Classic Braves card: MVP Freddie

June 17th, 2021

As part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Topps baseball cards, we've asked fans (as well as our staff) to submit their all-time favorite baseball cards, and we've broken them down by team. We'll be revealing submissions regularly throughout the season, ranging from the famous to the weird, and everything in between.

Freddie Freeman, 2020 Topps Turkey Red

Here, Freeman stands high in his signature batting stance, back elbow way up, a look of concentration on his face.

The Braves' star first baseman, always one of the best hitters in the league, would slug his way to his best season yet in 2020.

Freeman hit .341 with 13 home runs, 53 RBIs and a 1.102 OPS for the NL East champs and came away with his first career MVP Award.

Biff Pocoroba, 1976 Topps

Although Pocoroba was a longtime backup catcher for the Braves and had an unremarkable Major League career, with a .256 average and 21 homers in 10 seasons, his ‘76 Topps rookie card garnered multiple mentions in our survey.

We’ll let Mike Holtzclaw of Chesapeake, Va., explain why the card holds a special significance for him.

“My friends and I collected cards, and we always loved the 1976 Topps Biff Pocoroba, just for its weirdness,” Holtzclaw wrote. “The trailer in the background. The fake grass. The hair sticking out from under his cap. The squint into the sun. We joked that he made the team at the last minute and the Topps photographer banged on his trailer door and woke him for the photo. He didn't have time to comb his hair -- just squat down for a picture. The sun's in your eyes? Don't worry. Pocoroba died last year, and we all texted pictures of that card to each other. Back in the days when a baseball card photo didn't have to be good to be good enough."

Seattle’s Ryan Mefferd, meanwhile, was drawn to the card mainly because of Pocoroba’s unusual first name. To date, he’s the last player named “Biff” to play in the Major Leagues.

“I am not sure when I got this one, or why it is so special,” Mefferd said. “I had just started collecting or was given a shoebox of cards at some point. The name Biff Pocoroba was another draw. I followed his career and was excited when he made an All-Star team, and saddened when he died. The card marks the beginning of a deep love for my favorite sport.” -- Thomas Harrigan

David Justice, 1990 Topps

Justice will forever be remembered as a key component of the Braves’ great success in the 1990s, which included a World Series title in 1995. It was in the clinching Game 6 of that Fall Classic against Cleveland that he provided the only offense of the game, a solo home run to back a gem from Tom Glavine that brought Atlanta its first World Series championship.

This card depicts the beginning of Justice’s run, as well as that of the Braves -- it was the year after this card was printed that Justice helped Atlanta reach the World Series after the club had finished no higher than fifth place in the National League East in each of the previous six years.

The 1990 Topps set was simple but bold, and included debut dates for their rookie cards -- as can be seen here, Justice’s debut came on May 24, 1989, when he went 1-for-5 in a 14-inning loss to the Pirates at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. -- Manny Randhawa

Craig Kimbrel, 2014 Topps Series 2

Kimbrel's 2014 Topps card is the perfect photo of him, capturing the dominant closer's iconic arm dangle as he prepares to go into the stretch.

In '14, Kimbrel was coming off an exceptionally dominant three-season run. He'd just led the Majors with 50 saves. In each of the two years before that, he'd led the NL with 40-plus saves while striking out well over 100 batters.

And he was about to do it again. Kimbrel led the league in saves (47) for a fourth straight season in 2014, his last season with Atlanta.

Ronald Acuña Jr., 2019 Topps Update
What’s cooler than being cool? Hitting home runs while blowing some bubbles with your chewing gum. seems to have perfected the practice, and it is on full display in his Home Run Derby card from the 2019 Topps Update set.

The Braves outfielder made it to the semifinals of the 2019 Derby in Cleveland. His 19 dingers in that round weren’t enough to upend the eventual champion, Pete Alonso of the Mets, as Alonso crushed 20 homers to down Acuña. Acuña managed to get some nice contact on his farthest homer of the night, though, 469 feet.

Blowing bubbles is just one of Acuña’s many talents. The 2019 season was the best of Acuña’s career so far, as he joined the 40-30 club with 41 homers and 37 steals. He is one of 11 players with a 40-30 season. He also earned the first All-Star Game appearance and National League Silver Slugger Award of his career and came in fifth in NL MVP Award voting.
-- Nick Aguilera

Best Braves facial hair card: John Smoltz, 1990 Donruss Diamond Kings
Donruss' Diamond Kings portrait-style cards are always some of the best-looking cards around. This one of a young, mustachioed is no different.

In 1990, Smoltz was 23 years old and coming off his first career All-Star season. In Atlanta, he would become a part of the iconic Big Three starting-pitching trio alongside Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

But here, on this card, Smoltz was still in the very early stages of the Hall of Fame career that included the 1996 NL Cy Young Award and a World Series championship in 1995.

Chipper Jones, 1993 Topps Stadium Club
A September callup in '93, had yet to make his Major League debut when this card was printed. It's not especially notable in the collecting sphere, as the future Hall of Famer started appearing in baseball card sets as early as '91, but Nate E. of Idaho Falls, Idaho, wrote in to share why the card means more to him than any other.

"I was a radiation therapist for a patient named Don, and a special bond was created between us when we realized we were both Atlanta Braves fans. Unfortunately, I found out a few months later that Don had passed away. A few weeks later, I got a surprise visit at work from his wife. She had a signed Chipper card in her hand and explained a touching story about how they had been going through his prized possessions before he passed. They came across that card, and he immediately said, 'There’s only one person I know who will appreciate this as much as I do!'

"Needless to say, I don’t think I will ever own a card as special as this one." -- Thomas Harrigan

Deion Sanders, 1992 Upper Deck
Wow. Look at this beauty. They don’t get much more creative than this -- a card featuring “Prime Time” in his element -- morphing from a defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons into a center fielder for the Braves as he takes his lead from first base.

The simplicity of this card is also a great feature -- there are no words except for the Upper Deck logo in the top-left corner of the card, which is in landscape mode. After all, no words are really needed when the art speaks volumes.

Patrick L. of Wake Forest, N.C., submitted this card and sums it up well:

“1992 Upper Deck Deion Sanders "Prime Times Two" -- I got this card out of a pack as a kid and it was one of the coolest cards (and still is) that I've ever owned.”

It’s one of the coolest cards, period. And it truly captures what accomplished as a two-sport star. Sanders stole 186 bases over 641 MLB games while also enjoying a 14-year Hall of Fame career in the NFL. He is the only athlete to ever play in both the World Series and the Super Bowl.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a card more reflective of Sanders’ unique talents than this one from the 1992 Upper Deck set. -- Manny Randhawa

Andruw Jones, 1998 Donruss Elite
In the '98 Donruss Elite card of , you can see the Braves slugger's power. Jones' body is twisted toward the camera, his face straining as he follows through on his swing.

That swing produced 368 home runs over 12 seasons in a Braves uniform, but if you flip this card over and look at the back, you'll see only two seasons and 23 of those homers listed. Jones was just 21 years old entering the 1998 season. He'd just finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, but he had 10 Gold Glove Awards, a Silver Slugger Award and five All-Star seasons ahead of him.

The caption under Jones' statistics reads, "Andruw gave the Braves power, speed and strong defense as a '97 rookie. He has a powerful arm." How true those words proved to be.

For Todd Oxendine of Sumter, S.C., this card is extra special -- and it has Jones' signature on it: "He was my favorite player growing up. I got a chance to meet Andruw a few years ago in Myrtle Beach, S.C., at a Pelicans game during Braves weekend. I was like a kid in a candy store. He signed my card and a baseball and talked with me for a few minutes. One of the nicest players I've met."

Iconic Braves card: Hank Aaron, 1957 Topps
is the iconic Brave, and indeed, one of the most iconic figures in baseball history. The number 755 is etched in every baseball fan's mind as iconic in the game's history. That's how many home runs Hammerin' Hank hit over his legendary 23-season career. But the Aaron we see in this beautiful card is of a 23-year-old rising star who had 689 home runs still ahead of him.

The 1957 Topps set is simple and clean, with a white border and white lettering except for the player's last name and team, which are printed in yellow. What's weird is that Aaron's image was printed backwards, making him look like a left-handed hitter. Aaron, of course, hit from the right side. How can you tell that he isn't just holding the bat as if he was a lefty for the photo shoot? Check out the number on the front of his jersey, just below his arm -- Aaron wore No. 44, and you can see that there's a backwards 4 there. Sure, Aaron hit cross-handed when he was younger, but this is a step or two further than cross-handed.

Another great element to this card is that it's from 1957, the only year the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series, and the only time Aaron won it all -- though he helped lead the club back in a rematch against the Yankees the following year.

How did Aaron do in 1957, you ask? Well, the future home run king fittingly led the Majors with 44 homers (somehow, the only time in his career he led the Majors in homers; he did lead the National League three other times). He also led all of baseball in RBIs (132) and total bases (369), while leading the NL with 118 runs scored.

There have been a lot of Aaron cards over the years, but this one is a classic for many reasons, from its simple elegance, to its quirkiness with the image of Aaron backwards, to the special year Aaron had individually and with his club.