This is the second in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for every Atlanta Braves, a team that won the World Series in 2021.
The Braves have had quite a few top-notch players manning their corner infield spots throughout their nearly 150 years of existence. There will be a good mix here, from the league-leading teams of the 1890s to the clubs that dominated baseball 100 years later.
The Best First and Third Basemen in Atlanta Braves History
5. John Morrill – He was a stalwart in the early years of the franchise, hitting .262 in 1,219 games over the team’s first 12 seasons in the National League (1876-88). He scored 800 runs, drove in 625, and amassed 80 triples, which still ranks fourth in franchise history.
4. Fred Tenney – After spending his first three seasons as a backup catcher and outfielder, Tenney took over at first base in 1897 once the Beaneaters sold the contract of incumbent starter Tommy Tucker to the Washington Senators (they have no ties to either of the franchises that operated under that name in the American League from 1901-1971). Tenney hit .300 over 1,737 games with the franchise from 1894-1907 and also 1911. He ranks fourth in franchise history in hits (1,994), tied for fourth in stolen bases (260), fifth in runs (1,134) and sixth in triples (74). Tenney was an integral part of Beaneaters pennants in 1896-97, hitting .318 with 180 hits and 85 RBIs in the latter year, and he also had 209 hits in 1899.
3. Fred McGriff – Hard-nosed player was traded from the Padres to the Braves during the 1993 season and proceeded to hit 19 home runs and drive in 55 runs in just 68 games. McGriff followed that with four more seasons in Atlanta where he hit at least 20 home runs and drove in at least 90 runs. In 636 games with the Braves, the “Crime Dog” hit .293 with 130 homers and 446 runs batted in. McGriff feasted in the postseason as well, hitting 10 home runs and driving in 34 runs in 45 playoff games, leading the Braves to the title in 1995. The left-handed slugger, who was a three-time All-Star with Atlanta, earned induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2023.
2. Joe Adcock – The Milwaukee representative on the list, Adcock posted a .285-239-760 stat line in 10 seasons with the Braves from 1953-62. He had six seasons with at least 20 home runs and drove in at least 70 runs seven times. Although he had two seasons with at least 35 homers and 100 RBIs, his lone All-Star selections with the franchise came in 1960 (the league had two All-Star Games per year at that time), when he hit .291 with 25 home runs and 91 runs batted in. Adcock also played in back-to-back World Series against the Yankees, driving in two runs in the 1957 series to help the Braves win their first title in 43 years.
He was also a part of two memorable moments in Major League history. He is one of only 18 players to hit four home runs in a game (a feat he accomplished on July 31, 1954). The other moment came on May 26, 1959. Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix had pitched 12 perfect innings against the Braves, before an error and a walk put two runners on base. Adcock blasted the ball over the center field fence for a game-winning home run … well, sort of. Felix Mantilla scored, but Hank Aaron, thinking the ball hit off the wall, started jogging toward the dugout. Adcock was still running and passed Aaron on the bases. The umpires ruled both players out, but Milwaukee still won, 1-0.
1. Freddie Freeman – The definition of solid, Freeman played 1,565 games in 12 years with Atlanta, and he was named National League Most Valuable Player in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He totaled 1,704 hits (seventh in franchise history), 367 doubles (third), 271 home runs (sixth) and 941 runs batted in (seventh) while posting a .295 average. Freeman hit at least 20 homers eight times and drove in at least 70 runs in nine seasons while leading the Braves to the playoffs six times. He earned five All-Star selections to go along with three silver sluggers and a gold glove, and he also finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting (to then-teammate Craigh Kimbrel) in 2011. Freeman had five home runs and 11 RBIs during the 2021 playoffs, which ended with the Braves winning their first title since 1995. In 42 playoff games with Atlanta, he hit nine homers and drove in 20 runs.
Honorable Mention – Austin Riley – Although he is just 26 years old and in his fifth season, Riley has all the makings of a star. He made his second All-Star team this season and has also won a silver slugger award. He had back-to-back 30-homer, 90 RBI campaigns in 2021-22, and he already has appeared in 32 playoff games.
5. Ezra Sutton – Sutton is the owner of the first home run in professional baseball history (May 8, 1871, with the Cleveland Forest Citys of the National Association), but he had his best years with the Beaneaters. In 977 games over 12 seasons with Boston (1877-88), he hit .287 with 487 runs batted in, 66 triples and 1,161 hits. Although he was a part of three National League pennant-winning clubs, Sutton’s later life was full of tragedy. He was released and left baseball in 1888, ran several failed business ventures and developed locomotor ataxia (a condition that leads to loss of control of body movements). By 1905, he was paralyzed in both legs and was unable to save his wife after a lamp exploded at their dinner table. Two years later, he passed away at age 57.
4. Billy Nash – He took over after Sutton was released and spent the next decade starting for Boston. In 1,187 games, Nash hit .281 with 1,285 hits, 232 stolen bases (eighth in franchise history) and 811 runs batted in (tenth). He was a part of three pennant-winning clubs (1891-93) and drove in four runs in the “world’s championship series” in 1892, a Beaneaters win over the Cleveland Spiders.
3. Bob Horner – A power hitter who smacked 20 or more home runs in seven of nine seasons with the Braves and drove in at least 80 runs five times. The 1978 National League Rookie of the Year (edging out Ozzie Smith) was an All-Star in 1982 when he hit 32 homers and drove in 97 runs. Horner became a free agent after the 1986 season, but that was in the midst of baseball owners actively colluding to hold down player salaries so, after no teams signed him, he decided to play in Japan. Horner currently sits in eighth place in franchise history with 215 home runs, and he also has 652 RBIs and a .278 batting average in 960 games with Atlanta.
2. Eddie Mathews – There are few players who had the impact Mathews did on his team. He spent 15 seasons (1952-66) with the franchise in all three cities they played in (all 13 years in Milwaukee, plus the last season in Boston and the first in Atlanta). The 12-time All-Star led the league in homers twice and walks four times. He ranks second in franchise history with 493 home runs, third in games played (2,223), runs scored (1,452), hits (2,201) and runs batted in (1,388), fourth in doubles (338) and even tenth in triples (70). Mathews’ sweet swing led to him hitting 30 or more home runs and driving in at least 90 runs 10 times each. He was a member of Braves’ back-to-back pennant-winning teams, and he homered and drove in four runs in the title win over the Yankees in 1957. Mathews would have been even better if he hadn’t been hampered by a shoulder injury for most of the latter years of his career. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
1. Chipper Jones – Very few players could equal, or even surpass, Mathews’ historic career, but one played the same position on the same team. Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones earned eight All-Star selections and was a two-time silver slugger in 19 seasons with the Braves. Jones sits in second place in team history with 2,499 games played, 1,619 runs, 2,726 hits, 549 doubles and 1,623 RBIs, and he is third with 468 home runs. He hit 20 or more homers 14 times, drove in 80 or more runs 12 times (reaching 100 in nine seasons), scored at least 100 runs eight times, had 180 or more hits five times and led the National League with a .364 average in 2008. However, his best season was 1999, when he posted a .319-45-110 stat line to win the National League MVP award.
Jones was dangerous in the postseason as well, hitting .287 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs in 93 career playoff games, and he was a starter on the 1995 championship team. However, he did the most damage against the Braves’ biggest NL East rivals throughout his career, the Mets. In 245 career games against New York, Jones hit .309 with 45 home runs and 159 runs batted in. He had such success in the Big Apple that he named his son Shea after the Mets’ home stadium. Jones joined Mathews and several other Braves legends in the Hall of Fame in 2018.
Other articles in the Braves series:
Catchers and Managers
Second Basemen and Shortstops – Coming soon
Outfielders – Coming soon
Pitchers – Coming soon
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
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