1984 Topps Traded Ken Oberkfell 85T

Ken Oberkfell was a solid major league hitter.

Ken Oberkfell was a solid major league fielder.

Ken Oberkfell’s entire time in an Atlanta uniform was pointless. Just pointless. Nobody cared then, nobody cares now.

I hear he’s a nice guy though. That’s not something anyone who reads this would have to say about me.

1984 Topps Oberkfell 85Ta

1984 Topps Oberkfell 85Tb

1992 Topps Greg Olson 39 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

1992 Topps Olson 39a

This is the real Greg Olson. Sure, the other guy, the one with the double Gs, provided far more value over the course of his career than the Braves catcher. The other Olson, however, was little more than a blip in Braves history. Greg Olson was the catcher when the Braves rose from last to first. Sure, I look back at his career through rose-colored and remember him as being better than he was. (I was just looking at his numbers and I could have swore he was a near .300 hitter once. He was not.)

Here’s what Greg Olson was though: he was the guy who caught Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and Steve Avery throughout the 1991 and 1992 seasons. He was the guy who always had something funny to say in the postgame scrum. He was the guy who helped provide Braves fans with two iconic moments.

One was not a great moment for Olson, but it did much to show his spirit and why he was beloved in Atlanta. It was September 18, 1992 and the Braves were battling the Astros. With Ken Caminiti on third, Pete Incaviglia lofted a fly ball to right. David Justice camped under the ball and came up firing for the plate. Caminiti dug in and rumbled to the plate like a fullback finding a hole in the line and deciding to take out the safety. The ball arrived just before Caminiti and he took out Olson with a brutal hit. Olson’s right leg bended in a most gruesome fashion. The crowd was nearly silent as they loaded the catcher onto the cart to get him off the field. As the cart left the field, Olson gave the chop to the crowd to let them know he was all right. If you were watching, you’d never forget that site.

Of course, Olson’s most iconic moment came at the end of Game 7 in 1992 NLCS. It wasn’t a baseball play. The biggest play of Olson’s career was an 8th inning double to give the Braves the one and only run they would need in Game 6. This time, he was simply the guy behind the plate when the Braves recorded the final out in Game 7. Olson ran out to the mound and jumped into the arms of John Smoltz. It’s another moment none of us will ever forget.

Thank you Greg Olson.

1992 Topps Olson 39b

2003 Topps Vinny Castilla 601 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Remember the off-season between the 2001 and 2002 seasons when the Braves signed young free agent outfielder Johnny Damon to man left field for the next four seasons? No? Bad things happen when the Braves go cheap.

The Braves chose to sign Castilla, the stud of Coors Field and nowhere else, as a cheap third base option and moved the team’s best player, Chipper Jones, to left field. Castilla was thoroughly awful the first year and perfectly eh the second. Chipper may not have been a great defensive third baseman, but he was awful in the outfield.

I liked Castilla. I hated when the Braves lost him to the Rockies in the expansion draft. The pop was legit. He had, however, a track record. After a number of great years in Denver, he did not play well for the Rays and he did not play well for the Astros. He was exactly as he appeared, but Time Warner had started cheaping out on acquisitions, so the Braves didn’t go after Damon. They moved the former MVP to left to make room for a has been.

Insanity.

2003 Topps Castilla 601a

2003 Topps Castilla 601b

1984 Topps RBI Leaders 133 - Braves Card of the Day

⚾ The best player on this baseball card is not in the hall of fame. The guys that is in the hall of fame could have played for the Braves, but the Braves didn’t want to get rid of Brad Komminsk. (Hat tip to @cardjunk.) The other guy was a great ballplayer that has every bit the hall of fame case as Harold Baines, even though neither really belong.

1984 Topps RBI 133a

1984 Topps RBI 133b

1989 Topps Jose Alvarez - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Scab.

1981 Fleer Rick Camp 246 - Braves Card of the Day

If everything had gone according to plan, Rick Camp would have never left the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium bullpen on the 4th of July 1985. The Braves jumped out to a 3–1 lead on Doc Gooden and the New York Mets, but it was going to be a weird night. Gooden was out of the game in the third. Braves starter Rick Mahler was lifted in the 4th and his replacement, Jeff Dedmon, promptly gave up the lead to the Mets. The Mets expanded their lead throughout the game and the game went to the bottom of the eighth with the Braves down 4 to 7. The Mets sent Jesse Orosco, an All-Star each of the previous two seasons, to the mound to shut the Braves down.

1981 Fleer Camp 246a

That’s what should have happened. The game should have been over. Instead, the pointless Ken Oberkfell singled and Rick Cerone followed with a walk. Orosco settled down striking out Brad Komminsk before getting Paul Zuvella to fly out to center. It would be an understatement to say that the usually reliable Orosco hit a rough patch. He lost the strike zone. He walked the free swinging Claudell Washington to load the bases. He then walked Rafael Ramirez allowing the Braves to close the lead by a run. With Dale Murphy coming to the plate, Davey Johnson pulled Orosco for Doug Sisk. Murph laced a double to the fence clearing the bases and giving the Braves an 8–7 lead. That’s the lead the Braves took to the ninth.

Again, the game should have been over at this point. The previous December, the Braves signed Bruce Sutter to a big free agent contract. It was a big deal at the time and it was the move that the Braves hoped would make their fans forget about the Len Barker trade. Sutter had already established himself as one of the greatest closers in the history of the game. His performance with the Cubs and the Cardinals had made him a bona fide star. It seemed like a lock that he would shut down the Mets and the game would be over. Instead, he gave up three straight singles to Howard Johnson, Danny Heep and Lenny Dykstra allowing the Mets to tie the game.

The tenth, eleventh and twelfth innings passed without either team threatening. Then, in the top of the thirteenth, with two outs, Braves reliever Terry Forster gave up a two run homer to Howard Johnson. Up 10 to 8, the Mets brought in Tom Gorman to shut the Braves down. If he had, I doubt anyone would remember the game. Rafael Ramirez led off the inning with a single, but Gorman set Murphy and Gerald Perry down on strikes. Improbably and impossibly, he couldn’t get Terry Harper. Instead, Harper belted a home run to tie it up. The game was now on the path that made it legendary.

By the time Rick Camp entered the game to pitch in the 17th inning, it’s safe to say there weren’t many Braves fans left watching the game on TBS. It was already midnight on the west coast when he took the mound. Strangely enough, for the game on which his reputation rests, Camp didn’t pitch especially well. His first inning went without incident, but he ran into trouble in the 18th. He gave up a single to Howard Johnson to start the inning. He followed that up with an error on a Danny Heep bunt that sent HoJo to third with nobody out. Camp needed a strikeout, but Lenny Dykstra flied out to center and Johnson scored. The situation already looked dire for Camp and the Braves when they came to bat down a run in the bottom of the 18th. Perry and Harper both grounded out to start the inning. A comeback looked impossible.

1981 Fleer Camp 246b

The Braves bench was depleted so manager Eddie Haas had no choice but to let Rick Camp bat for himself. John Sterling was on play by play for TBS, and his words proved prophetic.

Ernie, if he hits a home run to tie this game, this game will be certified as absolutely the nuttiest in the history of baseball.

On a night where Jesse Orosco walked the bases loaded, Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter blew a save, and Terry Harper hit a game tying 12th inning home run, Rick Camp accomplished the most amazing and startling feat of the game. A pitcher with four extra base hits in his career hit a home run to tie the game in the bottom of the 18th. The stadium wasn’t full when he did it. The majority of the fans who watched the Braves religiously on TBS had already turned in for the night. No matter. Every fan in the stadium made themselves heard and I think it’s safe to say that in the living rooms of those homes where people were still awake there were fans screaming in the excitement of the moment. In the midst of a period of Braves baseball that didn’t yield a lot of memorable moments, this was one that stayed with all who witnessed it.

The home run is what everyone remembers and that’s good. Camp came unglued on the mound in the 19th and the Mets put five runs on the board. Remarkably, the Braves staged another come back in the bottom of the frame, but after getting two of the runs back, Rick Camp struck out with runners on the corners to end the game. (It was four in the morning in Atlanta and the Braves decided to go ahead with their 4th of July post-game fireworks display.)

2011 Topps Update Eric O’Flaherty US271 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Years ago when I was writing for Talking Chop, one of my first posts was about Topps declining to include a card of Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty in their 2009 and 2010 sets. Of course, in 2011, EOF forced their hand with a season for the ages. (That would be the year where he had a sub 1.00 ERA and formed the greatest Braves bullpen ever along with Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.)

I would go on to mention the Topps EOF card situation in post after post after post after post. This card has remained one of my favorite baseball cards of the past decade for this reason.

It also takes me back to one of my favorite periods of my Braves fandom. Back then, Braves twitter was just so much fun. It’s where the legend of O’Ventbrel was born. They had other nicknames too. I believe EOF was SIT DOWN, Venters was SHUT UP and Kimbrel was GO HOME. So much fun. Unfortunately, arm injuries would inflict Venters and EOF, but that 2011 bullpen was one for the ages.

1950 Bowman Willard Marshall 73 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

There was a time that it wasn’t hard to find a card show. I grew up in Columbus, GA, and even in a town our size, we had regular card shows. Most of the local shows were at Peachtree Mall, the most popular shopping destination in town. There were never more than a handful of dealers, but to the eyes of this young collector, there were so many wonderful cards to be had. I often found the shows overwhelming and wouldn’t know where to look first. Still, I would find something I wanted and would inevitably spend every dollar in my wallet.

It was a different era for sure. Even in a city the size of Columbus, there were several card shops throughout town. I’d go whenever I could persuade my Mom to take me. Sure, the owner had little interest in catering to a kid who wanted to look at everything. Still, even under the harsh stare of the owner, I could have spent hours flipping through every available card in the shop. My mother must have spent countless hours sitting in her car waiting for me to buy my cards so she could go home.

It was also a time where at any store with a magazine rack, you could find a magazine about baseball card collecting. The two I remember most are Baseball Cards and Sport’s Collector’s Digest, which is still in print today. Unlike the collecting magazines published today by Beckett, these weren’t glorified price guides where the editorial content was underwritten and uninteresting. These magazines relished in telling stories of the history of baseball card collecting. They were an indispensable guide to the history of the hobby.

1950 Bowman Marshall 73a

This was a time when baseball cards were everywhere. We didn’t need card shows, card shops or magazines for news about the latest sets. Topps, Fleer and Donruss released their sets at the beginning of the season. After the season was over, I could count on the Traded and Update sets appearing at the local card shop. Card collecting was easy. The most valuable service provided by the shows, and by the shops, and by the magazines of the time was the window they provided into the world of vintage trading cards.

These were the cards that were displayed under glass at the card show. These were the cards that the owner of the card shop refused to let a kid like me touch. These were the cards that were featured in beautiful photography in the pages of the collecting magazines. These were the cards that every collector lusted over. These were the cards that were collected by our fathers when they were our age. The names on the cards are as familiar as the game itself. There was Stan Musial and Mickey Mantle. Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson. Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. For anyone who loved baseball and loved the hobby, they were the stuff from which dreams were made.

They were also out of my reach. For a young boy living on an allowance, or even on his meager hourly wage from working in the kitchen of a pizza joint, the cards were simply unobtainable. It was obvious that this young Braves fan wouldn’t be able to afford a Hank Aaron or an Eddie Mathews or a Warren Spahn card any time soon. It was just as unlikely that I would be able to get my hands on a Joe Adcock or a Lew Burdette. Of course, that didn’t stop the lust.

There was one card in particular at my favorite of the local card shops with which I had fallen in love. The card was almost shaped like a square. The colors were exaggerated, but accurate. I had no idea whether this was an actual photo or some sort of weird painting and photo combination. The left-handed pitcher pictured on the card was shown with his leg held high in a kick as he prepared to deliver a pitch to the plate. From the vantage point, you could even see the spikes on his shoe. The card was a 1950 Bowman Warren Spahn and I was obsessed with the card. It would be years before I was able to add the card to my collection.

1950 Bowman Marshall 73b

The set would become one of my favorites. I began to notice other cards from the set at card shows. Jackie Robinson was shown taking a practice swing as he approached home plate. Ted Williams appeared to be watching a pop up sail into the seats. Richie Ashburn was staring straight ahead, as if to let the pitcher know that the ball would not be thrown past him. Needless to say, I couldn’t afford any of these cards.

Still, all hope wasn’t lost if you were a kid who fell in love with a vintage set. There was a secret weapon that allowed you to get a card from that set you craved. That weapon was “the box”. Every shop had one. Seemingly, every dealer at a card show had one as well. It was a box filled with cards from older sets. They were never cards of the star players. Truth be told, even the above average players couldn’t be found in the box. The box never held cards in mint condition. There was usually a price written on the outside of the box. It might be a dime or a nickel or a quarter. The box would be filled with vintage baseball cards.

When I first discovered and approached the box, I had one goal. I wanted a card featuring a Braves player from 1950 Bowman. How simple is that? At the time, it wasn’t quite as simple. There’s no telling the collecting gold I passed over looking for a simple 1950 Bowman Braves card. I suppose since this was Georgia, everyone else was after the Braves as well. I was on the hunt. It would take months, but I would finally get my card.

I don’t remember if I found the card at a card show or at the local card shop. I only remember pulling it from the box. I must have thumbed through hundreds of cards in that box before I found the card I wanted. It was, and is, beautiful. The camera captured the player making a leaping grab of a line drive. The Braves logo on his uniform is prominent and gorgeous. The player is Willard Marshall. It was my first vintage baseball card and remains one of the most treasured possessions in my collection.

It isn’t as easy to find a card show in 2019, but when you do, you can still find the box. Almost every dealer at every table has one. The price has gone up to a dollar or more on most of the boxes. Still, they are filled with collecting gold and are reason enough to attend any card show.

Willard Marshall may not be a household name, but he had a respectable career and was a genuine American hero. After a rookie season with the New York Giants in 1942 that led to his selection as a reserve for the National League All-Star team, Marshall enlisted into the Marines. He would spend three years in the military and would serve in the Pacific during World War 2. He returned to the Giants in 1946 and would enter the most productive stretch of his career. In 1947, he would slug 36 home runs and have his career season, receiving another All-Star game selection and finishing in the MVP voting. His last year with the Giants was in 1949, and he would appear in his final All-Star game, as a starter no less, and would again appear in the MVP voting.

The Boston Braves would send Al Dark and Eddie Stanky to the Giants for a package of players that included Marshall. Marshall would prove a solid addition to the Boston Braves lineup, but he would never again match the success he had with the Giants. His most notable accomplishment with the Braves was starting 123 games in right field in 1951 without making a single error. The Braves would sell Marshall to the Reds early in the 1952 season and would end his career a few years later as a bit player for the Chicago White Sox. He would be pictured in a Braves uniform in cards from 1950, 1951 and 1952.

1969 Topps Pat Jarvis 282 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Reading about Pat Jarvis’s 19 year career as sheriff in Dekalb County is entertaining. He served 15 months in federal prison for taking kickbacks. This means he can be accurately described as one of the least corrupt sheriff’s in the county’s recent history.

1969 Topps Jarvis 282a

1969 Topps Jarvis 282b

2009 Topps Update Adam LaRoche UH264 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Hey Adam. You’re wrong. Kids are better off in school than the locker room.

Loved watching you hit though.

2009 Topps LaRoche UH264a2009 Topps LaRoche UH264b