Former Braves trainer Dave Pursley dies

Dave Pursley retired from the Braves after 42 years as a major league trainer in 2002. (John Amis/For the AJC)

Credit: For the AJC

Credit: For the AJC

Dave Pursley retired from the Braves after 42 years as a major league trainer in 2002. (John Amis/For the AJC)

Former longtime athletic trainer Dave Pursley, a member of the Braves Hall of Fame, died Sunday, the team announced. He was 83.

Pursley was one of the franchise’s last links to Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

He first joined the Milwaukee Braves in 1961 and retired in 2002 in Atlanta after four decades of treating major league injuries. He rubbed down the Hall of Fame arms of Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro and later Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux.

His unflappable prognoses — delivered through his nasal, never-left-Indiana accent — comforted Hank Aaron and countless players throughout the organization.

“Dave was the calming voice,” former Braves outfielder David Justice told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2014 at Pursley’s Braves Hall of Fame induction. “He made you feel everything was going to be all right.”

Pursley’s journey started at age 14 when a doctor told him he couldn’t play contact sports in high school.

He started hauling water and taping ankles for the football and baseball teams at Central Evansville (Ind.) High. In the summers he did the same for the Evansville Braves, a Class B Boston Braves farm club that played four blocks from his house.

There, he worked for $60 a month as the team’s equipment manager and unofficial trainer. There, he met his future wife, Ruth.

“She was a Lutheran girl; I was Lutheran,” Pursley said in 2002. “We were the same age. I figured, ‘Maybe I should pursue this.’ ”

After graduating from high school (a ceremony he missed while he was on the road with the Braves), Pursley worked as a trainer at Evansville College in exchange for tuition. After a couple of years, Clemson University hired him as a full-time trainer, which he did for three winters while still working for the Braves in the summer.

In Atlanta, he also worked with the Atlanta Chiefs soccer team.

Pursley was a member of the Georgia and Indiana Sports Hall of Fames and won the National Athletic Trainers Association’s Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Award in 2004.

Pursley, who in retirement lived in Buford, is survived by two sons, Neil and Gary.

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