First off, a little trivia question. Who is the only player to play as a Boston Brave, Milwaukee Brave, and Atlanta Brave?
|1994 Topps Archives 1954 #141 Joe Jay|
Besides that excellent first start, Jay holds another claim to fame. He's the first Little Leaguer to make it to the major leagues, and "he shows amazing skill!" He was not actually in the Little League World Series, so he didn't make Night Owl's recent post, but he gave hope to millions of little kids across America, myself included.
|1994 Topps Archives 1954 #176 Bob Keely|
Coaches in those days wore a lot of hats, but he'd probably be considered a bullpen coach by today's definition. He served on the coaching staff in 1957 (his final year), which is the only time a World Series trophy has been brought home to Milwaukee. The Brewers haven't done it yet.
Last chance for guesses on that trivia question!
|2003 Fleer Tradition #76 Eddie Mathews ML SP|
This is a quasi-reprint card, which is based on Fleer's 1963 set. It commemorates the 40th anniversary of that iconic set, just like 1954 Archives did in 1994. Mathews didn't actually appear in that set, getting this "Missing Link" subset card forty years later. I wonder if Upper Deck will manage to pull anything off in 2029. Unlikely. Also, 40 years really isn't that long, is it?
Mathews was part of that 1957 Championship team, beating, well, I'll give you one guess on who they beat. And the card refers to him as a nine-time All Star, which was as correct in 1963 as it is today. His last appearance in the Midsummer Classic was in 1962.
You might think Mathews was a career Brave, seeing as he stuck with them long enough to call three cities home. But his production trailed off in the mid-1960s, and the Braves traded him to Houston in 1966, along with a guy named Arnold Umbach, plus Sandy Alomar, Sr., who was the Player To Be Named Later in that particular transaction. Both players the Braves got in return were out of the Majors by the end of 1967.
Mathews may have been past his prime, but he still had some baseball left in him. He passed the 500 home run milestone as an Astro in 1967 (hitting #500 off of Juan Marichal), then wrapped up his career in Detroit with his second World Series ring in 1968.
|1995 Collector's Choice SE Silver Signature #142 Greg Maddux STL|
Greg Maddux had a lot do to with that dominance. He was such an efficient pitcher that he now has an unofficial baseball stat named after him. When you pitch a complete game shutout with less than 100 pitches, you have thrown a Maddux.
Flip this Silver Signature parallel over and see for yourself. In the strike-shortened 1994 season, the best pitchers in baseball had an ERA of about 2.70. Bret Saberhagen was slightly above that, Steve Ontiveros a little below. Maddux blew them all out of the water with a 1.56 ERA, earning his third of four straight Cy Young awards in the process. Only Randy Johnson has matched that streak.
This was one of my favorite parallel sets in my early collecting days. I was always chasing a Gold Signature parallel, but didn't find one until many years later. I was also quite the fan of Topps Gold.
|1994 Topps Gold #735 Terry Pendleton|
Terry Pendleton, who appeared in one of my earliest posts, wasn't quite as dominant as Greg Maddux, but he did win the batting title and the NL MVP award in 1991, the first year of the Braves long run of division wins. And winning an NL batting title in the era of Tony Gwynn is no small feat.
|1962 Topps #58 NL Win Leaders Warren Spahn / Joe Jay / Jim O'Toole|
Spahn gets the largest head on the front of this League Leaders card, even though Joe Jay is just as deserving. Yes, that's the same Joe(y) Jay we saw at the top of this post. He was traded to the Reds in 1960, a year before the Reds faced the Yankees (who else?) in the 1961 World Series. That Series was Jay's only appearance in the postseason, but perhaps as some consolation to losing to the Yankees and having a smaller head on this card than Spahn, Jay got listed first as a league leader on the card back.
The card looks a lot like a checklist, listing about fifty guys all the way down to just six wins. A lot of familiar names are on it, like Drysdale, Burdette, Podres, Koufax, Haddix, and Marichal. Even some lesser known players like Roy Face and Tony Cloninger appear in the second column.
The corners are a little beat up, but the printing itself is fine, front and back. It looks no worse than some of my 1987 Topps cards, and only set me back a couple dollars, if I'm remembering correctly. Not bad at all for my favorite vintage set.
Oh, and one last note on that trivia question. Warren Spahn came pretty close to being a correct answer, but his contract was sold to the Mets after the 1964 season. He retired in 1965 as a Giant, just a year before the Braves moved to Atlanta.
Good guess, though.