Behind the photo

When the Braves headed to the postseason in 1995 where they eventually won the World Series, there were nine players on the active roster who remained from the ’91 worst-to-first club.

This photo was taken at the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Standing from left are Steve Avery, Jeff Blauser, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers; sitting from left are Mark Lemke, Rafael Belliard, David Justice and Kent Mercker.

These nine provided much of the core of what that became 14 straight division championship teams. Not coincidentally, seven of them came up through the club’s farm system.

Smoltz actually spent one season in the minors with the Braves but was acquired in 1987 from Detroit in a trade for veteran Doyle Alexander. The only player in the photo that was not homegrown was Belliard, who was picked up as a free agent before the 1991 season and was first thought only as a utility player but wound end up being the primary starter at shortstop.

Ron Gant, another great prospect the Braves turned into a very productive player, would have been in this photo. But the year before, he broke his leg in a dirt bike accident and was released.

How many of these players were first-round picks?

Just one. Avery was the third pick in the 1988 draft.

Blauser (1984) and Mercker (1986) were both fifth-round picks. Glavine was a second-round pick (1984), Justice went in the fourth round (1985), Wohlers in the eighth (1988) and Lemke was a steal in the 27th (1983).

Believe it or not, Smoltz was a 22nd-round pick by Detroit in 1985. Belliard was signed as a free agent by Pittsburgh in 1980.

Obviously, the group produced at the highest level. Glavine and Smoltz are first ballot Hall of Famers. Avery, Justice, Blauser and Wohlers made All-Star teams. Justice was also a National League rookie of the year. Mercker was part of two no-hitters.

Glavine won a World Series MVP and Avery and Smoltz won National League Championship MVPs. Glavine and Smoltz won Cy Young Awards. Also, Lemke shares the record for triples in a seven-game World Series (3). Belliard may not have a big list of honors but clearly stabilized the club’s shortstop position when he came to the team.

Another interesting fact about these nine: They combined to play in 429 games during their postseason career. Justice led the way with 112. And according to Baseballreference.com, the nine players made a combined $445,453,794 million in salaries.

Now that’s not chump change.