So, if you look around the scoreboard this week, you will notice that the Selig regime has decided to go with the fire hose method of serving up the compelling “natural rival” suite of interleague games. So, the Cubs play the White Sox, the Yankees and Mets do their Subway Series thing, etc. This has allowed the Braves a chance to lock horns with their mortal foes – the Toronto Blue Jays. Obviously, we played a World Series against them in the 90s, but so did the Phillies. In the recent past, I recall our “natural rival” games coming against the Boston Red Sox (who are playing the Phillies this week).
Now, I’m certainly not clamoring for us to play a Red Sox club that is in first-place in a tough division, and clobbered us at Fenway last year, but it did make me start to think about the Braves’ roots in Boston. Throw in a recent spirited conversation that I had with a Reds fan asserting the fact to him that the Braves are the longest continuously operating franchise in professional sports (a favorite fact for Mac to bring up, BTW), and I’ve been in a full-out Boston Braves blitz lately.
After the complete debacle that was the 1935 Boston Braves season (if you’re tempted to look it up, you should, it was comically dysfunctional), the team was re-branded the Bees (a particularly shudder-inducing page in the franchise’s history) until Lou Perini bought the team in 1940 and restored the Braves moniker. After WWII, Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain led the team back to contention, including a pennant in 1948.
This would prove to be the last hurrah for the Boston Braves. The team slid back to mediocrity, and by this point, Boston only rated as the 10th largest city in the country. The only other towns with multiple teams were New York (largest), Chicago (2nd largest), Philadelphia (3rd largest), and St. Louis (8th largest) – and the St. Louis Browns were desperate to move. Boston was simply not big enough for both clubs. The Braves finished in last place in 1952 and their attendance fell to under 500,000 (compared to 1.8 million in their first season in Milwaukee). Boston had chosen the Red Sox.
Perini moved quickly to relocate the team to Milwaukee, home of the Braves’ AAA affiliate and site of the brand-new Milwaukee County Stadium. Perini announced the move on March 13, 1953, and the Braves played their first game in Milwaukee less than a month later on April 14, 1953. The MLB All-Star Game, which had been scheduled to be held at Braves Field in Boston that summer, was hastily relocated to Crosby Field in Cincinnati.
Seeing that the final years of the Boston Braves were roughly contemporaneous with the WWII era, you can’t help but think about the fact that, like our nation’s veterans of that conflict, the population of former Boston Braves is dwindling. Intrigued, I looked into this a bit, and the trend is sadly as expected. In November 2006, only 42 Boston Braves remained with us. That number fell to 36 in July 2009, 26 in September 2011, and 21 in June 2012. We’ve lost two more gentlemen this spring (Ray Martin on March 7th, and Jack Daniels on April 16th).
Here is the complete list of the 18 living Boston Braves, to the best of my research abilities:
|Name||Years as Boston Brave||Position||Current Age|
|Del Crandall||1949-50||C||83||missed 1951-52 due to Korean War|
|Johnny Antonelli||1948-50||P||83||missed 1951-52 due to Korean War|
|Clint Conatser||1948-49||OF||91||missed 1942-45 due to WWII|
In ten years, there is a good chance that the last of the remaining Boston Braves will be lost to mists of time.