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On This Date in Sports May 11, 1977: Manager Ted

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With his team mired in a 16-game losing streak, Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner sends Dave Bristol on a ten-day vacation and takes over the role of manager himself. Turner watched the losing streak reach 17-games as the Braves lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 at Three Rivers Stadium. It would be the only game managed by Turner as National League President cited a rule barring owners from managing the team.

Born in Cincinnati on November 19, 1938, Ted Turner was a true maverick in every sense of the word. His family made money on billboard advertising, a company he would take over after his father’s suicide in 1938. Turner later began investing in radio stations and building a multimedia empire. This led to him buying several television stations, including a local UHF Channel in Atlanta. Channel 17 in Atlanta went from WJRJ to WTCG, standing for watch this channel grow. WTCG began broadcasting Braves baseball in 1973; a few years later, Turner purchased the team and began feeding Braves games to several of his stations in the south. With cable television in its infancy, Turner struck a deal with the FCC to transmit WTCG over satellites throughout the country, later changing the call letters to TBS, Turner Broadcast System.

After the departure of Hank Aaron following the 1974 season, the Braves had hit on hard times, losing over 90 games in two straight seasons. Hoping to turn things around, Ted Turner hired Bill Lucas as the team’s General Manager in 1976, becoming the first African American GM in baseball history. After showing some positive signs in the first two weeks of the season, the Braves, who were 8-5 on April 22nd, went into a tailspin. Over the next three weeks, the Braves would not win a game, losing 16 in a row. Most of the losses were downright ugly, as the Braves were beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers 16-6 on April 24th and by the Cincinnati Reds 23-9 the following day at Fulton County Stadium.

He wanted to see what was wrong himself; Ted Turner gave manager Dave Bristol a ten-day hiatus after the Braves were swept in a doubleheader by the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium on May 10th. Wearing the number 27, Turner tried to mimic the moves of his coaching staff, complete with chewing tobacco, as he managed the Braves against the Pirates on a Wednesday Night in Pittsburgh. With Phil Niekro on the mound for Atlanta, the Pirates scratched out a run in the first inning on an RBI single by Rennie Stennett. In the second, the Braves took advantage of a Frank Tavares error to tie the game on an RBI single by Barry Bonnell. In the third inning, Pittsburgh retook the lead on a home run by Dave Parker. The Parker homer ended up being the game-winner as the Pirates won 2-1, with John Candelaria earning the win, with Goose Gossage retiring Rowland Office to end the game for the save. Niekro, meanwhile, went the distance for Atlanta, falling to 0-7 on the season as the hard-luck loser. The Braves’ losing streak reached 17 games as they sank to 8-22 on the season with the loss.

The following day, Ted Turner was ordered to step down as manager by National League President Chub Finney, who cited a rule barring owners from managing the team that was put in place after Connie Mack, stepped down as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1950. Dave Bristol, who went to his off-season home in North Carolina, could not make it back to Pittsburgh for the Braves' next game. The Braves ended their losing streak with Vernon Benson filling in by beating the Pirates 6-1. Dave Bristol would remain manager for the rest of the season, as the Braves finished the year with a dreadful record of 61-101. Following the season, he was fired and replaced by Bobby Cox, who had served as first base coach for the New York Yankees.