Asselstine, Royster, Bonnell

November 8, 2010

What Is the Meaning of the 1978 Atlanta Braves? (cards 7-9 of 25)

(continued from Andy Messersmith)

As of a few weeks ago, I had only a handful of 1978 Atlanta Braves cards—the Bobby Cox card that has now been featured twice on this site and these three repeaters. All the other Braves came to me recently courtesy of Joe Stillwell of STATS, who’d read my past complaints about the mysterious disappearance from my childhood card collection of almost all my Braves and sent me most but not all of the 1978 team. I didn’t notice any absences at first but when I did it made me happy, in that it made the influx of Braves into my collection more realistic. I never got all the cards for any team, so it’s fitting that there are gaps in my collection of 1978 Braves.

There are three missing cards in all, among them the glum team’s ray of hope for the future, Dale Murphy. I’m proceeding through the 1978 Braves in the order in which the players featured appear in the Topps numbering system for that year, and this approach, coupled with Murphy’s absence, has front-loaded the 1978 cardboard version of the Braves’ meager collection of notable players to such an extent that even though most of the cards are still to come there’s virtually nothing left in terms of star power or historical significance or, well, anything much else at all. We’ve already seen the team’s lone Hall of Fame player (Phil Niekro), its soon-to-be Hall of Fame manager (Bobby Cox), its 1976 and 1977 All-Star Game representatives (Dick Ruthven and Willie Montanez, respectively), its sole former MVP and best slugger (Jeff Burroughs), and its trailblazing former ace (Andy Messersmith).

What’s left?

I don’t know. This morning, the first morning of a new week, I meditated. In theory, this is something that I do every day, but the truth is I let days and sometimes weeks go by without taking a few minutes for this practice. When I was younger, I did this zealously, fueled in part by the afterglow of hallucinogens and more generally by the belief that I would soon be perfect and painless. When this vision of permanent spiritual triumph kept failing to arrive, I lost more and more motivation to just sit there and gaze at a wall and breathe. It’s hard to do. It’s always been hard to do. Life is not a championship season.


  1. Do not give up hope: there is meaning in these cards. I think I already posted something before about a game at Veterans Stadium in which a group of us sitting alongside the third base line willed Jerry Royster into committing an error that led to the Phillies coming back and winning a game in extra innings. I’m also reminded, in seeing these cards, of my intense baseball leagues (played out through Strat-o-Matic and other board games) that I ran as a kid. I’d sit alone in my basement for hours, playing out seasons of teams I created with rosters composed mainly of second-rate and up-and-coming Topps Rookie card players who, in my mind, deserved more time on the field, more acclaim and attention. I allowed some star players entrance into my league, especially if they were on American League teams that I didn’t get to see in person, but did the likes of Schmidt, Rose, Carlton, and Bench really need any more opportunities to shine? No! My leagues were for the likes of Jerry Royster and Barry Bonnell to prove themselves against the likes of Lee Lacy and Gene Clines. I had high hopes for Bonnell and he wasn’t a bad performer (yes, I kept stats), but but let me tell you: Jerry Royster was no Lee Lacy! (Asselstine, if memory serves, never made the cut in my league. Once-promising Pirates’ prospect Dave Augustine probably took his spot in my imagination.)

  2. [When this vision of permanent spiritual triumph kept failing to arrive, I lost more and more motivation to just sit there and gaze at a wall and breathe. It’s hard to do. It’s always been hard to do. Life is not a championship season.]

    But its still better than being a member of the 1978 Braves.

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