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Remembering the 1914 “Miracle Braves” 3

Posted on June 23, 2012 by Dan Flaherty

(Editor’s Note: This story was originally printed on Boston Sports Then and Now)

The “Miracle Braves” of 1914 shocked the baseball world and made history when they won the franchise’s only World Series title in Boston.

The Atlanta Braves come back to their roots this weekend, as they come to their original home in Boston for a weekend series in Fenway Park with the Red Sox as interleague play continues. It’s been a long time since the Braves graced the sports world of the Hub, having relocated first to Milwaukee in 1953 and then to Atlanta in 1965. The fact the franchise left a baseball-crazed town tells you they never rose above playing second fiddle to the Red Sox. But in one glorious year the Braves gave the city a season to remember, one that still lives in on baseball lore for its miraculous turnaround and shocking World Series upset. With the franchise back visiting this weekend, BST&N looks back on 1914 and the year that belonged to Boston’s “Miracle Braves.”

Boston’s NL team was managed by George Stallings, on his third team in six years and looking for his first pennant. It was Stallings’ second year in Boston and his best player was second baseman Johnny Evers, closely followed by outfielder Joe Connelly. The latter led the team in most key offensive categories, while the former had such an exquisite balance of offensive and defensive prowess, that he won the American League MVP in the award’s fourth year of existence. The pitching staff was top-heavy, as most were in those days. Three pitchers—Dick Rudolph, Bill James and Lefty Tyler—combined to make 107 of the team’s 154 starts, and averaged over 310 innings apiece.

This talent alone wasn’t enough to make Boston a contender coming out of the gate though, and after the season started in mid-April, the Braves promptly lost 18 of their first 22. On June 8, they had fallen 13.5 games back of the pace being set by the New York Giants and the Cincinnati Reds. Lest you think the turnaround was imminent, the Fourth of July saw the Braves get swept in a doubleheader by the Brooklyn Dodgers, leaving them at 26-40, a good fifteen games back of the Giants and firmly buried in the cellar, with five games separating them from even reaching seventh in the eight-team National League.

It was the offense and winning close games that would key the dramatic turnaround about to start. The Braves would finish second in the National League in runs scored, while the pitching was in the middle of the league. They were third in home runs—back in this era, 62 led the league, so no one was making a living going deep. The Braves, showing they were firmly in line with what would become Boston sports tradition, were slow as molasses—at least relative to the competition. They stole 139 bases, last in the NL. This speed-oriented era saw 239 steals lead the league. There’s nothing in the overall statistical numbers that suggest a pennant-winning team, but one number does stand out. It’s the 33-20 record the Braves posted in one-run games, something that would ultimately give them a huge advantage over the Giants, who languished at 18-25.

Fate was not only smiling on the Braves, but by August, Fenway Park would be too. The old South End Grounds, the team’s regular home had been torn down and it wouldn’t be until the start of the 1915 season that Braves Field would be set to open. So at a time when Boston was closing the gap—they got the margin to nine games by the end of July and moved up to fourth place, and then swept three from the Giants in the Polo Grounds on August 13-15 to move within 3.5—they’d also be sharing space with their American League counterpart, who’d won the World Series just two years prior.

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