Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Atlanta Braves: A Brief HIstory

Despite only calling Atlanta home since the mid-1960s, the Braves rank among the oldest teams in Major League Baseball. The team's roots can be traced back to the 1870s when they were known as the Boston Red Stockings of the old National Association. Though this was not the first baseball franchise, it's the longest team to remain in continuous operation since 1871.

If you trace the Braves' roots back to Boston, you will find that the team's name changed several times along the way. The team's official names included: Red Stockings, Red Caps, Beaneaters, Doves, and Rustlers. In 1912, they adopted the moniker Braves. But, from 1936 through 1940, they called themselves the Boston Bees. In 1941, they switched back to the Braves and never looked back. Their home ballpark was called Braves Field.

Just following the start of the 20th century, the American League was founded. The Boston Red Sox were among the charter franchises, and just like that, Boston became a two-team city. Over time, the Red Sox became the preferred team in town. Attendance fell at Braves Field and the owner, Lou Perini, searched for greener pastures elsewhere. Though Perini was a Massachusetts native, he made the decision to move the franchise west following the 1952 season.

In 1953, the team found a new home in Wisconsin and became the Milwaukee Braves. Fans flocked to the ballpark. The immense popularity of the Braves in Milwaukee ultimately prompted the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers to close shop in the Big Apple and move to California. While in Milwaukee, the Braves were winners. Consistent winners. Despite only spending a short time in Milwaukee, they finished the regular season with a winning record every year. The highlights included the 1957 World Series championship over the New York Yankees, a National League pennant in 1958, and a young outfielder named Henry Aaron. They played at Milwaukee's County Stadium from 1953 through 1965.

During the early 1960s, Lou Perini sold the Braves to William Bartholomay who lived in Chicago, but sold himself as a local businessman. Like Perini a decade earlier, Bartholomay had his sights set upon moving to the south. Atlanta was a growing city, and wanted in on the action.

In 1966, the Braves relocated to their current home in Atlanta. Their newly constructed home was called Atlanta Stadium, only to be renamed Fulton County Stadium. In 1969, when each league was divided into an East and West division, the Braves found themselves original members of the National League West. No, that isn't a typo. The directional name doesn't make sense. The Braves were the first ever NL West Division champions and advanced to the National League Championship Series only to lose to the eventual World Series champion New York Mets.

One of the most famous moments in baseball happened on April 8, 1974 in Atlanta. Henry Aaron, a long-time Braves great, belted the 715th home run of his career to pass Babe Ruth's career mark. With that blast, he became Major League Baseball's all-time leader.

During the 1990s, the Braves assembled a dominant pitching staff. When Greg Maddux joined a staff with Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, they became the team of the 1990s. The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles between 1991 and 2005. No division titles were awarded in 1994 due to the player's strike. Though that was an incredible streak, the Braves managed to win only one World Series title during that run. In 1995, they defeated the Cleveland Indians. In 1997, the Braves moved into a new home, called Turner Field, located across from the former Fulton County Stadium.

Since the late-1800s, the Braves have called three cities home: Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. During that time, they managed to win the World Series only once in each stop. Over that time, a number of great players wore the Braves uniform. Babe Ruth played the final season of his career with the Boston Braves in 1936. Six of his 714 career home runs came in the National League with the Braves. Henry Aaron hit 733 of his 755 career home runs with the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta. Starting pitcher, Warren Spahn, won 356 games while pitching for the Braves in Boston and Milwaukee. On an interesting note, only one man played for the Braves in all three cities. That player was third baseman, Eddie Mathews. Besides Jackie Robinson's 42, the Braves retired six uniform numbers: 3 (Dale Murphy), 21 (Warren Spahn), 31 (Greg Maddux), 35 (Phil Niekro), 41 (Eddie Mathews) and 44 (Henry Aaron).

Did you know that Ted Turner managed the Braves for one game in 1977? He sent then manager, Dave Bristol, on a "scouting trip" and acted as manager. The Braves played the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates won 2-1.

This is very interesting, Bill. I get bittersweet feelings whenever anyone mentions the Atlanta Braves. My dad was a big baseball fan and, living in Winston-Salem, N.C., the closest major league team was the Braves so that's who he rooted for....every game, every minute, every year! They did not do very well in the 70's and 80's as I recall and I felt so sorry for Dad who kept on rooting for them no matter what. He died in May 1991 and wouldn't you know, that year they had a great team and that's the first year in a very long time that they went to the World Series. I never got over that!
!   Saturday, March 12, 2011
That's quite a story. Yes, the Braves lost to the Twins in the 1991 World Series. I know what you mean. I wish my grandmother on my Mom's side could have seen the White Sox win the 2005 World Series. She would've been the happiest person in the world.
Bill Pearch   Saturday, March 12, 2011
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