing goodness knows how many pitches that year, he recorded 342 innings. A mark we will never see again.
The long-haired graybeard was the show in Atlanta when Aaron left for Milwaukee. In 1977, he led the NL in strikeouts with 262 and 164 walks.
On a better team, he would have been seen as more than a sideshow pitcher. A four-time All-Star with Atlanta, he never won a Cy Young or a playoff game.
What he won was the hearts and minds of a generation of fans.
GREG MADDUX – SP
Already one of the best pitchers in baseball when he signed as a free agent in December of 1992, what Greg Maddux did in his 11 seasons with the Braves is the stuff of legend.
Atlanta paid a high price to shore up their rotation in 1993. Two straight trips to the World Series fell short. With a young core of talent, bringing in a true ace was thought to lock down one, or maybe many, World Series crowns. Maddux did not disappoint.
The 1992 Cy Young award winner with the Chicago Cubs, Maddux won three straight with the Braves. When they finally won their World Series in 1995, he had a year for the ages. In a strike-shortened campaign, he won 19 in 28 starts, losing two. His 1.63 ERA and 10 complete games were league-best. His 1.56 ERA in 1994 and 16-6 record never get the respect they deserve as that surround baseball’s long 1994-95 strike. When your Adjusted ERA+ is 271 and 260, like it was in 1994 and 1995, that’s beyond incredible.
What made the soft-spoken Maddux so amazing was his ability to paint the corners of the strike zone. He placed pitches in places that could not be hit. Yet, only in 1998 did he have over 200 strikeouts.
With the Braves, Maddux went 194-88. His 2.63 ERA adjusts out to 63 percent better than league average. He never won less than 16 games in any season and for every batter he walked, he struck out 4.77. Those 13 straight Gold Gloves hurt neither.
His starts on TBS were the definition of must see television.
TOM GLAVINE – SP
When the Braves drafted the hockey-loving Tom Glavine out of Billerica, MA in 1984, they were unsure of what they would get. The second-rounder scored more than a few goals for Atlanta.
After struggling his first three seasons, 1991 was the year it all clicked. Earning the first of nine All-Star bids and two Cy Young’s, Glavine won 20 while fanning a career-high of 192. The lefty hurler found his game, winning 20-plus twice more in a row as Atlanta became an October regular.
When he earned his other Cy in 1998, he posted another 20-win campaign and a career-best ERA of 2.47.
What most will remember Glavine for came on October 28, 1995. His eight innings of one-hit, shutout ball won the Braves a world championship. The MVP of the 1995 World Series, he scattered four hits over 14.1 innings while fanning 11. The one pitcher of Atlanta’s big three who suffered longest, it was appropriate he grabbed the win in the most important game in Atlanta Braves history.
Although his involvement in the union angered a few during the mid-90s, Glavine’s ability to do whatever Bobby Cox needed of him makes him an easy Hall of Famer. A good hitter and golfer, there is no shame with him being the second best lefty in Braves history.
JOHN SMOLTZ – CLOSER
John Smoltz owns one of the best two-act careers on baseball history.
As a starter, he was one of the early cogs in a pitching machine that owned the 1990s. A waiver deal with the Detroit Tigers in 1987 sent Smoltz to Atlanta for Doyle Alexander. Although Alexander pitched Detroit into the playoffs, Smoltz guided the Braves to 13 trips.
The 1992 NLCS MVP, Smoltz posted a 15-4 playoff record with an ERA of 2.67 and four saves. In 1996, his 24-8 season with 276 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.94 earned him a Cy Young. The best part of his story, however, comes after an injury that sank his 2000 season.
When he returned in 2001, Smoltz transitioned to the bullpen. By 2002, he was the best closer in the NL, saving 55 games and finishing third in the Cy Young voting. In all for Atlanta, he saved 154 games before coming back to the starting rotation in 2005. Not even the great Dennis Eckersley could make that conversion.
Whatever role Bobby Cox wanted from Smoltz, he delivered. One of the finest starting pitchers in the long history of the Braves, in his three years as the closer he became their finest reliever ever. An eight-time All-Star, his presence led the Braves to five World Series trips. Never getting all the headlines, he may be the best third starter in Braves history.
GENE GARBER – RP
As the Braves lingered through some bad seasons in the 1970s and 80s, Gene Garber was the pitcher left to clean the mess made by others.
Even at the time, you would not consider him elite. A quick look at his won-loss record shows he went 53-73 in his ten seasons with the Braves. Traded straight up from the Phillies for starter Dick Ruthven, Garber never had the cast of players around him to show off his talent.
Except for one year, 1982.
As the Braves stunned the baseball world winning the NL West, Garber had a career year. With 30 saves, he posted an ERA of 2.34 in 119.1 innings all out of the bullpen. Not a conventional closer or fireman, he pitched 557 times in 10 years, throwing 856 innings.
Most of his tenure, the Braves were a bottom-feeder. If you needed a guy who could pitch in the third inning or the ninth equally, he was that guy. With the bad record, his Atlanta WHIP was 1.276 and his ERA a solid 3.34.
For those waiting for the late movie after the game on WTBS, Garber gave Atlanta a chance to climb back in and win. An unheralded pitcher worthy of being on the roster.
LEW BURDETTE – RP
In a classic sense, it would be unfair to banish Lew Burdette into the bullpen. Paired with Warren Spahn for the glory years in Milwaukee, Burdette was as important a number two pitcher for the Braves as Tom Glavine was to Greg Maddux in Atlanta. Yet, in his 13 years with Milwaukee, Burdette pitched out of the pen 138 times.
Before bullpen’s evolved into what they are now, any pitcher could be sent down to hold a game in check. There was never a season where he did not come into the game at some point in relief. As a starter, however, Burdette won 20 games twice and his 3-0 record in the 1957 World Series earned him the MVP along with a ring.
Traded from the Yankees with $50,000 for Johnny Sain in August of 1951, Burdette won 179 games with Milwaukee with a respectable ERA of 3.53. Those numbers today do not look flashy. For the era, along with his impact, they make Burdette one of the best to wear the uniform.
CRAIG KIMBREL – RP
For any reliever, to pitch well enough to finish in the top 10 for a Cy Young is an accomplishment. Doing it four years in a row is extraordinary. In his four full seasons with Atlanta, Craig Kimbrel did just that.
With a right arm throwing fire, Kimbrel averaged 14.8 K/9 over 289 innings. A total of 476 strikeouts matched with 108 walks. In this era of one-inning closers, he slammed the door 186 times, owning the franchise record. In six playoff games, he allowed one earned run. If the Braves held on to him, his stature would only increase.
Selected in the third round out of Hanceville, Alabama’s Wallace State Community College, his time in the minors was short. Sadly, so was his tenure with the Braves. Traded to the San Diego Padres with Melvin Upton for five players right before the 2015 season, Kimbrel will spend his prime years away from the team he came up with.
The 2011 NL Rookie of the Year was so dominant in his four years with the Braves, he led the league in saves every season. The lowest number he recorded was 42, and the highest was 50 in 2013. For every batter he walked, he struck out 4.41.
MARK WOHLERS – RP
As the Atlanta Braves made the leap from doormat to champion, Mark Wohlers strength from the bullpen was a major factor.
When they made the jump from worst-to-first in 1991, Wohlers was a late-season call up. A setup man supporting closer Juan Berenguer. He remained in that role until 1995, the World Series championship season. Coming into the strike-shortened year, Wohlers saved 25 with a 2.09 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. Atlanta had yet to find a consistent closer in the early days of their NL dominance until he grabbed the job.
In 13 postseason series over six years, he earned 10 saves in 38 games. Against the Cardinals in the 1996 NLCS, he pitched three perfect innings, and two saves as the Braves moved to their second consecutive trip to the World Series.
By 1998, his days as a closer were over. Injuries and ineffectiveness ended his Atlanta days. During his nine years, Wohlers brought stability to the young Braves bullpen and played a huge role in securing the 1995 championship. The team bounced around with different closer’s until John Smoltz excelled with the role after his injury.
Closers do not get the respect they think they deserve, but Wohlers earned his and a spot on the all-time team.
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