Let's start by making one thing clear. Pete Van Wieren should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Along with his partners Skip Caray and Ernie Johnson.
Unfortunately, if it ever happens, Van Wieren won't be around to see it.
Braves fans got the news Saturday morning that Van Wieren, a member of the team's broadcast team for 33 years, has died at the age of 69 after a battle with cancer.
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Caray was known for his biting sarcasm and dry wit. Johnson was known for his down-home nature and tales from his playing days.
But Van Wieren was, simply put, sharp.
The smooth-voiced, bespectacled Rochester, N.Y., native was called "The Professor." He earned the name as a result of his amazing preparedness and his ability to produce pertinent facts and statistics long before the Internet and the advent of websites like baseball-reference.com.
Like Caray, Van Wieren was versatile. He did more than baseball games. He also worked for Ted Turner's other properties in Atlanta -- the NBA's Hawks and the NHL's Flames. And he called NBA and college football games for TBS and TNT.
But baseball was his forte and it's why he was hired away from the Triple-A Tidewater Tides in late 1975.
Long before the Braves were winning division title after division title behind Hall-of-Fame starting pitchers and guys with names like Justice, Javy and Chipper, they were already America's Team. Or the South's team, at least.
Beginning in 1976, the trio of Ernie, Skip and Pete brought baseball to those in the South, and elsewhere, who didn't have a home team. Thanks to Turner's vision, the trio, and a number of those who aspired to be the group's fourth member -- John Sterling, Billy Sample, Dave O'Brien and Don Sutton, to name a few -- broadcast Braves games not just on the radio, but on TBS, Turner's "Superstation."
They were pioneers.
In the days before the baseball coverage of ESPN, Fox and all its regional channels and the MLB Network itself, baseball fans were limited to what NBC or ABC showed the nation in their weekly games and the playoffs.
But Ernie, Skip and Pete brought you almost every Braves game. Almost every day for six months each year.
The nation got the game's great announcers once a week on NBC. Vin Scully, Tony Kubek, Joe Garagiola and eventually Bob Costas.
But cable subscribers got Ernie, Skip and Pete. Every. Day.
They were radio-savvy announcers who bridged the gap from baseball's radio era to its era of television saturation, splitting games between the Braves' radio booth and TBS. And they were good. They called it like it was.
Some were good, like Dale Murphy's two MVP seasons. Phil Niekro's knuckler. Larry McWilliams and Gene Garber putting an end to Pete Rose's 44-game hitting streak, Joe Torre's 1982 division-winning team that seemingly came out of nowhere and two stints of Bobby Cox.
But there was more bad than good. A lot more. And they weren't afraid to say so.
They were serious about the Braves during times it was difficult for fans to feel the same. And they were classy.
Van Wieren was the last member of the trio standing. Johnson retired in 1999 and died in 2011. The pressbox at Atlanta's Turner Field is named for him. Caray stayed with the Braves until August 2008 when he died. Van Wieren retired shortly thereafter.
He was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010 and had been fighting it ever since.
"This is certainly not what I planned to do when I retired," he told MLB.com.
One thing is for certain, if Pete approached life like he approached baseball, nobody had to tell him what he was up against.
Van Wieren leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Elaine, sons Jon and Steve, a daughter-in-law and three granddaughters. And a legion of fans, who no doubt agree with me.
Pete belongs in the Hall of Fame.
And Ernie and Skip should get to come along, too.