Ted Turner's Turn at the Helm

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The Atlanta Braves are a historic franchise, and they’ve had some of the best players in baseball and a highly publicized owner in Ted Turner. However, the team’s recent lackluster performance has been cause for concern, but this is not the first such instance of prolonged poor play for the Braves. There was a time in the 1970’s and 80’s when they were mired in mediocrity. They can thank Turner for that.

However, there was at least one good thing that came out of Turner’s tenure – a reduced role for owners in the day to day operations of major league teams. This all came about because of one game on May 11, 1977.

It was a matchup that pitted the 8-22 Braves against the 20-7 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Braves entered that game on a 16 game losing game streak and Turner, assuming that owning a baseball team meant that he knew the game, decided to send then manager Dave Bristol on a scouting trip. Turner, in an even greater stroke of genius, decided that he would fill in for Bristol for the duration of his reassignment.

Bristol’s scouting trip had a duration of 10 days,  Turner’s managerial tenure was barely one. But Turner’s one day as manager had a big impact on the future of the game. It’d be a great story if it turned out that Turner was inept in his one game in the dugout, but that wasn’t the case. His only miscue in the 2-1 loss was that he chose to manage on that particular day.

Phil Niekro was on the hill for the Braves and the future hall-of-famer was dominant. He threw a complete game only allowing six hits and two runs. But, that was all spoiled by the five free-passes he issued and the two errors the Braves committed. But Turner, realizing Niekro wasn’t entirely at fault, stuck with his starter.

Turner also (whether it was his doing or not remains to be seen) managed to call upon two pinch hitters, one of whom (Darrel Chaney) was successful. He even called upon a pinch runner for catcher Vic Correll in hopes of keeping the momentum going. The Braves got runners on second and third thanks to Chaney’s pinch hit ground rule double with one out. After a fly ball to centerfield, Rowland Office, the second of the two pinch hitters came up and struck out to end the game. Turner got tagged with the loss and a career record of 0-1.

It’d be the only game he, or any other owner going forward would be allowed to manage.

Then National League president, Chub Feeney, ordered Turner to step down, as Turner violated a rule that prohibits players or managers from owning a stake in the team. Turner then unsuccessfully appealed to commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who cited a lack of familiarity with game operations.

From that moment on, owners have had a greatly reduced role in daily operations both from a game management perspective and normal daily operations. Now, that ruling has had mixed results and been enforced differently, but there are still probably plenty of owners who oversee and micromanage daily operations in some capacity.

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