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2022: Braves in memoriam

A remembrance of former Braves who passed in 2022.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves
Anthony Varvaro pitched in four seasons for Atlanta. He retired from baseball to become a police officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2015.
Photo by Kevin Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images

As we see another year come to an end, let us remember former members of the Braves organization who passed away in 2022.

Al Autry (P)

February 29, 1952 - February 25, 2022

Years with Braves: 1976

Al Autry was a 4th round draft choice by the Kansas City Royals in 1969. He was acquired by Atlanta on September 4, 1975, as part of the return for an earlier-in-the-season trade for pitcher Bruce Dal Canton.

Autry’s lone appearance in MLB came when he started the second game of a double-header against the Houston Astros on September 14, 1976. He pitched five innings, allowing three runs and striking out three, picking-up the win while leading the Braves to a 4-3 victory to secure a split in the double-header.

Based on accounts he gave in interviews prior to his passing, Autry believed his time in Atlanta was cut-short due to Braves manager Dave Bristol misinterpreting Autry’s joking with long-time friend Rick Camp about an error Camp made during Spring Training as poor sportsmanship.

Tommy Boggs (P)

October 25, 1955 - October 5, 2022

Years with Braves: 1978-1983

Tommy Boggs was the second overall pick in the 1974 draft by the Texas Rangers out of Lanier High School in Austin, TX. After spending parts of two seasons with the Rangers, he landed in Atlanta as part of a massive four-team trade in December 1977. The trade, which included Atlanta, Texas, Pittsburgh, and the New York Mets, included notable players such as Willie Montanez, Bert Blyleven, Al Oliver, and Jon Matlack.

Boggs pitched in parts of six season with Atlanta, mainly as a starting pitcher. He best season with the Braves came in 1980 when he started 26 games, going 12-9 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.175 WHIP across 192.1 innings. He also spent most of the 1981 season in the rotation for Atlanta. He returned to Texas for a brief stint with the Rangers in 1985.

With Atlanta, Boggs pitched in 114 games - including 94 starts - with a 20-44 record while posting a 4.22 ERA and 1.392 WHIP in 584 innings.

Don Collins (P)

September 15, 1952 - May 22, 2022

Years with Braves: 1977

Lyons, GA-native Don Collins was drafted four times in two seasons in 1971 and 1972. He was the fifth overall pick in the January 1971 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers out of South Georgia College but did not sign. Lyons was drafted twice more, without signing, until he was picked by the Atlanta Braves in the June 1972 draft.

Collins pitched in 40 games with Atlanta in 1977 and in four games in 1980 with Cleveland. For the Braves, he went 3-9 making six starts and picking up two saves across 70.2 innings. Working as a starter in the minors, Collins was traded to the Indians prior to the 1980 season.

In total, Collins went 4-12 between the two organizations, with a 5.28 ERA in 76.2 innings.

Atlanta Braves pitcher Odalis Perez throws against
Odalis Perez debuted for Atlanta in 1998, less than three months after his 20th birthday.
Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty Images

Odalis Perez (P)

June 11, 1978 - March 10, 2022

Years with Braves: 1998-2001

Odaliz Perez was a well-regarded starting pitching prospect for the Braves when he debuted in 1998 just months after his 20th birthday. He became the first pitcher in MLB history to earn his first MLB win in the post-season, when he earned the decision in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs after pitching the final 0.2 innings in the top of the 10th inning when he took-over for Kerry Lightenberg who had walked two batters in one-third on an inning.

Perez would give up a stolen base to Glenallen Hill, who stole third, before getting former-Brave Jeff Blauser to strike-out with Mickey Morandini getting thrown-out for a double-play to end the inning. Chipper Jones would single in Walk Weiss in the bottom-half of the 10th for the 2-1 victory.

After pitching in 10 games out of the bullpen in ‘98, Perez would made 17 starts with Atlanta in 1999 pitching to an underwhelming 6.00 ERA and 1.645 WHIP in 93 innings that season. He would miss the 2000 season due to injury but would make 16 more starts for Atlanta in 2001, with slightly better results but still with a below average 4.91 ERA and 1.542 WHIP in 95.1 innings.

In January 2002, the Braves traded Perez with Brian Jordan to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Gary Sheffield. Sheffield was fantastic for Atlanta in two seasons, but Perez lived-up to his potential in his first season with the Dodgers.

Perez earned his only All-Star selection in 2002, starting 32 games and pitching 222.1 innings with a 3.00 ERA and 0.990 WHIP. For the season, he had a 127 ERA+ and 3.36 FIP, in what was the best season of his career.

Perez’s subsequent seasons weren’t as strong as his debut season in Los Angeles, although he did start a total of 61 games during his next two seasons. The Dodgers would trade him during the 2006 season to the Kansas City Royals, where he would pitch through 2007. He signed with the Washington Nationals in 2008 for his age 30 season and started 30 games for the team that season. Perez re-signed with Washington before Spring Training in 2009 but was release a few weeks later, bringing an end to his career.

Across parts of 10 seasons, Perez went 73-82 with a 4.46 ERA in 1,335 innings. He started 221 of the 252 games in which he pitched, with the best seasons of his career being the five he spent with the Dodgers when he had a 102 ERA+ in 132 games.

MLB Photos Archive
Gaylord Perry won 314 games during his Hall of Fame career - but only eight came during his time as an Atlanta Brave.
Photo by MLB via Getty Images

Gaylord Perry (P)

September 15, 1938 - December 1, 2022

Years with Braves: 1981

One of the more colorful characters in baseball during his 22-year career as a starting pitcher, Gaylord Perry was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. Perry, who was notorious for doctoring the baseball using the resin bag, spit, and lubricants, won 314 games while pitching for eight teams between 1962 and 1983.

The Braves signed Perry prior to the strike-shortened 1981 season. He started 23 games for Atlanta at age 42. Although he led the National League in hits that season, he pitched to a respectable 1.367 WHIP due to a league-best 1.4 BB/9. In his lone season with Atlanta, he’d go 8-9 with a 3.94 ERA (91 ERA+) across a team-leading 150.2 innings good for 2.8 fWAR (1.7 bWAR).

The 1981 season would be his only season in Atlanta, as he’s sign with Seattle for the 1982 campaign.

For his career, Perry produced 100.1 fWAR (90.0 bWAR) in 777 games and 5,350.1 innings with a career ERA+ of 117.

Perry would end his career at age 44 with a career record of 314-265 having started 690 games for the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, and Braves.

His best season was in 1972 season with Cleveland, when he accumulated 8.1 bWAR going 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA in 342.2 innings. That season he also had a 168 ERA+ with a 0.978 WHIP while starting 41 games and leading the league with 29 complete games.

Although Gaylord Perry was only selected to five All-Star games, he was a two-time Cy Young award winner, once in each league, first in the American League in 1972 with the Indians and then in the National League in 1978 with the Padres.

He also finished second for the Cy Young award in 1970, fourth in 1974 and seventh in 1973. A six-time MVP vote-getter, he was a three-time league leader in wins, and twice led the league in complete games and innings pitched.

Despite retiring almost four decades ago, Gaylord Perry still ranks 17th all-time in wins, sixth in inning pitched, eighth in strikeouts, and nineth in games started. His brother Jim also spent 17 seasons as a starting pitcher from 1959 to 1975.

Montreal Expos v Atlanta Braves
Dwight Smith played two seasons with Atlanta serving as a reserve outfielder and pinch-hitting specialist.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Dwight Smith, Sr. (OF)

November 8, 1963 - July 22, 2022

Years with Braves: 1995-1996

Dwight Smith, Sr. played for parts of eight seasons in the MLB, breaking in with the Chicago Cubs in 1989. Playing in more than 100 games that season, he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year award to his teammate and fellow outfielder Jerome Walton.

The 1989 season was the best season of his career as he posted a 141 OPS+ while slashing .324/.382/.493 and producing 2.5 fWAR on the season. In five seasons with the Cubs, he appeared in 109 or more games in four of five seasons, including his final year in Chicago - and second best of his career - in 1993.

After splitting the 1994 season between the Angeles and Orioles, Smith signed with Atlanta in 1995 as a pitch-hitting specialist. He appeared in 103 games - 82 of which came as a pinch-hitter - picking up only 147 plate appearances during the team’s World Series Championship season.

Smith’s final season in the Majors came in 1996 with Atlanta when he pitch-hit in 79 of the 101 games he appeared.

Smith’s son, Dwight Smith, Jr. has appeared in parts of four season in MLB, spending parts of the 2021 and 2022 seasons in AAA with two different organizations.

Marv Staehle (2B)

March 13, 1942 - September 30, 2022

Years with Braves: 1971

Marv Staehle played in 185 games across seven seasons with three organizations, the final of which game in 1971 when he appeared in 22 games for Atlanta.

Primarily a second baseman, Staehle saw his most extensive action in 1970 with Montreal, when he appeared in 104 games. Notably, he was the player to be named later in the 1967 trade that sent nine-time All-Star Rocky Colavito from the Cleveland Indians to the Chicago White Sox.

Staehle’s 1971 season in Atlanta saw him collect only four hits in 42 plate appearances while appearing as a pinch-hitter, second baseman and third baseman.

Atlanta Braves
Bruce Sutter earned election to the Hall of Fame based on an eight-year stretch of being one of most dominate relievers in baseball. Unfortunately, injuries prevented Sutter from showcasing that ability in the parts of three seasons he pitched with Atlanta.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Bruce Sutter (P)

January 8, 1953 - October 13, 2022

Years with Braves: 1985-1989

Hall of Fame relief-pitcher Bruce Sutter was one of the more notorious free agent signings by Atlanta in the mid-1980s - a deal that saw Sutter appear in only 112 games across parts of three seasons.

Sutter broke into the Majors with the Chicago Cubs in 1976, appearing in 52 games and collecting 10 saves. In 1977, Sutter would be selected to the NL All-Star team - the first of five consecutive appearances in the mid-summer classic. Sutter would lead the NL in saves twice with the Cubs - including his NL Cy Young Award-winning season in 1979.

Sutter would be traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1981 season and would go on to lead the NL in saves three times in four seasons with the Cardinals.

Sutter signed a landmark free agent contract with Atlanta prior to the 1985 season. The contract, which was a six-year deal for $4.8M also included deferred payments - an amount that paid out approximately $1.3M per year for 30 years.

Despite coming off of a 1984 season that saw him post a 227 ERA+ while saving a career-high 45 games, Sutter saved only 23 games with Atlanta in 1985 while pitching to an 85 ERA+.

Injuries would limit Sutter to 16 games in 1986 and he wouldn’t appear for the Braves again until 1988, when he saw action in 38 games. The 1988 season would be the last of his career, with Atlanta releasing Sutter after the 1989 season - a second full season in which he did not pitch for Atlanta.

Despite the unfortunate ending to his career, Sutter was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006 behind 300 career saves and being one of the first pitchers to effectively weaponize the split-finger fastball. He was also the first pitcher to be elected to the Hall of Fame without starting a game.

Despite only collecting 19.2 fWAR, Sutter was a six-time All-Star, a four-time winner of the Rolaids Relief award, and winner of the 1979 NL Cy Young award. He received MVP votes in six seasons, including five seasons in the top eight. He also had five seasons in which he placed in top six of Cy Young voting - with one top-five and two top-three placements in addition to his award-winning season.

With Atlanta, he saved only 40 of his 300 career games, with a 10-11 record, and a 4.55 ERA in 112 games. His time with both Chicago and St. Louis was vastly different than his Atlanta tenure, as he saved 133 games with a 171 ERA+ in 300 games with the Cubs and 127 saves and a 132 ERA+ in 249 games with the Cardinals.

Red Sox Spring Training
Lee Thomas (l), was a special assistant to the GM for the Boston Red Sox from 1998-2003. He’s shown here with Eddie Haas (c) and Dan Duquette (r).
Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Lee Thomas (1B)

February 5, 1936 - August 31, 2022

Years with Braves: 1966

Lee Thomas spent parts of eight seasons as an infielder and outfielder for six organizations from 1961 through 1968. Thomas was traded from the New York Yankees to the Los Angeles Angels after only two appearances with the Yankees in 1961 and would proceed to finish third in the Rookie of the Year award and pick-up MVP votes after slashing .285/.353/.491, good for a 115 OPS+.

Thomas would be selected to his only two All-Star games in 1962, a season he finished 11th in the MVP vote, behind a career-best 26 home runs and 104 RBI. He’d appear in 149 or more games through the 1965 season with Boston after a 1964 trade to the Red Sox before he was traded to the Braves for their inaugural season in Atlanta in 1966.

He’d spend only 39 games with Atlanta, before Braves traded the struggling Thomas to the Cubs. Thomas would end his playing career with Houston in 1968.

In more than 1,000 career games, Thomas his 106 home runs. But his time is baseball was far from over.

Thomas’s second career in baseball started as a minor league and then Major League coach. Thomas became the Farm Directory for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983, a role he held until 1988. His tenure with the Cardinals was during one of the most successful decades in the team’s modern era, and his role in developing the organization’s top prospect was credited as a significant part of the team’s success.

He would move on to become the General Manager of the Philadelphia Philles in 1988, a role he’d keep with the team until 1997. He would oversee the organization’s turn-around that included winning the 1993 NL Pennant and his work in acquiring 80-percent of the 1993 Phillies team through trades or free-agent signing earned him the Sporting New Executive of the Year award that year.

After being fired by the Phillies after the 1997 season, Thomas would spend six seasons as a special assistant to the General Manager in the Red Sox organization, ending in 2003. Thomas would come out of retirement to work a special assistant in the Baltimore organization in 2011 - a role he’s have for three seasons before retiring for good after the 2014 season.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Anthony Varvaro spent four seasons as a relief pitcher for Atlanta during the early 2010s.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Anthony Varvaro (P)

October 31, 1984 - September 11, 2022

Years with Braves: 2011-2014

Anthony Varvaro, a native of Staten Island, NY, was selected in the 12th round of the 2005 draft out of St. John’s University by the Seattle Mariners.

After spending five seasons in Seatle’s minor league system before making his MLB debut in 2010, Varvaro was claimed on waivers by Atlanta in January 2011.

Varvaro would be a quietly effective low-to-mid-leverage reliever for Atlanta from 2011 through 2014. Pitching in 62 and 61 games in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Varvaro finished each season with an ERA at or below 2.82 and an ERA+ of 133 and 136.

Atlanta traded Varvaro to Boston after the 2014 season. He’d appear in only nine games for the Red Sox before he was designated for assignment by Boston. He was claimed by the Chicago Cubs but did not appear for the Cubs before they designated him for assignment. However, he’d be returned to Boston after the Cubs medical staff determined he had a tear in his right flexor tendon. The surgery would end his season, although Boston re-signed him to a minor league contact with an invitation to 2016 Spring Training.

Varvaro seemed to be returning to form with Boston’s AAA team - appearing in 18 games with a 2.83 ERA and 1.186 WHIP but opted to retire as Varvaro decided to end his career as a professional baseball player to enter New York Port Authority Police Department’s academy.

Varvaro would go on to work for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after his graduation. He was assigned to work the 2022 9/11 memorial event in New York but was killed by a wrong-way driver early on the morning of September 11 during his drive from his home in New Jersey to Manhattan.

Varvaro’s career with Atlanta encompassed 153 of his career 166 games. With Atlanta, he pitched to a 2.99 ERA with a 7-7 record across 168.2 innings. His ERA+ was an outstanding 126 with a 3.54 FIP and 1.204 WHIP.

Varvaro picked-up his lone career save against the Marlins on August 30, 2013, pitching the final two innings of the Braves 2-1 victory over Miami. That game featured Freddie Freeman hitting a two-run home run in the top-of-the-first off Marlins starting pitcher, the late Jose Fernandez. Fernandez scored the Marlins only run after he tripled off Braves starter Julio Teheran in the third.

Gerald Williams
Gerald Williams spent two seasons out of his 14-years career with Atlanta as a starting outfielder in the late 1990s.

Gerald Williams (OF)

August 10, 1966 - February 8, 2022

Years with Braves: 1998-1999

A veteran of 14 seasons in MLB between 1992 and 2005, outfielder Gerald Williams spend nine seasons in New York - seven with the Yankees and two with the Mets - while playing with six organizations, including Atlanta.

The Braves acquired Williams from the Milwaukee Brewers after the 1997 season as part of a three-man platoon flanking each side of Andruw Jones in 1998. Williams appeared in 120 games the Braves outfield in 1998 - with Ryan Klesko also appearing as an outfielder in 120 games and Michael Tucker appearing in 118.

Williams’ 1898 season was the best of his career. For the season, he slashed .305/.352/.504 with an OPS+ of 122 while hitting 10 home runs and stealing 11 bases in 289 plate appearances.

In 1999, Williams became the primary left fielder, playing 120 games in left, 32 in right and one game in center field. For the season, his OPS+ slid to 99 with a slash line of .275/.335/.457. He did hit 17 home runs and stole 19 bases in what would be his final season with Atlanta.

Williams left Atlanta as a free agent for Tampa in 2000, where he set a career high with 21 home runs behind a career best 682 plate appearances, although is OPS+ was only 87.

Tampa would release him after a slow start to the 2001 season giving Williams the opportunity to return to the Yankees. Williams would spend the last four seasons of his career as a bench contributor with the Yankees, Marlins and Mets, before retiring after the 2005 season.

Williams appeared in 1,168 regular season games in his career. He also appeared in 26 post-season games. Williams only played in one World Series - with Atlanta in 1999.

Williams was traded from the Yankees to the Brewers during the Yankees 1996 World Series-winning season and didn’t appear in the post-season with the Yankees when New York lost to Arizona in 2001. Williams was also part of the Marlins’ team that won the 2003 World Series but did not appear in the post-season for Florida.

With Atlanta, Williams had a 108 OPS+, hitting .286/.341/.475 in 272 games.


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