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'Voice of the Braves' provided the sound of summer
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I grew up in a house that was not air-conditioned. It was a big, Victorian home with high ceilings.

For every day we lived there, it was a work in progress. We were always fixing something, so it seemed. When we finished making our way around the four exterior sides with paint, it seemed to need it again.

In the summer, the windows were opened to give us a little gust of air with a degree or two of coolness.

On many summer nights, my dad sat on the front porch swing and would listen to the radio broadcasts of the Atlanta Braves.

It wasn't loud, but the familiar voice of Ernie Johnson blended in with the crickets and the rustle of the summer breeze that were the post sundown symphony in Social Circle.

Johnson died a few days ago at the age of 87. He resisted the title of "The Voice of the Braves," but I think he was.

Ernie worked with a number of legendary announcers over the years, including Larry Munson, Milo Hamilton, Pete Van Wieren and Skip Caray.

Milo was paired with Ernie in the days leading up to Hank Aaron's quest to reach Babe Ruth's home run record. Milo was an announcer, a good one, but he had that Midwestern radio announcer sound.

Ernie, a native of Vermont, had a folksy, friendly sound that made you feel like a buddy was sharing the details of the game. Now Ernie had the excitement of the great moments, but his patter was one of comfort.

In the old days, they would switch announcers after the middle of the fourth inning. The guy on TV would come over to radio and vice versa. Dad always seemed to like it when Ernie had the first half on radio. He was an early riser and often headed off to bed before the game was over.

In 1978, I became program director at the radio station in Monroe. We were offered the Braves radio broadcasts and took them. Our owner helped me arrange for Ernie to speak to the Lions Club in the offseason.

It was a big deal, and Ernie was even more spellbinding in person. He told stories of the Braves and everyone was enthralled.

I remember he signed autographs and took pictures with folks who wanted one.

About that same time, his son, Ernie Jr., was working in Athens and we had some mutual friends and have remained acquaintances over the years.

Like his father, Ernie Jr. is one of those nice guys in the business, and I think it comes across on TV.

Ernie Sr. was a former pitcher with the Braves in both Boston and Milwaukee. He came to town with the team in 1966. I remember going downtown for the parade marking the Braves arrival in Atlanta. Among the guys riding in convertibles was Ernie Johnson. As a 6-year-old, I was pretty sure he waved at me.

Other than Don Sutton, I couldn't tell you the name of a current Braves announcer. I occasionally watch or listen to a game and find their work professional, but unmemorable.

Pete, Skip and Ernie will always be iconic announcers for the Braves, but Ernie became a part of the Braves legacy I will always treasure.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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