Ted vs. Bucky

Got caught up in an SI Vault-hole where I came across this reminder of one of the more contentious relationships in Braves history.

In 89 games in 1978, Horner batted .266 with 23 homers and 63 RBIs and was named the National League Rookie of the Year.

The next season the Braves offered Horner a $100,000 contract, pointing out that they were obligated only to offer him at least 80% of his first year’s wage of $21,000. However, Woy insisted that Horner’s previous year’s wages also included his $162,000 signing bonus. Horner held out through most of spring training, and the dispute went to arbitration. He won the money but lost the hearts of the Braves’ fans, who booed him on Opening Day for his ingratitude and then gasped when he injured his ankle.

When Horner came back six weeks later, he went on an unconscious binge, finishing the season with 33 homers and 98 RBIs in just 121 games while batting .314. Hostility was in the air, however. Ted Turner, the Braves’ owner and forever the soul of tact, intimated that the contract dispute had caused the death of Braves’ Vice-President Bill Lucas. Horner called Turner a jerk. Turner said he would never deal with Woy again. Somebody, though, agreed to sign a three-year, $1 million contract with Horner and Woy at the end of the ’79 season.

That should have been the end of the dispute, but last spring the tag team of Horner and Woy found themselves in a Cajun Death Match (five minutes with no referees) with Turner and his vice-president for sycophancy, Al Thornwell. The Braves had gotten off to a horrendous start, and Horner was a convenient scapegoat since he was batting .059 with six errors after 10 games. (John Vukovich he’s not.) Against the advice of both Cox and Aaron, Turner and Thornwell decided to send Horner to Richmond to teach him a lesson. With some justification Horner refused to report, but was finally reinstated after three weeks. He spent the rest of the season teaching Turner a lesson. “I didn’t play angry,” says Horner. “Let’s just say I remembered what they tried to do to me.”

Woy ended up filing, and losing, a defamation lawsuit against Ted for the tasteless remark about Lucas. Horner never became the star he was projected to be, though he did 215 HR with a .508 slugging percentage in nine years with the Braves.

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