Now that Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton is officially in the books as an Atlanta Brave – he went 0-for-2 after entering Tuesday’s game vs. Miami in a double-switch – it seems like a good time to ponder the question, How many Mississippians have played for the Braves during their 54 seasons in the ATL? Some intrepid research (old media guide and internet) turns up 11 names, including Hamilton and DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley, who also debuted this year. Hattiesburg native Bob Didier was the first, playing four seasons as a catcher starting in 1969, the year of the team’s first National League West title. Laurel’s Rod Gilbreath had the longest tenure, the second baseman spending parts of seven seasons (1972-78) in an Atlanta uniform. Currently working as a Braves scout, he occasionally turns up at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Jackson State alumnus Marvin Freeman put in four years and was a pitcher on the World Series clubs of 1991 and ’92. Others on the list are Ocean Springs’ Howard Battle (1999), Mississippi State alum and Greenwood native Paul Maholm (2012-13), Laurel native Jack Pierce (1973-74), ex-State star and Meridian native Jay Powell (2005), Vicksburg native John Thomson (2004-06) and Jackson’s Donnie Veal (2015).
About The Author
Freelance writer Mike Christensen was a newspaper sportswriter for 30 years, including 26 at the Daily News and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, and is author of the book "Of Mudcat, Boo, The Rope and Oil Can." He covered small college and minor league baseball, including the Jackson Mets, Generals, DiamondKats, Senators and Mississippi Braves, among other duties in his newspaper days. A former youth league second baseman, he is a longtime Atlanta Braves fan and collector of baseball books and cards.
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