This Day In Sports: Ted Turner Begins And Ends His Career As Baseball Manager

AP Photo

Ted decided to go in battle headdress because his Stonewall Jackson uniform was at the cleaners.

May 11, 1977: Before he was a winner of the America's Cup, Goodwill Games founder or billionaire philanthropist, Ted Turner was an eccentric multimillionaire with a fledgling cable television empire. In 1976, the 38-year-old entrepreneur needed some programming to fortify his network's schedule. Naturally, he bought 2 local sports franchises, the Hawks and Braves, as airtime filler.

When it came to the baseball team, "The Mouth of the South" proved to be a real hands-on kind of owner. So hands-on, in fact, that after a 16-game losing streak Turner sent manager Dave Bristol on a "vacation" and suited up in the number 27 uniform while the Braves were visiting the Pirates at Riverfront Stadium. "[Pitching coach] Johnny Sain probably was the only person in Pittsburgh who didn't know what was going on," recalled announcer Pete Van Wieren recalled. "He finally said, 'Where's Dave?' He had no clue ... that was a fun day. We weren't winning much, but we had fun."

Turner didn't end up doing much in the way of actual coaching as the Braves lost 2-1 to pitcher John Candelaria and the Pirates' closer Goose Gossage. A shame, really, from the guy who quipped, "Managing isn't that difficult; you just have to score more runs than the other guy."

Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn and National League president Chub Feeney were not amused by this personnel change. They ruled that anyone who owned stock in a club was forbidden from managing, and relieved Turner from his duties after the single game. "They must have put that rule in yesterday," Turner said the next day. "If I'm smart enough to save $11 million to buy the team, I ought to be smart enough to manage it." The team would eventually finish the season with 61 wins, including the one the next night under interim manager Vern Benson.