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Former Atlanta Braves catcher Biff Pocoroba dies at 66; All-Star in 1978

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 1983
                                The Phillie Phanatic jumps onto the back of Atlanta Braves catcher Biff Pocoroba, who didn’t see the Phillies mascot coming a warmup before a baseball doubleheader in Philadelphia. Pocoroba, who played in the 1978 All-Star Game and was a backup on the Braves team that won an improbable NL West title in 1982, has died at age 66.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 1983

    The Phillie Phanatic jumps onto the back of Atlanta Braves catcher Biff Pocoroba, who didn’t see the Phillies mascot coming a warmup before a baseball doubleheader in Philadelphia. Pocoroba, who played in the 1978 All-Star Game and was a backup on the Braves team that won an improbable NL West title in 1982, has died at age 66.

ATLANTA >> Former Atlanta catcher Biff Pocoroba, who played in the 1978 All-Star Game and was a backup on the Braves team that won an improbable NL West title in 1982, has died at age 66.

Tom Wages Funeral Services in suburban Snellville confirmed that Pocoroba died Sunday. No cause of death was given.

Pocoroba spent his entire 10-year career with the Braves, first joining the team for 67 games in 1975. His best season came in 1977, when he batted .290 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 113 games.

He was picked as a reserve for the All-Star Game the following year. He got into the game in the final inning of the NL’s 7-3 victory, catching teammate Phil Niekro for the final out.

In 1982, after being plagued by shoulder problems, Pocoroba had been relegated to a backup and pinch-hitter role. He played in 56 games, hitting .275 with two homers and 22 RBIs for Atlanta, which opened the season with a record 13 straight wins and went on to capture its first division title since 1969.

The Braves were swept in three straight games by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series. Pocoroba made the only postseason appearance of his career in Game 2, grounding out as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning of a 4-3 loss.

Longtime teammate Dale Murphy, a two-time NL MVP who began his career as a catcher before moving to the outfield, remembered Pocoroba as a “key member of our early ’80s team” before injuries derailed his career.

“Poco once threw out 11 straight base-stealers in spring training,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “With shoulder problems he became our go-to LH bat off the bench.”

Pocoroba was released by the Braves after playing just four games early in the 1984 season. He retired at age 30 and began a second career running a specialty meat business in suburban Atlanta.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of former Braves catcher Biff Pocoroba,” the team said in a statement. “We share our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Biff Benedict Pocoroba was born in Burbank, Calif., on July 25, 1953. After starring at Canoga Park High School, he was picked by the Braves in the 17th round of the 1971 amateur draft.

He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Jody Karin Raymond, four children and 15 grandchildren. A private memorial service is scheduled for Friday.

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