For part 2 of the Braves team card we get the checklist. The front of this one has all the 40-plus homer guys plus the whole outfield outside of Sonny Jackson. There are two Hall of Fame signatures in Aaron’s and Niekro’s. And Davey Johnson should be there also, just on his managing props. Time to pick up the bios.
Dick Rudolph was born in NYC and pitched in high school and also at Fordham University. In 1904 – when he was 16 – he even threw in a game for Providence, the same team for which Rabbit Powell played. After his freshman year at college he played summer ball for a local B team, going 3-3 with a 2.50 ERA in ’06. He then spent the next six seasons in Toronto, first an A league team and then a Double A one, where he averaged 20 wins with a 2.45 ERA each year. During that time he was drafted by the Giants and put in a few innings in NY in ’10 and ’11 but then got returned. In May of ’13 he was traded to Boston for cash and outfielder Buster Brown, who must have had nice shoes. He won 14 as a rookie and then in the Miracle Braves season of ’14 went 26 – not 27 – and 10 with a 2.35 ERA including 12 straight wins down the stretch to help Boston reach the Series. There Dick pitched super ball, going 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA in two complete game starts and got a ring. He won 22 in ’15 and 19 in ’16, both with excellent ERA’s, but the team was slipping south again and the next four years his record slipped to 39-50 with about a league-average ERA. By ’20 he was helping out coaching which became a full-time gig the next year and lasted through ’27, a year in which he also threw a few innings. He finished with a record of 121-109, with a 2.66 ERA, 172 complete games, 27 shutouts, and eight saves, plus that excellent Series work. He also hit .188 with a couple homers, and batted .333 in the post-season. In ’28 he both owned and managed an A league team in Waterbury, CT, and then after the team folded coached and managed the next couple years in Maine for a B team. He then became an undertaker in upstate NY which he continued to do – it was a family business – after he hooked up with Harry Stevens to run some concession stands at NY stadiums. He passed away in 1949 in NYC at age 62.
Salida Tom Hughes was from Salida, Colorado and was given his nickname to distinguish him from Long Tom Hughes, with whom he nearly played. This Tom pitched some C ball in 1904 and ’05 and, though he went only 24-44 during that time, was picked up late the latter year by the New York Highlanders in the Rule 5 draft. He went a combined 3-0 in a few games in NY the next two seasons but pitched mostly in the minors during that time and went 25-5 in A ball in ’06. After averaging 15 wins in ’07 and ’08 he spent all the next two seasons on the NY staff, where as a swing guy he went a combined 14-17 with a 3.20 ERA. The latter year he pitched a perfect game over nine innings before losing in extra innings. After that season he was sold to Rochester, then an A team that would move up to Double A. For them Tom pitched four seasons, averaging 16-11 years, before being sold to Boston in September 1914. For the Miracle Braves he won both his starts but was shut out of any Series work. In ’15 he went 16-14 in 25 starts with a 2.12 ERA while leading the NL in games finished and with nine saves. In ’16 he went 16-3 with a 2.35 ERA and five saves in pretty much the same role. He had a nice season in ’17 though his work load dropped considerably, and he only got into a couple games in ’18, his final season. He finished 56-39 with a 2.56 ERA, 55 complete games in 85 starts, nine shutouts, and 17 saves. He did a nice job keeping runners off base and when he was done he’d only put on 938 in his 863 innings. And that’s it. Tracking this guy down has been near-impossible except that he passed away in ’61 in LA when he was 77.
Chick Fraser came out of Chicago and was pitching in organized ball by 1894, when some reports claim he was a batboy, though since he was 20 then that seems unlikely. He went 12-18 that year with a high ERA and had control issues that would dog him for his career. In ’95 he won 23 in A ball and then was sold to Louisville, then an NL team. He went 12-27 his rookie year with a 4.87 ERA while leading the NL in walks and wild pitches. He improved to 15-19 in ’97 but fell back to a poor record in ’98 before he was sold late in the year to the Spiders. Prior to the ’99 season he was sold to the Phillies where he had his best seasons. He went 21-12 in ’99 and won 15 in 1900 before jumping for a season to the A’s where he went 22-16 and led the new AL in walks. The next three seasons with the Phillies he went a combined 38-54 with not great ERA’s but put together three straight seasons where his strikeout totals beat his walk ones. In ’03 he threw a no-hitter. In ’05 he went to the Beaneaters as part of the deal for Togie Pittinger and for them went 14-21 with his walk totals leading the NL. He then went to Cincinnati for a year before going to the Cubs in ’07 and putting together two nice years as a spot guy – 19-14 with a 2.28 ERA - though he got no Series action. Shortly into the ’09 season he was apparently assigned to the minors but refused to report, taking him out of baseball. He played semi-pro ball in Chicago in 1910 and then in ’11 did report to the team to which he was assigned in ’09 and went 4-6 in A ball. In ’12 he moved to B ball where he pitched – 6-6 - and managed for a year. That was it for his playing time and he finished with a record of 175-212 with a 3.67 ERA, 342 complete games, 22 shutouts, and six saves. In ’13 he hooked up with former teammate and brother-in-law Fred Clarke in Pittsburgh and both coached and scouted for the Pirates though 1930. He then managed a season in B ball and then joined the Dodgers the next year for whom he also scouted. His last gig was with the Yankees as a scout. He joined the team in ’39 and then got sick, possibly from diabetes. He passed away in ’40 shortly after having his leg amputated. He was 69.
Irv Young was nicknamed Cy the Second or Young Cy when he played for obvious reasons. He was born in Maine and by the time he was 17 was working on the railroad in New England. He pitched local ball and in ’03 tried out for and made an independent team on the west coast at age 25. There he went 4-6 with a 3.47 ERA before returning east the next year to win anywhere between 15 and 18 games at the same level. In ’05 he got purchased by the Beaneaters and had a big rookie year, going 20-21 with a 2.90 ERA for a team that only won 51 games. He led the NL in starts, complete games (41), and innings (378). His shutouts were an NL record for a rookie until broken by Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. And it wasn’t until ’79 that another NL pitcher got both 20 wins and losses the same season. In ’06 Irv led the NL again in the same categories but his record slipped to 16-25 though his ERA stayed the same. In ’07 it slipped again to 10-23 but this time his ERA popped a run. In ’08 he began the season 4-9 with a 2.86 ERA before a mid-year trade sent him to Pittsburgh for Tom McCarthy and Hawley Young, ironically nicknamed Cy the Third. For the Pirates this Cy had a nice short season as a swing guy, going 4-3 with a save and a 2.01 ERA, but was sold to the minors after the season. After going 23-18 for the A league Minneapolis Millers in ’09 he was purchased by the White Sox and spent ’10 and ’11 in Chicago where he went a combined 9-14 with a couple saves and a high ERA. ’11 was his last year up top and Irv finished 63-95 with a 3.11 ERA, 120 complete games, 21 shutouts, and four saves. In ’12 he returned to Minneapolis to win 16 and he remained in Double A through the ‘16 season, twice more winning 20 games. He went 98-85 at that level. He then returned to Maine where, among other things, he coached local ball. He passed away in ’35 at age 57 in Brewster.
Warren Spahn grew up in Buffalo, NY where as a kid he played a lot more at first base than he did as a pitcher. His dad taught him most of his mechanics, including his big leg kick and his curveball. When Warren got to high school he had an all-state guy at first so he moved to pitcher full-time. He was signed by the Boston Bees out of high school in 1940 and then got hurt his first season in D ball, though he went 5-4 with a 2.73 ERA. But he got healthy for a ’41 in B ball in which he went 19-6 with a 1.83 ERA and a ’42 in A ball that was 17-12 with a 1.96 ERA. He made his debut early that second year in Boston, but it didn’t go crazy well. Then after that season he enlisted for WW II and by the time he returned during the ’46 season he was one of the most decorated baseball-playing servicemen with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. As a 25-year old rookie that year he went 8-5 as a swing guy. His sophomore year was huge as he went 21-10 and led the NL in shutouts, innings, and with his 2.33 ERA. In ’48 he won 15 as his ERA popped a bit, but he did get his first post-season action, throwing well in the Series loss to Cleveland. Over the next 13 seasons – that was also his lucky number – he won at least 20 eleven times. During that time he led the NL in ERA twice, strikeouts four times, complete games seven times, and shutouts three times. He won his Cy in ’57 when he led the Braves back to the Series and beat the Yankees, though he didn’t pitch terribly well. They went back in ’58 and Warren pitched super, going 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA, though that time NY got them back. In ’60 and ’61 he threw no-hitters. In ’62 he slipped to 18 wins though he again led the NL in complete games. Then in ’63 when he was 42 he had one of his best seasons, going 23-7 with a 2.60 ERA and only 49 walks in 260 innings. It was his last great season. In ’64 he slipped to a losing record on an inflated ERA and in ’65 he split the year between the Mets and the Giants and then was done. Warren finished with a record of 363-245 with a 3.09 ERA, 382 complete games, 63 shutouts, and 29 saves. He went to 14 All-Star games and in the post-season was 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA in eight games. He also hit .194 with 35 homers and 189 RBI’s in the regular season and .200 with four RBI’s in the post-season. In ’66 he pitched in Mexico and in ’67 in the minors – both as demonstrations for teams he was managing – which delayed his induction to the Hall to ’73. He managed Tulsa, St. Louis’ Triple A franchise, from ’67 to ’71, and went 373-339. In ’72 and ’73 he was the Cleveland pitching coach. He then coached in Japan from ’73 to ’78 before returning to the States to coach a few seasons in the California system. He left baseball in the early Eighties to run his farm in Oklahoma and passed away in 2003 at 82.
A bunch of the above guys have SABR bios.
Now we get to see how Topps did getting full representation of the ’73 Atlanta team. Two guys with over 50 at bats didn’t make the cut: Dick Dietz, the former Giant catcher, played first and caught for the ’73 Braves and had a pretty good year, hitting .295 with a .474 OBA and 24 RBI’s in just 139 at bats, but was released in March ’74 despite those numbers; and Oscar Brown, who hit .207 as an outfielder in his last season with the Braves. Dietz isn’t in the photo but Oscar is the last guy in the first row. On the pitching side Pat Dobson (3-7), Cecil Upshaw (0-1), and Joe Hoerner (2-2, 2 saves) had been traded during the season and have cards with the Yankees, Houston, and Kansas City, respectively. Other guys without cards, but with decisions include: Jim Panther (2-3 with a 7.63 ERA), a middle reliever in his final season up top; Jimmy Freeman (0-2, 7.71, 1 save), a one-time hot prospect also in his last season at 22; Max Leon (2-2, 5.33), in his first season and who would go on to be a staple in the Atlanta bullpen a few years; Gary Neibauer (2-1, 7.17), another older guy at the end of his run; Wenty – not Whitey – Ford (1-2, 5.51), a Bahamian who pitched up top only in ’73 and has a SABR bio; Tom Kelly (0-1, 2.84), also in his last year but who got some Atlanta innings the prior couple seasons; and Dave Cheadle (0-1, 18.00) with his two cup-of-coffee innings. On the photo Panther is the third guy from the right in the second row, Freeman the first guy in the third row, and Kelley the fourth guy in that row. That deprives us of 21 decisions which is somewhere near the low end. So Atlanta doesn’t fare too well. But it did have all those Aaron special cards.
Not too surprisingly, Atlanta’s entry for the baseball centennial in ’76 was the game in ’74 in which Aaron broke the Babe’s record. It happened in Atlanta’s fourth game and poor Al Downing was the victim. Darrell Evans was on board when Hank hit his shot in front of 53,000-plus and amid all those death threats. Tom House caught the ball in the Atlanta bullpen and there are at least three versions of the homer on YouTube.
Finally, we get an easy hook-up since Didier was a recent Brave:
1. Hank Aaron – of course – was on the ’73 Braves;
2. Aaron and Bob Didier ’69 to ‘72 Braves.