08/12/11 11:42 PM ET
Ernie Johnson Sr. passes away at 87
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Johnson was 87 at the time of his passing. With his health worsening, he recently began receiving hospice care.
"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."
Johnson's passing came near the end of a day that began with Bobby Cox being inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame. The celebration extended to the evening hours as Cox's No. 6 jersey was retired before the Braves beat the Cubs, 10-4 -- a game in which Dan Uggla set an Atlanta record by extending his hitting streak to 32 games.
"It's a sad day, and it was probably one of the most celebrated days," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "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."
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.
During one of their earliest games together, Caray said, "We now turn it over to the voice of the Atlanta Braves, Ernie Johnson."
This prompted Johnson to look at his young broadcast partners and say, "If you don't mind, I'd appreciate it if we are all called the voice of the Atlanta Braves."
Johnson, Caray and Van Wieren were the broadcasters whom fans across the country heard after TBS began airing Braves games to a national audience on a daily basis in the late 1970s.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.