I thought I'd have fun doing some research on numbers in Braves history, but not the numbers you're probably thinking of. I wanted to seek who wore different uniform numbers of significance in the organization's history. This is based on fun facts, not just the "best player ever to wear the number". I hope you enjoy!
1 - Considered one of the best defenders at shortstop in the HISTORY of the game, Rabbit Maranville wears his Boston Braves hat with pride at the Hall of Fame. You know your defense is something special when you finish 2nd and 3rd in MVP voting in back to back seasons where you hit .247/.330/.308 and .246/.306/.326. Began and finished his career for the Boston Braves
2 - A great example of how the game changed in the late 1990s, Rafael Belliard was able to be part of the teams that dominated the early 1990s for one reason - his glove. He joined the Braves in 1991 from the Pirates, and the Braves promptly defeated the Pirates in back to back seasons in the playoffs. His 1993 line is a great example of his worth to the team. He appeared in 91 games, but he only had 89 total plate appearances!
3 - Easy one, Dale Murphy. It's a shame he aged so harshly because with some graceful "down years", he'd have been a shoo-in for the Hall. Murph won 2 MVPs, 5 Gold Gloves, and 4 Silver Sluggers in his career. The number is retired by the Braves. Check him out on Twitter. He's a fun follow!
4 - The oft-injured, steel-gloved shortstop of the 1990s was one Jeff Blauser. While Blauser was often one of the better hitting shortstops during his stay with the Braves, his glove assured Raffy Belliard of a roster spot. Blauser was definitely a Brave at heart as well. He left for the Cubs in 1998 and was out of baseball after 1999.
5 - If it weren't for an ATV accident, there's no telling the player Ron Gant could have been for the Braves. He was the 3rd player in the history of the game with back-to-back 30/30 seasons in 1990 and 1991. Gant hit 36 homers and stole 26 bases his final season as a Brave in 1993, signed one of the richest deals in Braves history, and then suffered his accident before spring training. The Braves released him and were free of all but the 1994 season of his salary because of an out clause in his contract. Gant had a couple more productive seasons in Cincy and St. Louis, but he was never able to stay healthy again.
6 - The man, the myth, the legend. Mr. Robert Joseph Cox, or simply Bobby. He built the Braves as the GM in the late 80s and early 90s and then assumed managerial role during one of the most elongated periods of dominance in baseball history. Bobby is simply one of the greatest managers in the history of the game, let alone the Braves. Interestingly enough, likely the best contemporary of Bobby, Tony LaRussa, wore #6 when he played for the Braves.
7 - One of the biggest firestorms of recent memory, Jeff Francoeur set the team on edge and even ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated and on the WBC USA team. Now five years later, he's on his third organization since the Braves, and he's really shown no progress of skills, sadly, but he was an amazing burst of energy to the team in the mid-2000s.
8 - Javy Lopez took the Braves back to a former player and manager of the team, Joe Torre. Lopez was a deep threat in the lineup who also hit for a good average. Lopez still holds the HR record for Braves catchers with 43 in 2003.
9 - The catalyst (and MVP) for the 1991 team that turned around Braves fortunes, Terry Pendleton led the league in hits his first two years as a Brave and won the 1991 MVP. He also had one of the best bow-outs in team history, leaving to injury after the 1994 season, when a certain future Hall of Famer took over the position. Pendleton returned to the team as a hitting coach and was an integral part of the organization.
10 - Chipper Jones. The man has owned Atlanta for 20 years, and when he can stay on the field, he's still one of the best. He's nearing major career milestones that only a select few players have ever done in the game, but he'd give up any milestone if it meant the Braves winning. He will retire with an A on the front of his cap, and that has made the ride of his career even more enjoyable.
11 - While he wore #5 for the majority of his career, there were few #11's of note, and Bob Horner wore #11 for the last two years of his Braves tenure. Horner went straight from being the first overall pick in the draft in 1978 to the starting lineup, beating out Ozzie Smith for rookie of the year. He was a slugger from the get-go, but also hit for solid average and didn't strike out much. His career ended much too soon, but he was a definite star in his time in Atlanta.
12 - Possibly the most popular person in the clubhouse of the 90s-early 2000s Braves was reserve catcher Eddie Perez. His practical jokes on teammates were legendary, even though his most famous moment was as the butt of a prank of Tim Hudson. Eddie played 9 seasons for the Braves and continues in the organization.
13 - He may have only pitched one season in Atlanta, but Billy Wagner produced arguably the greatest season by a closer in an organization with one closer in the Hall of Fame and one on the way soon. Wagner had possibly his best season in his last year with Atlanta, the team he grew up cheering for.
14 - 14 has the distinction of being worn by 3 of possibly the most likeable and lovable Braves of recent era - Martin Prado, Julio Franco, and Andres Galarraga. Of course, each contributed mightily on the field, but in the case of all three, their bigger contribution was to the clubhouse and how they played the game. Hopefully Prado plays long enough as a Brave to make this number his on any similar list.
15 - Hometown boy Tim Hudson returned after launching his career in Oakland. While his health has been up and down throughout his career, he has unquestionably been the veteran anchor of the staff, and he's continued to put up excellent seasons even as he ages.
16 - Arguably already the greatest catcher in Braves history, Brian McCann is making a very loud argument as the best catcher in the game right now. He has become a force on offense, and his game calling and pitcher management receives raves around the league. He is the remaining force of the 2005 rookie rush, and most Brave fans hopes he remains wearing a Tomahawk for years to come.
17 - He was a stud defender at second base (he still holds ALL records for full season defensive statistics for Atlanta Braves second basemen), and then Glenn Hubbard spent a lot of time coaching first base for Bobby Cox and the boys. Hubbard is credited with turning Marcus Giles, Kelly Johnson, and Martin Prado into solid defenders at 2B with his offseason work.
18 - When Ron Gant suffered a Braves career-ending injury in 1994, the door was opened for Ryan Klesko to finally get his powerful bat into the lineup. He never became quite the slugger that the team envisioned, but he produced tremendous left-handed power in the Braves lineup during the 1995 World Championship season and then followed that season up with his career high of 34 home runs in a season. In the end, Klesko was a better platoon player with his difficulties against lefties, but he took some amazing swings!
19 - The absolute perfect example of the work that Leo Mazzone did while in Atlanta is John Burkett. Burkett started his career bright in San Francisco, but really floundered when he went to Texas and was a bargain basement buy for the Braves in 2000. Leo worked his magic that season, and took it into the 2001 season where Burkett had a K/9 rate over a full strikeout higher than his career best outside of Atlanta and got Burkett's best ERA of his career. Burkett parlayed his big season into a big contract with Boston, where he was out of baseball within 2 years of his last appearance for the Braves.
20 - He never made an All-Star game or won any awards, and he wasn't anything to write home about offensively, but Mark Lemke came alive in October. The career .246 hitter posted a .272 batting average in the postseason in his career, including being the best hitter in the 1991 World Series and the 1992 NLCS. Lemke started his career with #17, which is fitting as that was Glenn Hubbard's number in Atlanta, and Lemke produced in a similar manner - very good defense and barely enough offense.
21 - Another retired number, this one belonging to one Warren Spahn. Arguably the greatest lefty career the game had seen until Randy Johnson came along (and the argument can still hold water, which says a lot!). Interestingly enough, it was the most often-won number of games in a season during Spahn's career, a number he ended the season with 8 times in 21 seasons.
22 - He's only played one season, and he's now struggling in his second season, but Jason Heyward has a swing and stature that is astonishing. While struggles at 21 are not insurmountable, Heyward currently has been getting rumbles about being the next Jeff Francoeur in Atlanta. The good news is that Jason has so much more baseball skills, rather than just tools, going forward, so that should propel him forward in 2012 and beyond!
23 - I'm a huge pitching fan, but I stopped to watch the TV every time David Justice came to bat. He struggled to stay healthy in Atlanta, and after missing nearly the entire 1996 season (and the emergence of Jermaine Dye and Andruw Jones), Justice was traded to Cleveland in one of the worst deals of the Braves' 1990s run. He went on to produce a top-5 MVP season in Cleveland in 1997.
24 - There are better options in the past, but when your team had Deion Sanders playing, it's hard not to recall him as the most visible player to wear his uniform number. His 1992 season was the epitomy of what Deion could have been if he played full time. He hit .304/.346/.495, had 14 triples, 8 home runs, and stole 26 bases IN ONLY 97 GAMES!
25 - Centerfield has never been so beautifully patrolled as it was by Andruw Jones from 1996-2007. I've never seen another player handle the position with such ease and grace, even on the hard plays. His career took a huge nosedive as he left Atlanta, but he was in the middle of the lineup and saving runs all over the outfield. He never hit below his jersey number in home runs in a season as the primary starter in CF during his Braves career.
26 - The first major playoff-push trade acquisition of the 1990s, Alejandro Pena was lightning in a bottle in 1991 for the Braves, taking over as closer and posting a 1.40 ERA and saving 11 games after his acquisition. He blew out his arm the next season and was never the same pitcher, but he is a great example of the small chips that often came into Atlanta midseason and provided good production to push toward the playoffs.
27 - The Crime Dog, Fred McGriff, was arguably the Braves best midseason acquisition, having a tremendous second half for the Braves in 1993 to help put the Braves over the top of the San Francisco Giants and into the playoffs. McGriff had a season in 1994 that would have possibly produced his only 40-homer season if not for the strike. McGriff provided a power bat in the middle of the lineup for 5 seasons for the Braves in their strongest run of the 1990s era.
28 - If you're into SIM league baseball, you know the 1987 season that Gerald Perry had. As a first baseman, he hit 12 home runs and .270, but he stole 42 bases! He had a fairly unnoticeable career in Atlanta otherwise, but he did sport a memorable mustache that made getting his baseball cards quite fun!
29 - The fireballer of the 90s staff was John Smoltz, who was flexible enough to be considered strongly (top 5 in voting) for a Cy Young Award as both a starter and a reliever during his career. Smoltz will be forever remembered in baseball lore for a game near the beginning of his career where he dueled Jack Morris of the Twins in one of the most memorable game sevens in World Series history.
30 - He only played three full seasons in Atlanta, but Orlando Cepeda found his last hurrah of a Hall of Fame career in a Braves uniform from 1969-1972. Cepeda's 1970 season (.305/.365/.543 with 34 home runs) was a solid compliment to Hank Aaron in his final days. Alas, it was Aaron's move to 1B at the end of his career that moved Cepeda from Atlanta.
31 - Greg Maddux. Arguably the greatest right hander in the history of the game. Mad Dog was the definition of consistency, regardless of the team around him, winning 15 games in 17 straight seasons and 18 of 23 seasons. Maddux never had a single season in Atlanta where he walked more than 2.0 bb/9. May soon break Tom Seaver's record on the Hall of Fame ballot.
33 - Rarely has a star shone so bright and burned out so quickly as Steve Avery didin the early 1990s. Avery was arguably the best #4 starter in the major leagues until in injury in 1993 affected his very precise motion. He never got the feel for that motion back, and he had more wins in his 3 1/2 seasons before the injury than in the 7 seasons he pitched after the injury.
34 - The Braves moved many pitchers through the rotation behind their "big three" before Kevin Millwood, but once he arrived, he was tremendously successful in the role, even stepping up when John Smoltz moved to the bullpen. Millwood was part of a "forced" trade when Greg Maddux unexpectedly accepted arbitration before the 2003 season and went to the hated Phillies. He was never the same pitcher outside of Atlanta.
35 - The greatest knuckler the game has ever known, Mr. Phil Niekro. The man pitched 342 innings at age 40! That same season, he walked over 100 batters and still had a WHIP under 1.20. His knuckler could simply be untouchable for long stretches. Knucksie's grand pitch was his doing and his undoing in many eyes. He pitched long into games and got a decision nearly every time out, which meant bad things on the Braves teams of the 70s and 80s and probably skewed his career record.
36 - Gary Matthews joined Atlanta in 1977 and had a four year career with the Braves that netted 81 home runs and 59 steals. "Sarge" had better years in other locales, but he was one of the few consistent performers for the Braves during his tenure.
37 - Brandon Beachy may overtake this someday, but in my mind, this number will be Mike Remlinger for some time. Mike was acquired by the Braves from the Reds with Bret Boone for Denny Neagle, Rob Bell, and Michael Tucker. Mike was past prospect status at that point, and he recreated himself as a reliever in Atlanta, serving as a lefty setup man who could get guys out on both sides of the plate (sound familiar, Jonny?). He threw 70+ games every season he was in Atlanta and was part of arguably the greatest bullpen in team history in 2002.
38 - While he was an amazing manager over his career, one of the knocks on Bobby Cox was his handling of young pitchers. Jason Marquis would qualify as exhibit A for the prosecution. Over his time in Atlanta, he was jerked in and out of the rotation, brought up and sent down, never securing one job with the team. He was dealt to St. Louis as part of the J.D. Drew deal.
39 - Currently sported by Jonny Venters, this number has been worn by a number of solid relievers for the Braves over the years, even including Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm during his time with the Braves.
40 - When Atlanta signed the future Hall of Famer, they made Bruce Sutter the highest paid player in all of baseball. Unfortunately, he was nearing the end of his career at that time, and the Braves got a total of 40 saves from the Hall of Fame closer for their $10 million. Sutter set up an extremely wise trust fund to defer his salary upon the team's request.
41 - It is rare that a franchise can legitimately claim 2 of the 5 top players at a position in the whole history of the game, but the Braves can with Chipper and Eddie Matthews. Matthews and Hank Aaron still hold records for teammate home runs together. They were a perfect 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup. Matthews is one of the few players who can say he played a full season as a Brave in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.
42 - Anyone retrieving memories of the horrid 1980s would have to include the flowing locks of Rick Mahler. He logged over 220 innings in four out of five seasons from 1984-1988 as the team's "ace". His long hair and mustache made his photo unmistakeable on sports cards.
43 - Another one of the young guns in the early 1990s, Mark Wohlers developed into the one who had the ball in his hand at the end of the game. His electric fastball (103 MPH in 1995 spring training) put opponents back in their seats while his sometimes erratic control kept Braves fans' blood pressure up. Wohlers suffered Steve Blass disease in 1998 that ended his career.
44 - Hammering Hank Aaron. The reason I'm a Braves fan. My great-grandmother was a die hard Cubs fan, but she loved Hank, and her descriptions of watching him play and what he went through to succeed made me a fan, and from there I became a Braves fan after reading a biography on Henry at all of 4 years old. Like Spahn, he took his name to the field, with 44 being his most common home run performance in a season during his career.
45 - One of the weakest numbers in Braves history, I had trouble finding a single guy who was great, so I chose Dan Meyer, as he wore this number in 2004. Meyer was a major part of the trade that brought Tim Hudson to Atlanta that was ranked as a top-50 prospect at the time. He is a great example of how the Braves rarely miss on the prospects they move in trades when the fears come out every trading deadline about who's given up in a deal.
46 - Another great reliever number, currently patrolled by Craig Kimbrel. My personal favorite Brave that I've ever met in person was also #46, Kerry Ligtenberg. Very good rookie closer genes in this number!
47 - I'm always going to struggle because of seeing him in orange and blue, but a 47 with a tomahawk will always belong to Thomas Michael Glavine in my eyes. He won 20 games 5 times for the Braves along with 2 Cy Young Awards. The best hockey player ever to pitch in the majors.
48 - In a 4-year span in the early 1970s, Ralph Garr collected 813 hits and hit .330 in that span. His Braves career brought 40 triples and 137 steals in 800 games (8 triples and 28 steals per 162).
49 - If he could have kept his mouth shut, John Rocker could have been an amazing closer for many years, but we're all well aware of Rocker's homophobic comments that led the Braves to trade him away, and he never found the touch again, out of baseball at 28 years old.
50 - Once thought to be the third possible lefty stud (behind Glavine and Avery), Kent Merker carved out a very useful career as a LOOGY even after he lost his best stuff in the early 1990s.