The Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame will induct 17 new members in the annual banquet tonight at the Civic Center. In addition to the seventeen new inductees, the group will also hand out six other awards including a special lifetime achievement award to former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner. You might be asking yourself, why Ted Turner? He's not from Chattanooga. You may also be forgetting that Ted attended the McCallie school and later as a business tycoon owned many billboards in the city as well as radio stations WGOW and WSKZ.
So much for the reason why. When I looked at his biography, I wondered why it took so long to honor him. He is an experienced yachtsman who won the prestigious America's Cup in 1977. He turned Turner Advertising into Turner Communications and became a pioneer in the cable television industry.
He founded Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980 and in 1990 he put Turner Sports South on the air. I had the privilege of being one of the first play-by-play announcers on that regional sports network, and did SEC, Southern Conference, and Ohio Valley Conference events. I held that position for many years; even after Turner sold the network. So, at least in an indirect way, I can say I worked for Ted Turner.
Turner was Time's Man of the Year in 1991, and he has a list a mile long of other awards and honors, too many to mention. He even spent time as a Major League Baseball manager, but just for one game. Turner bought the Atlanta Braves in 1976 and in his second season as owner in 1977, with the team mired in a 16 game losing streak, Turner sent manager Dave Bristol on a ten day "scouting trip" and he took over as manager. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn nixed that idea after just one game and his career as a manager came to a screeching halt. While being a big league manager wasn't in the cards, as an owner his Braves won the 1995 World Series.
As successful and popular as Ted Turner has been as a businessman, he has been equally as well-known for his philanthropic work. He pledged ten years ago to donate a billion dollars to the United Nations and did so by paying millions over that ten year period. He recently made the final payment. He has also been a big proponent for saving the environment. In all, Ted Turner has been good for many many people.
Ted Turner will not be in Chattanooga to accept his award this evening. He is almost 80 years old and has not been in good health recently. His son, Rhett Turner will be there and I look forward to meeting him.
While Ted Turner may be the most famous honoree at the Hall of Fame banquet this evening, there are many more inductees who have achieved "Turner-like" success.They include football coaches Ken Colquette and Vic Grider, former Moc basketball stand out Book McCray and Female Athlete of the Year Ashley Rogers. The annual banquet is always a big thrill for me and being able to present an award to Ted Turner's son makes it extra special.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org