Ted Turner had a dilemma. The new owner of the Braves had crafted a man of the people image that made him more popular than the team he owned. But he was also a yachtsman who was afraid his participation in the America’s Cup, scheduled smack dab in the middle of baseball season, might alter that carefully crafted perception.
He came up with a solution that was pure mad genius. Humorless commissioner Bowie Kuhn proved the perfect foil. At risk: Gary Matthews, signed by the Braves amid charges of tampering.
The scene: the 1976 Winter Meetings in L.A.
(excerpted from John Helyar’s book, “The Lords of the Realm”)
One minute he was on his hands and knees, barking like a dog. The next he was shouting that the commissioner was going to kill him. Two aides — GM Bill Lucas and PR director Bob Hope — finally dragged him into the hotel bar. …
“Do you think I’ve convinced him I’m crazy?” Turner asked.
The next day he met with Kuhn.
“Yeah, suspend me for a year. Let the punishment fit the crime. I know I was wrong in saying this. You’re always wrong when you get drunk and open your big mouth, and I committed an impropriety. It’s not a gentlemanly thing to do to get drunk and even jokingly threaten somebody who, it turns out, doesn’t have the same kind of sense of humor I do.”
“Take it out on me! Fine me, suspend me, do anything, but don’t take away Gary!”
Kuhn complied, suspending Turner and allowing Matthews to remain a Brave. The next summer Ted won the America’s Cup while remaining a martyr at home, where Braves fans started a petition to overturn the suspension.