The Atlanta Braves are a Major League Baseball team based in Atlanta, Georgia. They are in the Eastern Division of the National League. They are most recently known for their ongoing record of 14 consecutive division championships (1991-2005, except for the strike-shortened 1994 season), the most in any professional North American sport, while collecting one World Series championship in that time (in 1995).
The Boston years
The Boston franchise that became known as the Braves took part in some of baseball's most memorable moments, achievements, and pennant races. None were more remarkable than the mid-season last-to-first transformation of the 1914 "Miracle" Braves. After a dismal 4-18 start to the season, the fanbase was turned off, as it looked like the Braves were headed for another bottom-feeder season. Everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. After losing both games of a doubleheader to the visiting Brooklyn Dodgers on July 4, Boston's record stood at 26-40, 15 games behind the league-leading New York Giants. The only man left believing was the team's manager, "Miracle Man" George Stallings. Slowly, the team began to turn itself around. It had solidified around the phenomenal double-play tandem of Rabbit Maranville and Johnny Evers (of "Tinker to Evers to Chance" fame), and a strong starting rotation led by Lefty Tyler, Dick Rudolph, and Bill James. When the team rallied to sweep the Cincinnati Reds in a doubleheader on July 19, Stallings declared that the team was playing ball better than any other in the league, and was ready to catch New York. From there came a romp unmatched in baseball history. When the Giants came to Boston for a three-game series on September 7-8, the Braves had won 41 of 53 games since July 4. Boston won two of the three contests to take sole possession of first place. From that point, the Braves won 25 of their final 31 games, while the Giants went 16-16. The Braves went 68-19 after July 4; not only did they finish first, but they ended up 10.5 games ahead of the second place Giants. The team entered the World Series as a heavy underdog to Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's. Nevertheless, the Braves dominated the series in every phase, and swept away the favored Athletics. They were now World Champions. The turnaround was complete. The team was at the top of the league in both pitching, and hitting, and its leader, Evers, won the Chalmers Award, which is equivalent to today's MVP. A miraculous season of these proportions has never again been seen in professional sports.
In 1948 the team won the pennant, behind the pitching of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain who won 39 games between them. The remainder of the rotation was so thin that in September the Boston Post journalist Gerald Hern characterized them by the poem
- First we'll use Spahn
- then we'll use Sain
- Then an off day
- followed by rain
- Back will come Spahn
- followed by Sain
- And followed
- we hope
- by two days of rain.
The poem received such a wide audience that the sentiment, usually now paraphrased as "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain", entered the baseball vocabulary. Ironically, in the 1948 season, the Braves actually had a better record in games that Spahn and Sain did not start than in games they did.
The Milwaukee years
Their two pennants notwithstanding, the Braves term in Boston was not a successful time. Attendances steadily dwindled until, on March 13 1953, then-owner Lou Perini announced he was moving the team to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the 1950s progressed the reinvigorated Braves became increasingly competitive. Sluggers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron drove the offense (they would hit a combined 863 home runs as Braves), whilst Spahn, Lew Burdette and Bob Buhl anchored the rotation. In 1957, the Braves celebrated their first pennant in nine years led by Aaron's MVP season, leading the National League in home runs and RBIs. The postseason culminated in the Braves' first World Series win in over 40 years, defeating the New York Yankees of Berra, Mantle and Ford in seven games. Burdette, the Series MVP, threw three complete game victories, giving up only two earned runs.
In 1958, the Braves again won the National League pennant and jumped out to a three games to one lead in the World Series against New York once more, thanks in part to the strength of Spahn's and Burdette's pitching. But the Yankees stormed back to take the last three games, in large part to World Series MVP Bob Turley's pitching. The 1959 season saw the Braves finish the season in a tie with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Milwaukee fell in a three-game playoff with two straight losses to Los Angeles. The Dodgers would go on to defeat the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. Many residents of Chicago and Milwaukee had been hoping for a Sox-Braves Series, as the cities are only about 75 miles apart, but it was not to be.
The next six years were the very definition of up-and-down for the Braves. The 1960 season featured two no-hitters by Burdette and Spahn, and Milwaukee finished seven games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in second place. The 1961 season saw a drop in the standings for the Braves (fourth), despite Warren Spahn recording his 300th victory and pitching another no-hitter that year.
Hank Aaron hit 45 home runs in 1962, a Milwaukee career high for him, but that didn't translate in wins for the Braves as they finished fifth. In 1963, Aaron led the league with 44 home runs and Spahn was once again the ace of the staff, going 23-7. However, none of the other Braves produced at that level, and the team finished in the lower half of the league, or the "second division", for the first time in its short history in Milwaukee.
The Atlanta years
By the early 1960s attendance in Milwaukee had dwindled as well, and a new group of owners once again sought relocation. Keen to attract them, the City of Atlanta constructed a new ballpark, Atlanta Stadium, officially opened in 1965. The next year, the Braves were its new residents. A .500 baseball team in the first few years (85-77, 77-85 and 81-81) respectively, they won the 1969 NL West pennant, before being swept by the "Miracle Mets" in the NLCS. They would not win it again until 1982, under Joe Torre.
In the meantime, fans had to be satisfied with the achievements of Hank Aaron. In the relatively hitter friendly confines of Atlanta Stadium ("The Launching Pad"), he actually increased his offensive production, and by the end of the 1973 season had hit 713 home runs, one short of Babe Ruth's record. Throughout the winter he received racially motivated death threats, but stood up well under the pressure. The next season, it was only a matter of time before he set a new record. On April 4 he hit #714 in Cincinnati, and on April 8, in front of his home fans, he finally beat Ruth's mark.
In 1976 the team was purchased by media magnate Ted Turner, owner of superstation WTBS. It was then that Atlanta Stadium was re-named Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Turner quickly gained a reputation as a quirky, hands-on baseball owner. On May 11, 1977, Turner appointed himself manager, but was ordered to relinquish that position after one game (the Braves lost 2-1 to the Pirates to bring their losing streak to 17 games).
After three straight losing seasons, Bobby Cox was hired for his first stint as manager of the franchise for the 1978 season. Cox promoted a 22-year-old slugger named Dale Murphy into the starting lineup. Murphy hit 77 home runs over the next three seasons, but struggled on defense, positioned at either catcher or first base while being unable to adeptly play either. However, in 1980, Murphy was moved to center field and demonstrated excellent range and throwing ability, while the Braves earned their first winning season since 1974. Cox was fired after the 1981 season and replaced with Joe Torre, under whose leadership the Braves attained their first divisional title since 1969. Strong performances from Bob Horner, Chris Chambliss, pitcher Phil Niekro, and short relief pitcher Gene Garber helped the Braves, but no Brave was more acclaimed than Murphy, who won both a Most Valuable Player and a Gold Glove award. Murphy also won a Most Valuable Player award the following season, but the Braves began a period of decline that defined the team throughout the 1980s. Murphy, excelling in defense, hitting, and running, was consistently recognized as one of the league's best players, but the Braves averaged only 65 wins per season between 1985-1990. The 1986 season saw the return of Bobby Cox to the Braves organization as general manager.
Cox was promoted to manager in the middle of the 1990 season, replacing Russ Nixon. Not only was this season a losing effort, the Braves traded Dale Murphy to the Philadelphia Phillies after it was clear he was becoming a less dominant player. However, pitching coach Leo Mazzone began training young pitchers Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, and John Smoltz. Perhaps the Braves' most important move, however, was not on the field, but in the front office. Immediately after the season, John Schuerholz was hired as general manager.
The following season, Glavine, Avery, and Smoltz would be recognized as the best young pitchers in the league, winning 52 games between them. Meanwhile, behind position players Dave Justice, Ron Gant and unexpected league Most Valuable Player and batting-average leader Terry Pendleton, the Braves overcame a slow start to go 47-22 over the last three months of the season and win 8 of their last 9, edging the Los Angeles Dodgers by one game in one of baseball history's more memorable playoff races. They defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in a tightly contested seven-game NLCS only to lose the World Series, also in seven games, to the Minnesota Twins. Despite the loss, the Braves' success would continue. In the 1992 season, the Braves would reach the NLCS again and defeat, once again, in seven games, the Pirates, only to lose in the World Series to a dominating Toronto Blue Jays team. In 1993, the Braves signed Cy Young Award winning pitcher Greg Maddux, leading many baseball insiders to declare the pitching staff the best of all-time. The Braves would win a World Series in 1995, defeating the Cleveland Indians in six games. With this World Series victory, the Braves became the first team in Major League Baseball to win world championships in three different cities. With their strong pitching being a constant, the Braves would also appear in the 1996 and 1999 World Series, and have not failed to win a division title since 1990 as of this writing. Pitching is not the only constant in the Braves organization. At present, Cox is still the Braves' manager, and Schuerholz remains the team's GM, though Mazzone moved on to become the pitching coach of the Baltimore Orioles shortly after the 2005 season. Pendleton did not finish his playing career in Atlanta, but has returned to the Braves system as the hitting coach.
During the Braves' rise to prominence in the early 1990s, their long-standing ethnic nickname came under much closer scrutiny. The team was especially criticized for selling plastic and foam tomahawks, encouraging the so-called "tomahawk chop" and the accompanying war cry emitted by the fans. Ironically, many of those tomahawks were made by Cherokee manufacturers in North Carolina. Their response to the criticism was the pragmatic answer, "As long as they keep buying them, we'll keep making them."
In 2002, 2003, and 2004 the Braves won their division again, but lost in the NLDS in all three years 3 games to 2, to the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, and Houston Astros respectively. In 2005, the Braves won their 14th consecutive division title. This pennant marked the first time any MLB team made the postseason with more than 4 rookies who each had more than 100 ABs. However, they lost the National League Division series to the Astros in 4 games, with the final game being the longest game in playoffs history, at 18 innings and 5 hours 50 minutes.
- Founded: 1871 in Boston, Massachusetts as the Boston Red Stockings of the National Association. The club became a charter member of the National League in 1876 and has remained in the league without a break since then. The Braves are the oldest continuously operating sports franchise in North American sports. Arguably, they can trace their ancestry to the original Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869-1870, baseball's first openly professional team. When the N.A. formed, Red Stockings founder Harry Wright and the best players from that team re-formed in Boston and took the nickname with them.
- Formerly known as: Boston Braves (1912-1952), and Milwaukee Braves (1953-1965). Prior to 1912, the Boston team had several unofficial nicknames: "Red Stockings" in the 1870s and 1880s; "Beaneaters" in the 1890s and early 1900s; "Doves" (when the Dovey family owned the franchise, 1907-1910) and "Rustlers" (when William Russell owned the franchise, 1911). Following the 1935 season, after enduring bankruptcy and a series of poor seasons, new owner Bob Quinn asked a team of sportswriters to choose a new nickname, to change the team's luck. The sportswriters chose "Bees", which was adopted in 1936, though it never really caught on, with Quinn even refusing to use it, although their home uniforms in this interval were changed to feature a large block letter B ("bee"). The team dropped the nickname in 1941, using only the official name "Braves" from 1941 on.
- Ownership: Time Warner
- Uniform colors: Navy blue, Garnet red, and White
- Logo design: The script word "Braves" above a tomahawk
- Playoff appearances (20): 1914, 1948, 1957, 1958, 1969, 1982, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
- National Association pennants won (4): 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875
- Official television stations: TBS, Turner South, Fox Sports South
- Official radio station: WKLS-FM, WGST-AM (flagship)
Minor league affiliates
- AAA: Richmond Braves, International League
- AA: Mississippi Braves, Southern League
- Advanced A: Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Carolina League
- A: Rome Braves, South Atlantic League
- Rookie: Danville Braves, Appalachian League
- Rookie: GCL Braves, Gulf Coast League
- Braves award winners and league leaders
- Braves statistical records and milestone achievements
- Braves players of note
- Braves broadcasters and media
- Braves managers and ownership
- Atlanta Braves official web site
- Atlanta Braves News, Stats, and Roster
- Atlanta Braves News World unofficial blog