Monday, December 26, 2005
My beloved Braves are for sale, and there's great hope that Ted Turner will buy them back from Time Warner. Atlantans are quite provincial over Turner: sure, he's crazy, but he's our nut, and Atlanta as we know it wouldn't exist without him. The Braves could've very well moved out of town before he bought them, along with the Hawks, for that matter. There'd be no CNN, and there'd be no stories like the following, taken from "We Could've Finished Last Without You," a seriocomic diary by former Braves publicity director Bob Hope about his time with the organization, and Ted.
"When asked at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast what he was going to do about the crime problems in the stadium parking lot, he said he would run buses from the stadium to the north side of town during games, let the thieves steal from the more affluent neighborhoods, then get them back on the buses and head back home after the games. That way the stadium would be safe.
"He spoke at the Braves' Boosters Club annual banquet, giving a thousand of Atlanta's most avid baseball fans their first chance to see him. He told them he had Mafia friends in the North and would resort to roughing up other players around the league if necessary to win. He said he was serious about winning; the Braves slogan for the year would be 'Victory or Death.'
"He took a break during his speech to ask why the candles on the right side of the podium were burning faster than the ones on the left side. No one had noticed, but it was an interesting, if unrelated point. The crowd was bewildered. No one knew what to think of the new team owner."
Ted also had a unique way of making amends. One time, after angering Jews with one of his patented insensitive remarks, Ted responded with a seemingly heartfelt, three-page letter of apology. All was kosher, until he signed it, "Yours in Christ." Forgive me for finding that funny as hell.
There's dozens of other great stories about Ted's early days with the Braves in Hope's book, all of which seem to prove that the "Mouth from the South" is truly insane, completely guileless, brilliant and, somehow, likable.
Of course, the Ted of those days and the Ted of today aren't the same. I saw him recently on CNN telling Wolf Blitzer things weren't that bad in North Korea.
Yeah, Kim Jong-Il is misunderstood. Ted should watch the network he founded, which recently aired a harrowing documentary on life inside a country that's devolved into little more than a national gulag.
Only Ted can get away with such an indefensible defense. Barely. He's pushing most rational boundaries these days, but you get considerable leeway when everyone acknowledges you're certifiable.