Off Day Open Thread: The Braves’ first “worst to first” experience (by AtlCrackers Fan)

The Braves won the National League pennant five times in eight years between 1891 and 1898, and finished a close 2nd in ’99. But the franchise fell on hard times in the first years of the 20th century, particularly in comparison with the upstart Red Sox of the American League.

For the ten-year span starting in 1903, Boston’s National League team finished in 6th place twice, in 7th place three times, and brought up the rear five times. The Braves lost 90 or more games in nine of those ten years, racking up more than 100 losses in six of the ten years — this in seasons that averaged 151 games.

During the same ten-year period, the Red Sox won the American League championship three times and the World Series twice. They were inconsistent, though, finishing in every spot but 6th. (In 1904 the National League refused to play the American League, a position generally attributed to spite over losing the first one in 1903.)

Before the 1913 season started, the Braves hired George Stallings to manage the team. Stallings, a native Georgian, had a long and peripatetic minor league career, primarily in various incarnations of the Southern League, the Texas League, and the Western League. Stallings’ first Major League managerial gig came in 1897 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Between minor league managerial positions, primarily in the Eastern (International) League, he had achieved a very pedestrian 300-301 record managing Philadelphia, Detroit and New York (AL), before joining Boston.

The 1913 Braves improved significantly over the previous teams, posting a 69-82 mark that proved good enough for 5th place, although 31.5 games behind John McGraw’s Giants. Little improvement was expected for the 1914 season, since the only significant offseason change brought a 32-year-old Johnny Evers as the starting second baseman in exchange for 2B Bill Sweeney. But a series of minor league acquisitions in late 1913, particularly the addition of 1b Butch Schmidt and c Hank Gowdy, would later prove to have been very important.

The 1914 season started inauspiciously, the Braves losing the first three games. As May started, the Braves were in the midst of a 5 game losing streak. A victory over Philadelphia provided the only respite as a seven-game losing streak followed. By mid-May, Boston’s record stood at 3-16, already ten games behind the New York Giants and seemingly safely ensconced in last place again.

Matters improved slightly during the latter half of May, as the team finished the month going 7-7. But they remained 10-22 overall. The season’s nadir came after a loss to Cincinnati on June 8, as the Braves fell to 16 games under .500, now 13 games behind the McGraw’s Giants. Lost in the noise was the fact that Stallings’ Braves had actually posted a winning record for the month of June with no losing streaks greater than two games.

July opened with the Braves on another five-game losing streak, including both ends of a July 4th doubleheader at home against Brooklyn. The team stood at 26-40 with one tie — they had the occasional tie ballgame back then — and was in last place, 15 games behind those seemingly unstoppable Giants.

And then, beginning with the next game on July 6, the Braves went 68-19 with four ties for the rest of the year, winning the division by 10.5 games.

They swept the World Series in four straight games, the first championship in franchise history. The turnaround started exactly one century ago.

67 thoughts on “Off Day Open Thread: The Braves’ first “worst to first” experience (by AtlCrackers Fan)”

  1. The Polish Sausage won the Brewers sausage race the other day, making him the first wurst.

  2. If you’ve worked up a real a wurst-kinda thirst, maybe you should drink a Warsteiner first.

  3. @ajcbraves: Just depth at Triple-A. RT @jase1129: @ajcbraves So the Braves are about to acquire Andrew Robinson from Astros? Not sure how this helps?

  4. Hooray for history! That team had a Hall of Fame keystone combo in Johnny Evers and Rabbit Maranville, a phenom starting pitcher in Bill James, and also featured the debut of the first great Cuban MLB star in Dolf Luque. And one overlooks the contributions of utility man Possum Whitted at one’s peril….

  5. Kyle Kubitza, 3-run triple in 1st inning! Can’t stop, won’t stop! Get that guy a drink!

  6. Yeah, I played that ’14 Braves team a lot in APBA. Pitching on that club with people like Braves ace Seattle Bill James (wotta nickname, huh?) was pretty powerful.

    And how ’bout Seattle Bill James? In his only full MLB season, he went 26-7 with a 1.90 in 332 IP.

    When I was a kid in Columbus, Ga., I used to see baseball games over in Ft. Benning at a park called Gowdy Field, which was named after Hank Gowdy, the Miracle Braves’ catcher. He was the first active Major Leaguer to volunteer for WWI & he saw some gnarly action in France.

    When I got older, I got to play there a couple times & thought that was a pretty cool thing.

  7. The Yankees have signed a slew of top International talent. Any word on Braves’ signees?

  8. Saw a list of players with the most strikeouts to date. The Braves have two of the Top Five.

    Both are named Upton.

  9. So MLB has given the A’s permission to move if they don’t get a deal done with Oakland-Alameda.

    Where would they go? They should merge with San Diego.

  10. So I just found out that former Braves legend Corky Miller ate at the restaurant where I work a few days ago. I was even working at the time. I’m interrogating the waitstaff to find out what he ordered- I’d like to know if I personally prepared a meal for the Great Hamster.

  11. I think it was Bill James who wrote that Stallings was the first manager to employ platooning as a strategy. The 1914 team was built around platooning and great pitching.

  12. I like to think he goes out everywhere wearing a sticker that says “HI. My name is Corky Miller, Atlanta Braves legend.”

  13. We dodged the Capuano bullet. He signed with the Rockies, who we don’t play again this year.

    Our Cool Standings playoff odds have shot all the way up to 23.1 percent!

  14. The 1914 Braves were a one hit wonder. Bill James, who went 26-7 never matched that record again – like Buzz Capra perhaps. The outfield was a mess and Stallings platooned extensively, particularly early in the season. Johnny Evers, although starting the downward curve of his career may have provided the Sid Bream/Terry Pendleton winning experience to the team.

    No matter, the second half run of 68-19 is remarkable.

    The ’93 Braves who won 104 to edge past the Giants went 60-26 from July onward.

  15. I think Kubitza would be a good option to platoon with Johnson. Fredi doesn’t seem to like platoons though.

    When Bobby was manager the Braves had a lot of successful platoons.

  16. On a happier note, the Cubs are beating up on the Natspos in Washington. Now that’s America!

  17. One reason to acquire Jason Hammel is that he’s got the Nats’ number. He’d fit right in.

    Question for Smitty’s barber: would you consider dealing Mike Minor for a topline starter, like Price or Samardzija, who’s not a free agent next season? Doesn’t have to be straight up.

  18. Our old buddy Jair Jurrjens is pitching tonight in Colorado against the Dodgers.

  19. Former Brave Paul Janish has signed on with…. wait for it…. the Royals.

  20. I know! His average is now up to a lofty .210!

    Why can’t we declare independence from first-inning sacrifice bunts?

  21. 10 game hitting streak, one hit per game, that’s the Uggla way.

    I’ll certainly take that from BJ though.

  22. The wild pitch to score a run, on the other hand, is something I’d rather not get used to.

  23. Wow, that was one generous non-swing call Justin just got.

    Edit: And he makes them pay by walking, taking what looked like strike three. Maybe I need to get my prescription checked.

  24. That was one generous non-strike call Justin just got.

    Also, how do you not swing at that? That’s his homerun ball.

  25. Jurrjens got rocked for three runs in the first against the Dodgers, including a two-run homer by Pweeg.

  26. Thank God for Tommy La Stella. It’s nice to see a guy who looks like a real hitter at the plate.

  27. I know we’re beating up on the dregs of the league, but it’s gotta be done.

    Anybody headed to Flushing next week? Will be there Monday for sure & at least one more.

  28. A’s get Samardzija and Hammel. Cubs get SS Addison Russell. Damn it, Cubs, couldn’t you have waited 24 more hours?

    In the meantime, the A’s just moved into the driver’s seat.

  29. Great deal by the A’s. There is no way the Braves would have traded for either one. Better to see them being traded to the evil league instead! However, it also means the Central Divisiom teams will have an easier time in the second half. Let’s just win the division and let the Natpos figure out how to get into the playoff themselves.

  30. Just saw some highlights of tonight’s game. A fastball of Santana was clocked at 96?!?!?

  31. Recapped, sorta – the formatting is way off somehow, I have no idea what went wrong, I’ll email Alex,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.