Ernie Johnson Belongs In The Hall Of Fame

Every team has its voice. For the Braves, that voice is Ernie Johnson. BravesCenter Editor Bill Shanks shares more information on the Braves Broadcasting Legend and his bid to join the Broadcaster's Hall of Fame. <B><I>(Read on to cast your vote for Ernie)</B></I>

"It's time for Braves Baseball. Good evening everybody...this is Ernie Johnson along with Skip Caray...speaking to you from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium..."

Every team has its voice. The Dodgers have Vin Scully, and the Cubs had Harry Caray. It's usually one sound that is associated with a team more than any other.

For the Atlanta Braves, that voice belongs to Ernie Johnson. While he's been out of the daily spotlight for more than a decade, most Braves fans will still tell you that the ole' right-hander from Vermont is still the voice of the Braves.

Ernie Johnson was a relief pitcher for the Boston and then Milwaukee Braves back in the 1950's. After retiring in 1959, he joined Milwaukee's front office as the Public Relations Director. Two years later, Ernie became apart of the Braves' broadcast team. When the club moved from Milwaukee to the South in 1966, Ernie followed joining Milo Hamilton and Larry Munson as Atlanta's first broadcast team.

Johnson would call many of Hank Aaron's historic home runs, but he sat in the second chair to Hamilton. Then the Braves fired Milo after the 1975 season, elevating Johnson to the number one position.

Two people would join him that season, a basketball announcer named Skip Caray, and a minor league broadcaster from AAA named Pete Van Wieren. Caray likes to tell the story of the first time he was introducing Johnson on the air. "I was on the air and said ‘now with the play-by-play, the voice of the Braves Ernie Johnson.' After the next half inning Ernie leaned over and said, ‘If you don't mind, we're all the voices of the Braves.' I learned all I needed to know about the man right then and there."

All of the games were not on television back then, so we had to depend on our trusty radios to keep up with our Braves. It was easy to have a greater appreciation for the excellence in broadcasting portrayed by Ernie and his friends.

Ernie, Skip, and Pete were the Braves announcers when Channel 17, WTCG was taking off as a SuperStation. Ted Turner, owner of the Braves and of Channel 17, had this great idea to put a station on the satellite, for all of America to watch. This was before there were cable games on four times a week. The "Game of the Week" on NBC Saturday afternoon and occasional Monday night games on ABC were all you got, not counting local telecasts.

Every week the three announcers would say how many more cable subscribers were added. WTBS (as it was now called) grew in large part to the Braves success in 1982, when the team won its first 13 games of the season and finally started winning.

Baseball fans from all over the country started watching this baseball team out of Atlanta, particularly baseball fans that were not geographically close to a big league team. On every road trip, there would be thousands of fans show up at the hotel and then at the stadium to show support of a group that was now labeled "America's Team."

"There's a drive.... deep left field…back toward that wall…it's outta here… Home Run Murphy."

Ernie, Pete, and Skip were joined by Darrell Chaney, John Sterling, and Billy Sample throughout the years, but their camaraderie, their friendship made it very easy to enjoy. These included some years that were not very enjoyable on the field with this franchise, but the three made it fun to watch.

Johnson retired from regular broadcasting after the 1989 season, but was convinced to come back for a game of the week on SportsSouth (later renamed Fox Sports Net). He would do the Wednesday broadcast for 10 more seasons, leaving the Braves following the 1999 season after 52 years (38 as a broadcaster) with the organization.

Ernie Johnson was a tremendous announcer. His voice was smooth, enjoyable. He got excited only when needed, not to have his voice blare through on a SportsCenter highlight. He was a homer, no doubt. Ernie had the Braves in his blood, and he wanted the team to win. But he was fair, never avoiding the truth.

As a kid growing up in South Georgia, Ernie Johnson quickly became my hero. I wanted to be a broadcaster, and he quickly became my role model. He's one of the main reasons I got into broadcasting. Last summer when I did a handful of Braves minor league telecasts on CSS (regional cable network), I could not help but slip a few Ernie-isms out of my mouth. Watching someone that closely for so many years will do that.

"And the Braves are going to win"

He still fills in on the radio broadcasts. Last summer, at age 79, he was still as good as ever. Ernie is still a terrific announcer. He may tell a few stories of the old players that get on the nerves of the younger audience, but he hasn't slipped one bit.

Perhaps if Ernie had remained on TBS throughout the 90's, he would have already been in the Hall of Fame. But he preferred to go home to Crabapple and be with his wife Lois. It should not lessen his accomplishment as an announcer. 38 seasons with one team is quite an achievement, even if the last ten years were part-time.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is allowing fans to participate in the voting for baseball broadcasters. From a long list of announcers, fans are asked to vote for three who they'd like to see in the Hall. Then, a committee which includes Bob Costas, Vin Scully, and Ernie Harwell, will vote one name from those three to go into the broadcast wing of the Hall of Fame

If you are a Braves fan and enjoyed Ernie during his years as a broadcaster, I implore you to go to the website and vote for Ernie. Pete and Skip are also on the ballot, but they will still have plenty of chances to get in (and should!). But with Ernie retired, I can't think of a better gift to him than to help get him in the Hall of Fame.

It's the least we can do for a man who has given us so much.

"And on this winning night...this is Ernie Johnson. Goodnight everybody."

HALL OF FAME WEBSITE: (You can vote once a day until December 1st)

Bill Shanks hosts a weekly television show on the Braves and its minor league teams. He can be reached at

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