In 1982, no team in America was hotter than the Atlanta Braves. Managed by future HOF manager and former Brave Joe Torre, the team started off the year with a record-setting 13-game winning streak behind the pitching of Rick Mahler, Larry McWilliams, Gene Garber, and Rick Camp and the hitting of eventual 1982 MVP Dale Murphy.
To commemorate the streak, Burger King teamed with the MLBPA for what appears to be a fully licensed set of 27 lids to accompany sodas -- or, as they would have been called in the local Atlanta-area Burger Kings, cokes (which is a generic term for any fizzy drink in Georgia, basically). As Beckett notes, these lids were intended for use with large cokes and specifically for a special collector's cup listing out the scores for the 13-game season-opening win streak.
It appears that the lids simply used the photos that the Braves had on hand for each player for publicity shots. All the photos feature the players' heads poking out of their V-neck polyester Braves uniform. Next to the photo are basic stats from the strike-shortened 1981 season and the players' heights and weights.
Apparently, the lids were distributed to local Burger King stores as complete sets. At least that is what this auction seems to imply by saying by selling the lids in the auction as a complete set "still wrapped in originals [sic] cellophane, torn on top." Does this mean that you got the complete set of lids just by purchasing a single large drink? That would seem to be unlikely and that, instead, the lids were provided to franchisees in sets and whatever lid happened to be on top is what you got.
As you can imagine, finding these lids in top shape is a challenge. This is, after all, a drink lid that was intended to be penetrated by a straw in a pre-perforated hole. Add in the fact that the lid is made of wax-covered paper inside a plastic ring, and you have a recipe for an item that would be very difficult to find intact.
HALL OF FAMERS
Just one in Phil Niekro.
Of the remaining players, Dale Murphy gets a lot of love from Braves fans in particular and fans of 1980s baseball generally. He never got above 23.2% or below 8.5% of the vote from the BBWAA during his 15 years on the HOF ballot despite the fact that his numbers match up relatively well on all of Bill James's HOF standards other than the "HOF Standards" board. Murphy's problem is one of a career without the "hanging on" stats. His WAR for his 7-year peak is 41.2 -- not far off the average CF's 7-year peak of 44.7. But, outside of his peak, Murphy's career war is just 46.5. Basically, Murphy's career was all peak and no filling.
Perhaps if Murphy got to play the entire 1981 season to allow him to get over the 400-homer mark for his career (finished at 398), it might have made the difference. Or, if he didn't come up for election in the midst of the fully steroid inflated late 1990s, his numbers would have seemed more acceptable to voters.
Still, if Murphy were inducted tomorrow, he'd be a better HOF member on his resume than a number of guys in now, including his contemporary Harold Baines, whose main recommendation over Murphy appears to be longevity (in the midst of the steroid era) over peak.
My father-in-law has worked for and/or owned Burger King franchises for his entire working life -- since he was 14 years old, in fact. My greatest disappointment in him is the fact that he did not keep any of these lids or any other baseball-themed items from Burger King.
Since I lived in Wisconsin at the time, I never heard of these lids until much later in my life. If I had lived in Atlanta at the time, well, I almost certainly would have been a Braves fan who really wanted these lids.
As a Brewers fan in 1982, though, I was 100% rooting for the Braves to make it to the World Series. Many Milwaukeeans were. We wanted the "rematch" for the city of Milwaukee. Keep in mind, too, that the 1982 season was the 25th anniversary of the one and only World Series championship that the Milwaukee Braves had earned. The symmetry of Brewers versus Braves in the World Series for the 25th anniversary would have been excellent.
I was surprised to note that there were fairly significant parallels between the 1982 Braves and the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers. Both were very streaky teams that started out the season with 13-game winning streaks only to suffer double-digit losing streaks later in the year.
The Brewers started out the 1987 season with a 20-3 record through May 2. Then, on May 3, the team started a twelve-game losing streak to go from 20-3 to 20-15 -- thereby becoming the first team in major league history to have winning and losing streaks exceeding twelve games each.
The reason that the record had to be "exceeding twelve games each" is that the 1982 Braves weren't far off that. The Braves won 13 games to start the season -- culminating in a walkoff win against Cincinnati and Bob Shirley on April 21. Unlike the Brewers, though, the Braves waited until August to go on their epic losing streak. From August 3 through August 13, the Braves lost 11 straight games, including four games lost in walk-off fashion in extra innings (including 3 straight to the Dodgers on August 5-7). The Braves went from being 7 games ahead of the pack on August 2 to being 2.5 games out of first by August 13.
In terms of getting these lids, there seem to be a few lids floating around on eBay, with three complete sets ranging in price from $63 to $100. Those prices seem a bit exorbitant, but, as I said, these have to be pretty tough to find in good shape.