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Home of the Braves?

By MIKE MILIARD  |  May 9, 2007

Nonetheless, it was a star-crossed pairing. By that point, Johnson says, the Bambino was aging in “dog years.” He did have one last heroic performance — a 4-4, six-RBI, three-homer game in Pittsburgh that May — but by June, he had retired. The pledge to make him a manager was never kept. And, in a sad irony, Ruth’s short stay with the team coincided with the Braves’ worst season ever: a pitiful 38-115 campaign. “It was a bittersweet return,” says Johnson.

But the Braves did have some great successes. The greatest, of course, was the “Miracle Braves” World Series win in 1914.

That season started in dismal fashion, with the team dropping 18 of their first 22 games. By the Fourth of July, the Braves were in last place, 15 games behind the New York Giants. Starting the next day, however, the team went on an astonishing 41-12 run, capping it by taking two games from the Giants, to slide into first. The rest of the season was a virtual cakewalk, and they won the National League pennant handily.

Nonetheless, the Braves played the World Series as underdogs to Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. In the end, the Braves shocked the nation, beating the A’s in four games, the first World Series sweep. Second baseman Johnny Evers — of “Tinker to Evers to Chance” fame — won the Chalmers Award (precursor to the MVP), with Maranville and pitcher Bill James also turning in strong performances. The series was played at Fenway Park — then just two years old — because the South End Grounds were too small.

Partway through the 1915 season, the Braves started playing at the new, enormous Braves Field, not far from Comm Ave. (It was called the “Bee Hive” during the period from 1936 to 1941, after the team had been renamed the Bees as the result of a fan poll.) At that point, with a capacity of 43,000, it was the largest in the country.

(In his indispensable Historical Baseball Abstract, writer and statistician Bill James — no relation to the pitcher — unearths a secret: “Legend has it that a dozen horses and mules were buried alive in a cave-in during construction, and lay beneath the third-base line as long as ball was played there.”)

Dodging history
With such a colorful and influential history, why are the Boston Braves all but forgotten? Compare their place in the popular imagination with a team like the Brooklyn Dodgers, who are still mourned nearly a half century after they moved to Los Angeles. What accounts for the difference? Roger Kahn, who memorialized the Dodgers in his classic memoir The Boys of Summer, says there were many factors. For one thing, the Dodgers left town at the top of their game, having won a pennant and a World Series the previous two seasons. For another, they had Jackie Robinson. But there were also intrinsic differences between two places like Brooklyn and Boston.

“Boston’s a city. It has the Athenaeum, it has Harvard, it has Faneuil Hall,” Kahn tells the Phoenix from his home in New York State. “Brooklyn was a borough. There was always kind of a complex that it was not really a city, it was a dormitory” — or “Manhattan’s bedroom, as the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica described it — “and a lot of Brooklyn pride focused on the baseball team.” The Dodgers were something of a joke in the ’20s and ’30s. But they got really good, really quick. “After the war, here comes Jackie Robinson, and here comes the team I call the Boys of Summer. Six pennants in 10 years. There was great pride in that.”

The Braves, despite their pockets of success over the years, left town with a whimper. “What I remember most vividly is that there weren’t many people in the ballpark,” says Kahn, who covered the Dodgers for the New York Herald Tribune in 1952, the Braves’ last season in Braves Field. “When Brooklyn [visited the Braves], it was unusual. Jackie Robinson was still a big drawing card, and around the National League the Dodgers played in front of big crowds. Not in Boston. We used to joke that Braves Field was a good place to read a book because it was so quiet.”

HANK AARON: might have changed Boston’s racial reputation.
Brave old world
George Altison, 77, grew up in Allston, just a couple blocks from Braves Field. He’s now the business manager of the Boston Braves Historical Association (BBHA,, a 14-year-old group, 500 or so members strong, which webmaster Byron Magrane, 32, describes, aptly, as “basically a bunch of guys who get together every year and reminisce about the Braves.”

In the early ’40s, when Altison was 11, he became a member of the “Knot Hole Gang,” a group of diehard youngsters who availed themselves of owner Lou Perini’s idea to swell Braves Field’s meager attendance: free admission for kids to the park’s left-field pavilion.

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Home of the Braves?
Thanks for the wonderful article on the old Boston Braves. I was 16 when they left town for good & have never totally forgotten them and the impact they had on my early childhood years. It all now seems like part of a lost ghost world. Day games, 50 cent tickets, those great uniforms with the Indian on the sleeve and the tomahawk on front. They can have all the big money & hype we must endure in MLB today. What I wouldn't give for just one more day, circa 1949-50, at Braves Field watching a big league doubleheader for fifty cents.
By bostonblakie on 05/12/2007 at 7:44:13
Home of the Braves?
I was born on November 7, 1952, so technically I was born when the Braves were still in Boston. However, I grew up hearing about the Milwaukee Braves, and not knowing their history. One day, probably in 1961, I was in my garage with my father, and I came across a datebook for 1952. I was excited by this, since it showed the calendar page for the day I was born. Then, I looked through the rest of the datebook, and saw schedules for the Boston Red Sox (the only sports team I cared about) and for something called the Boston Braves. My first guess was that they were an old minor league team. When I asked my dad about them, though, he told me that they were the team that was then called the Milwaukee Braves. My jaw dropped. I had watched the Braves play in the World Series in 1957 and 1958, and had watched them come close in 1959. "You mean that we could be watching Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Bill Bruton and the rest of the Braves, instead of the living-on-past-glories Red Sox?", I thought to myself. Shortly afterwards, Dad took me past Nickerson Field and showed me what was left of Braves Field. I thought that it was an incredibly stupid move to tear down part of a perfectly good ballpark to put up some stupid dormitories; but I looked at the old light towers, the right field wall, the old track for the outfield wall inside this wall, the right field pavilion, and even the trolley tracks next to the ballpark, and thought of what might have been. Sometimes, even today, I'll walk into the pavilion and look for the seams that mark the place where the Braves shifted the foul lines in the last years of the park. Or, I'll head to the western end, where another seam marks the end of the old pavilion (since expanded) and try to imagine the grandstand beginning a few feet away... the Jury Box in right... the bullpen nearby... seeing National League teams without the need for interleague play... and so on. I'm happy with the Red Sox now -- don't get me wrong -- but it would be nice to have a choice.
By thebigcat on 05/13/2007 at 1:37:51
Home of the Braves?
The article states that the Braves played at the largest field in the majors from 1936 to 1941. I am afraid that is not so. The Cleveland Indians played their first game in the old Lakefront Stadium (Municipal Stadium) on July 3, 1932. That stadium held nearly twice as many as Braves Field, 78189 versus 43,000. Enjoyed the article although more info on the '48 Braves would have been nice. I remember the World Series that year and some famous old Braves, Spahn, Sain, Vern Bickford, Bob Elliot, et al.
By Regis on 05/14/2007 at 8:04:06
Home of the Braves?
Admittedly, the wording of that paragraph could be clearer. But I meant only to point out that Braves Field was the biggest in baseball at the time it opened in 1915 -- while also noting, parenthetically, that it had a new nickname between '36 and '41.
By MM on 05/14/2007 at 11:59:09
Home of the Braves?
The Braves won 14 division titles in a row, not 11. The streak was ended only just last year. Thanks for this article!! I'm an Atlanta-born girl, whose father is from Massachusetts. I've always rooted for both teams, and felt that it was especially apt to do so since the Braves were once a Boston team. It surprises me how many 'rabid' Sox fans don't even know they were ever here. I can't wait for the series this weekend! Nothing makes me happier than being at the Greatest Park in America, watching my favorite teams battle it out.
By RachelC on 05/15/2007 at 1:54:15
Home of the Braves?
We mustn't forget the man who originated the idea to bring professional baseball to Boston, Ashburnham, MA native Iver Whitney Adams. Mr. Adams was the founder , organizer and President of the first-ever Boston Base Ball Club and of the Boston Red Stockings. From an invitation in 1871, and a declaration of financial backing by Mr. Adams, baseball great Harry Wright moved from managing the "Cincinnati Red Stockings" to work professionally with the first-ever base ball team in Boston, the "Boston Red Stockings" He managed the Boston Red Stockings (1871 - 1875), Boston Red Caps (1876 - 1881), Providence Grays (1882 - 1883) and Philadelphia Quakers/Phillies (1884 - 1893). His teams won six league championships (1872 - 1875, 1877, 1878) and he finished his managerial career with 1225 wins and 885 losses for a .581 winning percentage.
By riceflan on 01/01/2008 at 1:37:18

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