Braves Lift Ban on Announcers

Tuesday, June 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Braves backed off their decision to bar from their chartered flights four team announcers who had raised questions about the catcher's box at Turner Field.

The feud between the Braves and TBS-Turner Sports, corporate brothers within the Time Warner family, ended Tuesday when the team said it would allow the cable channel's announcers to return.

Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Joe Simpson and Don Sutton were kicked off a Monday flight to Montreal, where the Braves were playing the Expos in a two-game series, after TBS discussed the width of the catcher's box.

The ban, apparently made by Braves president Stan Kasten, forced the announcers to take a commercial flight to Canada. But the penalty was lifted after Kasten talked Tuesday with Turner Sports president Mark Lazarus.

``It's business as usual,'' said Greg Hughes, a spokesman for Turner Sports.

During the first inning of Saturday night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers, TBS aired video showing the catcher's box was 4 to 5 inches smaller than it was the previous night, when Milwaukee management complained about where Braves catcher Javy Lopez was setting up.

Opposing teams have long claimed that Atlanta pitchers are given the benefit of an extra-wide strike zone, particularly on the outside corners. Catchers who set up wide of the plate can increase the chances of an outside pitch being called a strike.

The superimposed video comparing the catcher's box from one night to the next was shown after a rare balk call against Fernando Lunar, the Braves catcher on Saturday night. Home-plate umpire John Shulock ruled that Lunar set up with his right foot outside the 43-inch-wide box.

The balk led to Milwaukee's first run and a heated argument between Shulock and Braves manager Bobby Cox, who was ejected. Atlanta lost the game 2-1.

Kasten and Simpson declined comment on the spat. Major league baseball said it is looking into the matter.

Kasten, also president of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, was at the entry draft in Calgary, Canada, over the weekend, while Lazarus was en route to London for TBS's coverage of Wimbledon.

The two finally got a chance to Tuesday to have a ``long, friendly conversation,'' Turner Sports said. ``They are in complete agreement on how the relationship will work. The long-standing, warm relationship between TBS and the Braves will continue as before.''