As we count down the days to 2018’s opening day, we take a look at the greatest Braves to wear each jersey number that’s been worn.
The greatest Brave to wear #48 is the man affectionately nicknamed “The Roadrunner”.
A 3rd round pick in 1967 out of Grambling University, where he batted .585 – that’s FIVE EIGHTY FIVE, correct – Ralph Garr got a cup of coffee in the bigs as quickly as 1968, a bit more of a look in 1969 while Rico Carty was injured, and after batting .386 at AAA Richmond to start 1970, made his way to the big leagues permanently. The speedy outfielder played 5 full seasons in Atlanta, 1971-1975, and in that timeframe he was a star. He slashed .319/.352/.434, averaging 220 hits, 29 doubles, 9 triples, 11 homers, and 29 steals per 162 games. In 1971, he batted .343 and enjoyed career highs in runs (101) and hits (219) and led the league in sacrifices with 18. 1972 featured a .325 average and a career high 12 home runs. Both seasons Garr earned some MVP consideration from voters, finishing 24th and 19th respectively. After a slight off-year in ’73 (.299/.323/.415 counted as an off-year for Garr at the time), Garr bounced back in 1974: .353/.383/.503, winning the batting crown while leading the league in hits (214) and triples (17). Garr was named to the NL All-Star team that season and finished 12th in the MVP race. In the ensuing offseason, he became the first MLB player to double his salary through an arbitration hearing. After Atlanta offered $85,000, but the arbitration process awarded Garr $114,500. Garr again led the league in triples (11) in 1975, but his production otherwise saw a sharp decline – bizarrely, despite not playing particularly well, Garr was the most intentionally walked hitter in the NL in 1975.
In December 1975, Atlanta traded the Roadrunner (along with Larvell Blanks) to the White Sox for Ken Henderson, Ozzie Osborn, and Dick Ruthven. Henderson wasn’t particularly impressive in his single year in Atlanta, but Ruthven was a 1976 All-Star despite leading the league in losses (17). Finally, Ozzie Osborn WAS NAMED OZZIE OSBORN, Y’ALL. He never pitched for the Braves, but I have to imagine the team would’ve been ready to pipe in “Paranoid” had he entered a game.
Garr turned into more of a singles hitter in Chicago, batting a fairly empty .300 in both ’76 and ’77. Garr turned 30 shortly after being traded to Chicago, so by 1978, he was 32. Garr’s game was heavily built on speed, and as his legs started to go, so too did his usefulness. Beginning in his age-28 season, that 1974 batting crown year, here are Garr’s stolen base totals by year: 26, 14, 14, 12, 7, 2, 0. That goose egg came in 46 plate appearances for the 1980 Angels. Only 34, Garr’s MLB career was over. He played the following winter in the Dominican Republic, and later in 1981 played in the Mexican League.
Garr retired and became part owner and operator of a Houston, TX doughnut shop. In 1984, Hank Aaron offered Garr a scouting job with the Braves. Garr still serves as a Braves scout, serving as the primary scout on recent prospects like Kyle Muller. Garr is a member of the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame.
- Mack Jones averaged 24 HR per year while slashing .260/.334/.472 for the Braves from 1965-1967
- Tommy Hanson finished 3rd in the 2009 Rookie of the Year race and went 45-32 in his 4 years in Atlanta
- Russ Ortiz only pitched two seasons in Atlanta, but was an All-Star, 4th place CYA finisher, and 21-game winner in 2003.
- David Carpenter is better remembered, sadly, for the home run he allowed to Juan Uribe in the 2013 LDS, but he was one of the best relievers in baseball that year.
Who is the best ever to wear #48?
Bronze: Sam McDowell may have had the best seasons of any #48, in the mid to late 60’s with the Indians. In a 7 year span from 1964-1970, McDowell went 103-80 with a 2.73 ERA and 1829 K’s in 1736 innings. He led the AL in K’s 5 times in a 6 year span, won the 1965 ERA title, and won 20 games in 1970. The rest of his career paled by comparison, but for a brief time, Sudden Sam was one of MLB’s most exciting pitchers.
Silver: Torii Hunter was a consistently good player for over a decade, hit 498 doubles and 353 homers, won 9 Gold Gloves and 2 Silver Sluggers, and was a 5-time All-Star.
Gold: Rick Reuschel wasn’t appreciated in his time, with only 3 All-Star nods, but the man known as Big Daddy was a relentlessly valuable innings-eater for two decades. His 214 wins rank 90th in MLB history, and he ranks 67th in MLB history in innings pitched. Reuschel was one of MLB’s better pitchers in the 1970’s, and when you combine a really good peak (1972-1978) with his late-career stardom – he led the NL in complete games and shutouts in 1987 at age 38, won 19 games in 245 innings at age 39, and threw over 200 innings at age 40 – you get one impressive pitching career.