Bobby Pope

Macon has connections to Braves

Dave Bristol, left, managed Pete Rose in Cincinnati and with the Macon Peaches.
Dave Bristol, left, managed Pete Rose in Cincinnati and with the Macon Peaches. ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you are an Atlanta Braves fan, which can be somewhat of a challenge this year, I am sure you are aware that Brian Snitker is serving as interim manager for the remainder of the season. He was named to replace the fired Fredi Gonzalez on May 17.

You might also recall that he managed the Macon Braves two times before moving on to coach on Bobby Cox’s staff in Atlanta. Snitker called the shots during the 1992 season and again in 1997 and 1998, but Snitker is not the first Atlanta manager to have Macon ties.

Remember the name Dave Bristol? He was Atlanta’s manager during the 1976 and 1977 seasons and was the Braves’ first manager after Ted Turner bought the team. It was in his second season during a 16-game losing streak that Turner took over for Bristol, telling him to take 10 days off. Turner’s tenure lasted one game, a loss to the Pirates in Pittsburgh, before NL president Chub Feeney, supported by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, put an end to that nonsense.

Feeney cited baseball rule 20-E, which states that anyone who owns stock in a team can’t manage because of a possible conflict of interest. Turner then had Vern Benson take over for one game, before Bristol was reinstated in the position where he finished out the season. That 1977 Braves team had the worst record (61-101) in the 50-year history of the franchise in Atlanta. If things don’t get better soon, this year’s team could become the all-time loser.

Atlanta was the third of four managerial assignments for Bristol during his long career in Major League Baseball. He got his first big league job at age 33 in Cincinnati, where he spent 3 1/2 seasons from 1966 to 1969, then it was on to Milwaukee (he was the Brewers’ first manager) for the 1970 and 1971 seasons and 31 games into the 1972 campaign before being fired.

His next stop was Atlanta, and finally, he took over the San Francisco Giants for the final 22 games of the 1979 seasons and all of the 1980. In addition to his 11 years as a manager, he was a third-base coach for five different clubs during 12 seasons. He was on Tony Perez’s staff and Pete Rose’s staff when they both were managing Cincinnati. Bristol managed both of them in Macon, as well as when he was the Reds manager.

Bristol was on Rose’s staff when he was suspended by Major League Baseball for gambling activities. Bristol’s final coaching assignment for Perez was in 1993, but he later did some scouting for the Reds organization.

Prior to being promoted to the major leagues, Bristol spent nine years in the Reds organization as a minor league manager, which included two seasons in Macon. He managed the Macon Peaches in 1962 and 1963.

The 1962 team is arguably the best Macon team ever to play at Luther Williams. That squad, which featured 12 players to make it to the majors, won the South Atlantic League championship, and the former skipper says he has nothing but fond memories from his Macon experience. The Peaches’ title was one of five he won in the nine seasons he was a minor league manager.

Bristol’s first association with Macon goes back long before he was named manager of the Peaches. He was born here in 1933. His mother, who was from Houston County, was visiting family in the area when Dave came along.

The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inductee who turns 83 on June 23 has always called Andrews, North Carolina, home and still lives there today. Andrews is just on the other side of the north Georgia line about 30 miles from Young Harris.

In the baseball offseasons, Bristol helped his father raise horses and wild boar. He also taught school until it was time to go to spring training each year, and when he left, his wife would take over teaching. Bristol graduated from Western Carolina in Cullowhee after spending his first year at North Carolina.

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