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Suburban Diary

Baseball left Boston long ago with the hometown Braves

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Wally Carew
April 3, 2008

The date was March 15, 1953, the day the Boston Braves officially moved to Milwaukee and baseball died in Boston - at least for me and other aging but loyal Braves fans who, to this day, don't give a hoot about the Red Sox and all the hype surrounding the world champions.

I was 9 then. Now I am 64. At the time, I felt rejected and abandoned. The feeling was not unlike the ending of that first crush, or falling out of puppy love. The Braves were my first love long before I discovered girls.

My father grew up a Braves fan. As a boy, he was a member of the Braves' "Knot Hole Gang." He loved the Braves and hated the Red Sox, so when it came time to take me to my first big league game, he took me to a Braves game at Braves Field. Immediately, I, too, was smitten.

Walking up the ramp, excitement peaked when I spotted the green grass, the infield dirt, and the white base lines. My eyes widened when I first saw the white satin uniforms trimmed in red and black, with the scripted "Braves" across the front supported by a tomahawk. The baseball caps featured a red visor, blue crown, and a white B.

Almost instantly, I picked out a hero, my favorite player. He was Phil Masi, number 10, the Braves' stocky Italian-American catcher who came from Chicago where his father worked in the stockyards of the Windy City.

Masi is best remembered for scoring the winning run in the first game of the 1948 World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Braves Field. Johnny Sain bested Bob Feller, 1-0. Moments before scoring the winning run on an opposite-field single by Tommy Holmes, Masi was picked off second base, but he was called safe. Bill Stewart, the umpire, blew the call and the Braves survived a classic World Series pitching duel.

Attending my first big-league game was a thrill, and it was just as exciting, when I returned home, to rush out into the backyard and play an imaginary, game. And I don't even remember whom the Braves played.

I do, however, remember at least four other Braves games I attended. The first was a Sunday doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates won both games, and Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner hit a home run in each game.

At another Braves game, I sat in the left-field pavilion and watched the Braves play the St. Louis Cardinals, led by Stan Musial and Enos "Country" Slaughter. Once again the Braves lost, and my most vivid memory is becoming dizzy from watching the Cardinals running wild around the bases in a game that turned into a rout.

Back then, I even had an opportunity to watch my beloved Braves play on the road. At the time, my family had moved to Gary, Ind., after my father was recalled into the Army during the Korean War. My father took me to a game at Wrigley Field when the Braves came to Chicago to play the Cubs.

What I remember most about that game is the ivy on the outfield walls at Wrigley Field and Braves first baseman Earl Torgeson, who was tall, fast, a slick fielder, and one of the few major-league baseball players who wore glasses.

The final Braves game I attended was a warm August weeknight game at Braves Field in 1952 against the Cincinnati Reds. Once again, the Braves lost. I don't remember the final score. It was something like 5-2. There were fewer than 3,000 fans at the game. What stands out in my memory was the fielding of the Reds' classy shortstop, Roy McMillan, Cincinnati's muscular first baseman and power hitter Ted Kluszewski, and the sight of Sam Jethroe, the first black ballplayer to play in Boston, patrolling center field for the Braves. Jethroe was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1950. The Braves' snow-white uniforms looked even whiter on Jethroe. He had both speed and power, and he quickly became a favorite with the fans during the years he played for the Boston Braves.

Sadly, just months later the Braves were gone, off to Milwaukee - and major-league baseball has never been the same. When the Braves moved, I felt that professional baseball in Boston had died. That was 55 years ago, and I feel just as strongly about it today. I have never been a Red Sox fan, and I am one of a passionate but distinct minority who feels that the wrong team left Boston.

Medford resident Wally Carew won't be watching the Red Sox home opener against Detroit next week. He can be reached at wcarew@comcast.net.

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