Boston Bees: (Apr. 14, 1936-Apr. 29, 1941)
- Boston National Sports Inc. (Jan. 4-30, 1936)
- National League Baseball Club of Boston (Jan. 30, 1936-Apr. 29, 1941)
- Win-Loss Record: 361-418-5 (.464) 3025-3367 (-342)
- Ballpark: National League Park aka the Beehive (1936-1941) 198-196-2 (.500) 1394-1475 (-80)
The End of the Braves
The Boston Bees were a short-lived incarnation of the Boston Braves, which lasted from 1936 into the 1941 season. The previous season, 1935, saw the team post its worst record in franchise history, as well as change in team presidency as Charles F. Adams replaced Emil Fuchs. Adams, who assumed the presidency out of necessity as Fuchs owned him money, had no desire be involved with the team on a day-to-day basis, due to his other business ventures such as the hockey team, the Boston Bruins, and the Suffolk Down racetrack, announced that he was looking for a new owner to run the team instead. The previous August, Boston Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was one of the prospective buyers interested in the team, but nothing ever came out of it.
Then in September, Adams made a public plea to all stockholders to contribute a loan of $15,000 (at $1.00 per share) in order to keep the team afloat to the end of the end. The goal was to reorganize the team, which would cost about $500,000. At a stockholders meeting in late September, Adams received the go-ahead for the financial reorganization of the team. By early November the team had raised $175,000 of the $350,000 needed to put the team on a sound financial basis, with the rest of the money to be raised by November 15th. It was hoped that the stockholders could reorganize the team on their own, with one of the largest stockholders being Major Francis P. Murphy, who would go on to be the Governor of New Hampshire (1937-1941). Unfortunately the stockholders were not able to raise the necessary cash to keep the team afloat.
At league meeting in New York, NY on November 26th, a decision was taken by the National League to take control of the team and to dissolve the stockholders group. Ford Frick, the league president described this change as a “friendly forfeiture” of the team. From this point forward, the league would receive proposals from the various groups who were interested in buying the team. Though the team was under the control of the league, Adams continued to remain a part of the organization. This was due to the fact that he was not willing to step aside until the Braves’ creditors were repaid in full. It was also estimated that the team owed Adams $110,000.
Two weeks later, the team was sold to one James Aloysius Robert Quinn. Quinn who was at the time the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers was already known in the Boston area, having previously served as owner of the Boston Red Sox between 1922 and 1933. The previous September it was reported in the Boston Globe that if he were available, the Braves wanted to make Quinn president of the team. This of course came as a surprise to Quinn who had not talked to Charles Adams about the position. After coming to the conclusion that the present situation in Brooklyn was still problematic, Quinn set about determining the cost of the team. He then took over the team in early December. Adams would no longer hold any stock in the team as well as hold any position in the front office. This was because he wanted to avoid any and all connections between horse racing and baseball.
On New Year’s Eve, the Braves’ stockholders held a snap meeting at the Copley Plaza Hotel, and voted to sell all the team’s assets to Quinn. It was supposed to have been a quick meeting without any problems. A last-minute offer of $250,000, including $100,000 from Murphy to purchase the team was declined. Former team president Emil Fuchs was at the meeting informing the stockholders that his losses in the team came to about $700,000. The combined shares of Charles Adams and Bruce Wetmore totaled 11,184 out of 15,000. Even though the newspapers announced that Quinn was the team’s new owner, in reality, the control of the team remained with Adams and his associates. According to sportswriter James O’Leary, “the Boston National League Baseball Company bows itself into retirement.”
Bill McKechnie and the Rise of the Boston Bees
As the new team president of nearly bankrupt Boston Braves, Bob Quinn was faced with many challenges. One of the first changes was the corporate name. The team would now be called the Boston National Sports Inc. The name had been established at the law office of Goodwin, Procter and Hoar (now called Goodwin Procter LLP). At the time the law firm had its office located at 84 State Street in Boston. Then for whatever reason, on January 4th, Quinn announced that the team would no longer be called the Braves. Quinn wanted the fans to vote on the new team name, with six finalists to be selected. The fan with the chosen team name would win two season passes.
Fans submitted 1,327 names, 15 of them with the winning selection of "Bees", which was announced on January 31st. “The winning fan was Arthur J. Rockwood of East Weymouth, Massachusetts, who wrote, ‘As a new name for your club, I submit ‘The Boston Bees.’ The ‘B’ is significant of many things, Boston, beans, baseball, etc., and not too hard to learn, being similar to ‘Braves.’ And if your club develops the bees’ characteristics, you should have honey this Fall.’ The team’s corporate name was changed to “The National League Baseball Club of Boston,” and the ballpark would be renamed National League Park, although it was expected that fans would call it the Beehive.”
Though the new name would prove to be popular amongst fans, on the field, the name change did not really mean much. The Bees lose their first game of the season on April 14th to the Philadelphia Phillies, which put the team in fifth place. The next day the team defeated the Phillies 12-4, which gave themit its highest ranking in the National League for the year. Aside for brief stints in last place, the team spent most of the season in either fifth or sixth place. By the All-Star break, it was 34-41-2. The Bees hosted the fourth All-Star Game on July 7th at the Beehive. Attendance for the game was 25,534, which was the lowest attendance at the time (To date this is still the lowest attendance figure for an All-Star Game).
The team finished the season with a 71-83-3 record for 6th place, which compared favorably with the previous year’s record, and, given all of the uncertainty around the team during the off-season, the season was a success. In addition the total attendance was up to 340,585 for 7th place. First baseman Buck Jordan led the team with a .323 batting average, while outfielder Gene Moore led the team with 38 homers. Pitcher Danny MacFayden led the team in wins (17), ERA (2.87) and innings pitched (266.2).
The 1937 season found the team posting its first winning season since 1934 when they went 78-73-1 for a fifth-place finish. The team was again last in major offensive categories, but they had two 20-game winners in Lou Fette (20-10), and Jim Turner (20-11), both of whom were in their rookie year. The team gave up the second fewest hits (1344); fewest runs (556, with 486 being earned); 2nd fewest home runs (60) and walked the fewest batters (372). It was not bad for a pitching staff that had an average age of 30.8. Attendance rose to 385,339, but was still only good for 7th place. Unfortunately team manager Bill McKechnie would not return for a 9th season. On October 14th, he signed a two-year contract for $25,000.00 with the Cincinnati Reds. Interestingly, McKechnie was awarded the Manager of the Year Award, which was given out by The Sporting News, for the Bees' fifth-place finish.
Casey Stengel and the Decline of the Boston Bees
Quinn then set about finding McKechnie’s replacement. His first choice, former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Donie Bush was happy where he was with the Minneapolis Millers. Also considered were current Montreal Royals manager Rabbit Maranville; former Brooklyn Dodgers manager Casey Stengel; former Cleveland Indians manager Roger Peckinpaugh; and Babe Ruth. On October 25th, Quinn offered Stengel the manager's position as well as a small ownership stake in the team. Stengel was introduced as the team manager on November 22nd at the Copley Plaza Hotel. Having served previously as General Manager of the Dodgers, Quinn knew that Stengel had a reputation that would make him one of the beloved characters in baseball history. This would make it easy for the Bees to attract fans to the ballpark. According to Quinn, “I know he’s got a reputation for being a clown, but actually he’s one of the most serious-minded baseball men I’ve ever had work for me. He’s a hustler from the word go, is not afraid to try things with his ballclub and above all is unflinchingly loyal.”
Stengel approached the job as a wait-and-see endeavor with talent: “All the players we now have, and any that we may acquire later, will be given a chance to show what they can do, and it will be a case of the survival of those who in our opinion are the most fit.” To round out the coaching staff, Stengel brought in two unrelated guys named Kelly: George “High Pockets” Kelly, who was a teammate of Stengel’s with the Giants. High Pockets' previous coaching stint hed been with the Cincinnati Reds. The other Kelly, Mike Kelly, was a coach with the Chicago White Sox in 1930-1931, and had spent the 1934 season with the Chicago Cubs.
The Bees finished the 1938 season with a 77-75-1 record, in fifth place for the second straight year, but they had their best winning percentage among the five seasons they were known as the Bees at .507. The team was last in overall batting average, Debs Garms led the team at .315, Vince DiMaggio, the brother of the more famous Joe DiMaggio and Dom DiMaggio, led the team in home runs with 14. Pitching-wise, the team had a second-best ERA at 3.40. Jim Turner again led the team in wins, but this time was joined by Danny MacFayden with 14, who also had an ERA of 2.95. Attendance fell slightly to 341,149 but it was good enough for a 6th-place finish.
What should have been an improvement over the previous year’s slight setback ended up being a complete disaster in 1939. The team won its first two games against the Philadelphia Phillies, then won half of their games on the road against the Giants, Dodgers and the Phillies. The Bees then won three straight against the Giants before a five-game losing streak dropped the Bees to fifth. Wins against the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs kept the team above .500 heading to a 15-game road trip which dropped the Bees down to 7th place where they remained for the rest of the season. When it ended on October 1st, the team had posted a 63-88-1 record. First Baseman Buddy Hassett and Second Baseman Tony Cuccinello were the only players who appeared in 100+ games with batting averages above .300. Pitcher Bill Posedel posted the only winning record at 15-13, while Lou Fette, who had a 10-10 record led the team with a 2.96 ERA. Outfielder Al Simmons, who had been acquired during the off-season, proved to be a pointless addition and was traded to the Reds after appearing in 93 games. Attendance continued to decline, this time to 285,994, which put the team back at 7th.
The 1940s opened the same way the 1930s had, with the Bees posting another losing season. The team had another seventh-place finish, this time with a 65-87 record. Attendance continued to decline, this time to 241,616. Prior to the start of the season, the left-field wall was moved to 350 feet from home plate, while the right-field was reduced to 350 feet as well. A 24-foot wire screen was erected atop the 4-foot-high wall from left to right, with the farthest distance being 400 feet. According to sportswriter James O’Leary: “The building inspectors have ordered the club, as a matter of public safety, to rebuild the center-field bleachers or to remove those there at present, and so it was decided to remove them altogether.”
The Return of the Braves
That December, it was reported in the Norwalk Hour that the Bees were considered to be for sale, with the potential buyer from New Haven, CT. It was believed that former owner Albert H. Powell, was in talks to buy the team. Officially nobody knew anything about the supposed sale. Unofficially it looked to be the real deal. The team had been for sale for a while due to the ultimatum that Commissioner Landis had issued to team owner Charles Adams to sell his controlling interest in the team. Team President Bob Quinn was unavailable for comment due to his visit with relatives in Columbus, Ohio. However, it was understood that he would have been available for a weekend conference. Both manager Casey Stengel, and Secretary John Quinn, who had arrived in Chicago, insisted that they knew nothing about the sale. However nothing came of the talks and by February 20th, Quinn was silent on who was going to buy the team.
When the 1941 season opened on April 15th, the team still did not have a buyer. But six days later the team was sold to a group including Quinn himself, along with Stengel, Max Meyer, Dr. William Wrang, J.W. Powell, Richard Hevessy, Frank McCourt, Daniel Marr, brothers John D. Perini, Charles Perini, and Louis Perini, Guido Rugo, Joseph Maney, Leo Goulston and Oscar Horton. Quinn would remain in his position as team president, and on April 29th the owners announced that the team would no longer be called the Bees, but would revert to its former name, the Braves. This would be the last time the team would change nicknames. Yet the name change did not change the team’s on-field success. The last surviving player from the Boston Bees era was Art Kenney, who died March 12, 2014.
- Burt Whitman: “Marshall Here Early This Week to Talk Over Control of Braves,” Boston Herald, August 4, 1935: 1
- Burt Whitman: “Adams Seeking Aid for Braves,” Boston Herald, September 7, 1935: 13
- “Braves Assured Reorganization,” Boston Herald, September 18, 1935: 22.
- Burt Whitman: “Half of $350,000 Needed for Braves Subscribed; Rest Likely by Nov. 15, Says Adams; Plan Partner-Manager,” Boston Herald, November 8, 1935: 45.
- James C. O’Leary: “Fate of Boston National League Club Hangs in Balance as Stockholders Confer,” Boston Globe, November 7, 1935: 21
- Burt Whitman: “Braves Forfeit Franchise, Players to League; Stockholders Lose Out,” Boston Herald, November 27, 1935: 1, 22.
- Burt Whitman: “Adams Takes Definite Stand,” Boston Herald, December 1, 1935: 35, 40
- The Boston Globe: Braves’ Owners Favor Quinn” September 19, 1935
- The Boston Globe: “Quinn Has Not Talked With C.F. Adams”, September 18, 1935.
- Burt Whitman: “Red Sox Get Foxx, Marcum in Big Deal; N.L. Awards Braves Franchise to Quinn With Adams as Backer,” Boston Herald, December 11, 1935: 1.
- James C. O’Leary: “By Vote of the Stockholders the Boston National League Baseball Company Is Dissolved,” Boston Globe, January 1, 1936: 36.
- Burt Whitman: “Dissolution of Old Braves Sees Quinn Quit Meeting in Anger, Turn Down $250,000 Offer From Murphy Syndicate,” Boston Herald, January 1, 1936: 29
- James C. O’Leary: “ ‘Braves’ Drop Old Nickname,” Boston Globe, January 4, 1936: 1.
- James C. O’Leary: “National League Baseball Club of Boston Will Be Known as ‘Bees’ — Picked From 1,300 Names,” Boston Globe, January 31, 1936: 23.
- Boston Herald: “Boston Braves Become the Bees”, Jan. 31, 1936
- Syracuse Herald: “Bill M’Kechnie Signs $25,000 Contract”, October 15, 1937, pg. 71
- Edgar G. Brands: “Barrow, McKechnie, Allen, LaMotte, Flowers and Keller Win ’37 Accolade,” The Sporting News, December 30, 1937: 1
- Gerry Moore: “Casey Stengel to Manage Boston Bees Next Season,” Boston Globe, October 26, 1937: 19
- James C. O’Leary: “Casey Stengel Impresses Sportswriters With His Seriousness as Quinn Introduces Him at Luncheon,” Boston Globe, November 23, 1937: 19.
- James C. O’Leary: “Braves to Pull in Fences, Tear Down Center Field Bleachers,” Boston Globe, March 5, 1940: 16
- Judson Bailey: “Interest Centers on Reported Sale of Boston Bees”, December 9, 1940
- Associated Press: “Quinn Remains Silent on Proposed Be Sale”, The Tuscaloosa News, Feb. 21, 1941
- Hy Hurwitz: “Hub-Controlled Syndicate Buys Adams’ Stock in Bees,” Boston Globe, April 21, 1941: 1
- Marty Appel: Casey Stengel: Baseball's Greatest Character, Doubleday Publishing, 2017
- Charlie Bevis: Red Sox vs. Braves in Boston: The Battle for Fans' Hearts, 1901-1952, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2017
- William J. Craig: A History of the Boston Braves: A Time Gone, the History Press, 2012
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993
- Harold Kaese: Boston Braves, 1871-1953, UPNE, 1948
- James Quirk and Rodney D. Fort: Pay Dirt: The Business of Professional Team Sports, Princeton University Press, 2018.