ATLANTA -- We have spent the past couple of months ranking the top five Braves of all time at each position. But instead of compiling a similar list of the top managers in franchise history, it seems more productive to provide a few reminders that Bobby Cox was not the only Braves skipper to taste success.
With that being said, Cox undoubtedly was the best manager in franchise history, and he is arguably the most influential figure in the club’s history. What should never be forgotten are the seeds he planted as he spent five seasons as Atlanta’s general manager before moving back to the bench and promptly winning 14 consecutive division titles.
“He is the Atlanta Braves,” former Braves catcher Brian McCann said after Cox suffered a stroke at the start of the 2019 season.
While serving as Atlanta’s GM from 1986-90, Cox traded for John Smoltz and oversaw Drafts highlighted by the selections of Chipper Jones and Steve Avery. He then guided the Braves to one World Series title, five National League pennants, 14 division titles and 15 postseason appearances while serving as Atlanta’s skipper from 1990-2010.
Former Braves owner Ted Turner gave Cox his first big league managerial job in 1978 and then reluctantly fired him after the 1981 season. Between this termination and his return to Atlanta to become a GM, Cox spent four seasons with the Blue Jays, who won the franchise’s first division title under his direction in ‘85.
Cox’s 2,504 career wins rank fourth in baseball history and his .556 career winning percentage is also the fourth-best mark produced by the 11 managers who have recorded at least 2,000 wins.
Looking just at what was accomplished with the Braves, Cox collected a franchise-high 2,149 wins and produced a .557 winning percentage. The Braves won 1,883 games and had a .576 winning percentage during his second managerial tenure (June 22, 1990, through the end of 2010) with the club. The Cardinals collected the NL’s second-best win total (1,730) during this span of two decades.
Cox guided the Braves to five World Series appearances in the 1990s and celebrated the city of Atlanta’s first world championship in 1995. His MLB record 161 career ejections will most likely never be broken. Ron Gardenhire (73) is the only active manager who has been tossed more than 50 times.
Here are a few other interesting tidbits about Braves managers:
Brian Snitker: Four years after replacing Fredi Gonzalez six weeks into the 2016 season, Snitker now has the ninth-most wins (318) in club history. While leading Atlanta to the past two NL East titles, he has joined Cox, Gonzalez and Fred Haney as the only skippers in club history to make at least two postseason appearances.
Fred Haney: Despite nearly leading the Braves to four straight World Series, Haney’s tenure with the club lasted just 3 1/2 seasons. He was given the role midway through the 1956 season and was dismissed after the ‘59 campaign. In between, the Braves won the ‘57 World Series and then blew a 3-1 Series lead while facing the Yankees again in the ‘58 Fall Classic.
Haney was criticized for bringing Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette back on two days’ rest to start the final two games of the ‘58 World Series. Both hurlers made three starts within the seven-game series, which spanned from Oct. 1-9.
The Braves tied for the NL’s best record in 1959, but they lost to the Dodgers in a three-game series staged to determine which team would play in the World Series. Haney was then dismissed, despite going 341-231 as the Braves’ skipper. Critics said his success was a product of having a start-studded roster headlined by Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Spahn.
Frank Selee: Baseball was a different game in many ways during the 19th century. But it’s still worth noting the Boston Beaneaters (one of the franchise’s earliest nicknames) won five NL pennants under Selee’s direction from 1890-1901. The first World Series was not played until 1903.
Selee’s 1,004 managerial wins rank second in Braves history. George Stallings, who collected 579 wins from 1913-20, and Bill McKechnie, who tallied 560 wins from 1930-37, are the only other managers in club history with at least 500 victories.
Hall of Famers: When Turner fired Cox after the 1981 season, he replaced him with Joe Torre, who guided Atlanta to the ‘82 NL West crown and then was fired after just three seasons. The Braves produced a winning record in both of Torre’s first two seasons and then went 80-82 during his final year as Atlanta’s skipper.
Like Torre, Casey Stengel guided the Braves before becoming an iconic Yankees manager. The Yankees won seven World Series titles and three other American League pennants with Stengel as their manager from 1949-60. The Braves had a .432 winning percentage during the six seasons (1938-43) Stengel served as their manager.