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Van Wieren, longtime Braves broadcaster, dies

Van Wieren, longtime Braves broadcaster, dies

SAN DIEGO -- The Braves family lost one of its most beloved members when former broadcaster Pete Van Wieren lost his long battle with cancer on Saturday morning. He was 69.

Van Wieren's family said he passed peacefully while resting at his suburban Atlanta home. Van Wieren's passing comes one day shy of the sixth anniversary of the death of his close friend and longtime broadcast partner Skip Caray. Van Wieren and Caray called Braves games together for 33 seasons (1976-2008).

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Those who remember the days of the Braves being broadcast nationwide on TBS will always remember Skip and Pete as the voices that brought baseball into their living room on a nightly basis.

"He was a great friend, colleague and mentor," said current Braves broadcaster Chip Caray. "He was a true professional and a tremendous man. I learned more from Pete about broadcasting than I did from anybody else. I will always be grateful for the time we shared together."

The Braves issued a statement that read:

"The Atlanta Braves are deeply saddened by the passing of Pete Van Wieren. He was such a large and important part of our organization. We and all of our fans across Braves Country fondly remember his soothing voice calling our games for 33 years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Elaine, his children and his grandchildren."

When Van Wieren emceed the Hank Aaron "715th home run anniversary celebration" before this year's home opener, he said the doctors had informed him that he was as healthy as he had been since being diagnosed on Nov. 4, 2009 with cutaneous B-cell lymphoma. But a short time later, the cancer returned in an aggressive manner.

Van Wieren was placed in hospice care late last week.

When Van Wieren retired at the end of the 2008 season, he was influenced by Caray's death and the desire to spend more time with his family, which had seen him spend the past three decades traveling the country with the Braves. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer 13 months after announcing his retirement.

"It was a pleasure for me to get to know Pete Van Wieren because as other people saw him, that's how I saw him," said Braves first-base coach Terry Pendleton, who was introduced to Van Wieren during his 1991 National League MVP season. "He was an awesome man who was truly concerned about how things were going with your life. The way he carried himself, we all loved him."

During his final two seasons as a broadcaster, Van Wieren attended every regular-season and Spring Training game played by the Braves. The only game he didn't call came during the 2007 season, when he was sidelined by a one-day bout with laryngitis.

It could be argued that nobody knew or loved the Braves more than Van Wieren, who came to Atlanta when Ted Turner hired him to become a part of the TBS broadcast crew that included Caray and their mentor Ernie Johnson Sr.

Because of his dedication to preparation and extensive knowledge, many have mistakenly believed Van Wieren's nickname, "The Professor," was aimed toward his intellect. But Johnson actually gave him the nickname because he felt he looked like one of his former teammates who had been given that nickname.

Johnson served as a mentor to Van Wieren and Caray during their early years and always provided them sound advice. When Johnson's wife met Van Wieren's wife for the first time in 1975, she gave her a plaque that read, "We interrupt this marriage to bring you the baseball season."

During those 33 seasons of interrupted marriage, Van Wieren saw Dale Murphy become a star and Gene Garber end Pete Rose's 44-game hitting streak. The struggling teams that he covered in the 1980s were followed by those Braves teams that won an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles.

Van Wieren's contributions to the Braves extended beyond the microphone. During the days when Turner believed his employees should perform multiple jobs, "The Professor" served as the club's traveling secretary.

When Turner decided to serve as manager for one day in Pittsburgh during the 1977 season, Van Wieren suddenly found himself responsible for finding a way to get manager Dave Bristol out of the team hotel without any of his players noticing.

While the Braves will always have the fond memories created by Van Wieren's voice and intellect, they will sadly never again have the opportunity to spend time with a man who became a best friend to the many fans and members of the organization who came to love him.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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