Atlanta Braves: School's Out For "The Professor"

Howard BurnsCorrespondent IOctober 22, 2008


It was just a couple of months ago that baseball announcer Skip Caray passed away. Now, the last member of the original Atlanta Braves broadcast team on the TBS Superstaion is calling it quits—marking a true end of an era.

Pete Van Wieren, "The Professor," is ending his 33-year career as a Braves TV and radio play-by-play man. Van Wieren teamed with Caray and Ernie Johnson Sr. as the voices of a team thrust into the national spotlight—not so much for its play on the field as for the business acumen of Ted Turner.

Turner took a sleepy independent station in Atlanta and made it into a television powerhouse by putting its signal on a satellite and making it available to cable operators across the country.

The Braves became known as "America's Team" and Van Wieren, Caray, and Johnson (later to be joined by John Sterling and Joe Simpson) became its faces and voices. It wasn't until 1991, some 15 years after the Superstation was launched, that the Braves became one of the most successful teams in baseball.

But for Turner and his quest to build a cable empire, the Braves were always golden—a pivotal piece of programming that enabled Superstation WTBS (now TBS) to become successful, and help lead the way to other mainstay ventures such as CNN and TNT.

Van Wieren played a major role in that history, and that's why his retirement from the booth deserves more than a casual mention. Not flashy or subject to the hyperbole of many of the announcers who came up to the big leagues during his 33 years, Van Wieren’s were a steady and pleasant voice that enabled a, then-lowly, franchise to be accepted by a national audience.

The Braves—and Ted Turner—were lucky to have him.