ATLANTA — Ernie Johnson, an Atlanta Braves legend and the former voice of the team, died Friday, the team announced. He was 87.
“The Braves family has suffered a great loss today,” Braves president John Schuerholz said in a statement. “Ernie was the heart and soul of the Braves for so long, first as a player and then as the voice of the team in the broadcast booth. Our hearts are heavy today and we will miss him dearly. We send our deepest condolences to his wife of 63 years, Lois, his children, Dawn, Chris and Ernie Jr., and to his grandchildren.”
From the Braves’ official statement:
Johnson ended his days as a full-time Braves broadcaster in 1999 and entered the organization’s Hall of Fame in 2001.
Johnson began his Major League career as a pitcher for the Boston Braves in 1950 and moved with the club to Milwaukee, where he continued to be used primarily as a reliever until the end of the ’58 season. He returned to the organization to serve as the public-relations director in 1960 and then assumed play-by-play duties when the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1966.
While serving as a Braves broadcaster, Johnson followed his former teammate, Hank Aaron, as he made his march toward Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. In 1976, he began mentoring a pair of young broadcasters, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren.
Caray and Van Wieren developed a strong bond and friendship with Johnson, who served as more than just a mentor.
“It’s a sad day, and it was probably one of the most celebrated days,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said in a statement. “When you think about listening to the Braves on radio and TV, E.J. was the guy. He always had a kind word to say and always had a smile on his face. He was always a very uplifting kind of personality.”