2015 Topps Tommy LaStella 201 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

I don’t buy it. It isn’t really happening. Some sort of weird voodoo magic spell has been cast over us all and so it appears that LaStella is hitting the ever loving crap out of the baseball, to the point where he’s been one of the best hitters in the American League so far this season. Eleven home runs? No way.

I say again, it isn’t real. It’s voodoo of some sort. Tommy LaStella is a perfectly fine bat. He is not THIS. It is not real, and if it is, if an amazing run of luck has been gifted him by the gods of baseball, it will not last. This is Tommy LaStella for goodness sake!

1956 Topps Hank Aaron 31 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Topps has always screwed up. Sometimes the errors are from pure sloppiness, as would be the case on the 1957 Hank Aaron card which used a reverse negative showing him as a left handed hitter. Other times, Topps just doesn’t care. In this case, for the action photo on Aaron’s 56 card, Topps chose to airbrush a Braves cap and plain white uniform onto a photo of Willie Mays. If you know anything about Mays and Aaron and their personal history, you have a pretty good idea why the Hammer was offended by the card.

Seriously, how do you screw up a Hank Aaron baseball card? Well, you can’t. Not really. Every Aaron card is great. Every Aaron card from his playing career is especially special. That said, Topps should have done better by Aaron in 1956.

1988 Topps Jeff Dedmon 46 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

The Braves teams of the mid to late 1980s were full of really bad baseball players, but looking back, there were a few guys who weren’t bad at all. Dedmon took a few years to find his footing as a big league reliever, but he ended up as a solid member of the Braves bullpen turning in an excellent season in 1986 and a solid one in 1987. The Braves would deal him away after the 87 season and he wasn’t in organized ball but another year or two.

Of course, the Braves of this time period had problems that were far too large to be solved by a single solid reliever. Still, Dedmon performed relatively well.

1990 Topps Mark Lemke 451 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Did Mark Lemke ever look young?

1989 Topps Traded Tommy Gregg 39T - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Word on the street in the early 90s was that Tommy Gregg was a “professional hitter”, but lacked the other skills needed to be a regular at the major league level. In actuality, he wasn’t a very good hitter either, especially in the big leagues.

His greatest contribution to the Braves? He was the return from the Pirates for getting the pointless Ken Oberkfell the hell out of Atlanta. So, there’s that.

Tommy Gregg is now working as a hitting coach in the Marlins organization. Hopefully, he’s better at coaching hitting than he was at actually hitting.

1987 Topps Gerald Perry 639 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

A lot of long time Braves fans, like myself, thought Perry was a pretty good baseball player. We based that on his .300 batting average in 1988 and the two near .270 seasons that led up to it. At the time, we thought it was a breakout season. We thought he was destined for greater things. We were wrong.

Perry’s reputation was that of a “professional hitter”, but he really wasn’t. He was a guy that the Braves kept running out at first base because the Braves really didn’t have any other options.

Of course, now I look at Fangraphs and Baseball Reference and see that not only was Perry not as good as I thought at the time, but he really wasn’t very good at all. That said, he played first base for the Braves and he was one of our guys. I’m astounded at the number of bad baseball players of which I have fond memories.

1985 Topps Pete Falcone 618 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

I tend to think of Pete Falcone as a New York Met, because my first card of him was in 1980 Topps. I also think of him as a Met because despite watching or listening to almost every Braves game in 1984, I cannot remember him as a Brave. Without the baseball cards to prove it, if you had asked me if Falcone has been a Brave, I would have said no way. That’s the impression some guys leave: none.

2015 Topps Chris Johnson 283 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

My favorite players on the Braves aren’t always among the best players on the team, and my least favorite are rarely the worst. Chris Johnson is one of my least favorite players in the history of the franchise, and he was pretty damned awful. The great irony of this card is showing Johnson making a play on defense. His range at third consisted of one step to the left and falling, or one step to the right and falling.

That said, he did not have a bad year at all in 2013. It has to rank among the biggest fluke seasons in the game’s history.

The highlight of his Braves career? Terry Pendleton going after him in the Braves dugout. When comparing the list of great Braves third basemen, Johnson ranks slightly behind TP. That’s sarcasm.

2015 Topps Alberto Callaspo 543 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

How bad where the 2015 Atlanta Braves? Alberto Callaspo started 28 games.

More than anything, the year was a massive missed opportunity. If they had tried just a little harder, they could have hit that magical number of 100 losses. It was disappointing that they came up short.

This is why the 1988 Braves will always be a better remembered team than the 2015 Braves. The 1988 Braves were a historically bad baseball team. The 2015 Braves were just another team that sucked.

1952 Topps Eddie Mathews 407- Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Here’s the rookie card of the man who might be the Braves best third baseman of all-time, Eddie Mathews. This is also the most expensive baseball card I’ve ever purchased, even though I bought it graded as a PSA 1. I keep my Braves team card sets in pages in a binder so I couldn’t keep it in that damn enclosure. Plus, if it’s in an enclosure, I can’t pull it out and touch it with my hands. So, I busted it out. I freed the card from the shackles of rigid plastic!

I’m still sort of amazed that I own this baseball card. Of all the vintage Topps Braves baseball cards, it’s the hardest to find and seems to be the most expensive. Yes, more expensive than the 1954 Topps Hank Aaron rookie card. Scarcity and the 1952 high number effect will do that. Consider that of the 1952 high numbers, the Mantle, the pre-eminent card of all Topps cards, was double printed. The Mathews was single printed. It was also the last card in the set which meant it ended up on the bottom of piles held together with rubber bands. I own this rare card. I’m still amazed that’s the case.

I really don’t think I’m worthy of it. (No, that doesn’t mean I’m giving it to you.)

2014 Topps Joey Terdoslavich 408 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

I am the last person that anyone should ever listen to when it comes to prospects. Here’s an example: Terdo. I believed that he would hit enough, with just enough pop, to ensure a long career as a backup outfielder in the big leagues. Instead, he hasn’t even hit enough to be a AAAA player. He’s currently playing for Lancaster in the Atlantic League, an independent league, and he’s not hitting. It’s a damned shame.

1955 Bowman Eddie Mathews #103 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

I love 1955 Bowman, even if the console television design is objectively ugly. (Please don’t @ me.) The most astonishing thing about this card to me is that picture of Mathews. He looks very young on most of his cards in the early to mid 50s, mostly because he WAS young, but that’s a baby face on this card. That’s not the face of one of the team’s two fearsome sluggers.

I have two of these baseball cards and I wish I knew where the second came from. I’m certain that the first came in a giant lot of Braves cards I purchased from Dayton (@BravesAmerica on Twitter). I have no idea why I bought the second. I don’t see it anywhere in my eBay purchase history or in my email indicating that I received it in a trade or purchased it from some other source.

1951 Bowman Sam Jethroe 242 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

The Braves have their own Hall of Fame as most major league teams do. As as institution, the Braves Hall of Fame is hard to take seriously because they have chosen to ignore large portions of team history. If I’m spitballing, the names off the top of my head that belong include Rico Carty, Joe Torre, Bob Horner, Gene Garber, Ron Gant, Jim Whitney, Terry Pendleton, Wally Berger, Johnny Logan, Joe Adcock, Bob Elliott, and the two most egregious omissions, Lew Burdette and Sam Jethroe.

Neither exclusion makes a lick of sense, but for purely historical reasons, the exclusion of Jethroe rankles. Sam Jethroe integrated the Boston Braves a full nine years before the crosstown Red Sox would integrate, and far too late for Jethroe to have the major league career he deserved. He played in the Negro Leagues pre-integration. He played well in the Dodgers system but they didn’t have a spot for him. Finally, he got to play big league ball in 1950 for the Braves and won Rookie of the Year. He was 33 years old with declining eyesight, but the Jet was just that good, even if he only had a few years left in the tank.

He went through exactly what you think he would have went through in his quest to be a big leaguer. Bigoted fans and opponents. Forced into being a loner in his own clubhouse. Even if you discard his rookie of the year season, Jethroe deserves the honor because he was the first player to endure integration with the franchise. If that alone isn’t worthy of having a Hall of Fame, what exactly is the point?

1964 Topps Rookie Stars Braves #541 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

I’ve never been a fan of multiple player rookie cards. That’s nothing against Phil Roof. He had a serviceable career that stretched across 15 seasons as a player and many more as a major league coach and a minor league manager. That’s all well and good. As a Braves fan, I just don’t want him on Phil Niekro’s rookie card.

Here’s a summary of Phil Roof’s time with the Braves: he was called up in 1961 at 19 years old and caught the final inning of the game without a single plate appearance. In 1964, Roof started a game in May and after two at-bats, without hits, he was replaced for a pinch hitter. He would never appear again in a Braves uniform.

He also had a rookie card for the Braves in the 1963 Topps set. His two cards match the number of games he appeared in with the Braves. Now, over 50 years later, I’m writing about him instead of writing about Knucksie, all because Topps put them on a baseball card together.

1957 Topps Chuck Tanner 392 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

In his first go around with the Braves, as a player, Chuck Tanner belted a home run on the very first pitch of the very first at-bat of his major league career. It was the highlight of his replacement level career as a big leaguer.

Better things were ahead though. Tanner managed the great Pirates teams of the late 1970s. They were massively fun to watch. When the Braves brought Tanner in to manage in 1986, it was hoped he’d bring the same sense of fun to the Braves, but those were dreadful baseball teams. He would eventually be replaced by the pointless Russ Nixon.

Tanner’s biggest contribution to the Braves was bringing Willie Stargell with him. Sarge would spend around a decade with the organization as 1st base coach and minor league hitting instructor. His most famous Braves pupil was the great Chipper Jones, who has never hesitated to give Stargell credit.

1959 Topps Baseball Thrills 467 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

It has always eaten at Hank Aaron that the Braves dropped the 1958 World Series, especially after leading 3 games to 1 over the Yankees. Aaron felt like a team that won two in a row would be regarded as a truly great team. That is all the great Big Red Machine won after all. It was a missed opportunity.

It is regrettable that the greatest of all the Braves had so few chances to showcase his talent in the postseason. In those few chances he got, the 1957 World Series, the 1958 World Series and the first NLCS in 1969, he raked. His slash line is a stunning .362/.407/.710 across 17 postseason games.

Milwaukee stayed competitive in the 1959 and 1960 seasons, but then started a fade that would last most of the decade, well into the team’s move to Atlanta. Sure, the team’s record wouldn’t dip below .500 until 1967, but they were never in any real contention for the NL pennant. The 1969 season was terrific, but they were far short of being a great baseball team and were eaten up and spit out by the Miracle Mets. Except for Hank Aaron. Hank Aaron raked.

The Hammer didn’t have nearly the post-season opportunities his talent deserved, but it was great that Topps was able to capture one of his best moments with this card. While I would prefer a great color photo of Hank watching his home run ball fly, the painted over photo works too. There aren’t any bad Hank Aaron cards anyway.

1971 Topps Hal King 88 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

This is a fine baseball card. The black borders on the 1971 flagship set were great and it made for the best “change of pace” set Topps ever released. The picture of the Braves starting catcher for the 1970 season, Hal King, is great. I mean, if you are just going to take a posed picture of a catcher, wouldn’t you rather see him in a crouch of his catching mitt than a boring old hatless headshot?

1954 Topps Roy Smalley 231 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Roy Smalley Jr., who played a scant 25 games for the Braves in 1954 during his 11 year career, was not really a player of any note. In a fully integrated league, there probably wouldn’t have been a place for him. He would father Roy Smalley III who had a number of excellent seasons with the Twins and the Yankees. I hope Smalley was able to take pleasure at his son’s accomplishments.

There are a few other interesting notes to share about Roy Smalley. He was displaced by Ernie Banks as the Cubs regular shortstop. His brother in law was Gene Mauch, often lauded as one of the great baseball managers ever. As would sometimes happen in Chicago, Smalley was booed often and was even roasted in the papers by Mike Royko.

1966 Topps Phil Niekro #28 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Early in Niekro’s career, he was misused by the Braves. It seems obvious to state it out loud, but knuckleball pitchers should start games. Bringing a knuckleballer into a game as a reliever, especially with runners on base, is just asking for trouble. They are going to walk people. They are going to have passed balls. Truth is, the more the ball is knuckling, the more likely they are to have the occasional walk and/or passed ball or wild pitch.

In 1964 and 1965, the Braves let Phil Niekro start a single game. He still pitched well and pretty much forced the team to keep him on the roster in 65 by pitching so well. In 1966, he was again in the bullpen and was much less effective. In 1967, the Braves finally gave him 20 starts and he blossomed into a star. By 1968, he would be a full time member of the rotation, and would continue to be used out of the bullpen between starts for years and years and years. I wonder how many games the Braves cost themselves in those three years by not using the future Hall of Fame pitcher correctly.

1962 Topps Del Crandall 443 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Crandall had been the Braves catcher for a decade when shoulder troubles limited his playing time in the 1961 season. A young kid named Joe Torre would come up and make his mark almost immediately. Still, upon his return in 1962, Crandall would once again be the Braves primary catcher. He responded with his eighth and final All Star season. He also received MVP votes for the seventh and final time in his career. He would slowly be phased out in favor of Torre before bouncing around as a backup catcher for a few years.

Del Crandall is one of the more under-appreciated Braves greats.

1975 Topps Gary Gentry #393 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Gary Gentry just looks like a player that belongs on a baseball card in the 1970s. He is one of those guys the Braves picked up who was perfectly OK in his first year, not as good in the second year when he gets injured and then struggles through a final attempt before the team gives up on him.

The worst part is the Braves gave up freaking Felix Milan for him, and Felix had a number of good years left in him.

1970 Topps Milt Pappas 576 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Milt Pappas was a pretty good pitcher for a long time and yet, he’s primarily known as being traded from the Orioles to the Reds for Frank Robinson. That was not a good deal for the Reds. Pappas, as good as he was, was simply not a guy that should have been in this deal. (The two players who were included with him in the deal were even less notable. What the bloody hell were the Reds thinking?)

In 1970, after a large number of gopher bites, the Braves washed their hands of Pappas. He was not great in 1969 either, and was thoroughly awful in his three NLCS innings in 1969. His career in Atlanta was pretty undistinguished, and as a player who was primarily known for being disgruntled, I’m sure he was happy to be sold to the Cubs.

1953 Bowman Lou Burdette 51 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

I have two thoughts when I look at this baseball card.

1 - Did the original owner of the card hate Burdette or did the pen scribble get on the card some other way? Perhaps someone left the card out and their small child found it and decided to draw on it. Should I replace it? Maybe. Will I? When there’s other baseball cards to spend money on? Of course not.

2 - At some point in time, I must have known that Burdette started his career with the Yankees, but like every bit of knowledge I thought I had accumulated over the years, it left my brain for a warmer climate. I can’t say that I blame it. My brain is a mess and nothing should be subjected to it for any length of time.

1969 Topps Jim Britton 154 - Braves Card of the Day ⚾

Today, I’m not in a very good mood so it is the perfect day to feature this specific baseball card. Why? Well, it’s boring and I have nothing to say about it all.

I hope you enjoyed this insight and the scans of this card.

I bought this from my father in law some time ago. Cool, right?