The Atlanta Braves are an American Major League Baseball team based in Atlanta, Georgia. They play in the Eastern division of the National League. Their team colours are red, white and blue and since 1997 their home baseball ground has been Turner Field ballpark, located in Atlanta. Founded in 1871, albeit under a different name and location, the Braves are the longest running sports franchise in the US.
They have been continuous members of the National League since 1876 and in their original incarnation as the Cincinnati Red Socks, they were the first ever professional Baseball team. In modern times too, the Atlanta Braves have been one of the most successful baseball franchises in existence.
From 1991 to 2005 they won their division title a total of 14 times. Throughout their long and illustrious history, the Braves have taken home 17 National League Pennants, 4 National Association Pennants, 16 division titles and 3 World Series (each time based in a different home city).
The Braves’ Early History
The Atlanta Braves started out life as the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1879. However, a year later the team voted to dissolve at the end of the season. Red Stockings Manager/ Player, Harry Wight, was invited to Boston by Ivers Whiteney Adams, the team’s founder.
Wight took along his brother George and two other Red Stockings players and together they started the Boston Red Stockings Baseball Team. Pitcher Al Spalding, the founder of Spalding Sporting Goods came to be a key player in the team’s early days.
Under the management of Harry and George Wight, the Red Stockings came to dominate the National Baseball Association, failing to win only one out of the five championships before the league closed. They soon came to be known as the Boston Red Caps as another Red Stockings team had been stared up in Cincinnati.
In 1883 the Boston Red Caps became known as the Boston Beaneaters but they continued to wear red. During the 1800s they were one of the most successful teams in the history of baseball. Before the turn of the century, the Red Caps won eight National League Pennants, more than any other team. The 1898 line-up finished the season with 102-47, a record that would stand unbroken for almost a hundred years! A record that the San Diego Padres could only dream of having.
The early years of the twentieth century were not good for the Beaneaters. A new team started up in Boston, offering more lucrative contracts and the best baseball players were lured away. Thus a steady decline began which the owners tried to stave off by renaming their club – several times.
In 1907 the Boston Beaneaters became known as the Doves and then the Rustlers in 1911. Finally they were renamed the Braves in 1912, the name by which this baseball team is known today. Despite all the name changes, the period from 1900 to 1913 was a disaster for the Braves, winning only one baseball season in 13 years.
The 1914 World Series
After a losing streak lasting 13 years, the newly monikered Braves entered the 1914 World Series in their usual lacklustre form. Shortly into the season the Braves were 15 games behind the leading team, New York Yankees, and their chances looked hopeless. Suddenly on July the 6th their luck started to change, and the Braves put together a long awaited winning streak, that saw them win 41 games and lose only 12.
On the 18th of July, the Braves were in last place but under a month later, on August the 12th, they were second. By winning the 1914 World Series the Braves are the only team in American baseball history to have been in last place on the 4th of July and gone on to win a pennant. Their performance was nothing short of miraculous and they were often referred to as the Miracle Braves around that time.
Babe Ruth and the Braves
After two good years following their 1914 ‘miracle’, the Braves fell into another lengthy slump. In 1923 the Braves were purchased by Judge Emil Fuchs who was determined to re-shape them into winners. Finally, the Braves put on a good performance in the years 1933 and 1934 but by then Fuchs’s fortune had been severely depleted by the Great Depression.
He needed a way to get revenue into his baseball team and fast. An opportunity arose when legendary Baseball player, Babe Ruth, came up for transfer, as he was looking for a team management position.
Babe Ruth was traded on February the 26th, 1935. His first performance with the Braves was stunning; with his incredible batting he single-handedly led his new team to a 4-2 win over the New York Giants. Sadly, this was to be Ruth’s final great win. Although he could smash the ball home, the overweight Ruth could no longer dash around the bases, or field the ball whatsoever.
His much-publicised party animal lifestyle had got the better of him and Ruth was a man who would never regain his youthful form. To worsen the situation, his given title of Assistant Manager, and Fuchs’ promises of a share of the team’s profits proved to be a farce.
Ruth ‘s advice was frequently ignored by Manager, Bill McKechnie, and it soon transpired that Fuchs expected Ruth to put his own money into the club.
Ruth hit his last home run at Forbes Field in Philadelphia on the 25th of May, 1935. His performance brought the crowd to their feet in one of the most memorable afternoons of baseball ever. Nevertheless, the Braves lost the game 7-11 to the Pirates.
Two days later Ruth summoned the press to his locker room, where he publicly announced his retirement from Baseball. That season the Braves finished in last place with the third worst results ever posted by a team, in the history of Baseball. Not even Babe Ruth had been able to save them and Fuchs was crippled by mounting debts. He lost his beloved Braves in 1935.
The Milwaukee Braves
Under new management the name was changed to the Boston Bees but five years later it was changed back to the Braves when the team was purchased by Lou Perini. Perini breathed new life back into the Braves and they won the NL Pennant in 1948, due to the pitching prowess of Warren Spahn and Jonny Sain.
However, they lost the World Series in 1958 to the Indians in just six games. After a further five bad years their popularity was down, and attendance hit an all-time low. On March the 13th, 1953, Perini announced that he was moving the Braves to Milwaukee.
The Braves received a rapturous welcome in Milwaukee. They won their first season there and drew in a National League attendance record breaking 1.8 million fans. The 1950s was a great decade for the refreshed Braves and they won two NL pennants in 1957 and 1958. In 1957 they took home their second World Series win in 40 years, a fitting tribute to their new home of Milwaukee.
Braves’ baseball pitcher Burdette was voted MVP (most valued player) in 1958 and along with Spahn it looked as if they would repeat their success in 1959 too. The Yankees stormed home the last 3 games, however, reversing the previous year’s outcome to a 4-3 loss for the Braves.
The 1960s were not so good for the Braves and they finished that World Series in 7th place. In 1962 owner Lou Perini decided to sell his baseball team to a Chicago based consortium helmed by William Bartholomay.
Bartholomay immediately went in search of a lucrative Television deal for his new acquisition. Meanwhile, the rapidly growing city of Atlanta had just completed an $18 million, 52,000-seater ballpark in the hope of attracting a Major League Baseball team.
It seemed as if Atlanta and the Braves were made for each other. In 1966 the Braves declared their intention to move to Atlanta but were prevented by court injunction. They completed the move one year later to become the Atlanta Braves.
Birth of The Atlanta Braves
The Braves made a celebrated entry into their new hometown, posting .500 results in 1966, 67 and 68. They finally ended a 15-year winning streak in 1967, losing overall in their first season since their move to Atlanta.
When divisional play was introduced in 1969 they won the very first West Division Pennant of the National League. However, the 70s was to be a bad decade; the Atlanta Braves only won two seasons during this time, largely due to very bad fielding averages.
Despite the Braves’ shoddy performance in the 70s, one man’s efforts brought massive media attention and nationwide support to the struggling Braves. Hank Aaron was the first man to beat Babe Ruth’s home run total.
This fact brought controversy to the game because Aaron was an African-American. In the season of 1973 as Aaron gained ground on Ruth’s 714 home run record, he began to receive death threats. Media pundits who celebrated his baseball skills were also the recipient of deathly hate mail – to the extent that baseball reporter, Lewis Grizzard, secretly penned Aaron an obituary alongside his usual coverage. In response to the hate mail, Aaron received an outpouring of national support, including that of Babe Ruth’s widow.
Hank Aaron hit the record breaking 715th run on April 18th, 1974 in front of a record attendance of 53,775. Two white students jumped the fence and ran alongside him as he made his victory lap round the Braves’ home ballpark.
Two months later Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players. His final home run record of 755 stood for 32 years, until it was broken by Barry Bonds in 2007.
The American Braves
In 1976 the Atlanta Braves were bought by Ted Turner, the owner of the cable television, Channel WTBS. Turner harnessed the Braves as crowd puller for his cable start-up and made them the first baseball team to have regular television coverage.
He monikered them The Atlanta Braves: America’s Team, a name which is still applied to the Braves today, especially throughout Southern USA. In 1978 a young power hitter called Dale Murphy was inducted into the Braves; he was to become one of the team’s most powerful hitters. Apart from Murphy’s stellar performance, the Braves in general played badly up until the 90s, when their fortunes changed dramatically.
Baseball’s Greatest Winning Streak
Although the Braves finished 1990 with the worst Major League baseball record that year, behind the scenes things were starting to hot up. Pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, started working with new talent, Steve Avery, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine; these three were to become the greatest pitching line-up in baseball and led the Braves to many wins.
In batting they took first draft pick to select Chipper Jones, a young man who would become the best hitter the Braves had ever seen. Lastly a new General Manager arrived in the form of John Schuerholz.
All in all it was a winning combination and the Atlanta Braves went on to dominate divisional baseball for the next 14 years. The Atlanta Braves won the National League West Division Championships 3 times in 1991, 92 and 93.
When they changed to the National League Eastern Division they came in first place every year from 1995 to 2005 (except for 2004 when there was a players’ strike). The Braves capped their winning streak with a World Series win in 1995. Based in Atlanta, this was the third time the Braves had won a World series and the third hometown from which they had done so.
The Atlanta Braves Today
1997 saw the sale of the Atlanta braves to Liberty Media, who are large shareholders in the Time Warner Group. After a strong start, the Braves finished their division in third place, missing the post season. By far the most memorable event of 2007 came with hitter, Chipper Jones, breaking Dale Murphy’s previous Braves’ record of 372 home runs.
Aside from this, long serving General Manager, John Schuerholz, stepped aside to allow his former assistant General Manager, Frank Wren, to take the post. Schuerholz will take a new role as club president.
In the 2008 off-season the Braves have announced a couple of new acquisitions. They have taken Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurgens from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Edgar Renteira and an undisclosed amount of cash.
Furthermore, they have added Mark Kotsay, and Jeff Ridgeway to the team. With spring training well under way, everyone is keen to see where the Braves’ line-up will stand in the National League tables.