The previous Braves manager fired: Russ Nixon

Bobby Cox fired Nixon and succeeded him in the dugout, staying there till 2010.

The firing of Fredi Gonzalez marks the first time since 1990 that the Braves fired a manager. Bobby Cox became manager that day, and he lasted on the job until he retired after the 2010 season, on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Gonzalez succeeded Cox and lasted until the Braves lost 81 of 115 games, a stretch that began July 8 last season, amid a massive rebuilding project.

Before Tuesday, the Braves hadn’t fired a manager since June 22, 1990, when the Braves fired Russ Nixon with the team’s record sitting at 25-40.

On that day, general manager Bobby Cox fired Nixon, and while Cox remained GM, he replaced Nixon in the dugout.

Cox relinquished the GM job after the season, and the team hired John Schuerholz, but on that June day, no one could have projected what was to come over the next 15 years.

“Obviously, it’s not a good day,” Cox said after he announced the decision to fire Nixon. “It’s upsetting for me because when somebody fails below me, I feel like I’ve failed them also.”

Nixon, who was known for his candor with the media, when out in a fury, blaming various executives connected to the team.

Then Braves beat writer Joe Strauss of the AJC wrote in his coverage of the firing:

“Nixon expressed anger at how his firing was handled. … He charged team president Stan Kasten with messing up the Braves and accused TBS director of sports Terry McGuirk of meddling.”

TBS then carried the Braves’ games nationally. McGuirk now is the Braves’ chairman and CEO.

The Braves’ 25-40 record was the second-worst in baseball. In one full season and parts of two others, Nixon led the team to a 130-221 record, a .370 winning percentage. He had been manager since May 22, 1988, when he succeeded Chuck Tanner, who was fired amid the Braves’ 106-loss season. During his tenure, the Braves never put together a winning month.

• Here is lengthy portion of the article Strauss wrote that appeared in the Friday, June 23, 1990 editions of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Nixon was upset because he said the Braves have given the wrong impression that baseball decisions are left up to Cox. However, Kasten said Friday that it was Cox who recommended a managerial change.

He also bristled at suggestions by Braves management during an afternoon news conference to announce his firing that he would welcome the change because of exhaustion.

“It’s obvious who runs the show with all the screen plays that were going on and that are still going on down there, ” said Nixon, referring to Kasten and TBS director of sports Terry McGuirk.

“A lot of people at TBS wanted to get my (expletive) out of here.”

Nixon was warned before the season about making blunt assessments of the team’s deficiencies and had largely managed to avoid criticism until a verbal explosion Sunday.

“It’s a damn soap opera down there,” he said Friday. “I think everyone knows who’s in control down there. It’s not Bobby. It’s the other guy (Kasten). That’s why it’s so (expletive).”

McGuirk was out of town and could not be reached. Kasten, who is answerable to McGuirk in the Ted Turner empire, indicated he showed patience with Nixon.

“If we had wanted to fire Russ, I think we certainly could have done so after a 2-13 start,” said Kasten, who indicated before the season a decision on Nixon was solely up to Cox.

Kasten, who met with Cox on Thursday to discuss the change, said he never suggested former major league managers Frank Howard, Pat Corrales or Jimy Williams as the new manager. All three are in the Braves’ system.

“Bobby is probably the most qualified person,” Kasten said. “Not just in this organization but anywhere. He also has the best feel for this team since he largely is the one most responsible for putting it together.”

Cox said he “didn’t hesitate” to accept the manager’s role even though he had long expressed reservations about moving into the dugout again.

Cox called Richmond pitching coach Leo Mazzone, in Buffalo late Thursday night for a Class AAA game, to notify him he would become the Braves’ pitching coach. Mazzone will replace Bruce Dal Canton.

Friday, Cox phoned Nixon at his Covington home at 9 a.m. to summon him to a one-on-one meeting at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

“I knew when the phone rang that early in the morning who it was and what it was about,” said Nixon. “It didn’t surprise me in the least.”

Nixon, who was not offered another post in the organization, said he would immediately seek a job elsewhere. He has called a news conference at his home this morning to further discuss his firing.

On Sunday, Nixon erupted after a 9-7 loss in San Francisco, during which his team committed five errors, and had to be checked by assistant trainer Jeff Porter. He has also complained of getting little sleep as the club’s losing trend deepened.

“It became fairly evident the past two days in meeting with Russ that there was a tremendous strain on him,” said Cox. “And it was starting to wear pretty good on him and our players.

“He felt extremely relieved about the entire situation. I’m sure he wanted to continue, but yet I had thought in my own mind he had had enough.”

Nixon angrily denied any health problems that hindered his effectiveness as manager.

It was clear his relationship with several players was deteriorating. He and shortstop Andres Thomas have feuded all year, and Nixon criticized Jeff Blauser and three young members of the starting rotation — Pete Smith, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine — after the Giants game Sunday. Nixon questioned the pitchers’ work habits.

Thomas said Wednesday he wanted to be released if he couldn’t be traded or if Nixon wasn’t fired.

“If you know somebody is trying to kill you, then you try to kill him first if you get the chance,” said Thomas, who admitted to shouting with joy at news of Nixon’s firing.

Cox denied Thomas’s words having any bearing on the decision.

Nixon bowed out with a 25-40 record this season. The Braves were in last place, 17 games from division-leading Cincinnati.