Examining the First 5 Retired Numbers in Atlanta Braves History
Since former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones had his number retired in a pregame ceremony at Turner Field in June, I've thought a lot about the legacy the franchise is building with its Hall of Fame and the other players who have had their numbers retired in similar ceremonies.
Jones, who is my all-time favorite athlete, was the 10th person in Braves history to have his number retired -- the one he wore was ironically No. 10. -- with pitchers Greg Maddux (No. 31), Tom Glavine (No. 47) and John Smoltz (No. 29) and manager Bobby Cox (No. 6) all having theirs placed on the stadium wall within the last five years as well.
Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were three-fifths of Atlanta's dynamite rotation in the 90s and early 2000s, while Jones was the centerpiece of its offense from the mid-90s through last year and Cox was the skipper who led the club each and every day for the majority of those seasons, resulting in a professional sports record 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005.
In a column for the local newspaper I freelance for -- which hits newsstands on Tuesday -- I discussed these five Braves greats, but I kept wanting to somehow pay homage to the five legends that preceded them. After all, four of them have already been enshrined in Cooperstown, likely to soon be joined by the other names I mentioned.
Which brings me to this piece examining the first five retired numbers in Braves history.
Warren Spahn (No. 21 retired in 1965)
One of the greatest left-handed starting pitchers in MLB history, Warren Spahn won 363 games and compiled a 3.09 ERA while striking out 2,583 batters over his 21-year career. He was a 17-time All-Star and a World Series champion in 1957, the year he also won the Cy Young Award.
Eddie Mathews (No. 41 retired in 1969)
Eddie Mathews was not only a 12-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champion, winning titles in 1957 and 1968, but also perhaps one of the most underrated power hitters of all-time. He clobbered 512 home runs in his 17-year career to go with a .271 batting average and 1,453 RBI.
Hank Aaron (No. 44 retired in 1977)
Speaking of power hitters, there are none better than Hank Aaron, who many call the true home run king. Thanks to 755 dingers, 2,297 RBI and 3,771 hits, the right fielder from Mobile, AL made 25 All-Star appearances and won four National League home run crowns, three Gold Glove Awards, two NL batting titles and a World Series, among other achievements.
Phil Niekro (No. 35 retired in 1984)
"Knucksie," as Phil Niekro was known due to his incredible knuckleball, won 318 games and posted a 3.35 ERA while recording 3,342 strikeouts. He was a five-time All-Star and a five-time Gold Glove Award winner, as well as one of the 281 pitchers in history to throw a no-hitter, accomplishing the feat on Aug. 5, 1973.
Dale Murphy (No. 3 retired in 1994)
Dale Murphy is now known for lending his voice to Braves broadcasts, but he was also one of the franchise's top hitters, batting .265 over 18 seasons in the big leagues. He also had 398 homers and 1,266 RBI, while appearing in seven All-Star Games and collecting five Gold Glove Awards, four Silver Slugger Awards and two NL Most Valuable Player Awards.