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Baseball: BRAVES FIELD, PART TWO

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posted on Jan, 21 2006 @ 12:37 AM
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Here are additional details concerning Braves Field. These come from my second "ballparks book," which is by The Sporting News and is called "Take Me Out to the Ball Park":

Building Braves Field was no mean feat. It required 750 tons of steel and 8 million pounds of cement. Even when done, the park had serious problems, because it used to be a golf course and was prone to cave-ins. I mentioned the famous one with the horses and mules. Another time, during a game, the shortstop area sank an estimated EIGHT INCHES, chasing Rabbit Maranville [one of the absolute least deserving members of the Hall of Fame] into seclusion until the fault was corrected.

But the giant park was quite an attraction when it first opened, with 56,000 fans crammed into the 40,000-seat park for its opener, and another 6,000 being turned away. Ten thousand school kids were among the guests and the Boston Braves did something they wouldn't do much of through the years: win.

When they moved the seats in during the 1928 season, third baseman Lester Bell barely missed immortality, as he blasted three HR's and barely missed a fourth, which wound up a triple.

[By the way, I was wrong about their moving the fences back out to 402-550-402 again sometime after 1928. Never again after 1928 did they play on the landing strip.]

Sky view boxes were installed in 1941. Arc lights were installed in 1946.

The Braves were a team that could do nothing right. In the 1946 season, they spent $500,000 giving the park a facelift. Unfortunately, part of this facelift was a paintjob given before the end of the season, resulting in fans coming home from games to discover their clothes were now painted. This resulted in apologies published in the newspapers, a "paint account" opened by the club at a local bank to pay for this debacle, and a total loss of $6,000 for the boneheads in the front office.

As I mentioned in Part One of this series, the "Miracle Braves" of 1914 pulled off arguably the greatest combined comeback/pennant win and World Series upset ever. But they did it in the Braves' previous park, because 1915 was this huge's park debut, as a result of which, the 1948 Series is the only one which the Braves played here. They lost it 4 games to 2, and they only won Game 1 over Bob Feller, 1-0, because of a terrible umpire's call on a pickoff. It's the first really terrible call in baseball history where you can see replays on TV from time to time to show just how wrong it was.

The Braves' Jim Tobin threw two no-hitters there in 1944, against wartime competition (i.e., lousy players). One of them was a five-inning game, called by darkness, and would not be recognized as a no-hitter today.

Babe Ruth played his final few weeks ever as a member of the 1935 Boston Braves, a historically bad team whose won-loss percentage is the second worst of post-1900 baseball, behind only Connie Mack's wretched 1916 Philadelphia A's. Ruth hit only 6 HR's in his short stint with the Braves, three of them in his immortal game at Forbes field shortly before his retirement. But in his FIRST game as a Brave, on Opening Day of 1935, he blasted a home run and singled, off no less than Carl Hubbell (the National League's best long-term pitcher from 1920-1940), and made a spectacular catch of a foul ball, in a 4-2 win.

In the late 30's & early 40's, no less than Casey Stengel managed the Braves in Braves Field. His record there gave little indication he would soon win 10 pennants and 7 World Series in 12 years.

In 1946, when the arc lights came in, the Braves' attendance more than doubled and they finished fourth. They offered music and vaudeville for entertainment. Two years later they won the pennant and drew almost 1.5 million, with the team immortalized in history by the slogan "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain." But as I said, even blind umpire Phil Masi's absurd "safe" call on Feller's pickoff, giving Game One to the Braves, was not enough to save them from the superior Cleveland team. Ironically, the Braves really lit up Feller in his next start, so their only two wins in the series were against the great Bob Feller.

The team fell to pieces after that; even the arrival of remarkable rookie Eddie Mathews in 1952 was not enough to save the BOSTON Braves. On the last day of the 1952 season, only 8,822 people showed up to see Brooklyn clobber Boston 8-2. The total attendance for the season, in what was still a fairly large park, was a pitiful 281,000.

And so, the next year, off they went to Milwaukee. In 1954, another rookie came along--a guy named Aaron. With him, Mathews (who was better than Aaron at first), the great Spahn, the tremendously large and strong HR hitter Joe Adcock, etc., the team won two penants and one World Series in the late 50's, while in Milwaukee. That exceeded everything they had done during their years in Braves Field.

B.H.N.




posted on Jan, 21 2006 @ 02:32 AM
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As a modestly interesting footnote to the A's/Braves Series of 1914, when the "other" Boston team (Bosox) played in Braves Field in the next year's World Series (1915), they faced the "other" Philadelphia" team, the Phillies, who were making what would be their only World Series visit until 1950 (when they were swept).

The City of Boston kicked @ss again, as the Philadelphia team managed to win Game One this time, but never came up for air again. Ruth pinch hit once in this Series, but, despite going 18-8 during the regular season (with an admittedly mediocre "adjusted ERA"), was not allowed to pitch in the Series, the thinking then being that really young, green pitchers shouldn't pitch in the Series. He would more than make up for that in 1916 and 1918, as he set a record over the course of those two Series for consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play. That record was not broken until my childhood, in the 1960's, by Whitey Ford.

Somehow that doesn't seem right. The guy racked up offensive stats which have no peer in America's 3 major sports, except those of the young Wilt Chamberlain, AND he was an awesome and dominant pitcher? From 1915 through 1918, he had a better ERA, and won more games, than any AL pitcher except Walter Johnson--whom he beat regularly when they went head to head.

Anyway, I'll save my Ruth hagiographies for the regular season....

B.H.N.



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