From having the highest ranking person of color in Major League Baseball at his time, to a lineage of former African-American players that have become General Managers and Managers, the Atlanta Braves have a rich history of impacting baseball from the front office to the playing field.
This Black History Month, the Atlanta Braves will celebrate voices of influence within the organization; uncovering stories of African-American achievement of past and current.
Hank Aaron spent 21 seasons playing for the Braves, compiling one of the greatest careers in the history of the game. In 1974 he broke the most hallowed record in sports, hitting his 715th career home run to become baseball’s all-time Home Run King. An alumni of the Negro Leagues, Aaron overcame racial discrimination and death threats with dignity and class. After his playing career he moved into the Braves front office where he served as Director of Player Development from 1976-89 before being named Senior Vice President. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982 and was a member of the inaugural class of the Braves Hall of Fame in 1999.
Bill Lucas became the first African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball history. He spent more than 20 years in the Braves organization. He was a member of the transition team for the move from Milwaukee to Atlanta. After a successful tenure in the player development department, Lucas was promoted to GM at only 40 years old in 1976. He was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2006.
The Braves traded for Fred McGriff in July of 1993. He made his debut on July 20, with the Braves sitting nine games out of first place in the National League West. He homered in his first game with the team, and sparked the team to an incredible 51-19 record to finish with 104 wins and beat the Giants by one game for the division crown. In 1994 he was the MVP of the All-Star game, and in 1995 was the clean-up hitter for the World Championship team. In 2015 Braves brought the “Crime Dog” back as a Special Assistant to the General Manager.
John Schuerholz signed Terry Pendleton as a free agent for the 1991 season, hoping for strong defense and veteran leadership. Pendleton delivered those skills and more by winning the batting title, National League MVP, and guided the team to its worst-to-first World Series run. He played another four seasons with the Braves, then returned as a coach in 2001. He has served stints as hitting coach, first base coach, and now continues his work as bench coach for manager Brian Snitker.
In 2017, Bo Porter transitions from third base coach to his new role as Special Assistant to the General Manager. Porter played parts of three seasons as a major league outfielder and spent two years playing in the Braves minor leagues. After his playing career, he coached in three organizations before being named manager of the Houston Astros in 2012. He was hired by the Braves in 2014 to coach third base as well as outfielders and base running.
Ron Washington begins 2017 as the Braves new third base coach. He is widely regarded as one of the best infield coaches in the game, and a skilled motivator and leader. He spent parts of 10 seasons as a player in the major leagues, then another 15 coaching in the minors and majors. In 2007 he was named manager of the Texas Rangers, and in 2010 became only the third African-American manager to lead his team to a World Series.
The Braves drafted Ron Gant in 1983, and he made his major league debut in 1987 as a second-baseman. He displayed his power and speed potential in 1988 with 19 home runs and 19 stolen bases, but struggled in the field. After a demotion to the minor leagues in 1989, he returned as an outfielder in 1990. He put up back-to-back 30/30 seasons in 1990 and 1991, helping the team to its worst to first pennant in 1991. He had two more strong seasons through 1993, launching the Braves to their unprecedented run of division titles. After retiring, he served as a color commentator for Braves games on TBS in 2005. He is currently a morning host for Good Day Atlanta.
Known as “The Road Runner” for his speed and agility, Ralph Garr posted a career .317 batting average as a Brave, tied for first in Atlanta history. As a rookie in 1971, he hit .343 and set an Atlanta record with 219 hits. He won the batting title in 1974 with a career high .353. After his playing career, he joined the Braves Scouting department, and has spent more than 25 years with the organization. He was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2006.
Cito Gaston was signed by the Milwaukee Braves as an amateur free agent in 1964. He made his major league debut for Atlanta in 1967. After six years with the Padres, the Braves reacquired Gaston via trade and he spent four more seasons with the team. Following his playing career, he served seven seasons as hitting coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, before being named manager of the team in 1989. In 1992 he became the first African-American manager in history to win a World Series title.
Sam Jethroe had a distinguished career in the Negro Leagues before breaking the color barrier as the Braves first African-American player in franchise history. Known as “The Jet” due to his outstanding speed, Jethroe led the National League with 35 stolen bases in 1950, earning him Rookie of the Year honors. He played two more seasons with the Braves before poor eyesight and an influx of talented players that he paved the way for led to his demotion. He spent six more seasons in the minor leagues before retiring at age 38, having opened the door for the likes of his replacement, Billy Bruton and ultimately Hank Aaron.
Brian Jordan was a successful two-sport star, making a Pro Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons and an All-Star Game for the Atlanta Braves. After three seasons in the NFL, the St. Louis Cardinals signed him to a baseball only contract, convincing him to give up football. The Braves signed him as a free agent before the 1999 season, and he helped the team to the 1999 National League pennant. He spent three seasons as a Brave before being traded to the Dodgers. After two years there and one in Texas, Jordan returned to the Braves for the last two seasons of his career. He currently serves as a pre-game analyst for Braves Live, the official pre-game show on Fox Sports. He is active in the Atlanta community with the Brian Jordan Foundation.
The Braves acquired Matt Kemp in a trade with the Padres at the trading deadline in 2016. He played left-field and hit clean-up for the rest of the season, hitting 12 home runs in the season's last two months and provided protection for Freddie Freeman in the lineup. Kemp is a two-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and two-time Silver Slugger winner. While with the Dodgers, he created a community initiative called Kemp's Kids, hosting L.A. area children at Dodgers games.
Curtis Pride made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos in 1993, becoming the first deaf player in the majors in more than 45 years. He signed as a free agent with the Braves in 1998, and played in 70 games for the team that year. In 1996, Pride received the Tony Conigliaro Award, given annually to the MLB player who best overcomes adversity through spirit, determination and courage. In 2015 he was named MLB’s Ambassador for Inclusion.
Deion Sanders is an NFL Hall of Famer, and an accomplished Major League Baseball player. After two seasons with the Yankees, he signed with the Braves as a free agent in 1991. He balanced playing both sports at the same time, contributing to the Braves worst to first run and the beginning of the consecutive division titles streak of the 90s. He is the only person in history to play in a World Series and Super Bowl. Deion is also credited with bringing the famed “chop” to Atlanta.
After many successful seasons with the Astros and Yankees, the Braves traded for Bob Watson at the start of the 1982 season. His veteran leadership and clutch pinch-hitting helped the team to the Division Title. He returned in the same role in 1983, hitting .407 as a pinch-hitter that season. He retired after the 1984 season and moved into coaching. In 1993 he followed in the footsteps of Bill Lucas, becoming only the second black General Manager in MLB history when the Astros hired him to that position. He later held the same position with the Yankees, and in 1996 became the first African-American GM to win a World Series. After retiring from the Yankees, he was named MLB’s vice-president in charge of discipline, rules and on-field operations.
Tyrone Brooks joined the Atlanta Braves in the summer of 1996 as a Baseball Operations Trainee with the Career Initiative Program, which was created by Hank Aaron and then Braves President Stan Kasten. Tyrone ended up spending 11 seasons with the team and was part of 10 consecutive division titles and two World Series appearances under Braves General Manager John Schuerholz. Brooks would go on to successful stints as an executive and pro scout with the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates, including helping the Pirates make three straight playoff appearances (2013-15). Brooks was named Senior Director of the Front Office and Field Staff Diversity Pipeline by Major League Baseball and the Office of the Commissioner in January 2016. The program was created to increase the pool of qualified women and minorities working within baseball operations, both in front office and on-field roles.
Sabrina Jenkins started her career with the Atlanta Braves 25 years ago as an intern in the ticket sales department where she spent a total of nine years, having been promoted to Ticket Sales Manager after the first four years. She became the first female African-American director for the Braves in 2001 when she took over the special events department. During her tenure, Sabrina has had the opportunity to work in several different areas of Braves business including advertising and heading up the organization's Supplier Diversity Program. For the past nine years Sabrina has been named as one of Atlanta Business League's Top 100 Black Women of Influence.
Ron Knight joined the Atlanta Braves in 2009 as a Trainee in the Baseball Operations Department where he assisted in major league operations, player development, and scouting, following his undergraduate studies from Morehouse College and graduate studies at Ohio University. Today Ron serves as the Manager of Minor League Administration and assists in overseeing the off-the-field operation of the Atlanta Braves player development system. During his tenure, Ron has had the opportunity to mentor college students on breaking into the sports industry.
Ericka Newsome-Hill joined the Braves in 2004 and serves as the Director of Community Affairs and Braves Foundation. Throughout her tenure, she has directed the many community outreach and philanthropic initiatives for the organization helping to distribute more than $6.5 million throughout the community. Dedicated to strengthening communities and brightening the future of children, Ericka is instrumental in furthering the Braves long-standing commitment of being a strong community partner and giving back to organizations in need.
Vernon Nix's tenure with the Atlanta Braves spans 29 years. His passion for people has kept him focused and poised in his position as Security Manager. Vernon ensures that the players, staff, fans and other guests are comfortable while at the ballpark and feel safe and secure whether at work or play. Vernon's legacy of creating the employee ticket referral program demonstrates his versatility to the Braves organization.
Jim Williams began working with the Atlanta Braves in 1979 when he represented the team as a sales representative for Turner Broadcasting, who owned the team at the time. He was the first African American vice president to head a business unit for Turner starting in 1987 with the Braves as part of his portfolio. His leadership helped make the Braves "America's Team" because of the Superstation and Turner regional networks. Jim landed on the Turner Executive Committee thanks in part to his work in 1994 when he elevated Turner and the Braves' diversity consciousness by launching Turner;s first major inclusion initiative. Jim retired from Turner as an Executive Vice President in 2008 and joined the Braves staff in 2009 as a Senior Advisor where he focuses on sales, marketing and inclusion.
Walter Banks started as an usher at Atlanta Stadium (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) in 1965, first for the Atlanta Crackers and the next year for the Braves when they moved from Milwaukee. Known for his numerical trivia and friendly disposition, Banks, the Braves longest-serving usher, has become a living legend for fans attending games. The Braves have partnered with Uber to provide Banks with transportation to and from SunTrust Park so he can continue greeting Braves baseball fans.
Originally from Charleston, SC, Robert began working with the Braves in the spring of 1991. A lover of music, Robert was the Drum Major for Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band and was the Assistant Director of the Atlanta Olympic Band from 1992-1996. Robert currently is on the Musical Ministry Staff at Ebenezer Baptist Church and serves as the Band Director for DM Therrell High School in Atlanta, GA.
Ms. Geraldine joined the Braves in 2006 and has served as an elevator attendant in our premium areas, specifically the 755 Club at Turner Field. The Braves have been a family affair as her husband, daughter and grandsons have all held part-time roles since 2006. Edward, her husband, is currently an Usher behind the Braves dugout. Known to guests and staff as ‘Mama G’, Ms. Geraldine is a staple of the Braves organization on game days.
Alex has been working as an Usher since the 2000 season and can be found in the SunTrust Club throughout every game. A hero of the Atlanta community, Alex is known for mentoring youth through his nonprofit, Empowerment Zone Encouraging Teens (EZET). Alexander serves as a Supervisor at Delta Global Security. Alex is a single parent of two boys, one of which graduated from the US Naval Academy and is now a Second Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps.