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Atlanta Braves, 1978

February 18, 2011

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (card 25 of 25)

(continued from Clarence Gaston)

Years ago the Braves came together in an empty stadium and feigned a smiling togetherness. Afterward, they separated. Some were gone before the season even got underway. Some vanished during the season. By the following year, 1979, about half the men who appeared in cardboard form as the 1978 Atlanta Braves had moved elsewhere, and by 1980 this number was halved again. When the Braves won the 1982 National League West division title, only Phil Niekro, Jerry Royster, Biff Pocoroba, Rick Camp, and Dale Murphy remained from the list of names on the back of this 1978 Atlanta Braves team checklist. Niekro lasted just one more season before the Braves released him, though he returned to the team in 1987 after racking up the last 50 of his 318 career wins in the American League. By Niekro’s brief, winless return in 1987, only Dale Murphy remained from 1978.

Murphy, one of the few players missing from my collection of 1978 Topps Atlanta Braves, may or may not be in the team picture featured here. The picture is grainy and dim, as if the camera used to take the shot was already infected with the pernicious amnesia that would almost immediately pull the team down into an oblivion beyond the recollection of nearly everyone among the relative few humans who ever heard of them in the first place. Could Murphy be in the front row, second from the right? Or is that a bat boy? I don’t know. Anyway, by 1987, when Niekro returned, Murphy had established himself as one of the best players in the league, a two-time MVP seemingly on a secure path to the Hall of Fame. It was his last great season, however, and after that he suddenly tapered off to merely decent for a few years, eventually moving on to the Phillies, but not before a brief reunion with his old manager, Bobby Cox, who returned to manage the Braves in 1990 and continued managing them for the next two decades before stepping down at the end of the 2010 season, his departure the last echo of 1978 finally dissolving.  Everything and everyone separates and dissolves. You have no choice but to be brave.

10 comments

  1. Things come together, take shape, and dissolve. This team was more in my consciousness in 2010 than in 1978. Goodbye again, 1978 Braves!


  2. Hail to the Chief! Noc-A-Homa is the Chief in this picture.

    Notice the Tee-Pee in the left field stands where Chief-Noc-A-Homa plied his trade.


  3. How funny would it have been if the team pic turned out to be at Candlestick…


  4. Oh and I found your answer–not Murphy, but batboy Anderson. Here is that team pic with names (hard to read but last names transcribed by seller in item description). (Also note it’s the ’77 team pic for the ’78 card.) http://cgi.ebay.com/1977-ATLANTA-BRAVES-TEAM-8X10-PHOTO-MATHEWS-NIEKRO-/350285398952?pt=Vintage_Sports_Memorabilia&hash=item518ea303a8


  5. jstefanick: Good call on noting the teepee.

    I can’t believe I spent all this time thinking about the 1978 Atlanta Braves and never got around to Chief Noc-A-Homa!

    gedmaniac: I sort of figured you might get to the bottom of where Murphy was in this shot (i.e., nowhere).


  6. Was it Chief Noc-a-Homa, or his hydrocephalic latter day counterpart Homer-the-Brave that burly, truculent Mets catcher John Stearns chased into center field and tackled before being restrained by Joe Pignatano and several members of the bullpen?


  7. Mission accomplished! The final lesson I’ll take from this series is that a blue horizontal-striped polo shirt and red pants didn’t work then and still don’t work today.


  8. frankenslade, I was just wondering to myself why there needs to be those ‘other’ people on the side that fans just don’t care about. But maybe they serve the purpose of looking so odd and out of place that the players actually look regal in their lowercase a uniforms and caps.


  9. Ramblin’ Pete: I think John Stearns had anger management issues that were exacerbated by being on a bad team.


  10. As for the “others”:

    Striped shirt/red pants guy is equipment manager Bill Acree. He still holds that title with the Braves today! (Along with “director of team travel.”)

    The guy behind him is Pete Van Weiren, who was not only the announcer then, but the traveling secretary. (“Forced” to do it by Ted Turner, I read.) Pete announced Braves games all the way through 2009.

    On the right (in blue) we’ve got trainer Dave Pursley, who started his career when the Braves were in Boston, and was with them through 2002.

    And behind him, looking like a local Amity Island teenager, it’s assistant equipment manager John Holland, who is currently in his 43rd season with the Braves. He has since moved up to visiting clubhouse manager.



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