Hello again everyone. I come to you with the sad news of the death of Ernie Johnson that was announced during last night’s game.
For those of you who are new to the Braves, Ernie Johnson was literally the face and the voice of the Braves franchise. Serving as a mentor and then a partner to the Hall-Of-Fame worthy pair of broadcasters Pete Van Wieren and Skip Caray, the trio pioneered the concept of broadcasting a team’s games nationwide via satellite. WTBS, the local Atlanta station, morphed into the “Superstation”, while the team became “America’s Team”, and, at Ernie Johnson’s personal direction, the three broadcasters collectively became the “Voice Of The Atlanta Braves”.
Ernie’s career as a broadcaster for the team spanned from 1966-1999, though he did fill-in gigs occasionally after that. His career with the team was much longer than that, though. He had a fine career as a relief pitcher for the Boston Braves in 1950 and 1952 and the Milwaukee Braves from 1953-1958, including posting a World Series ERA of 1.29 in the World Championship year of 1957. He retired as a player in 1959, becoming the P.R. director for the Milwaukee franchise in 1960, then assumed a color commentary role on team broadcasts in 1962 before becoming the lead announcer for the team in 1966 when the franchise moved to Atlanta. Ernie was inducted into the Braves Hall-Of-Fame in 2001.
I have fond memories of, as a kid, listening to Ernie try to keep Milo Hamilton focused, though I’m not sure that’s what seemed to me to be happening at the time. Ernie, “The Ol’ Righthander” as he was sometimes called, to me always came across as friendly, human, approachable, and understanding. Later, he was a perfect offset to the often acerbic wit of Skip Caray, and provided a player’s perspective to complement the often statistically-driven commentary of Van Wieren.
By all accounts, Ernie was a great person, a great father and grandfather, and a great friend to all those who came to know him. In an almost eerie coincidence, Ernie passed away on what would have been Skip Caray’s birthday. I know how saddened I was to hear of his death, even with him having been out of the booth for so long. I can only imagine the loss being felt by his family and friends. Rest in peace, Ernie Johnson, you’ve earned it after a long and adventurous journey through life.