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All-Time Team – Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves
First Base – Joe Adcock
Fred McGriff had some big years for the Braves, but he spent parts of only five seasons in Atlanta. That being the case, Joe Adcock became the most logical choice for the starting first base job on our All-Time Team. The right-handed hitting slugger played for the Braves 10 years in Milwaukee, hitting a total of 239 home runs, driving in 760 runs, and compiling a batting average of .285. Adcock surpassed 30 homers and 100 runs batted in twice each, and he batted over .300 once. He had his two best years in 1956 and 1961. Adcock hit a career-high 38 home runs in the first of those years, while also knocking in 103 runs and batting .291. He hit 35 homers in 1961, drove in 108 runs, and batted .285.
Second Base – Bobby Lowe
Bobby Lowe earned a clear-cut decision over Felix Milan at second base. Playing for the National League’s Boston Beaneaters from 1890 to 1901 (the Beaneaters later became the Braves), Lowe played all over the diamond his first three years with the club, before settling in at second base in 1893. He hit a total of 31 home runs over the course of the next two seasons, having his greatest year in 1894, when he hit 17 homers, knocked in 115 runs, scored 158 others, and batted .346. Lowe surpassed 100 runs batted in twice for Boston, scored more than 100 runs three times, and batted over .300 on three separate occasions.
Third Base – Eddie Mathews
Chipper Jones would be the starting third baseman on most teams, but he must settle for a second-place finish on the Braves. Eddie Mathews established himself during his time with the team as the franchise’s all-time third baseman, and as one of the greatest ever to play the position. The only man to play for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, Mathews hit 493 of his 512 career home runs in a Braves uniform, surpassing 30 homers in 10 of his 15 years with the team, and reaching the 40-homer plateau on four separate occasions. The left-handed hitting slugger also knocked in 1,388 runs, scored 1,452 others, accumulated 2,201 hits, batted .273, and compiled an on-base percentage of .379 for the Braves. Mathews had perhaps his finest year in 1953, when he led the National League with 47 home runs, knocked in 135 runs, scored 110 others, batted .302, and compiled an on-base percentage of .406 and a slugging percentage of .627. He had another sensational season in 1959, when he topped the senior circuit with 46 homers, drove in 114 runs, scored 118 times, batted .306, posted an on-base percentage of .390, and compiled a slugging percentage of .593. Mathews earned nine All-Star selections and two second place finishes in the league MVP voting in his years with the Braves.
Shortstop – Rabbit Maranville
I could have gone with Johnny Logan here instead, since he was a better hitter than Rabbit Maranville. But Maranville spent more time with the Braves, far exceeded Logan as a base-runner, and also had a reputation for being an outstanding fielder. Over the course of two different stints in Boston, Maranville spent 15 years with the Braves, accumulating 1,696 hits and 194 stolen bases, while also scoring 801 runs, batting .252, and compiling a .313 on-base percentage for the club. Playing for the Braves from 1912 to 1920, and then again from 1929 to 1935, Maranville batted over .280 and scored more than 80 runs twice each. He also stole more than 20 bases four times. He placed second in the league MVP voting once and finished third in the balloting another time.
Left Field – Chipper Jones
Rico Carty was a tremendous hitter, and he had some great years for the Braves. The right-handed hitting outfielder batted over .330 in three of his seven seasons with the team, leading the National League with a mark of .366 in 1970. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to select Chipper Jones as the team’s starting left-fielder, even though he spent most of his career playing third base. Jones posted overall numbers for the Braves that far surpassed the figures Carty compiled during his relatively brief time with the team. Jones also spent two entire years playing left field. All things considered, Jones is the better choice. He has hit 436 home runs for the club, driven in 1,491 runs, scored 1,505 others, accumulated 2,490 hits, batted .306, and compiled an on-base percentage of .405. Jones has won a batting title, been selected to six All-Star Teams, and finished in the top 10 in the league MVP voting a total of six times, winning the award once.
Center Field – Hugh Duffy
Wally Berger, Dale Murphy, and Andruw Jones all were viable options here. Still, the final decision was to go with 19th century star Hugh Duffy, who excelled for the franchise throughout most of the 1890s. Duffy batted over .340 four times for the Beaneaters from 1892 to 1900, while also driving in more than 100 runs seven times and scoring more than 100 runs on six separate occasions. After batting .363 and scoring 147 runs the previous year, Duffy had a phenomenal 1894 campaign during which he led the league with 18 home runs, 51 doubles, 237 hits, and a .440 batting average, while also driving in 145 runs, scoring 160 others, amassing 16 triples and 48 stolen bases, and compiling on-base and slugging percentages of .502 and .694, respectively. Although Duffy never again approached those numbers, he managed to drive in more than 100 runs five more times, score more than 100 runs another three times, and bat over .300 another four times. He ended his nine years in Boston with 927 runs batted in, 998 runs scored, 1,545 hits, 331 stolen bases, a .332 batting average, and a .394 on-base percentage.
Right Field – Hank Aaron
This choice was an easy one. One of the greatest players in the history of the game, Aaron holds franchise records for home runs (733), runs batted in (2,202), runs scored (2,107), hits (3,600), and doubles (600). He earned 20 All-Star selections, one Most Valuable Player Award, seven other top-five finishes in the voting, and three Gold Gloves in his 21 years with the team.
Catcher - Joe Torre
Although he also saw a significant amount of playing time at first base with the Braves before he eventually went on to have the greatest year of his career as a third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Torre spent eight full seasons as the Braves’ primary receiver during the 1960s. During that time, he hit more than 20 homers four times, knocked in more than 100 runs and batted over .300 twice each, appeared in five All-Star Games, won a Gold Glove, and earned one top-five finish in the league MVP voting. Torre had his two best years for the Braves in 1964 and 1966. He hit 20 homers, knocked in 109 runs, and batted .321 in the first of those campaigns, before hitting a career-high 36 homers, driving in 101 runs, and batting .315 in 1966.
Starting Pitcher – Warren Spahn
One of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time, Warren Spahn won more games (363) than any other southpaw in the history of the game. He posted 356 of those victories for the Braves, surpassing 20 victories a 20th century record 13 times in his 19 full years with the team. Spahn led N.L. hurlers in wins on eight separate occasions, also topping the league in ERA three times, complete games nine times, and innings pitched, strikeouts, and shutouts four times each. He earned 14 All-Star selections, one Cy Young Award, and four Sporting News N.L. Pitcher of the Year Awards during his time with the Braves.
Starting Pitcher – Greg Maddux
Perhaps surpassed only by Spahn as the finest pitcher in franchise history, Greg Maddux posted a record of 194-88 and an exceptional 2.63 ERA in his 11 years with the Braves. Maddux won at least 15 games each year in Atlanta, compiling 19 victories four times and 20 wins once. He also posted an ERA below 2.50 on six separate occasions. Maddux won three straight Cy Young Awards with the Braves, capturing the honor in 1993, 1994, and 1995. He compiled an overall record of 55-18 those three years, along with league-leading ERAs of 2.36, 1.56, and 1.63.
Starting Pitcher – Tom Glavine
Although he left the Braves for five years before returning to them for one final season in 2008, Tom Glavine posted 244 of his 305 career victories during his time in Atlanta. The left-hander won at least 20 games five times, surpassing 15 victories on another four occasions. Glavine earned two Cy Young Awards and another four top-three finishes in the balloting while with the team. He led all N.L. pitchers in wins five times, while also topping the circuit in complete games and shutouts once each.
Starting Pitcher – Kid Nichols
One of the 19th century’s finest pitchers, Kid Nichols posted a record of 329-183 for Boston from 1890 to 1901, along with an ERA of 3.00. The right-hander surpassed 30 victories in seven out of eight years at one point, winning 26 games the other time. Nichols led N.L. pitchers in wins and shutouts three times each. He compiled an ERA below 3.00 seven times, completed more than 40 of his starts seven times, and threw more than 400 innings five times, tossing more than 300 innings another six times. Nichols had his two best years in 1892 and 1898. He compiled a record of 35-16 in the first of those campaigns, along with a 2.84 ERA, 49 complete games, and 453 innings pitched. Six years later, he went 31-12, with a 2.13 ERA, 40 complete games, and 388 innings pitched.
Starting Pitcher – Phil Niekro
Phil Niekro beat out Lew Burdette for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation. Niekro won 268 games over parts of 21 seasons with the Braves, surpassing 20 victories on three separate occasions and winning at least 15 games another eight times. The knuckle-balling right-hander led the National League in wins twice, ERA once, complete games and innings pitched four times each, and strikeouts once. Niekro had his best year in 1969, when he finished 23-13, with a 2.56 ERA, 193 strikeouts, 21 complete games, and 284 innings pitched. He placed second to Tom Seaver in the N.L. Cy Young balloting – one of three times he earned a top-five finish.
Closer – John Smoltz
John Smoltz could just as easily have made the team as a starter, but I elected instead to insert him here as closer. After winning 157 games for the Braves as a starter from 1988 to 1999, during which time he earned a Cy Young Award, Smoltz moved to the bullpen in 2001. He spent the next four years working in relief, compiling a total of 154 saves, including three seasons with at least 44. After saving a league-leading 55 games in 2002, Smoltz saved another 45 games for the team the following year, while also compiling a brilliant 1.12 ERA. Smoltz earned two All-Star nominations as a reliever, one top-five finish in the Cy Young voting, and one top-ten finish in the league MVP balloting.
Manager – Bobby Cox
In his 25 years as Braves manager, Bobby Cox led the team to an overall record of 2,149-1,709, for a .557 winning percentage. Atlanta won 14 division titles, five National League pennants, and one world championship. What more is there to say?
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