Homes of the Braves
It was a glorious day when the man came to our house and wired us to a box that seemed to control the world. It was called cable television and with dozens of niche channels at my fingertips, no longer would my family be subjected to the Movie of the Week.
Instead, we enjoyed First and 10 on HBO. Pro karate on ESPN. Duran Duran on MTV. Even Dr. Ruth on Lifetime.
And I didn’t have to turn off the television when “America the Beautiful” played on WRC or WTTG on a Friday night when staying up was so very cool. I could tune in to USA “Up all Night” or catch a Van Damme (The Muscles from Brussels) movie on Showtime.
To me, that was the golden age of television. When a Superstation was truly a Superstation—Leave It to Beaver reruns and all.
That’s why I was a little sad when I heard TBS had broadcasted its last national Atlanta Braves game this past Sunday. Baseball fans from Charlotte to Cheyenne to Carlsbad have been watching the team for three decades.
Back in 1977, Ted Turner, the team’s owner, had a novel idea of throwing his team out there, via satellite to cable systems and seeing if it would stick. The Braves did in many places. They became America’s Team.
I was never a fan. I rooted for the Baltimore Orioles.
However, on many a nights, while I did my homework, the Braves helped me calculate geometry equations and understand the role of the U-boat because they were the only game on TV.
The Braves teams of my generation were Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Glenn “Mother” Hubbard, Gene Garber, Phil Neikro and who could forget Pascual Perez?
Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson Sr. and Pete Van Wieren brought us the games.
“Ernie, Skip and I were having dinner in San Francisco, and somebody sent a drink over,” Van Wieren said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We looked over and the person waved, but we had no idea who he was. He walked over and said he was a San Francisco resident who had started watching our games on cable and enjoyed them. We thought, ‘Wow, people really are watching these games!’”
Added Caray, “On the road, it got embarrassing in some ballparks because there would be more Braves fans than home team fans.”
The Braves broadcasts were so pervasive that during the 1990s, Major League Baseball in its negotiation with TBS, required the station to limits its telecasts to 90.
And it’s easy to argue that the Braves broadcasts helped sustain cable television during the early years. They proved that instead of a Major League Baseball Game of the Week, the sport could televise a national game daily and endure.
But the end became inevitable when ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox aired their own national games on a regular basis. Soon fans were able to purchase packages that allowed them to watch their favorite team on regional broadcasts.
The Braves became just another team in America.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a telecast. It’s been years. But I can remember Horner’s four-homer game and Murphy making it look so simple in the outfield. I might not miss the Braves, but I do miss the era they are connected to.
Here’s how Caray said goodbye to the viewers: “To all the people who have watched the Braves for these 30 year, thank you. We appreciate you more than you will ever know. When we first came on the air on TBS, which was then WTCG, the big TV shows were M*A*S*H, Dallas, Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels. We outlasted them all. The only one that beat us was 60 Minutes.
“We don’t want to get all maudlin here, but thank you folks and God bless you. And we’re going to miss you every bit as much as you miss us.”
OUT AT HOME: My daughter is celebrating her second birthday this weekend. Unlike her party last year, this one will have a theme. Dora the Explorer. Everything Dora. The cake, the napkins, my hairpiece. Even the piñata will be Dora. Oh yeah, speaking of which, piñatas are made with pullstrings now so kids don’t have to hit them. Too bad. It would have made the party more entertaining.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK: I think I’ll join a league. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_rslXAXE6Y