Monday, May 11, 2015

Ted Turner Manages the Atlanta Braves May 11, 1977

On This Day in Baseball History May 11, 1977: Atlanta Braves owner and media mogul Ted Turner takes over the reins as manager of the team that he owns surprising everyone in Baseball including his own players. Why did he do it? Turner felt that he wanted a first hand look as to why things were going bad for the team he owned which was in the midst of a 16-game losing streak. In doing so, he told manager Dave Bristol to take 10 days off to go on a scouting trip. Naturally this didn't go over well with the powers that be: National League President Chubb Feeney and MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

The team would extend their losing streak to 17-games with a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Turner's managerial debut. In order to avoid Turner managing the team for a second consecutive game, Feeney would turn to the rule book to stop Turner. According to the article Turner Barred as Manager But Sees Team Triumph, 6-1 by Murray Chass from the New York Times dated May 13, 1977:
The rule, Major League Rule 20, section "e" says, "No manager or player on a club shall directly or indirectly own stock on any other proprietary interest or have any financial interest in the club by which he is employed except under an agreement approved by the commissioner..."
Turner would ask Feeney to get approval from Commissioner Kuhn. Not surprisingly, both Turner and Kuhn had butted heads during Turner's brief tenure as owner of the Braves. Turner had been found to violate free-agency rules in the attempt to sign Gary Matthews, which had led to a one-year suspension and a lawsuit filed by Turner that put a stay on the suspension. So on the backdrop of that contentious relationship, does anyone think that Kuhn would grant Turner an exemption allowing "Billionaire Ted" to manage the Braves? Kuhn tells Turner: NO DEAL.

According to the article Kuhn Decides Against Turner from the New York Times dated May 14, 1977:
"I am satisfied," Kuhn said in a statement late yesterday afternoon, "that Mr. Feeney's disapproval of the Turner coach's contract should stand. Given Mr. Turner's lack of familiarity with game operations, I do not think it is in the best interest of baseball for Mr. Turner to serve in the requested capacity." Later Turner said Bristol would return as manager today.
So what did Turner think of his banishment to the owner's box? According to the article None of the Braves by Rod Smith in his Sports of the Times column of the New York Times dated May 15, 1977:
Turner was understandably aggrieved. "If Walter O'Malley wanted to manage the Dodgers," he said "they wouldn't stop him. Would they?" 
Probably not, but Walter is one of the good old boys who Kuhn seldom, if ever, tells what to do. Turner is a fresh punk who would be under suspension now if a judge in Atlanta hadn't intervened.
And the banishment of Turner brought the team back to their losing ways with a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe Turner should have stayed. Wouldn't have been any worse than Bristol. No?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- The night Ted Turner managed the Braves by Doug Williams from dated May 23, 2013