Crenshaw: Atlanta Braves to honor a black man who also helped lead team to greatness: Bill Lucas

From Sam Crenshaw at The Undefeated on February 9, 2017:

Bill Lucas, one of the first African-American vice presidents in Major League Baseball history, is hardly remembered. He was vice president and director of player personnel of the Atlanta Braves from 1976 to 1979 and established a foundation that would propel the franchise for many years to come, including an unprecedented run of 14 consecutive divisional titles.

A phone rings in an upstairs suite of the Atlanta Braves team hotel in Los Angeles. Bob Hope, who works for the Braves in public relations, answers and hears the voice of the frantic hotel concierge. “Could you come to the lobby, your team owner is on his hands and knees barking at people.”

Hope makes a dash for the lobby, the team’s vice president and director of player personnel in tow. All part of the job of the Braves front office, which sometimes struggled to keep pace with the club’s tempestuous owner. One voice, however, resonated with Ted Turner. On this night, he would hear it. “Look,” the vice president stated, “you’ve gotten out of hand here. If you don’t stop it, we are going to put you on a flight and send you home.”

Maybe this Braves vice president knew how to read Turner better than others. Maybe it was the glare of his gray-green eyes or the toothpick clenched in his teeth or maybe the afro. That’s right – this top Braves official was a black man, and even though Bill Lucas never officially held the title of general manager (Turner kept that for himself), he did everything the role entailed. When he was named vice president and director of player personnel in 1976, he held the distinction of being the highest-ranking African-American in Major League Baseball. But Lucas’ career – and achievement – aren’t widely known in sports circles, which is why the Braves are honoring him with a celebration on Thursday at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.

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Originally published: February 9, 2017. Last Updated: February 9, 2017.