“What a dumb idea,” they said.

“They’ll never build what they promised,” they said.

“No one will come to Cobb to see the Atlanta Braves,” they said.

The Atlanta Braves’ World Series Championship serves as a poignant exclamation point to the story of the Braves’ move to Cobb County.

It was a crisp, clear morning Nov. 11, 2013, when the bombshell announcement came out of Atlanta: The Braves would pull their downtown roots and replant in suburban Cobb County. The reactions? Shock in Atlanta, disbelief across Georgia, excitement in Cobb. Quickly, though, the naysayers let their presence be known.

Despite widespread criticism, the stadium was built, the crowds came and the players played. Today, Cobb is home to the World Series champions.

Which brings us to a gentleman by the name of Tim Lee. Tim will always be known as “the man who brought the Braves to Cobb.” As Cobb chairman, he helmed the county when the Braves came calling and faced two paths. One was easy, a simple no thank you and be done with it. The other was hard.

“I got down on my knees and prayed at night for guidance,” Tim once told the MDJ. In the final analysis, he was convinced that an MLB stadium and the accompanying Battery Atlanta live-work-play development would be good for Cobb County and its citizens. He chose the difficult path.

The critics were relentless. Citizen groups and members of the media found a million reasons why this was a “dumb idea.” In the end, Tim paid the political price, losing his reelection bid in 2016 to a candidate whose campaign focused squarely on the Braves deal. In a cruel bit of irony, Tim Lee — the man who brought the Braves to Cobb — sat in the stands at the stadium’s April 2017 christening while his former political colleagues and successor were introduced on the ballfield to the cheers of the opening-day capacity crowd.

Former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson knew the tough challenge Cobb’s chairman faced: “From the start, Tim knew that this valuable economic development deal ... would not be easy. However, he was willing to take the personal risk to benefit the greater good.”

Which brings us to the question: Despite the attacks on his character, the ethics complaints, the lawsuits and political misfortune, did Tim Lee do the right thing?

The Braves were second in attendance among MLB teams this season. Only last year’s WS champion L.A. Dodgers brought in more fans.

Tim did the right thing.

If this postseason proved anything it was they didn’t build the stadium big enough. With sellout crowds inside Truist Park, the next-door Battery was packed like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Tim did the right thing.

Transformation of that undeveloped acreage creates millions of dollars in property taxes when once there were thousands.

Tim did the right thing.

Truist Park and the Battery have been a magnet attracting big business to the Cumberland area; TK Elevators, Papa John’s Pizza headquarters, to name two recent arrivals.

Tim did the right thing.

And for every $10 beer sold, 10 cents goes to our schools and 10 cents goes to the county. Apply that same 1% sales tax formula to every ticket, t-shirt, ball cap, hot dog, restaurant entree and all other things sold in the stadium and Battery complex and you add millions of more reasons that Tim did the right thing.

Mike Plant, Braves Development CEO and Tim’s Braves counterpart during negotiations and construction of the stadium, treasures the two men’s friendship and the role Tim played. A prescient comment Plant made two years ago: "I said it then, I'll say it today, and I'll say it tomorrow, (the Braves wouldn't be) here without Tim Lee. Because of him, our entire organization and the future of it have changed. And when we win the World Series, he'll have his name on that trophy because we wouldn't be here if not for him."

Tim didn’t see the championship. He lost a tough battle with cancer in September of 2019 at age 62. Officiating at his funeral, the Rev. Sam Matthews said, “He was one of those rare public servants that understood it’s more important to do the job than to have the job.” As the crowd filed out of the service, the organist fittingly segued from a funeral recessional to a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Cobb Chamber Chairman John Loud, one of the earliest and most vocal supporters of the team’s move here, believes Tim still is rooting on the Braves and Cobb County and helped guide the team through the postseason from his divine perch.

“Tim Lee was the leader Cobb elected and needed to seize this opportunity to begin assembling a World Series Championship ... Our angel in the outfield has again delivered for Cobb County and our Atlanta Braves. Thank you, Tim Lee ….”

This county’s history is rich in accomplishments that heightened the quality of life in Cobb: the Bell Bomber plant/Lockheed, the locating of Interstate 75, Kennesaw State University, among others. Certainly, the arrival of the Atlanta Braves to this suburban county ranks high on the list. He’s left a legacy for generations of Cobb Countians.

Tim did the right thing.

J.K. Murphy is vice president of content and managing editor of the Marietta Daily Journal. Email him at jkmurphy@mdjonline.com.

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(2) comments

Ruth Morgan

I'm very happy to see Tim's continued recognition for his role in bringing the Braves to Cobb. Imagine what our nation would be if we only had more elected officials like Mr. Tim Lee! I agree with John, Tim is still cheering for our Braves.

Greg Morgan

Samuel Matthews

Excellent article as usual, J.K. Tim was the epitome of public servant.

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