Interesting anniversary to note: Braves Field, the former home of the Boston Braves/Boston Bees, opened 100 years ago today.
Braves Field was the long-time home of the Braves before the team’s move to Milwaukee County Stadium in 1953. Opening Day was an auspicious occasion, with 56,000 fans (per the team estimate, in a ballpark with a capacity of 46,000; later estimates pegged the paid crowd closer to 32,000) showing up on the afternoon of Aug. 18, 1915 to see the Braves defeat the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1. Braves owner James E. Gaffney managed to snare a great location for a new ballpark on Commonwealth Avenue, easily accessible when the Boston Elevated Railway System built a station directly within the ballpark. With the playing field 17 feet before street level, entering the ballpark certainly generated a “wow” factor from fans.
The ballpark was huge, with the foul lines 402 feet down the line and 550 feet to center field. It was a decade before Frank Snyder would hit the first home run over the fences. A small set of bleachers in right field became “The Jury Box” after a local sportswriter observed that only 12 fans were inhabiting an area designed for 2,000 fans.
Braves Field was larger than Fenway Park — a status exploited by the Red Sox in the 1915 and 1916 World Series, when the team shifted games from Fenway Park to Braves Field to accommodate the larger crowds.
Part of the old ballpark exists: the right-field pavilion is part of BU’s Nickerson Field, while the old ticket office (located in the right-field corner; you can see it pretty clearly in these photos) is headquarters for BU’s campus police.
In Boston, this anniversary will surely be met with a heavy sigh: the move of the Boston Braves meant Milwaukee was able to enjoy some great teams led by Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn. The Boston Braves Historical Association has worked hard to keep the Boston Braves legacy alive, but the team’s years of mediocrity doesn’t play to a larger audience, and no one under 60 attended a Braves baseball game. At the end, Braves Field was a run-down facility that wasn’t revered as a temple of baseball.
Images from Leslie Jones collection, Boston Public Library.