History of the Braves franchise
Cincinnati Red Stockings
The origins of the Atlanta Braves can be traced back to the mid-19th Century. The date is July 23, 1866; the place is Cincinnati, Ohio. Specifically at the old Selves building, which housed the law offices of Tilden, Sherman and Moulton which was located at 17 ½, W 3rd Street. It was here that the Cincinnati ball club was first organized. Initially the team was called the Resolutes; it was quickly changed to the Cincinnati Base Ball Club, at the urging of J. William Johnson, the man who organized the meeting. The Red Stockings name was not adopted until the 1868 season, due to the color of the team's distinctive stockings.
During the winter of 1868, the National Association of Base Ball Players announced that for the upcoming 1869 season, teams were allowed to pay their players. Team president Aaron B. Champion, and manager Harry Wright, set about recruiting as many players as they could. They were going to produce the best team that money could buy. The 1869 season saw the Red Stockings post a 57-0 record. To date, this record has never been equaled or surpassed by any professional team. The Red Stockings' 89-game winning streak ended on June 14, 1870 after an 11-inning loss to the Brooklyn Atlantics. By the end of the season, the team had posted a 67-6-1 record. However, in spite of the overwhelming success, club President A.P.C. Bonte announced on November 11th that the club would not be fielding a team for the 1871 season.
During the winter of 1870-1871, manager Harry Wright met with several Boston, MA businessmen, led by Ivers Adams, who wanted Wright to come to Boston and form a baseball team there. After accepting the proposal, Wright took with him three of the core players from the Red Stockings team (his brother George Wright, Charlie Gould and Cal McVey) as well as the Red Stockings name, to Boston form the Boston Red Stockings.
The Boston Red Stockings were officially organized on January 20, 1871. On St. Patrick's Day, the team joined ten others, led by Henry Chadwick, and formed the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players at Collier's Saloon on the corner of 13th street and Broadway. The Red Stockings posted a 22-10-1 record that first season, and finished in 3rd place behind the pennant winning Philadelphia Athletics and the recently folded Chicago White Stockings.
Despite finishing with another winning record, 3rd place was not good enough. Wright tinkered with the team for the 1872 season, including scheduling more games in order to increase revenues. The Red Stockings posted a 39-8-1 record, which got the team its first pennant. Over the next three seasons, the Red Stockings increased the number of games they played by an average of 11 each year. By 1875, the National Association's last year of existence, the team posted an unheard of and unequaled 71-8-3 record. Team pitcher Albert Spalding posted a league best record: 54-5 (.915) with an ERA of 1.59. The record for wins was later passed by Providence Grays pitcher Old Hoss Radbourn, who posted a record 59-12 in 1884, although with a lower winning percentage than Spalding.
Because of the Red Stockings' success, as well as the instability of franchises (several of which were placed in cities too small to financially support professional baseball), lack of a central authority figure and the suspicious influences of gamblers, the National Association folded. The N.A. was replaced on February 2, 1876 by the newly formed National League of Professional Baseball Teams, or National League for short.
The National League, led by Chicago owner William Hulbert, was organized at Grand Central Hotel in New York, NY. The new league was made up of the following teams: Boston Red Caps (the Red Stockings under a new name, in deference to Cincinnati's entry into the circuit), Chicago White Stockings, Cincinnati Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Louisville Grays, New York Mutuals, Philadelphia Athletics, and the St. Louis Brown Stockings. In order to help make his team better, Hulbert invited a few players from the Red Stockings, Al Spalding, Cal McVey and Ross Barnes, to join his team. The White Stockings won the inaugural NL Pennant, but this did not deter Harry Wright. The Red Caps went on to win the next two NL Pennants in 1877 and 1878. But the team was prevented from winning a third pennant by second-year entry, the Providence Grays, who were led by Harry Wright's brother George.
The 1880 season found the team posting its first losing season ever, going 40-44-2. Things would not improve the next season, with the team going 38-45. On December 21st, club officials met and elected a new board of directors‚ who retained Harry Wright as manager. The club reporeds an operating surplus of $75 on home attendance of around 35‚000. However, Harry was displeased with the way things were going and stepped down as manager. He signed on to manage Providence for the 1882 season the next day.
The Red Caps managed to turn their season in 1882, going 45-39-1 under new manager John Morrill. The team won its third National League pennant the following year as the "Boston Beaneaters." Throughout the rest of the decade, the team will change managers five times, including twice with Morrill. The decade ended with the team hiring their second straight minor league manager, Frank Selee, who was the manager of the Omaha Omahogs. The 1890s found the Beaneaters winning five pennants, including three in a row between 1891 and 1893, and a back-to-back wins in 1897 and 1898. However things would change for the Beaneaters, but not necessarily for the better.
Enter the American League
When the Boston Americans joined the American League in 1901, they were not the first team to challenge the Beaneaters. Prior to the Americans, there had been two other Boston teams in direct competition with the National League squad. Both teams were called the Reds. The first Boston Reds team was a member of the Union Association back in 1884. The team and the league lasted for only one season before folding up shop. The second team called the Reds fared better than its predecessor. This Boston Reds team first operated in the Players League for the 1890 season, and then when that league folded, joined the American Association for the 1891 season. Both times the Reds won the league pennant. They were the first team since the Brooklyn Bridegrooms to win back-to-back titles in two different leagues. Unfortunately the second Reds team never made it past the second season. They went out of business when the A.A. folded.
This is why Beaneaters' owner Arthur Soden did not take the Americans seriously. He figured that the American League would fold after a few seasons or that the Americans would cease operations or move to a new location. It had happened twice before, it would happen again. Unfortunately things turned out differently. Not only were the Americans successful both on the field and at the gate, the team would win the pennant in 1903 and win the inaugural World Series over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
One of the reasons for the rival Boston teams came about due to the way Soden his associates ran the franchise. When he bought the team in late 1876, the Red Caps were floundering in debt. They tightened the belt hard, which shocked both players and fans. But this change brought about back-to-back pennants, and by the end of the century the team had 8 National League pennants on its mantle. There was also the matter of the reserve clause. The reserve clause meant that teams could reserve players for the following season. Initially a team could reserve up to five. This was later changed to eleven. In addition, Soden was known for being stingy. Because of this many players jumped ship in 1884, 1890 and in 1901, moving to rival clubs. It was reported that Soden did not even bother to match the salaries that the Americans were offering players. By this time, his interest in the club was waning. For the first two seasons of the Americans' existence, the Beaneaters finished above .500. But starting in 1903, the team endured a period of losing. This was something that the Beaneaters had never had happen to them ever. Sure they had had sub .500 seasons, but to go for long stretches of losing had never happened before. In late 1906, Soden sold the Beaneaters to a group led by the Dovey Brothers.
Over the next six seasons the team would go through three name changes and three ownership changes before settling on the nickname, "Braves". The team was called the Braves due to owner James Gaffney's connections with the political machine Tammany Hall, which used an Indian Chief as its symbol. The name, like the previous "Doves" and "Rustlers" was originally an unofficial nickname penned by reporters, but in this case, Gaffney liked the name and made it official, adding an Indian head motif to the team's uniforms. Unfortunately as with previous name changes, the Braves name did not bring the team immediate success. For the 1913 season, Gaffney hired former New York Yankees manager George Stallings to manage the team. The team finished with another losing season, the team's 11th, but the first season since 1908 that they did not lose 100 games. The Braves turn things around mid-season in 1914, and won 9th pennant for the team’s first trip to the World Series. The turnaround was considered so improbable that to this day, the 1914 team is known as the "Miracle Braves". The Braves swept the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics to win their first World Series Championship. Given the team's success, Gaffney invested in a new lavish ballpark, Braves Field. However, it would take the team 34 years to win their 10th pennant.
During that time the team changed owners six times, including a short stint with Boston Bruins' owner Charles Adams, as well as change managers ten times, including team owner Emil Fuchs as manager in 1929. The 1935 season saw the team sign former Yankee great Babe Ruth, who had begun his career in Boston as a pitcher for the rival Red Sox. It was a disaster. The Babe hit 6 homers, had 12 RBIs and had a batting average of .181 in what ended up being his last season in baseball. He announced his retirement on June 2nd. His only highlight came on May 25th in which he became the first player to hit three home runs in a single game in both leagues. It was also that same year in which the team posted its worst record of record of 38-115 for a .248 winning percentage. This put the team 61 1/2 games back of the pennant winning Chicago Cubs. To date, this remains the team's worst-ever season. The 115 losses are the most in franchise history while 38 wins ties a franchise record for fewest wins as a member of the National League, set back in 1881. The 61 1/2 games back is the second-most games back from first place in team history, with first place belonging to the 1906 team which finished 66 1/2 games out of first. During the off-season, the league office stepped in and temporarily took control of the team, until a new owner was found.
Prior to the start of the 1936 season, the team was renamed the Boston Bees, a nickname that never really caught on and officially lasted for five seasons, after which the team went back to the Braves nickname. The 1948 season found the Braves winning their 10th pennant, giving the team their second World Series appearance, in which they lose to the Cleveland Indians in six games. By the start of the 1950s, the team was struggling both on the field and at the gate, a result of playing in a now outdated Braves Field, prompting team owner Lou Perini to move the team to Milwaukee, WI.
The Braves are not the only team that planned to move. St. Louis Browns' owner Bill Veeck wanted to move his team as well. Initially he tried to move the team to Milwaukee, but on March 3, 1953, Perini, who also owned the team's minor league affiliate, the Milwaukee Brewers, invoked his territorial privilege. He informed the Commissioner that Veeck did not offer him enough money to move his team to Milwaukee. Them after much deliberating, the National League allowed the Braves to move to Milwaukee instead. On March 18th, the Boston Braves became the Milwaukee Braves. They were the first team in 50 years and 6 days to change cities since the Baltimore Orioles had moved to New York, NY. For 81 years, 1 month and 27 days, the team had called Boston home. During that time, the team made two World Series appearances, winning once. They won 10 National League pennants and 4 National Association pennants. They also posted a record of 5,343-5,658-140-5 with a .486 percentage. Meanwhile, the minor league Brewers moved to Toledo, OH and became the Toledo Mud Hens.
Like its first season in Boston, the team produced a winning record in its first season in Milwaukee, going 92-62-1. However the team would not make it to the World Series until its fifth season in Milwaukee. That year, 1957 the team defeated the New York Yankees in 7 games. The team repeated as National League champions in 1958, something they had not done since the 1897 and 1898 seasons. This time it was the Yankees who prevailed in the World Series. The team challenged for the pennant in 1959, when they lost a three-game playoff to the Los Angeles Dodgers and again in 1960, but after that would remain out of contention for the pennant the rest of their its in Milwaukee. By the mid-1960s, even though the Braves were not winning the pennant, they were still drawing crowds to the stadium.
However new team owner Bill Bartholomay could see that things would not go well for the team in the future if there were not some changes. With the team's lease on County Stadium expiring and with the spread of television, Bartholomay could see that his fellow regional neighbors in Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis were going to profit much more than the Braves could ever hope to in Milwaukee, the city being a smaller market. So Bartholomay began to look elsewhere and decided on the city of Atlanta, GA. The city was chosen as it was a progressive city, had a larger television market with nor nearby competition, and as the Civil Rights movement was occurring at the time, was the ideal place to embrace a star like Hank Aaron. It also helped that the city had built a new stadium, Atlanta Stadium, which was larger than County Stadium.
The team asked the National League for permission to move to Atlanta for the 1965 season. The league informed the team, that even though attendance had been down below 800,000 for the past two seasons, they had to remain in Milwaukee for the upcoming season, but would be allowed to move to Atlanta for the 1966 season. Understandably people in Milwaukee were not happy when it was learned that the team was moving.
County officials filed a lawsuit that year to try to prevent the team from moving. Prior to the start of the 1965 season, Braves officials proposed to pay 5 cents from each ticket sold to a fund for the purpose of bringing a new major league team to Milwaukee. Teams‚ Inc.‚ a civic group‚ accepted the offer‚ bought out the park for Opening Day‚ and staged "Stand Up for Milwaukee Day." On August 12th the "Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Inc." applied for a NL franchise. The group, which was nonprofit, was organized in the hopes of bringing another team to Milwaukee to replace the departing Braves. Two months later, they asked the American League for a franchise. On January 27, 1966, Wisconsin State Circuit Court Judge Elmer W. Roller ruled that either the Braves stayed in Milwaukee for another season, or the NL must promise the city an expansion team for the 1966 season. In spite of the ruling, the planned move took place.
It was not until the end of 1966 that everything was settled. By then the Braves were in Atlanta. There were strong rumors that the Chicago White Sox, who were drawing flies in Comiskey Park but had played well attended games in Milwaukee in both 1968 and 1969, would relocate to Wisconsin. However, that move did not pass; instead Milwaukee gotanother baseball team in early 1970 when Bud Selig acquired the bankrupt Seattle Pilots and moved the team to Milwaukee during spring training, where to this day the team plays as the Milwaukee Brewers.
Welcome to Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia, has been the home of the Atlanta Braves since 1966. The Atlanta Braves began operations on January 1, 1966 after spending 12 years 9 months and 2 weeks in Milwaukee. During that time, the team went 1,146-890-8 or won 56% of its games. The team would also spend the next 30-odd seasons sharing Atlanta Stadium with the Atlanta Falcons, who were playing their first NFL season that year as well. For the third straight time, the Braves posted a winning record in their new city, going 85-77-1. After their inaugural season in Atlanta, the team traded long-time player Eddie Mathews to Houston Astros. Mathews was the last of the ballplayers to have played in Boston. He is also the only player to have played in all three of the Braves' franchise stops (excluding Cincinnati).
The Braves made the postseason for the first time in 1969 when they finished on top of the newly-created National League Western Division, but they were swept by the eventual World Series Champions, the New York Mets, in the inaugural National League Championship Series. The 1970s found Hank Aaron becoming the new home run king of baseball, when he hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974 to pass Babe Ruth. He hit his last home run (733) for the team on October 2nd of that year, setting a league and club record in the process. A record that would stand as a National League record until 2006, when Barry Bonds hit his 734th home run. After the 1974 season, Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. On January 6, 1976, media mogul Robert E. Turner III purchased a controlling interest in the team.
During a 17-game losing streak in 1977, Turner relieved manager Dave Bristol of his duties, and managed the team to a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the first time since October 1, 1950, when Connie Mack last managed the Philadelphia Athletics, taht an owner was also a manager. Turner had planned on managing the team the next day (May 12th) but was informed by league president Chub Feeney, that in the National League managers could not own a financial interest in the club. Instead, third base coach Vern Benson took over the team and led it to a 6-1 victory over the Pirates. Turner even tried appealing to Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, but this was rejected. Bristol returned to manage the team for the rest of the season, and then was fired. The Braves then hired Yankees first base coach Bobby Cox as their manager.
The Bobby Cox Era
The Robert J. Cox era began on October 7, 1977, when the former Yankees coach was hired to manage the Braves for the 1978 season. Like many of his predecessors, Cox lost in his managerial debut. In fact, the team lost its first three games before giving Cox his first win a 8-7 win over the San Diego Padres. The Braves finished the season 26 games out of 1st with a 69-93 record. It was not until Cox's third season with the team, 1980 that the Braves produced a winning season, going 81-80 for a 4th-place finish. The 1981 season found the team going 50-56-1 and a fifth-place finish. Despite the fact that there had been a strike, Cox was let go as manager at the end of the season, and was replaced by Joe Torre. Torre had been a catcher with the team back in the 1960s, and had recently been let go as manager of the New York Mets.
In Torre's first season with the Braves in 1982, the team won a division title for the first time since 1969. They were again swept by the eventual World Series Champions, this time it was the St. Louis Cardinals who knocked them out in the NLCS. Torre lasted until 1984 when the team posted a 80-82 record. Former Pittsburgh Pirates manager Chuck Tanner was named to the managerial position.
On October 22, 1985, the team announced that they had re-hired Bobby Cox, this time as the team's general manager. Cox had been manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and had led them to their first playoff appearance, when they lost the ALCS to the Kansas City Royals. Despite success, Cox decided against returning for a fifth season as the Blue Jays' manager. Instead Cox moved back to Atlanta to work in the front office of the Braves. Behind the scenes, Cox worked to rebuild the team, acquiring players such as Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, Pete Smith, and Dave Justice. He was also responsible for drafting Chipper Jones.
While Cox was busy building the team into a playoff contender, the Braves continued to post losing records. The 1988 season found the Braves losing 106 games, the first time since 1977 they had lost over 100 games, and the second time in the Ted Turner era. During the season, Cox replaced manger Chuck Tanner with Russ Nixon, who lasted until June 22, 1990 when he was fired. It was then that Cox decided to take over as team manager. The team again lost the first game in Cox's second stint as manager and would go 40-57 the rest of the season, finishing with a 65-97 record. Cox remained as GM until the end of the season when John Schuerholz was named in that position while Cox decided to concentrate on the managerial job.
The next season, 1991, the Braves surprised everyone by winning a division title, going 94-68. This time the Braves won the NLCS, defeating the Pirates in 7 games to make their first appearance in the World Series since 1958, where they faced the Minnesota Twins, who had also, like the Braves, finished in last place the year before. The Twins won the Series in 7 games. In 1992, the Braves repeated as division winners, and made their second straight World Series appearance. They were the first NL team to make back-to-back World Series appearances since the Dodgers had done so in 1977 and 1978, and like the Dodgers, the Braves lost the World Series. This time it was to Bobby Cox's old team, the Toronto Blue Jays who came out on top. The Braves won 100 games in 1993, reaching the mark for the first time since 1898. They did not make a third straight appearance in the World Series, however, as they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS.
The 1994 and 1995 seasons were cut short due to the 1994 strike. At the time the strike began, the Braves were 6 games back of the division-leading Montreal Expos. When the strike ended in 1995, the team won win its 6th division title, its 15th NL Pennant, and made its 7th World Series appearance. For the second time, the Braves faced the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Just like the 1948 World Series, the series went six games, but this time, the Braves came out on top. It was the team's third World Series win. The Braves made a return appearance to the World Series in 1996. Facing the New York Yankees for the third time, the Braves jumped out to a 2-0 lead. They would outscored the Yankees 16-1 in those two games at Yankee Stadium, before returning to Atlanta where they blew that lead. A turning point was in Game 4 in which the Braves gave up 8 unanswered runs. The series ended with Joe Torre winning his first World Series championship. The Braves made one more trip to the World Series in 1999, where they were swept by the Yankees.
Off the field, things were changing for Ted Turner. In addition to owning the Braves, Turner was also the owner of the Atlanta Hawks, a basketball team that he bought a year after purchasing the Braves. In 1997, he was also awarded an expansion franchise in the National Hockey League. The Atlanta Thrashers failed to find long-term success and eventually became the "new" Winnipeg Jets. In addition, his TBS corporation merged with Time Warner, and eventually with America On Line to become AOL-Time Warner. He also developed the "Cable News Network", better known as CNN. In 1996, the city of Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games, for which a new stadium, Turner Field was built; it became the team's new home in 1997.
Meanwhile, the Braves' streak of division titles ended in 2006, with the team's first losing season since 1990 in which the Braves posted a 79-83 record. It was also that year that the team won their franchise record 10,000th game, dating back to the Red Stockings, defeating the Phillies, 3-1, on August 8th. The Braves did not return to the postseason until 2010. They won their 10,000th as a major league franchise on April 22, 2009 a 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals. After losing to the San Francisco Giants in 4 games in the Division Series, long-time manager Bobby Cox announced his retirement. His combined win-loss record during his two stints as manager was 2,149-1,709-2 (.557). The team played in 129 postseason games during that span, going 64-65. The team won 15 division titles, including 13 in a row. They made four appearances in the World Series and won one World Series Championship, in 1995.
Post Bobby Cox
Following the retirement of Bobby Cox, the Braves named Fredi Gonzalez team manager. In his first year in the job, in 2011, the Braves won their 10,000th National League game when they defeated the Washington Nationals, 11-1. To date, the Braves have won the division title only once, and made the playoffs twice since Cox's retirement. The team is owned by John C. Malone, who is the Chairman of Liberty Media. Longtime executive Terry McGuirk is CEO, while John Hart is president of baseball operations. After the 2015 season, John Coppolella was named the team's general manager. The Braves moved to SunTrust Park, which is located in the Cumberland District of Cobb County, for the 2017 season.
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- Christopher Devine: Harry Wright: The Father of Professional Base Ball, McFarland, Jul 8, 2003
- Stephen D. Guschov: The Red Stockings of Cincinnati: Base Ball’s First All-Professional Team and Its Historic 1869 and 1870 Seasons, McFarland, Feb 1, 1998
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- David Nemec, The Great Encyclopedia of 19th-Century Major League Baseball, Penguin (1997)
- Michael O'Connor, Ted Turner: A Biography, ABC-CLIO (Nov 12, 2009)