Thursday, October 30, 2014




June 29-July1

The Atlanta Braves completed a three game sweep of the Dodgers at home on June 24th, thanks to fine starting pitching from Tony Brizzolara, Phil Niekro and Rick Matula. It was a rarity to sweep the Dodgers, but the two-time defending National League champions were fading a bit and the Braves took advantage.

But it was one thing for the Braves to sweep the Dodgers in Atlanta Stadium, but when they came to Los Angeles a week later, I wasn't expecting anything quite so satisfying, as Dodger Stadium had been a house of horrors for the Braves ever since I could remember.

But in the first game, The Braves were playing the Dodgers tough at 2-2 late in the game. Hits by Joe Nolan and Glen Hubbard loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth. Jerry Royster cracked a bases clearing double giving the Braves a 5-2 lead! Gene Garber came in and retired the last six Dodgers and the Braves took the first game out west.

Gene Garber
With Dodger ace Don Sutton going the next night, I wasn't that hopeful the streak could continue. But home runs by Jeff Burroughs and Bob Horner kept the Braves close. Then a second Burroughs homer put the Braves up by two and Gene Garber was called on to save it again in the ninth. But then the Dodgers began hitting again and Steve Garvey knocked in two runs sending the game into extra innings. It felt lost, but surprisingly, the Braves bats woke up with run scoring singles by Charlie Spikes, Pepe Frias and even Gene Garber! which put the Braves up by three. Garber nailed it down this time and the Braves had won two in a row.

They couldn't do it again. Could they?

Braves ace Phil Niekro was on the mound and he pitched the Dodgers well, but the Braves didn't do too much offensively either. It was 1-1 in the ninth when the Braves came through again when big hits from Pepe Frias and Charlie Spikes were followed by a Jerry Royster sacrifice fly and the Braves were ahead.

Jerry Royster

Could this really happen?

Joey McLaughlin came in to pitch the ninth and Joey made it interesting by loading the bases with two outs.

The final out fell into the glove of Rowland Office and I remember McLaughlin pounding his glove in victory and celebrating with his teammates.

Joey McLaughlin
The miracle at Chavez Ravine was complete.

In retrospect, it really was an off-year for the Dodgers. They finished four games under .500 before becoming the winning Dodgers again for the '80 season. 

But the Dodgers-Braves rivalry was starting to heat up and L. A. became their chief rival when the Braves contended in '82 and '83. Yes, contended. This was a word I didn't get to use for the 70's blog, but I do get to use it for the 80's blog (a little bit, anyway.)
And that's the end of  the 1970's and the end of this blog for this year. At the beginning of the 2015 baseball season I will look at my favorite Braves players of the 80's. Hope to see you then...

As I typed the previous sentence, I reconsidered stopping here. I honestly thought I was finished with the 70's part of this blog, but as I was going through the list of players, with the help of baseball, I noticed the thing I enjoyed the most was not so much going through the better known players, but trying to sift out the positives and trying hard to remember the lesser known ones. Of course I remember Hank Aaron and Phil Niekro, but how much do I remember about Mike Thompson or Jim Wessinger? So I've really started to wonder about the players I left out. I'll take a look...

...I looked back and counted fifty players not on my original list that played for the Braves at some point between 1970-1979. To make a long story short, I've decided to list them too. I'll be back with the remaining fifty in a couple of days. Keep those cards and letters coming!


Monday, October 20, 2014


(More from 1978)


(July 30, 1978)

1977 was a low point for the Braves. 101 losses...manager Dave Bristol fired. But 1978 was looking a little better. Bobby Cox was now the manager and going into July 30th, the Braves were only six games under .500 (48-54). So it was with a renewed sense of optimism that I went to my only game that season with my dad to see the Braves battle the Montreal Expos.

It was fan appreciation day and I got to go on the field with my movie camera taking film of Braves players Rowland Office, Joe Nolan, Adrian Devine and a dancing Darrel Chaney. The crowds were too thick around Dale Murphy, Bob Horner and Biff Pocoroba to get too close. Braves mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa was there too.

Then the game started.

In the second inning, the Expos Gary Carter singled in a run, but Warren Crowmartie got tangled up with his third base coach and thrown out at the plate.

After two innings, the Braves trailed only 1-0. But then the third inning started. Braves starter Tommy Boggs gave up a home run to Andre Dawson. Then a double, a single and a wild pitch set up a three run homer from Larry Parrish. 

The Braves were down 5-0 now and Boggs was out of the game and Bobby Cox brought in usually reliable reliever Craig Skok to put out the fire. And things only got worse. Craig gave up a home run to Dave Cash. I still remember this as one of the longest home runs I'd ever seen. Then Andre Dawson hit his second home run of the inning!

End of the third and it is 9-0.

Larry Parrish comes up again in the fourth. Another one gone. 10-0. Craig Skok stays in and takes one for the team.

In the fifth, Tony Perez hits one out followed by Larry Parrish, who hits his third home run of the game. It's 13-0 and Skok mercifully gets to leave the game. 

In the sixth, Chris Spier joins the home run parade and by the end of the inning the Braves trail 16-0. 

In the eight inning, Braves pitcher Mickey Mahler hits Andre Dawson and the benches clear. It is the most life the Braves show all day. At this point, my camera mercifully runs out of film.

The Expos add two more runs including an RBI double by veteran pitcher Woody Fryman!

When the carnage is over, the Expos win 19-0 and I decide for the next year to try to choose more wisely about what game to attend if I'm only going to go to one a year.

Stats on the game:
Larry Parrish hit 20% of his 1978 home run total in this one game

Craig Skok gave up 5 home runs in his 2.2 innings that day. He gave up only 3 others in 42 other games that season.

Andre Dawson was the only major leaguer to hit two home runs in one inning that year.

I'm guessing the 28 hits allowed and 19 run margin of defeat was a franchise record for the Braves, but can't find a source to verify this.

On the plus side, I am grateful that I at least got to spend the afternoon with my dad. 

(August 1, 1978)

There was no bigger baseball news story during the 1978 season than Pete Rose's hitting streak. The record of 56 consecutive games with a hit by Joe Dimaggio had never really been challenged since he set the record in 1941. Then Pete Rose hit in 30 games in a row during the summer of 1978. Then he got it up to 35 games in a row. Then he hit 37 and broke Tommy Holmes National League record. Then he got it up to 44 games tying Wee Willie Keeler's single season mark of 44! Maybe Rose was going to make it all the way to 56!

Then he came to Atlanta.

Pete Rose had singled off Phil Niekro in the opener of the series to give him 44 straight games with a hit. The next night, Pete Rose drew a walk in the first inning off of Larry McWilliams. In the second, Pete lined out to the pitcher. In the fifth, Rose grounded out to Jerry Royster.

In the seventh, Gene Garber came in to relieve and it got fun. Rose lined into a double play. It looked like Pete would only get one more shot.

The game itself was a rare laugher for the Braves against the mighty Reds. The Reds scored three in the first, but the Braves countered with two five run innings and a three run inning led by Dale Murphy and Bob Horner home runs to jump to a 16-4 lead going into the ninth inning. The only drama left would be whether or not Rose could get a hit off Garber. Rose was the third batter up in the ninth. Garber struck out the first two leading to the dramatic showdown. Garber and Rose battled deep into the count until Pete whiffed at an outside pitch for strike three! The streak was over! Garber jumped for joy on the mound and was embraced by catcher Joe Nolan. Rose later commented that Garber acted like it was the seventh game of the world series. Well, Pete for the Braves, it was! Other than historic Hank Aaron home runs, it was probably the Braves signature moment of the decade.

(September 4, 1978)

Fastball pitcher Jim Bouton pitched in two World Series with the Yankees in the early 60's before arm problems ended his career in 1970. In 1969, Jim played for the Houston Astros and Seattle Pilots and that season became the basis of his baseball expose book Ball Four, which was published in 1970. And it was a book embraced by many and hated by many others.

With this new notoriety as an author, it was surprising that Bouton tried to make a comeback eight years later with the Atlanta Braves. No longer having a fastball, he learned the knuckleball and pitched very well for the Braves AA team Savannah in 1978, winning 11 games and posting a 2.82 ERA. But despite his hard work, some didn't appreciate him and thought he had the ulterior motive of just looking for another literary payday. He did write a later piece on it for Sports Illustrated where he stated, if I remember correctly, the struggle to get back to the big leagues was much more fun than actually being there.

But he clearly earned his shot. The Braves were in last place in September and started him on September 10th against Don Sutton and the Dodgers. He pitched three good innings before being hit pretty hard in the fourth and got knocked out of the game after five innings. One bad outing.

The next game against the Giants in Candlestick he did very well, giving up no earned runs in six innings and earning the win. I remember a few of the Giants players including Bill Madlock complaining about him. But he got them out didn't he? Isn't that the point? One bad outing. One good outing.

The next start was at Houston where he pitched seven strong innings against J. R. Richard and got a no-decision in a game that the Braves did manage to win. One bad outing. Two good outings.

He pitched very well in his next game against the Reds and gave up only two runs in a pitchers duel with Tom Hume, where the Braves lost 2-1. One bad outing. Three good outings.

He didn't do that well in his final game, also against Hume and the Reds, but that still left him with two bad outings and three good outings. Compare that percentage to other Braves pitchers of the era and take into account he hadn't pitched in the majors in eight years. Take into account many of his teammates were hostile to him (I think unfairly) and that makes his accomplishment under-appreciated. 

This was the end of Bouton's major league career and I wish it could have lasted longer.

I sent a question to Jim's website a couple of months ago ( and he was kind enough to respond.

Question of the Week: 
Me:I recently started a blog about Atlanta Braves baseball in 
the 70's and it brought back a lot of memories about your comeback season of 
'78.  I think I watched all five of your games that year. I really respected 
what you did and wish your comeback had lasted longer. It seemed that your 
teammates and opposing players didn't give you much respect. Was this a major 
factor in your not continuing your comeback? Have any of them apologized for 
needlessly giving you such a hard time?

Jim: The Atlanta Braves were as far as I wanted to go.  And I had just fallen in love with the woman who would soon become my wife (Paula). As for the opposing players, they just looked foolish.

Friday, October 10, 2014



(June 16, 1978)


Now established as a last place team, 1978 saw the Braves use their first draft pick that summer on a barely twenty-year-old slugger from Arizona State named Bob Horner. For a team that had crowned a new home run champion just four years earlier, here seemed like a potential candidate to take his place! A perfect compact swing playing in the launching pad? A lot of hype surrounded this selection and it was decided to bring Horner right up to the majors and start the third baseman right away. He made his debut against the Pirates and the tough Bert Blyleven. The Braves lost the game, but Bob deposited a Blyleven curveball over the left field fence in the 6th inning for a two-run homer! Bob hit 23 home runs that year in only 89 games to beat out Ozzie Smith for rookie-of -year.

Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth combined was what I thought!

Spoiler alert: Bob's career can only be considered a disappointment after his initial debut. On the plus side, he did have three 30-home run seasons and helped lead the Braves to their first division title in thirteen years in 1982. On the down-side, 218 career home runs can only be considered as falling under expectations after his initial splash. Being injury prone and not always seeming to be at the peak of condition are what led Bob's career to being  over by the age of 30.

(July 5, 1978)

Darrel "Nort" Chaney with chaw in cheek, slings one to first

The 1978 Braves under new manager Bobby Cox showed a little improvement over Dave Bristol's 101 loss team. But they were still clearly a second division team, falling far behind the Reds and Dodgers as it seemed they always did. They certainly didn't win much at Dodger stadium. Those too late games playing against a team at their peek and on their way to a second straight pennant seemed to always end in disappointment. But I still watched the games.

The July 5th game at Dodger stadium started the way a lot of them seem to. The Dodgers hammered the Braves Adrian Devine, Eddie Solomon and Jamie Easterly to grab and 8-0 lead after 5 innings. Why did I even keep watching? These west coast games were on so late. Didn't I have anything better to do? But I kept watching, because that's what I did. 

And the Braves scratched for three runs in the sixth. Well, a moral victory I guess. It was 8-3. Better than 8-0 and they at least had the satisfaction of knocking all-star pitcher Tommy John out of the game. But Lance Rautzman came into pitch for the Dodgers and killed the Braves rally and shut them out in the seventh and eighth.

It's the top of the ninth. The Braves are still trailing 8-3. Barry Bonnell flies out. Two more outs to go and no one on. Shortstop Pat Rockett (hitting well under .200) and Darrel Chaney (hitting barely over .200) are coming up. Why am I still watching again? Well, it will be over in a mintue. But Rockett gets a hold of one and singles! And pinch-hitter Chaney raps a single! Hey, this is getting almost interesting. Jerry Royster singles a run home! Bob Beall singles and loads the bases! A now befuddled Tommy Lasorda brings in knuckleballer Charlie Hough to face a rejuvenated Braves attack. But the knuckler can't find the plate and Gary Matthews draws a bases loaded walk to make the score 8-5! But then Hough gets Cito Gaston to ground out to sure-handed first baseman Steve Garvey...who boots it! 8-6! Rookie sensation Bob Horner comes up and...can't handle the knuckleball and strikes out. One more out to go. Terry Forster comes in and it's up to future star Dale Murphy who singles! Two runs are going to score! Tied at 8-8! Barry Bonnell comes up again and singles home the go-ahead run! Pat Rockett makes the last out of the inning.

Incredibly, there is a bottom of the ninth. Gene Garber comes in and retires the Dodgers in order and gives the Braves the most improbable win that I can ever remember. 

The Dodgers did go on to win the 1978 pennant and the Braves finished in last again, but the July 5th, 1978 game will go down in history! (At least in my history book)

Pat "Rocketman" Rocket turns a psychedelic double-play