Say Boston in a crowded room and Red Sox typically come to mind, but not in Milwaukee. We think of the Boston Braves. We have no choice.
The Boston Braves relocated to Milwaukee and played their games at County Stadium. And a few years down the road, that’s where we learned about drunk brawls and kissing couples under the bleachers and grew to love the Milwaukee Brewers.
There are more bars in Milwaukee per square mile than maybe anywhere in the world. This includes home owners who construct replica watering holes in basements. I remember mirrors with Braves emblems lining make shift rails and wondering.
And I remember when County Stadium was demolished on February 21, 2001 and the ghostly ruins I apparently swallowed because I`ve never lost my appetite for Braves.
The Braves are considered the oldest ongoing franchise in all North American professional sports having played in the first ever National League game in 1876 as the Boston Red Caps. Shortly thereafter, they became the Boston Beaneaters.
The team suffered in 1901 with the arrival of the American League and the crosstown Boston Red Sox. The Beaneaters changed their name to the Doves, then the Rustlers, and finally the Braves in 1912. Two years later they won the World Series.
But the Braves suffered 15 consecutive losing seasons between 1917 and 1931. Season attendance consistently hovered under the 500,000 mark, but relocation was out of the question. Between 1901 and 1952, there were always 16 teams in the same 12 cities
Then Lou Perini happened. He became the Boston Braves owner in 1941. The team earned a trip to the 1948 World Series and attendance totals topped the one million mark for three consecutive years (1947-1950).
But Perini had other visions up his sleeve; Braves New World visions and when attendance dipped to 280,00 in 1951, he put the wheels in motion and moved baseball`s oldest ongoing franchise from Boston to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee had been on baseball`s radar as a major league destination since the 1940’s. The city was hungry and began construction of County Stadium in 1950 with absolutely no guarantees. The risk was unprecedented.
Milwaukee had enjoyed uninterrupted minor league baseball all the way back to the 1880’s as affiliates to a half dozen major league teams. They were always known as the Brewers whether as an A, AA, or AAA team. In 1946, the Brewers became the top farm team for the Boston Braves.
Plans were to have the minor league Brewers move into County Stadium, but then Perini happened.
The Braves move to Milwaukee, for better or worse, ignited a forest fire. The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. The Philadelphia Athletics relocated to Kansas City, and then the impossible happened. In 1958, the lovable Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and the New York Giants followed to San Francisco. New York had been gutted of two major institutions.
If there were lucrative lands to exploit, owners now rolled the dice and moved teams where markets were believed to be better.
Milwaukee embraced the Braves like no other baseball city had ever done before or since. In the 1952 season, it took a mere 20 home dates to top the previous year’s season attendance totals in Boston.
The following year Milwaukee became the first national league city to reach the 2 million mark. It was the first of four consecutive seasons with 2 million or more fans.
And on the field, the team did an about-face, wining 92 games or 28 more than the previous season and the most since the 1914 team. The Braves won the World Series in 1957 and lost to the Yankees in 58.
The Braves never suffered a losing season in Milwaukee. For 13 consecutive years Milwaukee enjoyed a winner. But when attendance dipped blow one million in 1962, Perini sold the Braves to Chicago investors.
There were markets to exploit, radio and tv contracts to consider. Atlanta was the gateway to the south and the last untapped US baseball market. The Braves began play in Atlanta to begin the 1966 season.
How does that Neil Young so go? “The same thing that makes you live will kill you in the end.“ Milwaukee had a bad case of the relocation blues, but it didn`t last long.
In the spring of 1970, equipment trucks heading north to start the baseball season stopped in Provo, Utah and waited word from Seattle. The one year expansion Seattle Pilots had gone bankrupt and a group led by Bud Selig made an offer.
The trucks went east instead of west and County Stadium became home to the Milwaukee Brewers.