For most of the 90’s, the Braves’s “Big 3” was commonly thought of as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.
In time, of course, the group aged and separated for various reasons. All are (for the time being) still in baseball, but the “era” of the Big 3 is definitely over.
Much less exalted was the quintet of announcers TBS employed for most of the 90’s: Skip Caray, Joe Simpson, Pete van Wieren, and Don Sutton. They’re listed in the order they were paired in, and this is important because when the Braves were still on TBS the pairs often switched from TV to radio (and vice versa) in the middle of the 5th inning. Skip and Pete were the play-by-play guys, with former ball players Joe and Don providing the color analysis.
This arrangement gradually died earlier this decade, as TBS let Don Sutton go (he’s now stuck doing color for the Nationals). Also a factor in Don leaving was TBS taking in former Cubs play-by-play announcer Chip Caray, who was (in)famously let go. With Chip on-board, TBS gradually began reducing TV time for Skip and Pete, though fan demand eventually was able to bring Skip back.
The Braves were sold by AOL/Time Warner and TBS, eager to acquire those lucrative playoff games, agreed to MLB’s demand to stop showing Braves games nationally, presumably to sell more MLB Season Ticket packages. The Braves’s TV rights were bought up by FOX for syndication only throughout the South, and they only brought Joe Simpson with them. Skip got to keep doing games that were still on WTBS and its offspring, WPCH (Peachtree TV) before his departure earlier this year.
Despite these factors, I was still just a little surprised today to see that Pete was hangin’ them up. Yes, I know that he says it wasn’t because of any of those items I listed above. At any rate, this is a tremdous loss for broadcasting in Atlanta.
It’s hard to quantify how much losing two play-by-play guys really means to me as a Braves fan. I’ve watched so many games in my short life it’s probably safe to say I’ve listened to them more than anyone else outside my immediate family. Growing up, I would watch every game possible and if I couldn’t watch it I’d try to listen to it. (As far as I know, the Braves still have the most extensive radio network of any baseball team. Heck, they even have an affiliate in the Virgin Islands.) On my drives to and from Tech each August and May I would look-up ahead of time which radio stations had the game on my route just to make sure I caught it. On Wednesdays when the games were on FSN (and before they got the current announcers) I’d sometimes even try to listen to the game on the radio.
It baffled me when I saw that Skip was not on the ballot for this year’s Ford C. Frick award, and next year if neither Skip nor Pete are finalists I will really start to wonder what’s going in the minds of the panelists and voters.