27 October 2014

a braves' black armband for a groundbreaking executive

bill lucas was a minor league player in the braves' system before joining the team's front office in the mid-1960's.  he worked his way up from public relations to player development, becoming the director of the braves' farm system in 1972.  in 1976, he became the club's vice president and director of player personnel and performed the duties of a general manager.  as such, he is widely considered to be the first african-american gm in baseball history, although bob watson was the first to have the actual gm title.

among lucas's moves were the signing and development of dale murphy and the hiring of bobby cox as the team's manager.  cox appears on the braves 1980 topps team card
that features the players and coaches wearing black armbands in honor of lucas who died on may 5, 1979.  shortly after watching the braves on tv on may 1, lucas suffered a brain hemorrhage resulting from an aneurysm.  he was taken to the hospital where he died of cardiac arrest.  the team wore the armbands for the remainder of the season.

one of lucas's first moves was to sign free agent outfielder gary matthews out of the 1976 free agent draft.  i have this 1980 o-pee-chee matthews card
in the memorials binder as a result.  it shows the black armband front and center, and provides a good link to lucas's work as a de facto general manager.  lucas was just 43 years old when he died.

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