Tommy, Brittni and I kicked off our piece on our All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves with our 9th and 10th selections here. Today, we move into our 8th then our 7th favorites. If you’re just tuning in on this series, remember that the major component in selecting our favorites is that the player had(has) to be playing during each individuals time-frame of Braves fandom. Play along with us in the comments section! It’s a fun journey to see who everyone values outside of the statistics.
Ryan Cothran’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 8
Tim Hudson: December 17th, 2004 was a day that as a Braves fan I was immediately disappointed as I grew to enjoy watching Charles Thomas play and I found out that he’d been traded to Oakland, along with Dan Meyer and Juan Cruz. The return? Tim Hudson! Needless to say, my disappointment didn’t last very long as Charles Thomas only played 30 games in the MLB after his Braves stint, Dan Meyer pitched 113.2 innings of sub-par baseball for his career, and Juan Cruz was a middle of the road reliever for the next 8 years. Meanwhile, Tim Hudson anchored a Braves rotation for nearly a decade pitching in 244 games (243 started), 1573 innings and compiled a 3.56 ERA putting him healthily in the discussion for the Hall of Fame (although I think he falls short.But that’s only part of the reason to like Tim Hudson. He’s one of the most charitable players to ever don a Braves uniform. His charity, The Hudson Family Foundation plucks my heartstrings as their mission is quite simple: to help children in need. Being a teacher, I see children every day that could benefit from a bit of an extra hand and that’s what Tim and his wife do, and they do it hands-on, not asking others to do it for them. Tim is also an Auburn graduate and although his time at AU had come to a close when I arrived, his legend lives on, as he became an All-SEC centerfielder as well as pitcher and was the first player in SEC history to ever receive awards at 2 positions in the same year.
The last aspect that makes Tim one of my favorites is that he’s just so darn likable and personable. I’ve met him twice and he’s never been standoffish. Kudos to you, Tim! You’ve done well by me.
Brittni Swanson’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 8
Andrelton Simmons: Simba is one of the greatest shortstops that I have ever seen play. I have never seen someone make the unimaginable plays like he does. I hate that the Braves traded him away because his skill and his range of motion in the infield is mindboggling. I remember when I was first learning about the deep details of the game, he was the first player that I was like ‘wow, he is special’. His bobble-head was also one of the first ones that my husband and I got when we started our collection, so his kind of kicked off our obsession to continue collecting. He hasn’t always had the greatest numbers at the bat but his defensive play is something that I will always miss in Braves country. Last summer I had the privilege of visiting the Angels’ stadium in Anaheim and it felt so great to see him again. He had not changed, still had that amazing coverage in the field accompanied with the ability to catch a ball so fast *don’t blink* or you will miss it. To me, Simmons will always be a Brave. Miss you Simba!
Tommy Poe’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 8
Ryan Langerhans: This is kind of ridiculous and I know that. Before I start, I did have a mini man crush on Langerhans. At the same time I was starting to get into analytics, here was a guy with a bit of a lower batting average, but good metrics and defense. So, he was already on my radar.
But my love for Langerhans is really based more on one thing – Out of the Park. If you don’t know what OOTP is, it’s a text-based simulator in which you can take over a franchise and run nearly all aspects of it. As the game has evolved, it’s added things that seem minor but make the experience all the more authentic – non-roster invitees to spring training, winter leagues, qualifying offers and compensation. Even when Langerhans played, the game was pretty advanced for its time with three levels of minor leagues, draft pick compensation, and international players.
While Langerhans would languish “IRL” as a fourth outfielder before regressing into a Quad-A type, he developed into an All-Star for my Braves. While stars would come-and-go, seemingly every year, Langer was my #2 hitter. He went to a number of All-Star Games, won rings for me, and had some pretty solid career marks. And yes, I do know this is ridiculous to include him as a favorite Brave when his career wasn’t even that notable, but that was the beauty of OOTP. Most of the time, guys like Langer didn’t become stars. But every once and awhile, the randomization of development just clicked for them. Every time I think about Langer now, it makes me want to play OOTP.
Ryan Cothran’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 7
Gene Garber: Quote from my Dad when discussing why he thought I loved Gene Garber:
“He turned backwards before he threw the ball! For crying out loud?! What 7-year old wouldn’t find that fascinating!”
On my sister’s 3rd birthday, and a mere 11 days before I was born, Gene Garber put a villain to rest. August 1, 1978, Pete Rose was in the midst of tracking down Joe Dimaggio’s hitting streak record of 56 games. He sat on 44 and was down to his last AB against Gene Garber, and Garber, being just recently acquired from the Braves, did not let the Braves fans down, K’ing Charlie Hustle for the 3rd out of the 9th Inning. If you’ve ever watched the video, you’ll see a reaction from Garber that makes it seem as though it were sealed a victory in the 9th inning of a playoff game, and it was glorious.
Until recent trends, guys like Gene Garber were a dying breed. For his career, Garber appeared in 922 games as a reliever yet pitched 1452.2 innings. That means more often than not he pitched multiple innings per appearance. He was also the trademarked “closer” for the Braves which makes this feat all the odder. Garber pitched for 19 years, 10 with the Braves, 5 with the Phillies, 4 with the Royals, and 3 with the Pirates. His career really took off when transitioned full-time to the bullpen in 1973.
The Braves caravan used to frequent the Gadsden, Alabama Mall back in the ’80s and Garber was a yearly participant. As a kid, I know I got his autograph several times and he was always polite, if not a little reserved. But the one thing that really makes him a favorite of mine was his delivery. Every single time he came into the game, I would mimic that delivery to a tee and practiced it so much that it became a regular pitch I would throw in our wiffleball games. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t keep my ERA at Garber level so I had to let it go with age.
Brittni Swanson’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 7
Brian McCann: B-Mac is the man! When I started watching the Braves seriously, McCann was the catcher and he was a force to be reckoned with. I was so sad when he was signed by the Yankees, but was excited for him when he won a World Series ring with the Astros last year; it was very well deserved. Simply, I like McCann because he is McCann. He is just an amazing player. His numbers are incredible. He ranks up there with the best of the best catchers in the game right now. He’s been an All-Star 7 times, has 6 Silver Sluggers and won MVP twice. In 2010, he won all three of these awards, I mean, who does that? B-Mac!! He is an all-time fav for me.
I read an article by the AJC awhile back where McCann said, “Spent some amazing years (with the Braves). I’ll always be an Atlanta Brave. So I love this organization, and we’ll see what happens in the future.” That says something about the organization and the impact it has on it’s players. At least for me, I would love to see McCann make his way back to the Braves and bring that winning spirit with him.
Tommy Poe’s All-Time Favorite Atlanta Braves, Number 7
Steve Avery: I was nine years old when the Braves made it to the playoffs in 1991. I watched as a left-hander with a baby-face set down Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds, and Andy Van Slyke as if these three weren’t some of the best hitters in the game at the time. He cruised through the Pirates lineup in not one, but two starts, allowing zero runs over 16 innings. He had turned 21 that April. Of course, Avery’s career didn’t include the sustained success of Tom Glavine or John Smoltz, nor of Greg Maddux after the latter joined in 1993. Avery’s best days were over after that season, his only as an All-Star. He would continue to start at least 18 games for six consecutive seasons with three different teams, but the Michigan native was done.
However, mixed in there was a start in the 1995 World Series. The Braves had a 2-1 lead in the Series when Avery took the mound in Jacobs Field. I watched on satellite television. The previous year, I had lost my father. Like me, he thought there was something electric about Avery. On that night, which followed a poor season and a clear spot as the forgotten guy in the star-studded Braves rotation, Avery found “it” again. Oh, he walked five batters, sure. Stubborn, he never relented. In turn, the high-powered Indians couldn’t get a big knock off him until Albert Belle finally cranked a solo homer with one out in the sixth. The final pitch of his final postseason start would be to Herbert Perry. He struck out Perry swinging.
I have a bit of sympathy for Avery. He was nearly Glavine and Smoltz’s equal during that first couple of magical seasons of The Streak. They are now in Cooperstown and he’s not. His arm just didn’t have the longevity their arms did. But he gave it his all and even when he was no longer the young gun he once was, at least on one night in October, he held a historic offense to only run over six innings and helped to put Atlanta in a spot to win that elusive World Title.