Remembrance of offseasons past

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.

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11 Comments on Remembrance of offseasons past

  1. Hey so Kimbrel won ROY right? He doesn’t get a shout out? :)

  2. Of course we’re happy for CK but what exactly was there to say that hasn’t been said on 5,000 other sites?

  3. Ted and the Chicken chuckle as Skip explains the infield fly rule

  4. Don’t forget that after winning the America’s Cup, a drunken Turner wandered the streets of Newport, R.I., singing, “Ted Turner is my name, and baseball is my game.”

  5. rankin' rob // November 16, 2011 at 11:11 am //

    There is no other like Ted.

    As a Braves fan I would be happier about the Kimbrell ROY award if Fredi hadn’t overused him so badly that he was worse than useless in the biggest games of our season.

  6. Jack Straw // November 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm //

    So the whole thing was a ruse? In 35 years (!) that never occurred to me.

  7. PepeFreeUs // November 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm //

    It was never boring when Ted was in the saddle.

  8. Lords of the Realm, one of the greatest (and most illuminating) books on baseball that I’ve ever read.

    One thing about rooting for the Braves in the late Seventies: the team was awful but the owner made damn sure that they (and he) weren’t ignored. I miss the crazy version of Ted.

  9. PepeFreeUs // November 17, 2011 at 4:36 am //

    Like I’ve said before, it was like being on a pirate ship. The odds were stacked against you but it was a wild ride.

    I just caught the very end of that. Cox, and then Torre, were turning our little whacky adventure into a solid team, which had joys of it’s own.

  10. Viva Rufino Linares! // November 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm //

    God, I miss Ted!

  11. Just saw the Frick award ballot… Good news: Skip is on it. Bad news: So is McCarver.

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