100 FAVORITE PLAYERS FROM THE 1970'S AND 1980'S
SEASON ONE: 100 FAVORITE PLAYERS FROM THE 1970'S
I first became interested in baseball and the Atlanta Braves at some point during the 1971 season and followed the team closely throughout the decade. I was eight years old when I watched my first game and sixteen when I saw my last Braves game of the decade in 1979. So I watched a lot of baseball during those
formative years. I also began collecting TOPPS baseball cards in 1971. I mostly got the 1971 cards with the black borders that were easily damaged, though occasionally Cheek's Pharmacy still had some 1970 TOPPS cards, so I could get the gray cards from the previous year that featured players that weren't even on the team anymore. That's okay, I liked my '70 Tony Gonzalez and Bob Tillman cards anyway. I only kept collecting cards until '75, but I, of course, was still a fan of the team throughout the decade.
As far as the Braves teams of the 70's goes, I'd like to report about all the great pennant races the team had during this time, but there were none. The National League West was so dominated by the Reds and Dodgers, there was no room for air for any other teams, let alone the Braves. Despite winning the first ever Western Division title in 1969, the Braves of the 70's had eight losing seasons and two winning ones. One of the winning ones was two games over .500. The best year was the 88-74 season of 1974, but that team still finished 14 games behind the Dodgers. The Braves finished the decade with five seasons of ninety losses or more and four straight last place finishes. But thinking back on it now, it was still the best of times to be a baseball fan and a Braves fan.
Recently I read two books that made me more than a bit nostalgic for the good 'ole baseball days. The first one was Bushville Wins!: The Wild Saga of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the Screwballs, Sluggers, and Beer Swiggers Who Canned the New York Yankees and Changed Baseball by John Klima. This book is clearly not about the ATLANTA Braves, but it is a wonderful trip back to a bygone age and made me start to recall the glory days of my own Braves team. (I understand using the word "glory" is a bit of an overstatement.) The other book is the wonderfully nostalgic journey back to 70's baseball Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging 70's by Dan Epstein. If you are a fan of 70's baseball, this is a must-read.
So I wanted to use this blog to look back at who were my favorite players during that time. Though I have the basic memories still swimming around somewhere in my head, I found www.baseballreference.com to be an indispensable tool to jar some of these more stubborn recollections (and exact dates!) loose.
Keep in mind that this blog isn't necessarily a list of who were the best players or who made the most contributions to the team during this time. Biff Pocoroba may not rate so highly on someone else's list, but he is pretty high up on mine.
Before I begin this list, I can think of three players who are automatically disqualified from consideration...
INELIGIBLES: DUSTY BAKER, DICK RUTHVEN, MIKE MARSHALL
All three of these players were all-stars at one time or another and all played in the World Series (obviously not with the Braves). But their ineligibility comes from the fact that they either demanded to be traded away
from Atlanta or expressed happiness that they were on a different team after leaving the Braves. I'm sorry, but that kind of attitude won't do for this list, World Series aspirations or not. There may be other players that expressed similar sentiments during this time, but I'll have to remain happily oblivious to such evil thoughts.
And without any further ado, tomorrow I will begin the long list of favorites starting with #100. If anyone wants to comment on these selections or give their own opinions, they are certainly welcome to.