Wednesday, July 31, 2013

1964/2013 Counterparts: Deals

There really isn't an ideal candidate for Freddie Freeman's 1964 counterpart. The Braves' All-Star first baseman is featured on card number 189 in this year's Heritage set, while card number 189 in the '64 set features a pitcher who had been with the Braves prior to being traded to the Giants. The pitcher, Bob Hendley, is shown in his Milwaukee uniform, for what it's worth.

1964 Topps #189 Bob Hendley

Hendley, who pitched in a total of 41 games (24 of which were starts) for the Braves during the '63 season, was included in the December 1963 trade which sent veteran catcher Del Crandall to San Fran for Felipe Alou. As a member of the Giants staff, Bob would go 10-11 with a 3.64 in 29 starts (along with 1 relief appearance) during the 1964 season.

There is a second option for Freddie's counterpart: the Braves' Len Gabrielson, who appeared on card #198 in the '64 set.

 1964 Topps #198 Len Gabrielson

Milwaukee traded Gabrielson to the Cubs on June 3, 1964, after the outfielder/first baseman posted a slash line of .205/.250/.304 in his (at that point) 161 career at-bats.

Two weeks after the deal, Chicago traded future Hall of Fame outfielder Lou Brock to St. Louis- opening up a position for Len. With an increase in playing time, Gabrielson's numbers improved- but only slightly. The line he posted over 117 games with the Cubbies (.247/.305/.369) certainly didn't pave the way for a future in the Windy City, and he found himself changing addresses once again in May of 1965. This time the destination was San Francisco.

Who did the Cubs receive in return for Gabrielson and catcher Dick Bertell? Well, one of the players was the man featured on card #189 (the aforementioned Bob Hendley), as well as catcher Ed Bailey- who was originally traded by the Giants to the Braves in the 1963 deal that brought Hendley to the Giants. Got that? Yeah, me neither.

2013 Topps Heritage #189 Freddie Freeman

Yo, Braves. Lock him up to a long-term deal. That is all.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

One Score and Zero Years Ago: The 1993 Score Braves

Having been released as a two-series product the previous two seasons, Score returned to a single-series set for its 1993 baseball product. The card design for the '93 product was also much more subdued than any of Score's other offerings, all of which featured more color on the card fronts and back; this one was much more bland, which, in my opinion, wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

1993 Score Braves
15 Tom Glavine  36 Terry Pendleton  61 John Smoltz  87 Otis Nixon 107 David Justice 123 Deion Sanders
142 Jeff Blauser 147 Mark Lemke 169 Steve Avery 193 Mark Wohlers 209 Greg Olson 220 Ron Gant
248 Mel Nieves 294 Ryan Klesko 310 Pat Gomez 317 Mike Stanton 373 Damon Berryhill              
393 Charlie Leibrandt 396 Sid Bream 408 Pete Smith 431 Lonnie Smith 457 Mike Bielecki
461 Jeff Treadway 472 Francisco Cabrera 478 Rafael Belliard
487 First Round Draft Pick- Jamie Arnold
527 '92 N.L. All-Star Team- Greg Maddux
539 Dream Team- Tom Glavine
549 Brian Hunter 564 Jeff Reardon 625 Alejandro Pena

The Franchise #15 Terry Pendleton

Boys of Summer #7 Melvin Nieves, #8 Ryan Klesko

Let's Rethink This
#487 Jamie Arnold

Arnold, the Braves first round draft pick in the 1992 draft, spent seven seasons in the Braves farm system before signing with the Dodgers as a minor-league free agent in 1998. On April 20, 1999, Jamie made his MLB debut, working two scoreless innings for the Dodgers against his former team.

Where's Maddux?!

Greg Maddux has three cards in the base set: an All-Star caricature card, a base card, and an Award Winner card. Unfortunately, the only card depicting him as a Brave is the All-Star caricature card (#527).   
The set was released too early to get a photo of him in an Atlanta uniform for his base card (#576), which does mention him joining the Braves in the write up on the back of the card. The team listed on the front and back, however, is still Chicago.

He Gone!
And yet another victim of the early release. As the back of the card informs the collector, Gomez was traded to Texas and then to San Diego during the off-season. 

#310 Pat Gomez

Dream Team Subset

Remember when subsets like the Dream Team were included in the base set? Hard to believe that this wasn't an insert set...

 #539 Dream Team- Tom Glavine

You Mean There Was An Insert Set?

The Franchise #15- Terry Pendleton

It seems like Glavine or Justice would have been a more logical choice for this one, but whatever.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Alumni Food-Issue Friday: Bob Watson 1976 MSA Discs

"Hey, come on. Let the kids play."~ Bob Watson, as himself, in the 1977 movie, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.

1976 Crane's Potato Chips


 No one is immune from them. Some might seem unjust; and at times, some probably are. But they are put in place for a reason. And there's always a guy put into place to make sure that they are followed. An enforcer.

Take these discs, for instance.

The producer, the Michael Schechter Associates, had no MLB licence- thus, they could not include team logos on the discs. There was obviously someone hired by MLB to monitor the compliance of the licensing agreement. Had they included the star and H on the hat, there would have been hell to pay. It's just the way it works.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chops Legacy Spahn & Mathews

Earlier in the year, I published a custom card of Hank Aaron in honor of the Hammer's 79th birthday. At the time, I had also customized a couple of other "Legacy" cards featuring other Braves legends.

And so, continuing with the 1957 theme...

Checking Out, Checking Off

A recent visit to the COMC website allowed me the opportunity to pull out the old team set want list and mark off a handful of cards. Even better, it allowed me to finish three team sets- and put me within one more card of completing a fourth set.

1974 Topps #374, 607
  Nothing too exciting here- other than these are from the great 1974 set.

1976 Topps #70, 608

  I debated whether or not include the Father and Son card of the Smalley's as a part of my Braves team set. Because the old man is pictured as a Brave, it eventually won out. 

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is better than a card from the 70s, featuring a catcher in a pose like this.

2003 Topps #351
  The 2002 season was just another typical Tom Glavine year: 18-11, 2.96 ERA, 224 IP. How did he end his first go-around with the Braves? By getting shelled in two postseason games against the Giants. Thanks for the reminder, Topps. The only good thing about him coming back to the team for 13 games during the 2008 season is that our final memory of him as a Brave is not of this playoff performance, but of a 42 year-old who got shelled in his final major league appearance, in what was an otherwise meaningless game in August. 

1997 Topps #419, 445
  I don't know what it is about the 1997 set, but I have had more difficulty finding cards from this set than any other. Picking up these two leaves me only needing card number 404 (Mark Wohlers) to finish the Braves team set. Can anyone help a card-collecting brother out?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

There Goes Lowe; Here Comes Loe

There Goes Lowe:
Former Braves starter Derek Lowe announced on Thursday that he was retiring 'officially no longer going to play the game'- bringing a 17 year major league career to an end. The announcement came nearly two months after he had been released by the Texas Rangers in late May.

It's nice to see Lowe get some credit. He may have not lived up to the large contract given to him (how many guys really do?), and he certainly didn't end his career in Atlanta on a positive note. During the historical collapse, Lowe went 0-5 in the month of September- giving up 23 earned runs in 23.1 innings. I know I was often critical of Lowe, but he did pick up 31 wins in his first two seasons in the ATL- and the team probably would not had made the playoffs in 2010 if not for his stellar September, in which he went 5-0 while allowing only four earned runs in 30 innings. He also pitched very well in the 2010 NLDS, despite his 0-2 record. He certainly kept the Braves in the games he pitched in, allowing only 4 runs in 11.2 innings- and getting only 1 run from the offense over those two games. 

Here Comes Loe

Another tall pitcher with a similar sounding last name was added to the Braves roster today, as Kameron Loe was recalled from Gwinnett. 

The 6'9" Loe appeared in 21 games for the G-Braves, sporting a record of 4-2, an ERA of 3.19, a 3.00 SO/BB, and a 1.134 WHIP.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What Goes Around Comes Around

I received an interesting piece of mail earlier this week. It wasn't what I was expecting, however.

For those of you who read the Night Owl's blog, you have probably already heard the story of Cross Country Tommy. If you didn't read Owl's account, then let me explain.

A few months ago I sent Greg a couple of 1955 Golden Press Dodger stamps- Duke Snider and Don Zimmer to be precise- that I had picked up at the winter card show. In return, he sent me a PWE that contained a few 2013 Opening Day Braves, as well as a couple of early Jason Heyward cards and a 1960 Topps Carl Willey. I was certainly grateful for the kindness shown by Greg, although I didn't exactly show it. You see, I forgot to publish a trade post.

So a few months pass, and I picked up another '55 Golden Press stamp at the June card show, this one of Tommy Lasorda. And, once again, my forgetfulness raises its all-too-familiar head: I forgot to ship it to Greg.

Finding it on my desk under some cards to be filed, I sent it to the Owl earlier last week. A few days after sending the PWE through the USPS, I received what Greg so aptly called a 'postal body bag' in the mail.

Oh, #@*#!

Could it be Karma at work? After all, I had gone months without so much as a thanks for the cards he sent me. It had been a month since I had bought Travelin' Tommy- and there he had sat, collecting dust for a month. A song (What Goes Around Comes Around- better known as the theme song from My Name Is Earl) begins playing in my head- its cruel, laughing-like sounds mocking my forgetfulness.

I don't know what compelled me to send Greg a tweet with an attached photo of half an envelope, but I did. It must have seemed like cruel and unusual punishment, but it was a story that I felt needed to be told.

 The next day, I receive a tweet from the Night Owl himself, informing me that he, too, had received a package. Yep, he had also received a 'postal body bag' with the other half of my envelope and the top loader which contained both cards.

My faith in the USPS had been restored.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One Hundred Twenty-Six Thousand Dollars (and change)

The Warren Spahn Collection, offered during the All-Star Fan Fest Auction, ended today with the jewel of the collection- Warren's 1957 Cy Young Award- selling for $126,500. A little out of my price range, so I'm thinking of settling for this...

2013 Topps CY Young Award Winner

Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 Chops: Mash Unit

It's not very often that a team can sustain a large number of injuries and still hold on to the division lead, but as we hit the All-Star break, that's exactly where the Braves find themselves. At 54-41, Atlanta holds a 6 game lead on Washington and a 6.5 game lead over third-place Philadelphia.

After losing their entire starting outfield to injury within 24 hours, the Braves ended the first half of the season by fielding an outfield which consisted of Jose Constanza in left, Reed Johnson in center, and Joey Terdoslavich in right. And in their first game together, the unlikely trio combined for 7 hits- more than the vaulted trio of Heyward and the brothers Upton combined for during any one game prior to their injuries.

Looking at my second series checklist, I just realized that six of the twenty players are either out of the lineup due to injuries or are out for the year after undergoing season ending surgeries. A seventh, Evan Gattis, was recalled yesterday after missing nearly a month with a strained oblique. Gattis' recall came after spending only two games with AAA Gwinnett; Atlanta really had no other choice but to recall El Oso Blanco after All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman injured his thumb on the first play of Saturday's win over Cincinnati.

2013 Chops #26 Justin Upton

Six innings after his brother was injured while diving for a ball, the younger Upton strained his right calf while running out an infield grounder. After struggling for the second and third months of the season, Justin finally began hitting again prior to the injury. Let's hope this doesn't linger.

2013 Chops #27 Jordan Schafer

Schafer's injuring comes as a big blow, considering how well he has played this season. With BJ Upton going on the DL, Schafer would have been an upgrade in center. Instead, Jordan is now out for at least a minimum of 4 more weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot.

2013 Chops #29 Ramiro Pena

As with Schafer's injury, Pena's loss comes as one of the biggest blows to the team. As their key utility player, Pena had filled the void left by the trade of Martin Prado. Ramiro underwent season-ending surgery to his shoulder after having been placed on the DL on June 21st.

2013 Chops #30 BJ Upton

After enduring a frustrating first half of the season, BJ was placed on the DL yesterday after sustaining a right adductor muscle strain on Friday night. Hopefully the time away will help Bossman get his head cleared so that he can come back and be a consistent producer for this offense.

2013 Chops #36 Blake DeWitt

DeWitt only collected three at-bats for the Braves before going on the DL on April 20th with a lower back strain. With Paul Janish back up in Atlanta, DeWitt's absence hasn't been

2013 Chops #40 Eric O'Flaherty

Out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and an upcoming free-agent to boot, you've got to believe that EOF has pitched his last game as a Brave. Despite Luis Avilan's emergence, Atlanta really misses O'Flaherty on the back end of its bullpen.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Food-Issue Friday: 1992 Lykes Mike Bielecki

1992 Lykes Braves #36 Mike Bielecki

These cards were issued by Lykes- the Braves hot dog vendor- to children attending Tuesday home games during the 1992 season. There was also a team photo set issued that year, which is much easier (and thus, cheaper) to find than the cards which were distributed individually.

 I've been trolling around eBay for a while now, hoping to pick up a small lot for cheap- which is exactly what happened recently: 10 cards for 10 bucks. Not bad, considering that most singles are going for anywhere between $4 to $8.

Mike Bielecki has been a regular at the Braves Alumni Weekends, as well as at the Braves Fantasy Camps each year. He also seemed to find his way back to the ATL after each free-agency departure. In all, he spent three different tours with the Braves.

  First Tour ('91-92): Acquired from the Cubs on September 29, 1991 in a trade that sent he and Damon Berryhill to the Braves for Yorkis Perez and Turk Wendell. Bielecki made two appearances before the end of the regular season, but would not be eligible for the postseason. Mike started 14 games for the Braves during the next regular season (along with 5 relief appearances) until an elbow injury ended his '92 campaign prematurely. He would be granted free-agency at the end of the season.

  Second Tour ('94): Bielecki signed with Atlanta on February 10, 1994, after having spent time with both the Cleveland Indians and Rochester Red Wings (Baltimore AAA team) during the 1993 season. Of the nineteen games he would pitch in during the '94 season, only one would come as a starter (two days before the season-ending strike). It's easy to look at his stats for the season and conclude that he wasn't very effective, but it was a poor performance against Cincinnati on June 18th (1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER) which caused his numbers to be skewed a bit. In October, in the midst of the labor struggles, Mike once again became a free-agent.

  Third Tour ('96-97): After spending the 1995 season with the California Angels, Mike signed with Atlanta for the third time, and would spend the final two seasons of his career there. Not only would he appear in 90 games over those two seasons, but he also spent time on the Braves 1996 post-season roster- pitching in 6 games (including his only World Series appearance) while allowing no runs.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

One Score and Zero Years Ago: The 1993 Fleer Ultra I Braves

After two wildly successful releases, Fleer's third baseball offering under the Ultra brand was somewhat of a  disappointment to me. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the photography, the inserts, or even the base checklist- because I did; I just didn't like that they recycled the base set design and used colors for the marble which, in  my opinion, failed miserably. I also seem to recall there being a real problem with the UV coating- perhaps they had been packed out too soon before it had time to dry. My team set has sat in a team bag for some time, and the cards still seem to stick together- even after all these years. Oh, yes, there's also that problem with curling...

Series I Braves:
1 Steve Avery 2 Rafael Belliard 3 Damon Berryhill 4 Sid Bream 5 Ron Gant 6 Tom Glavine 7 Ryan Klesko 8 Mark Lemke 9 Javier Lopez 10 Greg Olson 11 Terry Pendleton 12 Deion Sanders 13 Mike Stanton

Award Winners #5 Terry Pendleton
All-Stars #9 Greg Maddux

You Included HOW MANY Catchers?

I'm sure there has been other sets to do so (I'm too lazy to search for an answer), but when was the last time you remember seeing three catchers for one team in a set? Granted, Javy Lopez is featured as a Rookie prospect, but he did spend time with the big club in '92 (and would do so in September of  1993, as well). 

Favorite Card in Team Set- #8 Mark Lemke
Fleer captured Lemke perfectly, just as we remember him: dirt on uniform and growth on face (card front), and goggles/glasses on face, with his wool cap under his batting helmet (on back of card). 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Still Golden

2004 Upper Deck/Chevron Clean Outta Here #1 Andruw Jones

Context, they say, is everything.

If someone were to say, "Andruw Jones...outta here," I might think they were watching a highlight of the Curacao native hitting one of his 434 career home runs. Perhaps they're speaking of him leaving the States to play baseball in Japan. Or, sadly, they might be referring to his wife- who filed for divorce after Jones' Christmas Day, 2012,  battery arrest and threats he (allegedly) made on her life.

Any of those three answers would certainly suffice, but in this instance, I'm talking about this sweet oddball from the Upper Deck Company.

Cards in Set: 12
Issued: Regional/Midwest. 1 card per-pack, free with a purchase of 8 or more gallons of fuel.

Still Golden 
Well, at one time 'Druw was the Golden Child. At the age of 19, he homered in his first two World Series at-bats (coming, of course, in Yankee Stadium!). Ten consecutive gold-gloves. Franchise-record 51 single-season home runs. Then came his abysmal free-agent year (2007)-his final one in Atlanta- in which he hit .222 and 'slugged' .413- and yet still got a huge payday from the Dodgers. After that, well, who knows what happened to his game. He never was a patient hitter, but it seems his pitch recognition got worse; it got to the point that he would chase after anything. The weight went up. Skills eroded over time. It was a steady decline- and then one day he found himself as a part-time player whose greatest attribute- his defense- couldn't even find a place in the lineup.

It might sound crazy, but he's still golden. A Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagle, that is. The Gold-Glove caliber defense? It's nowhere to be found; Andruw's been used primarily as a DH, while playing twelve games at first-base. He did homer last night, though. His stats thus far in the Japanese Pacific League:  .238   14 HR  41 RBI  56 BB  81 K

And now, after this trip down memory lane to the present, I can't help but think that A.J.'s bat would feel right at home on the 2013 Braves team.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Food-Issue Friday: 1985 Topps/Hostess Braves #5 Rick Camp

1985 Topps/Hostess Braves #5

This card just screams out, "Independence Day!"

And while the Red, White, and Blue color scheme certainly reflect our nation's colors, that's not why it has a special meaning to myself and countless other Braves fans.

The Braves hosted the New York Mets on July 4th, 1985 in a game that started off with a lengthy rain delay. Despite horrible playing conditions, the game proved to be an exciting one, with rain delays, lead changes, and wasted opportunities. And that was only in the first few innings of the game.

Entering the bottom of the eighth, and leading by a score of 7-4, Met's manager Davey Johnson brought in Jesse Orosco, a very tough lefty. Game over, right? Well, Orosco gave up a leadoff single to Ken Oberkfell- who would then move to second on a passed ball. After issuing a walk to Rick Cerone, Orosco was on the verge of getting out of the inning unscathed by getting the next two Braves hitters out. However, two more walks brought in a run- and Jesse was through for the evening. Dale Murphy then welcomed Doug Sisk with a bases-loaded double to put Atlanta up 8-7 going into the ninth.

Future Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter came in to close the game out in the ninth, only to allow three straight one-out singles, which, of course, tied the game at 8- where it would remain until the thirteenth inning.

After the Mets took a 10-8 lead going into the bottom of the thirteenth, Braves outfielder Terry Harper provided a round of heroics with a two-out, two-run blast off of Mets lefty Tom Gorman to tie the game once again. And with a depleted bullpen, Gorman would go on to shut the Braves out for the next four innings.

Camp, today's subject, came in relief in the top of the 17th, allowing a lead-off single to The Kid, Gary Carter, before setting the Mets down in order. In the top of the 18th, however, he gave up a sacrifice fly to Lenny Dykstra- once again giving the Mets the lead.

Gorman, still on in relief, got the first two Braves hitters out in the bottom of the eighteenth. Out of players on the bench, manager Eddie Haas had no other choice but to send Camp, whose batting average at that point was a league-worst .036, to the plate with the game on the line. After Camp fouled off the first pitch (which, by the way, was a great cut), Gorman got ahead in the count 0-2 before hanging a pitch that Camp blasted for a game-tying homer.

Still on the mound for the 19th, Rick saw things fall apart quickly, as the Mets scored 5 runs on 4 hits and 1 error. Remember, Atlanta had no other pitchers available- so Camp was going to be out there, no matter how many runs he gave up.

In the Braves half of the 19th, Claudell Washington reached second on a one-out error by first baseman Keith Hernandez. One out and two walks later, Terry Harper once again came up with a big hit- singling in Washington and Dale Murphy to close the gap to 16-13. With Gerald Perry at third, Camp came to the plate again, only to be struck out by Ron Darling- ending the game on July 5th at approximately 3:55 am.

The 1985 season was the final of Camp's nine years in the majors. The home run he hit that night was the only one of his career. Following his playing days, Rick became a lobbyist and eventually spent two seasons years in federal prison for his part in a scheme to steal more than $2 million from an Augusta, Georgia, mental health facility. He was also a regular at Braves' alumni weekend events following his release from prison, and would have undoubtedly been part of last weekend's events, had he not died an untimely death at the age of 59 on April 25th of this year.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Sometimes. But it's still more often than not...