Former Braves owner Bill Bartholomay, who moved team to Atlanta, dies at 91

Former Braves owner Bill Bartholomay, who moved team to Atlanta, dies at 91
Ted Turner and Bill Bartholomay, smile after receiving their 1992 National League Championship rings. (Frank Niemeir / AJC staff) (Frank Niemeir/AJC)

ATLANTA — Bill Bartholomay, the former Braves owner and chairman who brought the franchise to Atlanta, died Wednesday. He was 91.

His daughter Jamie told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he died peacefully at a New York hospital.

Bartholomay’s passing happened the night before what would have been Opening Day. The Braves said in a statement he would never miss one and his legacy will live on.

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"There is baseball in Atlanta today because of Bill Bartholomay. Affectionately known as “Mr. B.,” Bartholomay was instrumental in bringing people together and fostering diversity while helping shape Atlanta as a major city in the south when he relocated the Braves from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. His warmth and grace were felt equally by Presidents, MLB Commissioners, business titans, Braves players and fans.

“He was part of our organization for the last 57 years and never missed an Opening Day or significant event. He was a dear, thoughtful friend whose presence will be missed, but his legacy will surely stand the test of time for the Atlanta Braves and all of baseball. We send our deepest sympathies and condolences to his children Virginia, Bill, Jamie, Betsy and Sally, his grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

Bartholomay was born just outside of Chicago in 1928. Baseball had always been a part of Bartholomay’s life as his parents were friends with Cubs owner, the Wrigley family.

He served as the leader of the group that brought the Braves for $6.2 million in 1962 from Lou Perini, who moved the team from Boston.

The new ownership looked to move the Braves away from Milwaukee before it decided on Atlanta.

Bartholomay and the owners negotiated a deal with Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and the city to build Atlanta Stadium as part of the move.

He later sold the team to his friend Ted Turner in 1976 for $11 million but Bartholomay remained with the organization as chairman until 2003.

Braves and baseball legend Hank Aaron called Bartholomay the greatest owner he ever played for.

“He understood the game of baseball more than so many others. I’ve known him for a longtime and he’s helped me in more ways than you can imagine. I will surely miss my friend,” Aaron said.

Bartholomay met all 10 baseball commissioners during his lifetime and served on the panel that selected Bud Selig in the 1990s.

The Braves inducted “Mr. B” into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2002.

“He was a true gentleman, who served on a variety of MLB committees over the course of decades and is widely regarded as one of the great influencers of the game during the modern era. Mr. B was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2002 for his role in making the Braves a storied franchise with his constant presence since moving the team to Atlanta,” the team said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.