Atlanta Braves: Greg Maddux and the 10 Greatest Pitchers in Team History
The Braves, known as the oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise in America, have seen their fair share of ups and downs during their time in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
Since the franchise first sent players onto the field as Boston Red Stockings in 1871, there have been a countless number of influential players to play for the organization, especially pitchers.
This year's Atlanta Braves pitching staff is no exception.
With the Philadelphia Phillies receiving so much attention for their pitching rotation this year, it's time to pay homage to the Braves' all-time starting pitchers. Whether it be a Hall of Famer from the 1890s or four of the most dominant pitchers in the mid-1990s, it seems the Braves have always featured at least one dominant pitcher on their staff.
With that in mind, here are the 10 best to ever take the mound for the franchise, in no particular order.
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When "Mad Dog" made his Braves debut in 1993 against his former team, the Chicago Cubs, he pitched the Braves to a 1-0 victory. Braves fans saw much of the same throughout the season, as Maddux finished the season 20-10 with the lowest ERA in the National League en route to winning his second straight Cy Young award.
Over the course of his career in Atlanta, Maddux was a six-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, three-time Cy Young award winner, three-time Sporting News Player of the Year and a World Series champion.
He won a total of 194 games with the team and holds the best winning percentage (.688) in franchise history.
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Tom Glavine, a two-time Cy Young award winner and had five 20-win seasons while playing for the Braves from from 1987 to 2002 and then again in 2008. During his time with the team, he won a grand total of 244 games, the second-most wins in franchise history.
Of the 244 wins, none is more memorable for Braves fans than Glavine's eight innings of scoreless, one-hit ball in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series, a night which saw the Braves win their first World Series since 1957.
The veteran southpaw stills calls Atlanta home and recently signed on to be a Braves broadcaster for all of the team's Sunday home games.
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John Smoltz, drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 1985 amateur draft, was traded to the Braves in 1987 for 36-year-old veteran Doyle Alexander.
In his 20 years with the Braves, Smoltz was an eight-time All-Star, a Silver Slugger award winner, a Cy Young award winner, NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award winner and a World Series champion, among other distinctions.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the 2000 season, Smoltz returned as the club's closer, where he became the only pitcher in baseball history to compile 200 wins and 150 saves. In addition, Smoltz is the team's all-time leader in both games pitched (708) and strikeouts (3,011).
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In his first game with the Braves in 1990, Avery gave up eight runs in 2.1 innings to the Cincinnati Reds en route to a dismal rookie season which saw him end 3-11 with a 5.64 ERA.
Despite the setback, the Braves stuck with Avery, and were correct in doing so.
Avery had three straight seasons of 10 or more wins and was named the 1991 NLCS MVP after posting a 2-0 record with a 0.00 ERA and 17 strikeouts. He continues his success, as he was named to the 1993 All-Star team.
Avery was another key pitching piece to the Braves' success in the magical 1995 season. Although the season wasn't his best, manager Bobby Cox named him as the Game 4 starter in the 1995 World Series, where he pitched six innings and allowed only one run.
The Braves won the game, 5-2.
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Mark Wohlers played on the Braves from 1991 to 1999, where he served as the club's setup man before becoming their closer in 1995. When the Braves traded Wohlers to the Cincinnati Reds in 2000, he left the team having compiled 112 career saves.
No save was bigger than Wohlers' World Series-clinching Game 6 save in 1995.
In addition to clinching the World Series for the Braves, Wohlers also teamed up with fellow pitchers Kent Mercker and Alejandro Pena to throw a combined no-hitter in 1991, in which he pitched two hitless innings. Wohlers also made an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1997, alongside Gerald Williams and Pedro Borbon.
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"Knucksie" is the Atlanta Braves' all-time leader in wins with 266. In his career, he won 10 or more games every season from 1967 to 1980. During that span, Niekro won 20 games three times.
Over the course of his career, Niekro was a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove winner, pitched a no-hitter for the Braves in 1973 and was enshrined into the Braves Hall of Fame, where the team retired his No. 35 jersey.
Niekro retired with a record of 318-274 with 3,342 career strikeouts. Among his other records, Niekro currently owns the team record for most complete games (226) and innings pitched (4,553).
Niekro was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
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Gene Garber played for the Braves from 1978 to 1987, where he spent his time as a sidearm reliever in the Braves bullpen. Upon his retirement in 1988, Garber's 931 career pitching appearances ranked fifth on Major League Baseball's all-time list.
Garber is the Braves' all-time leader in games finished with 388 and ranks second on the team's all-time saves list with 141 career saves.
In his 10 seasons with the Braves, Garber's best season came in 1982 when he recorded a career-high 30 saves and finished seventh in Cy Young voting.
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Warren Spahn, who played with the Boston and Milwaukee Braves in 1942 and from 1946 until 1964, chose to enlist in the U.S. Army after spending the 1942 season in the minor leagues.
In 1947, after returning from World War II, Spahn finished the season with a 21-10 record and had the lowest ERA in the National League. That season was of first of Spahn's 13 20-win seasons. He and Braves starting pitcher Johnny Sain were two of the best pitchers in all of baseball in 1948, a season which saw Boston Post sports editor Gerald Hern write, "Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain," a poem inspired by the pair's performances throughout the season.
Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, Spahn finished his career with a record of 363-245 with a 3.09 ERA and 2,583 strikeouts. He was a 17-time All-Star, a Cy Young Award winner, a World Series champion and four-time Sporting News Player of the Year in the National League.
His No. 21 jersey was retired by the Braves in 1965.
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Kid Nichols, a Boston Beaneater from 1890 until 1901, was 32 years old when he won his 300th career game, making him the youngest player in Major League Baseball history to do so. He finished his career with 361 wins, the seventh-highest total in history.
When he first broke in with the Beaneaters in 1890, Nichols became an instant success. He finished the season with a 27-19 record and a 2.23 ERA. He went on to win 20 or more games in each of the next nine seasons.
Nichols' career high in wins for a single season is 35 in 1892. Throughout his career, Nichols also posted seven 30-plus-win seasons.
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.
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The Braves acquired Hudson from the Oakland Athletics just prior to the start of 2005 season. Since that time, Hudson has won 74 games with the Braves and been one of their most consistent starting pitchers.
Despite revealing that he would need Tommy John surgery during the 2008 season, Hudson has won at least 10 games for the Braves each season except 2009, when he returned from injury and started only seven games.
In 2010, Hudson solidified his role as the ace of the Braves' rotation, finishing with a 17-9 record and a 2.83 ERA.