Tag Archives: braves news

2012 Topps ‘Mound Dominance’ Subset – Card #MD-14 – John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves

2012 Topps ‘Mound Dominance’ Subset – Card #MD-14  – John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves

I really like the ‘Mound Dominance’ subset that Topps included in their 2012 base set.  The cards are sharp, the graphics are solid, and I am a sucker for cards that pay homage to a historic baseball event.

The ‘Mound Dominance’ set recalls 15 amazing pitching performances in major league history.

This is card#14 – John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves

JOHN SMOLTZ

The Dominant Day – October 17, 1991.  In Game 7 of the NLCS, John Smoltz pitched his best postseason game of his career.  He threw a complete game shutout while striking out 8 batters and allowing just 6 hits.  Smoltz threw 123 pitches in the contest and was the leader of the Braves as they advanced to the 1991 World Series.

Progress – 14/15

Baseball Card Show Purchase #5 – A Nice Stack Of John Smoltz & Tom Glavine Rookie Cards

Baseball Card Show Purchase #5 – A Nice Stack Of John Smoltz & Tom Glavine Rookie Cards

Just like the Randy Johnson rookie cards that I showed off a few hours ago, these two studs fall into the same category – Guys that I cannot get enough of.  Especially when each cards costs just ten cents each.

In total, I scooped eight cards.  Here they are:

3 John Smoltz rookie cards:

SHOW 5A

5 Tom Glavine rookie cards:

SHOW 5B

Score!!

A Thank You Note For Larry Wayne Jones, ‘Chipper’

A Thank You Note For Larry Wayne Jones, ‘Chipper’

The 19-season major league baseball career of Chipper Jones ended on Wednesday afternoon.  Yes, his Braves team has made the playoffs, but there is nothing that will or will not happen in the 2012 postseason that will change the effect Chipper has had on the game of baseball.

This is my ‘Thank You’ to Chipper.

  • Thank you for playing for just one team during your career
  • Thank you for driving in more runs than any other third baseman in the history of the game
  • Thank you for all 2,726 hits
  • Thank you for the 2008 batting title at 36 years of age
  • Thank you for playing through injury, time after time
  • Thank you for hitting .299 in 246 games against my Marlins
  • Thank you some pretty neat rookie baseball cards
  • Thank you for eight All-Star Game appearances
  • Thank you for finishing your career with a batting average over .300 (.303 to be exact)
  • Thank you for winning the 1995 NL MVP Award
  • Thank you for providing us with a legible autograph
  • Thank you for driving in 166 runs against my Marlins
  • Thank you for being one of the few #1 draft picks that pans out
  • Thank you for wearing #10
  • Thank you for all 150 stolen bases
  • Thank you for belting 40 of your career home runs against my Marlins

Most of all, Thank you for playing the game hard in 2,499 contests.  It has been a pleasure to watch to you play (even while kicking my team’s butt).

Don’t be a stranger, Chipper.  I am thinking that we will all see you in Cooperstown in about six years.

Thank you, Sir.

A ‘MUST READ’ From ESPN.com – ‘The Many Feats Of Chipper Jones’

A ‘MUST READ’ From ESPN.com – ‘The Many Feats Of Chipper Jones’

From ESPN.com
Written by Jayson Stark

All of a sudden, it’s here. The End. The finish line. Not just of an unforgettable season, but of a unique and historic baseball career.

And now that he’s arrived, at last, at the final week of his surreal journey — at least the regular-season portion — Chipper Jones finds himself looking backward, looking forward, looking everywhere at once. It’s a crazy time. And a beautiful time.

He has accepted all the lovely parting gifts. He has gotten “a little misty” over the ovations he’s received, not just in ballparks where they’ve spent 18 years booing him but from the opposing players who play in those parks. He has clicked on the aerial photos of the giant No. 10 that has been carved in a sprawling Georgia corn field.

“My first-ever corn field,” he said with a chuckle.

A few more regular-season games await him. And an emotional farewell ceremony in Atlanta on Saturday. And then his final October, when Chipper Jones gets to write the last scene of one of baseball’s most remarkable scripts of modern times.

And then?

[+] EnlargeChipper Jones

Daniel Shirey/US PRESSWIREOne last postseason for Chipper Jones. One last chance at that elusive second World Series ring.

Then comes peace. And serenity. And satisfaction. And, maybe most of all, a much-needed giant gulp of oxygen, after the most exhausting season of his life.

“I can’t wait, to be honest with you,” he said, leaning back in his chair in an otherwise-empty clubhouse. “I view the next couple of weeks to a month as a win-win for me, because when it’s finally over, if you feel a big gust of wind come across you, it’s probably me and the sigh of relief that I’m letting out.”

But that’s not all The End will bring, you know. What The End also brings, always, is the opportunity for the rest of us to experience That Moment — the moment of reflection when it all hits you, when you realize what it is you’ve been watching all these years as the great Chipper Jones has gone about his inimitable business.

 

Maybe That Moment hasn’t set in for you quite yet. But that’s why we’re here. Somebody has to put this man’s incredible career in perspective. It might as well be us.

So that’s what we’ve set out to do — to sum up where the only “Chipper” in baseball history fits in the annals of the greatest third basemen, greatest switch-hitters, greatest No. 1 picks and greatest winners who ever played. That’s all.

To do that, we’ve enlisted the help of his teammates, his manager, his general manager, his overpowering numbers and, of course, Chipper himself. So ready? Here it comes — the true meaning of the very special life and times of Chipper Jones:

Feat No. 1 — .300 from both sides of the plate

The numbers: Jones hitting left-handed: .304/.405/.542. Hitting right-handed: .305/.391/.499.

What it means:  There have been 106 switch-hitters in history who came to the plate at least 5,000 times. Only two of them hit .300 or better from both sides. One was Frankie Frisch, whose career ended 75 years ago. The other: Chipper Jones.

Chipper’s take: Oh sure, it sounds impressive, Jones admits. “But not a lot of switch-hitters have been doing it since they were 7,” he said. “That’s 33 years. So if I don’t have it somewhat down by now, something’s wrong.”

He laughs softly at his own quip. But he knows, he says, he couldn’t have hung out with Frankie Frisch without the brilliant hitting coaches he had through the years — without Willie Stargell and Frank Howard to pass along their wisdom when he was young, without Don Baylor to prod him to reach that next level from the right side in 1999, and, especially, without a man named Larry Wayne Jones Sr., the father whose inspired idea this whole switch-hitting thing was in the first place.

“You know, it takes a lot of work,” Jones said. “It takes twice as much work to be a switch-hitter as it does to be one-sided. But it certainly paid off. I can’t imagine walking up to the plate and facing a Kevin Brown or a Pedro Martinez righty-on-righty, or a Randy Johnson or Cliff Lee lefty-on-lefty. I thank God every day my dad made me turn around in the back yard.

“We used to watch the Saturday game of the week on TV, with Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. And after the game was over, we’d go out in the back yard and imitate the lineup. Whenever a left-handed hitter came up in my lineup, I had to hit left-handed. My dad’s standing 40 feet away from me with a tennis ball. And I’ve got a 32-inch piece of PVC pipe in my hand. And he’s raring back and chucking it as hard as he can. That’s how you learn to hit the fastball right there.”

Feat No. 2 — Walking with the Mick

The numbers: Jones’ career on-base percentage: .401. His career slugging percentage: .530. His career homers: 468. All as a switch-hitter, of course.

What it means: The list of greatest switch-hitters in history obviously includes men like Frisch, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray and even Lance Berkman. But only two switch-hitters are in that .400-.500-400 Club. One is Mickey Mantle. The other: Chipper Jones.

 

Chipper’s take: “I think, coming up, I knew what the standard was,” Jones said. “I knew that Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray were the two best switch-hitters of all time. While I never expected to hit 300 to 400 home runs in my career, the goal was still the same. I wanted to be mentioned, when I was done playing, if not with those two guys, then right behind them. And as I’ve gotten bigger and stronger and more mature mentally in my game, the numbers just kind of piled up. I’ve been able to play a long time. And now I’m to the point where every homer, every RBI, passes a Hall of Famer. It’s been a lot of fun.”

[+] EnlargeChipper Jones

Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesNow here’s a gift from Trevor Hoffman and the Padres that could come in handy in retirement. Think the switch-hitter is a switch-footer? 

 

 

The manager’s take: One of the problems with our modern-day reverence of on-base percentage, slugging and OPS is that they’re awesome metrics — but lousy measuring sticks. So as men like Chipper play into their twilight, it’s the “counting numbers” that become their most magical, and memorable, mileposts. And why not?

When Jones passed Lou Gehrig on the all-time hits list last weekend, for instance, it carried no powerful historic significance. But for his manager, Fredi Gonzalez, it was still a “goose bumps” moment.

“Somebody said, ‘Hey when he gets his next hit, make sure to get the ball, because he’s going to pass Lou Gehrig,” Gonzalez said. “And I said, ‘Whoah. Lou Gehrig?’ You know, all season, every time he passed a guy, another name, you’d be like, ‘Holy crap.’ They’re all guys you never saw play. But you see them in the history books.”

Chipper’s take: For Chipper, it wasn’t passing Gehrig on the hits list that rattled his personal Richter scale. It was passing his all-time all-time icon, Mantle, on the career RBI list last year.

“When you start passing some of the great Yankees of all time, you really start to sit back and say, ‘Wow,'” he said. “But the big one for me was passing Mickey in RBIs. For me, Mickey was put on such a high pedestal when I was a kid, from my dad, it’s just hard for me to believe that I could pass him in anything, much less something as important as a run-production stat.”

Feat No. 3 — Topping Schmidt and Brett

The numbers: 1,622 RBIs for Chipper — and still counting.

 

What it means: In the history of baseball, only three players ever drove in more than 1,500 runs while spending most of their careers playing third base. Two were George Brett (1,596) and Mike Schmidt (1,595). You can learn all about them in Cooperstown, N.Y. But who’s the all-time leader in RBIs by a guy who mostly played third base? Chipper Jones. That’s who.

Chipper’s take: When Jones is hanging plaques in his own little third-base pantheon, he makes a point to pay homage to Eddie Mathews, “the model by which every Atlanta third baseman is going to be measured.” But with all due respect to Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Ron Santo, Pie Traynor and the other great third basemen in history, Chipper’s personal Hot Corner Hall of Fame begins with two men: Brett and Schmidt, the dynamic duo that comprises his definition of “the gold standard.”

The three of them rank 1-2-3 in some order in a bunch of significant third-base categories. But when Jones found himself zooming past Schmidt and Brett in RBIs in the same week this July, it was one of the most overwhelming experiences of his overwhelming year.

“When you talk about passing those guys in career RBIs in my final season, for guys whose primary position was third base, it was just one of those moments where you’re like, ‘Wow.’ You can’t really believe it,” he said. “I grew up watching these guys. Never in a million years did I think I’d be mentioned in the same breath with them one day. … It’s really crazy. Whenever you do that, you just go home at night and sit in a chair in front of the TV and just say, ‘Wow.’ Never in my wildest dreams, when I was in my back yard in Pierson, Fla., did I ever think I would be in such elite company.”

Feat No. 4 — More walks than whiffs

The numbers: Here Jones is, after more than 10,000 trips to the plate, still able to say he has piled up more career walks (1,505) than strikeouts (1,409). Hard to do.

What it means: More than 130 active players have hit at least 100 homers in their careers — but only three of them have walked more than they’ve punched out. Albert Pujols and Todd Helton are two of them. The other: Chipper Jones.

[+] EnlargeJones

Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesFrom Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and the Phillies, a piece of fine art.

 

Teammate’s take: “A lot of switch-hitters, their swings are different from both sides, but not him,” said Jones’ clubhouse neighbor, Eric Hinske. “He’s just so consistent. The number that sticks out to me is that he’s got more walks than strikeouts in his career. To me, that’s not even comprehendible.”

Chipper’s take: “A lot of guys say that’s probably the most impressive stat,” Jones said. “I’ve heard a lot of guys saying they can’t even wrap their heads around that. But you know, to be honest, I think if I have one regret in the course of my career, it’s that I didn’t swing the bat more when I was younger. Or else I’d be a heck of a lot closer to the 3,000 [hit] mark. But there’s a reason I didn’t: Because it goes against everything I believe in as an offensive player.

“When you walk to the plate, you need to go up there and be the toughest out possible. And in order to do that, you have to draw walks. You have to yield to the guy behind you in the lineup from time to time. The fact of the matter is, there are certain points during the season, during a game, that teams aren’t going to let you beat them. And if you’re smart enough to realize when those situations are, you’re going to draw a bunch of walks. I’ve always thought that.”

Feat No. 5 — The greatest No. 1 overall pick ever

The numbers: 2,724 hits and 468 homers — every one of them for the team that drafted him with the very first pick in 1990, the Atlanta Braves.

What it means: Only one other No. 1 overall pick ever hit 400 homers for the team that drafted him: Ken Griffey Jr., who hit 417 for the Mariners. But here’s what separates Chipper from Griffey and every other No. 1 in history: This guy did everything for the team that picked him. If you don’t count active players, you know what the next most hits and home runs is by a No. 1 overall pick who played his entire big league career with the team that drafted him? Ummmmm … would you believe 25 hits and two homers, by former Mariners great Al Chambers? You can look it up.

The GM’s take: Maybe Griffey and Alex Rodriguez can stake their claims to the title of Greatest No. 1 Pick Ever. But at the very least, says Braves GM Frank Wren, Chipper is the guy who’s had “the greatest value to the organization that picked him. How about that? I think you could make that case, from a standpoint of, he’s spent his whole career with one organization, and had a Hall of Fame career, whereas other guys haven’t necessarily done that.”

And that only happened, Wren says, because Jones “was always wanting to get something done so he’d stay here forever. …  And that’s allowed him to have a special end to a career that wouldn’t have existed if he’d chased the last dollar.”

Chipper’s take: “I want to be identified with one team,” Jones said, emphatically. “I don’t want to spend the last two or three years in my career floating around the league, trying to attain a number. I’ve never wanted to play anywhere else. Atlanta fits my style and my speed. I’ve gotten a chance to play for Bobby [Cox], who I think is the greatest manager of all time, for 17 of the 19 years. I’m a Southern kid. I was born and bred in the Braves organization. And I want to stay here.

“The marriage between the Braves and myself has been a good one. It’s been one with give and take on both sides. So I’ve never wanted to wear another uniform. And they’ve shown me throughout the years, by never even letting me get remotely close to free agency, that they want me here. And that means a lot to me. I wouldn’t feel right going to the American League and DH-ing, just to get 3,000 hits or 500 homers. … Do I think I could stick around for another two or three years and get 3,000 hits or 500 homers if I really wanted it? Yeah. No doubt. Because I still have the ability to be productive. But that would mean me probably having to go somewhere else. And it means more to me to spend 19 years in one organization, in one uniform, and nobody else seeing me in a different ‘uni.’

“It’d just be too weird,” he said. “It’d be weird for me. It would be weird for everybody who came out to watch. And heck, if I played for another team, I’d be running back and forth to the clubhouse checking how the Braves were doing. And I certainly could never see myself playing against an Atlanta team. That would just be way too difficult. …  I saw guys like [Tom] Glavine and Smoltzy [John Smoltz] do it, and I know it was hard for them. I know how difficult it was for them to play in our venue and play against us, to try and beat us. It’s just something I wouldn’t want to do.”

 

Feat No. 6 — 427 games over .500

The numbers: Since the day Chipper Jones moved into the Braves’ lineup to stay, on Opening Day 1995, they’ve won 427 more games (1,658) than they’ve lost (1,231). That would not be a coincidence, ladies and gentlemen.

What it means: We’ve done the math. There are only two active position players who can say their teams are at least 400 games over .500 in their time as regular players. One is (shocker) Derek Jeter (551 over). The other: Chipper Jones.

 

“ 

There have been so many cool things that have happened to me this year. The fans’ appreciation and [opposing] teams’ appreciation, that’s been unbelievable in and of itself.

— Chipper Jones

 

Chipper’s take: He knows this is a feat he didn’t achieve alone. He knows he was just “one-ninth of the equation” every day he took the field. He knows the Braves “surrounded me with a ton of good players along the way.” He gladly names many of their names. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t part — maybe even the most important part — of a special team, at a special time.

“I’m proud that I’m the last guy standing from the old regime, that I’m still here and we’re still competitive,” Jones said. “We’re still winning games. And I’m contributing to that. I think that when people talk about you, you want to be talked about as what? A winner. Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. People want to be known as a winner — and as a ‘ballplayer,’ because the people inside the game know what the term ‘ballplayer’ means. You can’t argue with the success that we’ve had here during my tenure.”

 

Yeah, he’s heard all the garbage about how those 14 division titles the Braves won were tarnished by the fact they won “only” one World Series. But even as he gazes back on those years in the rearview mirror, he sees nothing he feels he ought to apologize for.

 

“To be honest, ’96 is the only one I look back on and have any regrets,” Jones said. “That’s the one I think we had the best team. I think we showed it the first two games [of that World Series] and then didn’t show it from then on out. Every other year, I think that we got beaten by a better team at that particular time in the season. So yeah, it’s ‘only’ one. But man, the body of work over that 14-year span, I don’t think it’ll ever be duplicated. I really don’t.”

Feat No. 7 — The best farewell season ever

The numbers: In the final season of his career, at age 40, here’s the stat line of the great Chipper Jones: 106 games, 427 plate appearances, .295/.382/.470. Oh, and there’s also this: He leads his team — a team headed for the postseason, by the way — in OPS (.852). Amazing.

What it means: There have been many, many great players who played into their late 30s and early 40s. Pretty much none of them had a final season to rival this one. With the help of the Elias Sports Bureau, we looked at all Hall of Fame position players since 1900 who finished their careers at age 37 or older. Exactly one of them had a say-goodnight season that resembled Chipper’s grand finale. That would be a fellow named Ted Williams, who hit .316/.451/.645 in 1960, at age 41 — but in only 390 plate appearances. So it’s Ted … and Chipper. Two guys who didn’t just know when to turn out the lights. They also knew how. Did they ever.

Teammate’s take: He’s been an MVP, an eight-time All-Star, a consistent run-production machine and a man who hit third or fourth in every one of the 92 postseason games he played in. But there has been something especially magical about Chipper Jones’ final season. And everyone around him is savoring the magic act.

“For me, the way he’s playing, it’s the best I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here — and he’s won a batting title since I’ve been here,” said Jones’ friend and protégé, Brian McCann. “But for some reason, this year it seems like he’s come up with more big hits than ever. He’s been in the middle of everything. … It’s like he can see the finish line, and he’s giving it all he’s got, and it’s great to see.”

The manager’s take: It hasn’t merely been the numbers that have made this year so cinematic, though. “He’s just got a way of rising to those moments,” Gonzalez said. “There have been so many of them. Like he missed the first six or seven days of the season because of his knee [surgery]. When he was ready to come back, I was begging him to go down [on a rehab option] to get some at-bats. He said, ‘Just give me some BP. I’ll be fine.’ I said, ‘You sure?’ He looks at me and says, ‘I’m sure.’ Then he goes out there, his parents are in the stands, and he doubles first at-bat, hits a home run next at-bat. And as he’s going around the bases, Hinske is yelling at him, ‘It can’t be that easy.'”

 

[+] EnlargeJones Sign

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesNot even Mets fans can knock Larry Wayne Jones off his game.

Chipper’s take: The star of this show listens as we recite these numbers and pass along how his teammates describe him. What all this tells him, Jones says finally, is that “I’ve been productive when I’ve been in there.”

“But the ‘when I’m in there’ is the catch phrase,” he said with a laugh. “I can’t go to bed at night anymore and say for sure whether I’m going to play the next day. And that’s not fair to Fredi. It’s not fair to the guys on the team.”

That, however, just explains why he’s retiring. It doesn’t explain why he has still been the best player on his team — even as he’s cruising toward the exit ramp.

 

“It’s just extremely gratifying to have not heard throughout the course of this year that ‘you should have retired two or three years ago,'” Chipper Jones said. “And anything less than going out and hitting around .300 and doing some of the things that I’ve done this year, I probably would have heard that.”

 

Without the year he’s had, “we’d probably be back in the pack, fighting with the Dodgers and the Brewers and those other teams just to get in [the playoffs],” Jones’ manager says. And no one on his team would argue.

In fact, best we can tell, only the computer programmers would. According to baseball-reference.com, Jones has been worth just 2.7 wins above replacement, making him merely the fourth-most valuable player on his own team. But there are certain things, in life and in baseball, that you can’t measure with decimal points. And Chipper Jones’ grand-finale magic act is one of them.

“There have been so many cool things that have happened to me this year,” he says. “The fans’ appreciation and [opposing] teams’ appreciation, that’s been unbelievable in and of itself. And there have just been so many cool things that have happened on the field:

“My first five-hit game at home [July 3, against the Cubs]. I’ve never done that before. … A couple of walk-offs [two homers that won games the Braves once trailed by six runs] at home. Man, that’s the apex. … Home run on my [40th] birthday. …  Home run in my first start of the season, with my parents in the stands. … Two homers on my bobblehead day. … Just some really, really cool moments where, as the balls are flying out of the park, I’m running down to first, saying, ‘You have got to be kidding me. Did that just happen?'”

Seriously. Even in Hollywood, it would be hard to make up a story this good. Wouldn’t it?

The No. 1 pick who batted third in the lineup in his very first start in the big leagues, spent the next 18 seasons chiseling his Hall of Fame plaque, and now will call it a wrap by batting cleanup in one last epic postseason baseball game — for the team that drafted him? You have got to be kidding. Did that just happen? In real life?

“It’s movie-worthy,” says Chipper Jones, at his Spielbergian finest. “Movie-worthy.”

And he’s not kidding. But don’t start casting “The Pride of Atlanta” quite yet, friends. Don’t forget, this man and his team aren’t done. So who knows what sort of astonishing October magic trick the big cinematographer in the sky has in store for him?

There are no guarantees, of course. And no one knows that better than him. But how come we just have a sneaky feeling that we haven’t seen the last You Have Got To Be Kidding Me Moment before the great Chipper Jones can finally let out that giant sigh of relief and say, “That’s a wrap.”

John Smoltz 2012 Topps ‘Mound Dominance’

John Smoltz 2012 Topps ‘Mound Dominance’

I love the thought of a ‘Mound Dominance’ subset.  Topps did a great job with the execution of this subset of cards from their 2012 Series 2 release.

I just wish that the set featured a some other players and excluded a few that were included.

But there is no doubt that John Smoltz belongs in the set.  In 3,473 innings of work, Smoltz struck out 3,084 batters.  He has a career K per nine innings average of 8.0.  And his conrtol was sharp too, Smoltz allowed 1,010 walks during his career and has a K:Walk ratio of 3.05:1.0.

John Smoltz is very deserving to be included in this ‘Mound Dominance’ set!!!

Lot Of Two 1989 Upper Deck John Smoltz Rookie Cards!!!

Lot Of Two 1989 Upper Deck John Smoltz Rookie Cards!!!

There was no way that I was going to let these cards get past me without trying to win them…

I already own a decent sized stack of 1988 and 1989 John Smoltz rookie cards.  But none were of the Upper Deck brand.

And we all know how strong that 1989 Upper Deck issue was…

In the 33-card lot of John Smoltz rookie cards that I pulled at a baseball card show back in June, none of the cards were from Upper Deck.  I brought home Topps, Fleer, and Donruss – but no U.D.

So, I have kind of made it my mission to grab a few more Smoltz cards from 1989, and I have finally secured my first two.

And they bring back a lot of memories from 1989 when Upper Deck debuted and changed the baseball card world forever…

Enjoy!

Chipper Jones Moves Past Pete Rose On The All-Time Extra Base Hits List

Chipper Jones Moves Past Pete Rose On The All-Time Extra Base Hits List

By Teddy Cahill / MLB.com

ATLANTA — With a solo home run in the third inning of the Braves’ 6-2 victory Sunday against the Phillies, Chipper Jones moved past Pete Rose and into second place on the all-time list of extra-base hits by a switch-hitter.

Jones now has 1,042 extra-base hits and trails only Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, who had 1,099 in his 21-year career.

Jones said it meant a lot to pass Rose, especially since Rose has 1,570 more hits than him.

“Pete had a lot of doubles, a lot of doubles,” Jones said. “It’s another one of those cool milestones when you sit back from the ballgame and just say, ‘Wow.'”

Jones has already become the all-time leader in career RBIs by a third baseman this season, passing George Brett.

Jones has 24 extra-base hits this season, including 10 home runs. Sunday’s home run moved Jones past Angels first baseman Albert Pujols into 32nd on the career home run list with 464. Jones is one behind Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.

John Smoltz 2002 Upper Deck World Series Heroes

John Smoltz 2002 Upper Deck World Series Heroes

John Smoltz is one of my favorite pitchers of the modern-era.  A true ‘Team Guy’, Smoltz put his team goals before his personal goals and the Atlanta Braves benefitted greatly. 

Smoltz is also one of the more accomplished post-season performers of his generation.  Having made the playoffs in 14 of his 21 seasons in the big leagues, Smoltz amassed a win-loss record of 15-4 during that time.  He has an ERA of just 2.67 in 41 games and his strikeout to walk ratio of 2.97:1 is solid.

I picked up this card of Smoltz from the 2002 Upper Deck World Series Heroes set in a lot that I recently won.  The photo takes me right back to when Smoltz and his Braves teams were dominating the NL East.

Have a look:

Atlanta Braves Honor Former Pitcher John Smoltz, Retire His No. 29

Atlanta Braves Honor Former Pitcher John Smoltz, Retire His No. 29

By CHARLES ODUM | The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) John Smoltz exhaled heavily and shook his head minutes after his No. 29 was retired by the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

”I’m glad that’s over,” Smoltz said. ”That’s a doubleheader I just pitched.”

Smoltz said he wasn’t prepared for the emotions he felt when the Braves made his number the ninth to be retired by the franchise.

”Honestly, I thought I was going to lose it when I started talking about playing for the jersey,” Smoltz said. ”That’s something I hope more people can take pride in, wearing a jersey. For some people it’s just a jersey. For me it was my life.”

Former manager Bobby Cox called Smoltz ”the biggest of the big-game pitchers.” As general manager, Cox acquired Smoltz from the Detroit Tigers in 1987 for Doyle Alexander.

Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were the leaders of a terrific pitching staff that helped the Braves win 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005 and the 1995 World Series. Smoltz was the only player to be a part of each division championship.

”For 20 years John Smoltz brought so much excitement to old Fulton County Stadium and here at Turner Field,” Cox said. ”He’s given you fans everything he had, sometimes on guts alone.”

Smoltz was inducted into the Braves’ Hall of Fame earlier in the day. His number was retired before Friday night’s game against Toronto.

”He led the way, he set the tone, he fought the fight and he had the will of a winner,” said Braves president John Schuerholz, who predicted Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine and Cox are bound for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Smoltz’s credentials include a 213-155 record with 154 saves and a 3.33 ERA.

After the ceremony, Smoltz threw out the first pitch – a four-seam fastball – to catcher Brian McCann.

”As Maddux would say, it had hair on it,” Smoltz said.

Smoltz is the fourth Braves player to have his number retired in the last four years, following Cox (6) last season, Glavine (47) in 2010 and Maddux (31) in 2009. Maddux attended Friday night’s ceremony with two other players whose numbers are retired, Dale Murphy (3) and Phil Niekro (35).

Smoltz, an eight-time All-Star, won the National League Cy Young Award in 1996. He is the only pitcher in major league history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves.

He called the 20 years he spent with the Braves from 1988-2008 ”the greatest ride of my life, and I thank you.”

”There was no place I’d rather be than on that mound for 20 years,” he said.

The only other Braves players to have their numbers retired are Hank Aaron (44), Eddie Mathews (41) and Warren Spahn (21). Chipper Jones is retiring after this season, and his No. 10 could be next in line.

Smoltz holds Atlanta records with 3,011 strikeouts, 154 saves and 708 games. He set Braves franchise records with 276 strikeouts in 1996 and 55 saves in 2002.

Smoltz pitched for Boston and St. Louis in 2009, his final season. He now works as a broadcaster for MLB Network and TBS.

The right-hander was at his best in the postseason, when he was 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA and four saves in 41 games. His 199 postseason strikeouts set a record. His 15 postseason wins rank second to Andy Pettitte’s 19.

Atlanta Braves To Retire John Smoltz’s #29

Atlanta Braves To Retire John Smoltz’s #29

By Associated Press

ATLANTA — John Smoltz’s career got off to a rocky start.

By the time he was done, it was good enough to ensure no one ever wears his number again for the Atlanta Braves.

The team announced Monday that No. 29 will be retired and Smoltz will be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame at Turner Field. The honors will take place during ceremonies on June 8, before the Braves begin a weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I always wanted to be clutch,” said Smoltz, who won numerous big games over his 20-plus years with the Braves.

He is the only pitcher with at least 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz spent nearly his entire career with the Braves before a bitter breakup led to him dividing his final season between Boston and St. Louis in 2009. But he’s made amends with the Atlanta organization, says the city will be his lifelong home and is seen frequently around the ballpark in his new role as a broadcaster for TBS and the MLB Network.

The right-hander will be the ninth Braves player to have his number retired by the team, joining two other pitchers who helped Atlanta win a record 14 straight division titles in the 1990s and 2000s — Greg Maddux (31) and Tom Glavine (47).

“We had such an incredible run and relationship,” Smoltz said. “Those guys I played with are sure-fire Hall of Famers. They knew how to win baseball games. I learned a whole heck of a lot from them and just had a great time playing with them. I can’t think of what life would’ve been like without those two.”

At the beginning, Smoltz had to overcome some significant setbacks.

The Michigan native was drafted by his favorite team, the Detroit Tigers, only to be traded to the Braves in 1987 while he was still a minor leaguer. The deal, which sent veteran Doyle Alexander to Detroit, helped the Tigers seal an AL East title.

But it eventually paid much bigger dividends for the Braves.

“So many things happened for me that turned out for the best, but I didn’t know it at the time,” Smoltz said. “That trade was devastating in my life. At the time, there was nothing worse that could’ve happened to me. Obviously, it was just a blip in my life. But when you’re 20 and you’re getting traded for the first time, you can’t imagine what goes through your mind when you feel like you’re not wanted by someone.”

Then, in 1991, he had a bitter contract dispute with the Braves, actually walking out of spring training for a couple of days, and got off to a 2-11 start that threatened his spot in the rotation. But Smoltz bounced back, going 12-2 the rest of the way, including a complete game that clinched the NL West championship and capped an improbable worst-to-first season for the Braves.

Smoltz said walking out on the team and pitching the first half of the season with a chip on his shoulder were perhaps the only things he would change if he do it all over again. He credited Cox for sticking with him through the tough times.

“Those actions were not reflective of the person I was. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I hated it. And, ultimately, it didn’t get me anywhere,” Smoltz said. “I obviously suffered the wrath for my mistakes in the first half of that season. I had an ‘I’ll show you’ mentality. I learned that’s not the way to go about it.”

The ‘91 season marked the beginning of Atlanta’s unprecedented run of division titles, which was highlighted by a lone World Series title in 1995. While the Braves became known for their playoff flops, Smoltz went 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA and four saves in 41 postseason games.

His best season was 1996, when he went 24-8 with a 2.94 ERA and won the NL Cy Young Award. But he is remembered more for his conversion from starter to closer in 2001, a move that was designed to relieve the stress on his elbow coming off major surgery. He wound up becoming one of the top relievers in the game, with a franchise-record 55 saves in his first full season handling the role.

Then, he moved back to the starting rotation, going 44-24 over three seasons before persistent injuries finally ended his career.

“I was not the strongest and I was not the fastest,” Smoltz said. “But I was the most determined and the most dedicated. I always thought of myself as the most competitive guy on the field.”

Smoltz finished a career record of 213-155, 154 saves and a 3.33 ERA, numbers that might be good enough to land him an even bigger honor — induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.

“John has contributed so much to Atlanta Braves history,” said team President John Schuerholz, who was general manager during most of Smoltz’s career. “Inducting him into our Hall of Fame and making sure no one else will ever wear his number 29, are the most meaningful and significant ways we can honor John.”