There are certain people who personify the Braves Way. That didn’t start in 1991, when the ambitious John Schuerholz came in and helped save the Braves franchise. The groundwork was laid many years ago, when the team first moved to Atlanta.
Paul Snyder is probably the main one that symbolizes that mindset. He’s been with the Braves since 1957, first as a player and then as a coach, manager, scout and executive. Paul’s retired a few times through the years, but he’s still a Brave.
Bobby Cox, Brian Snitker and Randy Ingle are a few others that come to mind. They’ve worn that uniform with pride and helped make the Braves what they are today. There are a few scouts that fit into that category, some that have been around for years, like Roy Clark. They’ve all lived this Braves way for decades.
There are players that fit that mold, too, whether they only wore a Braves uniform or had to move on to somewhere else. Aaron, Niekro, Murphy, Glavine, Smoltz, Chipper. Those players are the Braves way. They lived it on the field.
I realize every team has a ‘way.’ We hear that thrown around a lot these days. The Braves actually had it on paper some 30 years ago. And the writer was Bobby Dews.
He first joined the Braves in 1974, and for the next 40 years Dews lived and breathed Braves baseball. Dewsy, as he was affectionately called, was old-time baseball. He always had on batting gloves and a fungo bat near, always ready to help a player get better.
Dewsy loved to talk baseball. He loved to listen to others talk baseball. The game was in his soul, but the great thing about Dewsy was that while it might have defined him, baseball wasn’t what he was all about. He was a writer, a good one. And he loved to tell stories that didn’t always involve a bat and a ball.
There was no more trusted assistant to Cox than Dewsy. They were friends on and off the field. Every manager needs a confidant, and that’s what Dewsy was to Cox. He was first on Cox’s big league staff in 1979. When Cox was fired by Atlanta after the 1981 season, Dews went back to the minor league side.
He was Hank Aaron’s second-hand man as assistant farm director when the Braves retooled everything in the mid-1980s. By then, Cox was back as general manager. Dews wrote some notes down on how the Braves would run things in the farm system. Team president Stan Kasten had increased the budget, providing more coaches and more teams. But Dews implemented strategies to get everyone on the same page.
The group, which still included Snyder as well, wanted the Braves to be uniform. What was done in Atlanta would be done with every minor league team. If the Braves took batting practice or infield one way in Atlanta, it would be done the same way on the farm.
Dewsy was there to help create philosophies that would be in place once Schuerholz arrived in 1990. I remember Snyder telling me once that Schuerholz “taught the Braves how to win.” But the way they played baseball was being taught by Dewsy and others leading up to that first magical season in 1991.
There are countless baseball players that were helped by Dewsy. He would be the one on the back field working with a player in spring training, whether it was a major league star or a first-year minor leaguer. He would put in the extra time to make someone else better. Those people he helped are hurting today.
I asked Dewsy one time if he had wanted to be a big league manager. “Sure,” he said, but there was no regret he had missed that chance. I believe he interviewed one time with another team for a manager’s job, and there was more than one occasion when another organization wanted Dewsy to run their farm system. But he was just fine with wearing that Atlanta uniform for his entire career.
Bobby Dews had his demons. He conquered them, and he was proud of that. He never pretended to be an altar boy, but he knew the things he experienced made him the man he was. Dewsy lived one hell of a life, and he would probably tell you that any regret would only cheapen his life experience he had along the way.
Conversations with Dewsy were always entertaining. He might have an old joke to share or just a good story. But it was never dull. There was always something that would make you smile.
My last long conversation with Dewsy came in spring training, 2013. Things weren’t good then in Braves camp. There was a lot of unhappiness, as the front office had gotten away from that Braves way that he loved so much. He wasn’t happy about that, but he had to be thrilled it’s regained its luster in the last year with the changes that have been made.
Anyone who knew Bobby Dews loved him. He was one of a kind. That’s a generic cliché that people use sometime when one dies, but we all said that about Bobby before this happened. He was unique and interesting and interested. He was a great man, and he was The Braves Way.
It was a pleasure to know Dewsy and to know a man that loved the Braves and the game of baseball so very much.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.