Putterman: The forgotten legacy of Atlanta Braves executive Bill Lucas

From Alex Putterman at The Atlantic on June 4, 2017, with mention of SABR Vice President Leslie Heaphy:

On September 19, 1976, the Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner promoted a man named Bill Lucas to vice president of player personnel. Though Turner, somewhat oddly, kept the official title of general manager, Lucas assumed the job’s responsibilities, overseeing the Braves’ roster. As a former minor-league player who had climbed through Atlanta’s front office, Lucas was a typical hire, except for one fact: Unlike every other man to ever run a Major League Baseball franchise until that point, he was black.

Nearly three decades after Jackie Robinson had become the first black player in the modern Major Leagues and two years after Frank Robinson had become the first black on-field manager, Lucas had shattered another barrier. Sadly, Lucas’s tenure as the Braves’ top baseball executive didn’t last long: He died at age 43 of a sudden brain hemorrhage in 1979, after only two and a half years on the job. The Braves, moribund when Lucas took over, wound up winning the National League West in 1982 with a roster Lucas helped build.

Forty years have passed since Lucas’s first season as Braves’ GM, and in February the team celebrated the anniversary in a ceremony at the brand-new SunTrust Park. There, the Braves announced several plans to commemorate Lucas, including a new apprenticeship in his name aimed at diversifying the front office. But despite the recent plaudits, Lucas remains a mostly forgotten figure in the sport’s history, with little name recognition outside Atlanta—even in hardcore baseball circles.

Read the full article here: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/06/the-forgotten-legacy-of-bill-lucas/528828/

Originally published: June 5, 2017. Last Updated: June 5, 2017.