09/17/2007 9:05 PM ET
Elton John goes to bat with Braves
Rock 'n' roll meets baseball as legends share stories
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Braves GM John Schuerholz, former second baseman Mark Lemke and Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro met with Elton in an Atlanta recording studio. (MLB.com)
Consistency is the mark of a champion when it comes to baseball and the mark of a legend when it comes to rock 'n' roll music.
Since 1991, the Atlanta Braves have been the most consistent team in the Major Leagues when it comes to winning their division -- they did it a record 14 consecutive times from 1991-2005 -- and have also captured five National League crowns and a World Series trophy.
Sir Elton John, meanwhile, has been charting No. 1 singles and albums since the early 1970s and still sells out arenas all over the world, even at the age of 60.
As it turns out, the Braves and Elton have a lot more in common than a tradition of excellence over a number of years. They're also huge fans of each other's work.
With that in mind, MLB.com brought representatives of the Braves organization to an Atlanta recording studio for a chat with none other than the Rocket Man himself, who happens to be a part-time Atlanta resident and full-time Braves fanatic.
Braves general manager John Schuerholz, former second baseman Mark Lemke and Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro sat down with Elton, who was wearing a Braves jacket and trademark neon-colored shades. The four of them, baseball and music fans alike, launched into a lengthy and mutually enlightening conversation touching on numerous topics including the similarities between running a baseball team and a rock band, the Braves' and Elton's huge hits through the years, and much more.
Who knew, for example, that Elton, who had moved to Atlanta in 1991 right when Schuerholz was about to enjoy the fruits of an entire franchise turnaround, immediately became enamored with the Braves?
As Elton described it, once he learned the rules of baseball he could only watch it on TBS, which was the station of the Braves. Those were the days, as Elton describes it, "when Fulton County Stadium had 3,000 people in it."
"In a way, it's very poetic," Elton says about baseball. "I watched it and I fell in love with the game, and I learned how it worked, and I loved it and the Braves became my team."
"I watch baseball whenever I am on the road, whether it's the Braves or whether it's someone else. For me, it's a huge relaxation and, like cricket, one of the most poetic things you can do is watch a game of baseball."
Elton is no stranger to sports. He loves tennis, has been an owner and an active president of the Watford Football (soccer) Club in his native land of Great Britain, and he knows the ins and outs of trades, free agency, player demands and the necessity of a team concept to achieve victory.
Schuerholz knows all about that, too, having resurrected the Braves from the NL cellar and built a consistent winner from the ground up.
"When I heard Elton was moving here in '91 and the Braves offered me the job, I took it," Schuerholz joked. "I've been a big fan of his forever, as all of us been, and we had a challenge ahead of us in 1991... But (there's been a) consistency of excellence of our product, like Elton's products... the entire experience, what we promise to our fans we've been able to deliver, and we're really proud of that."
As impressed as Schuerholz, Lemke and Niekro must have been to hear Elton, unsolicited, bring up the names of former Brave Sid Bream and current budding star Brian McCann, Elton came away glowing with serious insider info after getting some of his own burning Braves questions answered.
Captain Fantastic wanted to know, for example, why Schuerholz had let Gary Sheffield go, and he found out it was a simple case of economics in building a team. He also wanted to know why a young slugger named Jermaine Dye had suffered the same fate at the hands of Schuerholz, and the GM could only answer that it was a big mistake.
The always-outspoken Elton John also took advantage of this meeting of baseball minds to express a few strong opinions.
To begin with, Elton declared that in his view, there shouldn't be a designated hitter and the best-of-five format in the Major League Division Series "stinks."
He got a laugh and a hearty agreement from Schuerholz, who quipped, "Can I take you to the next GM's meeting with me? I've been saying that for the last 20 years."
Doug Miller is Senior Writer for MLBAM Entertainment This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.