He was also the subject of two rookie cards — 1982 Topps Atlanta Braves Future Stars and his own 1982 Donruss solo card.
Over the next couple of decades, Butler crafted a solid career that left many wondering if he might have a shot at the Hall of Fame. Along the way, that 1982 Donruss rookie of his danced in and out of the limelight as Butler’s own fortunes waxed and waned.
As fate would have it, Wax Pack Gods and that classic Donruss Butler card both ended up on a make-believe episode of the old Dick Cavett Show in the fall of 2018 to discuss the upstart Atlanta Braves and their impact on Junk Wax baseball cards.
We caught up with the Brett Butler Baseball Card backstage, in the famed “white room.” He agreed to speak with us and was his usual reflective self.
Enjoy the memories.
Wax Pack Gods (WPG): When you were issued, the Braves had only been in Atlanta for 16 years and had posted seven straight losing seasons. What was it like to be born into such a bleak culture?
Brett Butler Baseball Card (BBBC): I was just happy to be there, honestly.
Wax Pack Gods: And how did that opportunity arise?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Well … Brett Butler was a rookie in 1981 and then Donruss made baseball cards in 1982. So, really, it was the luck of timing. I just as easily could have been a Dark Crystal card.
Wax Pack Gods:Dodged a bullet there!
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Yep. *looks off to the side*
Wax Pack Gods: You’re thinking about what it would have been like to be a Topps card, or even a Fleer card, aren’t you?
(Here, cardboard Butler’s eyes teared up, and he bit his lip.)
Brett Butler Baseball Card: I don’t want to talk about that.
Wax Pack Gods: Fair enough. So, you mentioned Brett Butler’s rookie year — that came in 1981, during the strike-shortened season. He only played 40 games but slashed .254/.352/.315. Were you proud to wear those stats on your back?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: “Slashed?”
Wax Pack Gods: Oh, right. Sorry. Butler hit .254 with nine stolen bases and one caught-stealing.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: What’s a “caught-stealing”?
Wax Pack Gods: OK. He played 40 games and hit .254.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Yeah, solid.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: So what happened in 1982?
Wax Pack Gods: That’s the year the Braves got good.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Right, but what happened with Brett? He played in 89 games, but his average fell to .217
Wax Pack Gods: With 21 stolen bases, though.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: That’s true, but then in the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals …
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Um …
Brett Butler Baseball Card: I mean …
Wax Pack Gods: Anyway, Brett had some pretty good years later in his career.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Yeah. Those were some good times.
Wax Pack Gods: Right. As one of Brett’s two rookie cards, you were pretty popular for awhile in the 1990s.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: For a time there, I thought …
Wax Pack Gods: It looked like Butler might make the Hall of Fame, right?
Wax Pack Gods: I mean, almost 2400 hits and more than 500 stolen bases are nothing to sneeze at.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Tell that to collectors. All they want are home runs. Home runs or strikeouts. Plush, studio-quality photos. It’s not fair, or realistic, really.
Wax Pack Gods: Seems like I’ve touched a nerve here. Let’s move on.
Wax Pack Gods: How do you spend your time these days?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: In the commons bin, mostly.
Wax Pack Gods: Oh, man. That’s rough. Sorry to hear that. You ever see any of your old pals from the glory years?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: A few. 1984 Donruss Mike Stenhouse and I are pretty close. Those 1982 Topps Chicago Cubs Future Stars — Jay Howell, Carlos Lezcano, Ty Waller — they’re regulars, too. Every once in awhile, 1980 Topps Rick Sutcliffe or even 1981 Fleer Joe Charboneau shows up. It’s great to see them, but it’s tough. People don’t have any sense of history, I’ll tell you.
Wax Pack Gods: Right. Speaking of history, do you still follow the Braves?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Sort of. I mean, it’s tough to get baseball news where I am. We don’t really have internet.
Wax Pack Gods: But you know they were in the playoffs in 2018?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: I heard about it from 1983 Fleer Bob Horner.
Wax Pack Gods: Oh, wow. That one’s still around? It’s had a rough go of it.
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Yeah, it’s still out there. Makes me realize how lucky I am. I mean, there but for the grace of the Wax Pack Gods goes me.
Wax Pack Gods: Amen. So, about these Braves …
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Look, they made it to the playoffs, right? They weren’t supposed to be there yet, so seems like a win to me.
Wax Pack Gods: True. But those bats had some troubles against the Dodgers. What do you think went wrong?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: And Tom Niedenfuer can put it together every once in awhile.
Wax Pack Gods: I don’t think you’re following me here. Do you think you could have hit better than Ender Inciarte in the NLDS?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Who?
Wax Pack Gods: Well, hmmm. Let’s talk about the pitching staff. What went wrong with Mike Foltynewicz in Game 1?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: Who?
Wax Pack Gods: OK. It’s been great talking with you. Any last words for collectors?
Brett Butler Baseball Card: The commons bin is real. And it’s a terrible place to spend eternity. There are plenty of us there who would love a new home, and you loved us once. Big names — 1990 Fleer Kevin Maas, 1984 Topps Ron Kittle, 1978 Topps Mitchell Page, 1983 Topps David Green. 1985 Topps Benny Distefano. Isn’t there still a nine-pocket page or top-loader in your heart for us?
Wax Pack Gods: Well, that got weird, but it was great talking to you, Brett Butler Baseball Card.
(Check out the rest of our 2018 playoffs posts here.)