'From Mikes to Men' is definitely a home run

Sports Column by Stuart Crosby stuart@newnan.com In 1950, a family from New York packed up the car and went to Rochester to see the Red Wings defeat the Jersey City Giants in a 22-inning International League game. Nothing from that actual game has relevance since it was played 60 years ago except for a five-year-old little boy decked out in a uniform who, from that point became a fan of the Red Wings and eventually educated many baseball fans in this part of the United States for many years (including yours truly), was attending his first game.
That person was Pete Van Wieren who spent 10 seasons in minor league sports before setting his mark for 33 years as "the professor" during his tenure as a member of the Atlanta Braves' broadcasting team. At the end of the 2008 season, Van Wieren called his last game on the air in Houston and went into retirement with his wife Elaine to travel and visit with the grandchildren. On those days when he has not been with the grandchildren, Van Wieren has been working on a book with Braves' official scorer Jack Wilkerson called "From Mikes to Men" which was released recently by Triumph Books of New York. In the book, Van Wieren writes stories of his youth similar to the aforementioned trip to Rochester and the memories that were soon to follow like reading "The Sporting News" as an elementary school student as opposed to those who would choose to read about Dick and Jane. Days spent on busses with minor league baseball players who had dreams of their own are among the stories he shares as well as calling the state bowling tournament in Binghamton, New York during the offseason and having several other "extra" duties. The moment finally came when the Atlanta Braves called in 1975 to offer a chance to join Skip Caray and Ernie Johnson to broadcast games for the downtrodden club that was being purchased by Ted Turner on what was known as WTCG and the less than "far-flung" radio network. Van Wieren mentions several stories about the early days which also called for him to be the team's traveling secretary and as well as calling Atlanta Falcons' football when Channel 17 broadcast some preseason games. There is also the worst to first season of 1991 that began the string of 14 division titles and that 1995 World Series championship won by the Braves. The book also delves into Van Wieren's reaction when awaken by Bobby Cox on the team plane to San Francisco and being told his longtime broadcasting partner and friend Skip Caray had passed away. Van Wieren also goes into what was the final month of a long season for the Braves who finished 72-90 and for himself as he discusses those last few games and a token thrown from the suits (my word not his) at Turner Broadcasting. Hoping to smooth any animosity he might have had toward the company that no longer owned the team, TBS asked if he would do some playoff games that the network was broadcasting as part of its deal with Major League Baseball. Anyone who heard that last out he called in Houston in the top of the ninth inning in September 2008 got a portion of the answer since that was the last game he would do. Everybody else will have to read the book to learn about what led to him not calling those postseason games. Overall, I found this to be a good read and encourage other baseball fans to purchase it to add to the Braves' collection or that of baseball in general. Having grown up as a huge Braves fan and virtually eating and drinking the history of the team and the game, I didn't need to know about the team during it's existence but having someone who was a part of it relaying their views is something I believe is a home run.


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