It’s a shame John Smoltz didn’t retire a year sooner, as it would have been cool to have seen him inducted along with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in 2014. But he decided to hang on a year longer, splitting time between Boston and St. Louis in 2009. Smoltz spent the majority of his career as a starter, and won the Cy Young Award with 24 victories in 1996. But after an injury in 2000, he came back to the Braves as a reliever. In four years out of the bullpen, Smoltzie saved 154 games, then went back to the starting rotation in 2005.
I was actually a tad surprised to see Smoltz elected in his first year of eligibility. I thought it might take him three or four cycles, especially with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez debuting on the same ballot. But he was definitely worthy of induction, and rightfully has a place among the immortals in Cooperstown.
The left-handed Tom Glavine was part of one of the greatest pitching rotations in baseball history. Along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, the Braves were almost guaranteed to win three games in a row when these guys took the mound. In 22 seasons with the Braves and Mets, Glavine was selected to 10 All-Star teams and took home two Cy Young Awards. He flew into the Hall of Fame with 91.9% of the vote in 2014.
Bobby Cox‘s managerial career began in 1978 with the Braves. In 1982 he began his tenure as the Blue Jays’ skipper, where he stayed until 1985. In 1990, he returned to Atlanta and the Braves began an unbelievable run of success. Fourteen first-place finishes, five National League Pennants, one World Championship. For years, America’s team was actually one of the best teams in America.
I considered trolling Braves fans by making this a Blue Jays card, but decided to stick with Atlanta.
Phil Niekro‘s career was drawing to a close when I started watching baseball, and as a teenager, I didn’t find him that exciting. He looked way older than my dad (he is actually only a few months older) and Dwight Gooden was much more entertaining. Who cares about knuckleballs when the Doc is firing those heaters? Of course, as an adult, I appreciate Knucksie’s talent much more, and his numbers make him a clear Hall of Famer.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m taking some liberties with the color schemes of this set. I didn’t think there were any blue/yellow combinations, but looking again at COMC, I have noticed a couple. Soon, however, you will start seeing some off-the-wall colors that are more reminiscent of another set.
(May 11, 1939 – April 19, 2016)
Milt Pappas pitched for the Orioles, Reds, Braves, and Cubs, winning 209 games in 17 seasons. He was involved in the worst trade in Reds history when Cincinnati received him in a lopsided trade for Frank Robinson. Pappas was a three-time All-Star and pitched a no-hitter for the Cubs in 1972. His first wife disappeared in 1982; her body and the car she was driving was discovered five years later in a nearby pond. Pappas was found dead in his home today.
Henry Aaron’s Dream
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2010
When Hank Aaron was young, there were no black men playing baseball in the major leagues. Jackie Robinson‘s debut in 1947 paved the way for players like Aaron to show the world their talents. Author Matt Tavares writes about a time in Aaron’s life many ignore: his early years in Mobile, Alabama, and his brief time in the Negro Leagues with the Mobile Black Bears and Indianapolis Clowns. There are also several pages devoted to Aaron’s life in the minor leagues, both on and off the field, and finally his ascent to the majors in 1954. Though he was not the first black baseball player, Aaron still faced a great deal of racism as he played the game he loved.
Much like There Goes Ted Williams, the best part of Henry Aaron’s Dream is the artwork. Written for third through seventh graders, Tavares’ artwork makes the story come alive for youngsters who are being taught about the legends of baseball as well as important social issues. There is nothing new here for long-time fans of the great home run hitter, but the beautiful illustrations easily make it worth the purchase price.
(October 7, 1944 – August 2, 2014)
A Braves broadcaster for over thirty years, known nationwide thanks to TBS television coverage, Pete Van Wieren has passed away from complications of lymphoma.
Welcome to the Big Leagues:
Every Man’s Journey to Significance, The Darrel Chaney Story
by Dan Hettinger
Morgan James, 2013
The Big Red Machine was loaded with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers, but for every player there was a backup. Darrel Chaney played the backup role to several of Cincinnati’s stars until his trade to the Atlanta Braves after the 1975 season. Though he was never on the track to Cooperstown, Dan Hettinger wanted to tell Chaney’s story and relate it to motivational principles in the spiritual world in Welcome to the Big Leagues.
Hettinger goes back and forth talking about Chaney in one chapter (the “top” of an inning), and then his own experiences as a religious leader in the next (the “bottom” of an inning). Welcome to the Big Leagues is not so much a biography, but aims to be more of a book of inspiration to those who may not believe they make much of an impact on the lives of those around them.
Theologically, I do not agree with Hettinger’s positions, but there are general principles that can be gleaned from these pages. I would not recommend the book as authoritative in religion. However, there are some interesting anecdotes about Chaney’s time in the majors, as well as Hettinger’s work in the religious world, and there are lessons one can learn about how to handle situations with maturity and patience.