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Monday, July 4, 2011

Brian McCann--Doing It the Right Way

As many of you know, Brian McCann will be the starting catcher for the National League All-Star team this year. One thing you can say about Brian is that he was born to be a baseball player. He’s a gamer, that’s for sure. He’s a clutch hitter, he can win the game with his defense and he works great with his pitchers. Braves nation has been fortunate to be a part of Brian’s career so far. He’s a great player. This will be his sixth All-Star Game in his young career. Amazing. You think it’s easy to root for him now? Here’s a quick story that will make you want to pull for him even more.

Back around Brian’s first year in the league, the Braves were moving to new television network, and they asked Phil Niekro, me, Sid Bream and some other old players to do a few promotional spots with some current players (a cross-generational effort, in a sense :). Phil and I teamed up with Brian for one of the commercials.

There were two parts to the commercial. In the first spot, Knucksie turned to me and said, with a chuckle, “You know, Murph, back when I played it took a real man to throw a knuckleball,” to which I jokingly replied, “And a better man to hit one!” That was it—a ten-second little funny back-and-forth. For the next spot, Brian and I switched places. Phil said, “You know, Brian, back when I played, it took a real man to hit a knuckleball,” and then Brian said, “And a better man to catch one!” Everyone had a good time with it—or so we thought.

After the shoot Brian and I were sitting there talking, and he was clearly concerned about something. As he was taking off his shinguards (he’d been in catcher’s gear for the shoot) he looked over and said, “Nah, I can’t say that.” I said, “What do you mean?” Brian said, “I can’t say what I just said—"a better man” than Phil Niekro? I can’t say that. I mean, it’s Knucksie, and I’m just a rookie. How can I honestly say that? I’m not a better man than Phil.” I tried to tell Brian that it was just a joke, but he was unmoved. He'd grown up watching Phil and had such respect for him that he just wasn’t comfortable with it.

So I went over to Phil and told him that Brian didn’t want to say what he said, and that he wanted to redo the spot. “Wait, he doesn’t want to say what?” Phil asked, a bit puzzled. I explained and then we went over to the producer and told him to not start packing up yet, since they were going to need to shoot a different version of the second spot. After we explained a little bit more they ended up reshooting the commercial.

I learned a lot about Brian that day. He's got character, simply put. He’s a humble guy who appreciates the chance he has to play baseball and to represent the Braves organization. It's clear that not only does he want to be a successful player, but he wants to do it the right way. As a baseball fan what more could you ask for?


  1. ...and it shows the kind of class you have to remember that story about someone who, at the time, was a relatively unknown rookie. Thanks for sharing it Murph!

  2. Thank You for a well-written tangible situation displaying McCann's strong respect for Leaders and Role Models. It is also true that he looks out for those in need because of his and his Family's extensive hands-on Charity work. Here is an example of him being super with a regular normal person, who looked up to him. A friend of mine lives in Rome, GA and hosts two of the Rome Braves each year in her Family's home. Her daughter was in front of me in line at a McCann autograph signing at a Business which sponsors the Braves in Atlanta. She was so worried the whole time she waited to get to the autograph table. She explained that some Players who stayed at their house while in the minor leagues sometimes didn't act like they were happy to see her once they got to start playing in Atlanta. Her Mom called it "Big Leaguing" them and was snubbing at varying degrees. She said she really liked Brian and looked up to him as if he were an older brother. He was always fantastic with everyone in the whole family during the Summer he stayed with them. She didn't have to wait long to get her answer. As soon as she rounded the corner and McCann spotter her in line; he shouted out greetings to her and between every signing; kept calling to her and smiling and bragging that he was so glad and lucky to see her and happy she came down from Rome to see him. He kept telling her that he was thrilled to see her and told her to bring her whole Familiy down to the dugout during Batting Practice later that day so they could all visit and enjoy seeing each other. This young lady was so happy that he didn't treat her like she was a bratty young sister whom he no longer had to be nice to just because he lived in her Family's house that Summer. She was so relieved that her highest hopes had materialized and that Brian McCann had been more that gracious and went above and beyond, on his own, making plans for all of them to meet up and remember some good times. It was delightful to watch her nervousness and apprehension evaporate with the knowledge that he is really a good guy just like she thought.

  3. Dale, I'm glad to read this story about Brian McCann that confirms my impression of him. I just discovered your blog, and wanted to let you know that, when I was a boy in the 80s, you were my baseball hero, because you always did everything the right way. You made me a Braves fan and a baseball fan, and you will always be my favorite player.

  4. Thanks so much everyone...sure do appreciate the comments!