Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Score and Zero Years Ago: The 1993 Topps 1 Braves

The year 1993 marked a big change in the way that Topps distributed its baseball cards. For the first time in twenty years, the popular flagship brand was now released in multiple series (update or traded sets not included), combining 825 cards between Series I & II- making it the largest Topps set ever. It also marked the beginning of full color-player photos on the card backs. Times, they were a changin'.

1993 Topps Series I Atlanta Braves
#8 Mark Wohlers, 35 John Smoltz, 62 Rafael Belliard, 88 Mike Stanton, 102 Brian Hunter, 116 Mark Lemke, 144 Kent Mercker, 170 Dave Justice, 198 Alejandro Pena, 224 Sid Bream, 251 Mike Bielecki, 280 Tom Glavine, 306 Damon Berryhill, 333 Otis Nixon, 393 Ron Gant

Black Gold Braves
This insert set consisted of forty-four cards, with cards #1-22 available in Series I and #23-44 in Series II.
The Braves representatives in the Black Gold set were #6 Tom Glavine and #15 Terry Pendleton. The set also included a card of Greg Maddux (#12) and one of Fred McGriff (#13)-although both players are featured as members of their previous teams.

The Could Have Beens:
Good ol' Topps- they always seem to find a way to include players in Series I who are no longer on the team they're pictured with. Despite no longer being with Atlanta, Pena and Bielecki were shown as Braves in Series I. Others who could have been included in Series I:

Lonnie Smith- Signed as a free-agent by the Pirates on January 4, 1993, Smith spent five seasons in Atlanta-three of which he was a starter. And while he played the role of fifth outfielder in '92, he still managed to get 158 at-bats in 84 games. With a healthy outfield in 1993 (Gant 157 games, Nixon 134 games, Justice 157 games), and the fourth guy (Deion Sanders) getting 272 at-bats there wouldn't have been much of an opportunity for Skates, had he still been with the team.

Jeff Treadway- Released by the Braves on November 20, 1992 and signed by the Indians on December 17, 1992. It's easy to forget about Treadway. Beginning in their worst-to-first year, the infielders most of us fans remember are Belliard, Blauser, and Lemke. And so it seems strange to look back on the '91 season and wonder how did Bobby Cox get over 300 plate appearances for each of four different players out of the shortstop/second base position. Lemke, of course, was one of the stars in the 1991 World Series, and Treadway saw his plate appearances drop to only 136 during the '92 campaign. The Braves added Bill Pecota prior to the '93 season as their utility guy, while Treadway hit .303 in 221 at-bats for the Indians.

Tommy Gregg- Yet another player who had experienced the horrible teams of the late eighties-through 1990, Gregg saw his playing time/at-bats diminish as the team turned it around in '91. Tommy actually got 19 starts in during the Cinderella season, but started only one game in the '92-being used pretty much exclusively as a left-handed bat off the bench. Gregg was waived after the 1992 season, and was selected off the wire on December 1st by the Reds. While the '93 Braves team was right-handed heavy on the bench, Sid Bream became the new Tommy Gregg once the Crime Dog was acquired.

Vinny Castilla- Signed out of Mexico as a 24 year-old shortstop, Castilla made his major league debut in 1991, when a September call-up netted him 5 at-bats. Another call-up in '92 brought 16 more ABs. After the season,  Atlanta left Castilla unprotected for the expansion draft. Colorado drafted him with the 40th overall pick, and the rest, they say, is history.

David Nied-
Nied made his major league debut on September 1, 1992. Starting on the road, and against the Mets, the Braves' top pitching prospect appeared in six games during the stretch (starting two of them), and finished with a 3-0 record, 19 strikeouts in 23 innings, 1.17 ERA, and 0.652 WHIP. After the season, the righty was left unprotected for the expansion draft, where Colorado drafted him number one overall. As the new face of the franchise, Nied instantly became the team's ace, and will forever be linked to the Rocks- not only by being their first big league player, but also starting their first game (April 5, 1993 at Shea Stadium), pitching its first complete game,  and its first complete-game shutout.

Armando Reynoso-
Another '93 expansion draft pick (taken by Colorado with the 58th overall pick), Reynoso had two brief stints in Atlanta during the '91 and '92 seasons. With the expansion Rockies, however, Armando would find a place to call home for the next four seasons. He was clearly the team's best starter that inaugural season, going 12-11 with a 4.00 ERA in 30 starts.

Randy St. Claire-
St. Claire spent most of the '91 and '92 seasons in AAA Richmond, although he did log 44 innings in the majors those two years for the Braves. The reliever began the 1993 season Richmond, again, but was released on May 3rd after pitching 9.2 innings (6 games) with a 2.79 ERA. Signed by Seattle on May 14th, St. Claire would pitch appear in 27 games for Seattle's AAA Calgary team before getting released on August 5th. The Blue Jays signed him and assigned him to AAA Syracuse, where he would finish out the season by appearing in 14 games.

The Unique Item- Tom Glavine Blank Back Proof 
A quick search on eBay today netted this unique item, which I had never seen previously. It comes from the Topps Vault.


  1. I bought a metric crap load of 1990, 1991 and 1992, but for the life of me I don't know why I never bought a single pack of 1993! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I probably bought enough for your share of it!
      It's one of my favorite sets, for some odd reason.