The Mascot: Chief Noc-A-Homa
Indian Chief Noc-A-Homa, with his dramatic fire breathing, rain dancing around the pitching mound and yelling from his outfield teepee home, was a mainstay with the Braves throughout the decade.
There are some that found the Chief's (real name: Levi Walker) depiction of a Native American as somehow degrading. Well, to put it succinctly: they're wrong! No mascot since can hold a candle to him.The Chief was finally given his final walking papers sometime in the mid-80's, and we've missed him ever since. At least I have.
The Play-by-Play Guys: Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson and Pete Van Wieren
Wise cracking Skip, whose memorable lines included saying Eddie Miller looked like The Jazz Singer in reverse after sliding across home plate and being covered with chalk and aggravating Ernie after Cardinal second baseman Tom Herr would pop up and Ernie would say, "Popped him up." Skip would counter with "No, popped Herr up." It was always fun with Skip.
Maybe not the greatest by the book announcer there ever was, but old Uncle Ern, Ernie Johnson (1957 World Series hero with the Milwaukee Braves) was certainly one of the most beloved. I remember him for some of his redundant calls such as every time both teams scored in the first inning, how he would say, "This could end up to be one of those 10-9 games!" When a batter would hit the ball down off of home plate and would be up in the air long enough for him to reach first base, he would say, "That's an artificial turf hit." Even though it didn't hit the turf at all! When a couple of players collided or almost collided he would always call it an "Alphonse and Gaston act." I finally looked up what that was after hearing it for several years (A pair of bumbling Frenchmen from an early twentieth century comic strip. It had nothing to do with Cito Gaston.) But all Braves fans loved Ernie.
The other one in the booth was the cerebral Pete "The Professor" Van Wieren. Steady, smart, informative and probably my favorite baseball announcer of them all.
Other announcers came and went throughout the 70' and 80's (including the not quite up to the task Darrel Chaney, the obnoxious John Sterling, and the self-proclaimed Bob Newhart of broadcasting. Billy Sample) but the main trio in our hearts was always Skip, Pete and Ernie.
The Owner: Ted Turner
When Ted Turner purchased the team in 1976, he was know primarily in the Atlanta area as the owner of Turner Signs and, of course, Channel 17 (WTCG, soon to be WTBS). He put the Braves on television all the time no matter how bad they were. He also won the Americas Cup in the late 70's. He showed Fred MacMurray and Spencer Tracy movies on his superstation and I credit him for cultivating my taste in old films. I also have to give him some credit (or blame) for my interest in professional wrestling during this time.
Ted could certainly show his butt and embarrass himself on occasion, but I certainly liked and admired him. I still do. I recommend his autobiography Call Me Ted, for more wacky tales about Captain Outrageous.
The P. A. Announcer: Marshall Mann
"If you are sitting in Aisle 100 Row 10 Section C, you've just won a ticket to future Braves games and a loaf of Colonial Bread." "Would the owner of a Jeep Cherokee please report to the ticket booth, you've left your lights on." "Catcher, Bruuuuce Bendict." The P. A. Announcer is the voice that seems to be coming out of the baseball stadium that we never see and we don't really think about that much. They are just always there.
I couldn't find a picture of Marshall Mann on the Internet (which is probably fitting, since he just seemed like a mysterious voice most all those years), the Braves P. A. announcer during the 70's and far beyond, but I think that is appropriate. He's just there. And I remember him fondly.
The Manager: ?
Who was the Braves manager of the 70's? It's a hard choice.And the nominees are...
What about Lum Harris? Since Lum managed the team to their 1969 division title, I would lean toward Lum if we included 1969. But since this is a 70's blog, Lum's resume isn't quite so stellar when you remove 1969. His 1970 team finished 10 games under .500. His 1971 team did manage to finish 82-80, one of only two Braves 70's teams to finish over .500. He was ten games under .500 in 1972 before being fired late in the season.
What about Eddie Mathews? Braves legend Ed Mathews took over the team from Lum Harris in 1972 and completed the year at four games under .500. 1973 was his only full year as manager and he finished nine games under .500. He was 50-49 in 1974 before being fired in midseason.
What about Clyde King? Clyde took over for Eddie Mathews and finished the 1973 season with a 38-25 record that culminated in the best Braves record of the decade at 88-74. He couldn't keep up that pace in 1975 and was fired late in the year after the Braves fell eighteen games under .500.
What about Dave Bristol? Dave managed the Braves for 1976 and 1977 posted a 92 loss season and a 100 loss season before being fired despite Ted Turner's claim that Dave would be Braves manager for life.
What about Bobby Cox? Clearly Bobby Cox is the greatest manager the Braves ever had by far. But when you look at his seventies resume, what we have is a 92 loss season in 1978 and a 94 loss season in 1979. That's not a whole lot better than Dave Bristol.
And the winner for the Braves manager of the 70's is....
The two headed monster of Eddie Mathews and Clyde King. 1974 was the best season for the Braves by far, so I'll say a combination of the two was the manager of the decade. It's not like there's a lot of success to choose from here and that I do love that season.