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Ernie, Lois, and their three children moved to Atlanta in 1965, a year before the team came south. By this time, he had joined the front office staff, setting up the Braves’ radio network across the Southeast.
Ernie’s longtime fans were with him in the lean years, and there were all too many of those in the 70’s and 80’s. While the team struggled, year after year with mediocre records, Ernie remained undaunted. He thrived on the highlights he had the pleasure to be a part of….Aaron’s home run record, Niekro’s no hitter, the MVP seasons of Dale Murphy. He was there for the exciting if short-lived playoff years in 1969 and 1982. Through it all, he brought every game to life for fans across the country. When Ted Turner launched his “TBS Superstation” in 1973, Ernie’s voice reached millions of baseball fans across the country, and to viewers without a local team, he became “their” announcer just as the Braves became “their” team.
Ernie’s fellow announcers tell story after story about what it was like to share a mike with him. Many of those stories reflect his love for the game, a dramatic moment, or a funny on-the-air incident. Ernie was instrumental in helping Pete Van Wieren get his first major league job with the Braves, and Pete remembers his first day at his new job. Ernie took him to the broadcast booth and said very simply, “This is where we’ll be working.”
Skip Caray’s favorite Ernie Johnson story also involves his first day on the job. When turning the mike over at the end of an inning, Skip remarked, “And now, here’s the Voice of the Braves, Ernie Johnson.” Embarrassed by the title, Ernie replied during the next commercial, “Skip, don’t call me the “Voice” of the Braves…we’re all the voices of the Braves here.”
In addition to his Braves’ Hall of Fame induction, Ernie has been recognized many times for his broadcasting excellence, including winning the National Sportswriters Association’s Georgia Sportscaster of the Year Award in 1977, l983, and l986. He has also received three regional television Emmys for his broadcasting. But perhaps the greatest tribute he received during his career came from the fans themselves. When he retired from full-time broadcasting in 1989, the Braves finished in last place, 28 games out of first and 34 games below .500. Their attendance, less than a million that year, was the lowest in the league. Yet with all the grumbling and dissatisfaction over yet another losing season, 42,000 fans, the largest crowd of the year, showed up for one special night on September 2. 1989. It was Ernie Johnson Night, and they came to say good bye.
The Hall of Fame website lists the past winners of the Ford C. Frick Award, excellent broadcasters all. For his lifetime devotion to the game of baseball, for the joy he brought millions of fans across thousands of miles in thirty-seven years behind the microphone, for his integrity, for his talent…it’s time Ernie Johnson joined the roster of the best broadcasters in the history of the game. We put up this website in the hope that the fans to whom Ernie has meant so much will now help him achieve his place in Cooperstown.
Please join us!