1964 The wild tumult of the decade continued apace; audaciously assaulting the senses with its shameful, shameless impudence. In keeping with time-honored tradition, the arts are in the vanguard; in full voice!! The war in Viet Nam, the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement (with attendant race riots in New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Philadelphia) scream daily man’s injustice and inhumanity in counter-culture music and in bold headlines in the nation’s newspapers. Over a thousand people were injured and/or arrested during the riots in Philadelphia. Back in the U.S.S.R., Nikita Khrushchev (of shoe-pounding fame) is deposed and replaced by Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin. With the escalation of the war, over 21,000 troops have been sent to Viet Nam. As an additional measure of military force, President Lyndon Baines Johnson orders regular patrols of the South China Sea. At home, three civil rights workers were horrifically murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi. A courageous James Meredith, former officer in the United States Air Force, begins classes at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. President Johnson, in an effort to ameliorate the agitation and coalesce the nation, declares “War on Poverty”, promises to create “The Great Society” in America and signs The Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law thus abolishing racial discrimination in this country.
In the international arena Zambia and Malta declare their independence from Great Britain. Tension continues to grow in U.S.-Cuba relations. In the Panama Canal Zone, Panamanian civilians clash with U.S. soldiers; 25 die. Some 10,000 South Korean student demonstrators overpower police in Seoul; President Park Chung Hee declares martial law. Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa. Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru dies and is succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri. The international Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Martin Luther King.
Arizona Senator, Barry Goldwater, announces that he will run for president. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, resigns from the space program and announces his intention to run for an Ohio senate seat. The Surgeon General reports that smoking may be hazardous to your health-the first time the government has said this. The first Ford Mustang rolls off the assembly line in Detroit. The World’s Fair opens in New York. In sports; Bob Pettit of the St. Louis Hawks becomes the first NBA player to score 20,000 points. Much of the sports world is stunned by brash Cassius Clay’s defeat of Sonny Liston in Miami for the heavyweight championship of the world.
In entertainment news: In February, 25,000 screaming teens meet and greet the Beatles at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport…Beatlemania becomes reality in the U.S. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” will be an instant hit soon to be followed by “A Hard Days Night” and eventually, they will own all five of The Top 5 plus 13 in The Top 100. Their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show will be forever etched on the hearts and minds of America’s teen-age girls, their mothers and others. The British Invasion will follow hard on the heels of the Beatles and when “Shindig” premiers on ABC, it will feature all the best bands of the ’60’s. Additionally, we will listen to “Baby Love” by The Supremes, “Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups, “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys and “Leader of the Pack” by The Shangri-Las. We go the movies to see “My Fair Lady” or “Mary Poppins”; we are introduced to bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau in “A Shot in the Dark”; we can laugh (…and think…) through “Dr. Strangelove” and finally, we get to see The Beatles in “A Hard Days Night”. On TV there’s “Bewitched”, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”, “Daniel Boone (aka Davy Crockett), “Gilligan’s Island” and, who could ever forget…”The Fugitive”.
In the U.S., the average income per family was in the neighborhood of $6,000 a year. A house cost around $13,000, a car cost $3,500 (!?!) and gasoline was up to 35 cents a gallon!! A pound of fresh hamburger was 40 cents, a loaf of bread was 21 cents, coffee was 85 cents a pound, stamps were five cents apiece and it cost $1.25 per ticket to go to the movies. With four kids in various schools, my Dad acted like he was looking forward to going to the poorhouse.
The Hot Stove League in Braves’ country usually focused on such ponderables as who was who, who was new, who was gone and how the team would fare in the National League pennant race. This year, however, ALL those topics took a back seat to questions, speculations and arguments on whether or not the Braves are moving; and, if so, when…and…whose fault is it?? In some gatherings there’s a voice (…or voices…) re: Is there anything we can do about it?
January opened with the usual spate of banquets and pre-season ticket sales. There was considerable concern by Braves, Inc. regarding attendance…specifically the lack thereof. Even banquet speakers urged attendees to do everything in their power to sell more tickets.
Groups of players, managers, coaches and office personnel continued the “Hi Neighbor” program in visiting factories, businesses and community organizations in an effort to bolster relations and attendance.
Mail order ticket sales included a unique offer to buy booklets of coupons that could be redeemed for upper or lower grandstand seats to any game. It gave the purchaser a bit more latitude to make last minute plans plus it offered a little savings.
On January 19, the Baseball Writers Association of America (Milwaukee Chapter) held their 11th Annual Diamond Dinner at the Schroeder Hotel. The list of honored guests was impressive and included; Bing Devine, long-time G.M. of the Cardinals; Ed Fitzgerald, Chairman of the “Go to Bat for the Braves” committee; Ed Mathews; John McHale; Del Crandall; Bobby Bragan; Robert Uihlein, President of Schlitz Brewing Company; Judge Robert Cannon, Legal Counsel for MLB Players; Earl Gillespie; Henry Maier, Mayor of Milwaukee;
Warren Spahn; Stan Musial, V.P. of the St.Louis Cardinals; Hank Aaron; Bob Sadowski; William Bartholomay, Chairman of the Board of Braves, Inc. and Frank Marasco, Senior Sec’y/Treasurer of the Milwaukee Baseball Writers. Awards were presented to Musial plus each Braves player noted. Aaron was MVP of the Braves-for the fourth time. Spahn was given an award for meritorious service; as was Musial. Sadowski’s 5-7 record was a poor indication of how he’d pitched in ’63-his 2.62 ERA was far closer to the reality of it.
Eddie Mathews, long a Milwaukee (and Wisconsin) fan favorite, received an award-a special citation-as a future HOFer and leading active home run hitter…422 at the close of the ’63 season.
Toastmaster and Master of Ceremonies, Lloyd Larson, presented a special award to Del Crandall. It was a sterling silver cup (bowl), eight inches tall and 15″ in diameter, with the following inscription: “Del Crandall-Who will be remembered for his outstanding feats as a member of the Braves and for his contributions as an outstanding citizen of the City of Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Chapter of the BBWAA-11th Annual Diamond Dinner-January 19, 1964”.
Steve Swedish and his Orchestra provided musical entertainment and accompanied Farm Director, John Mullen, as he sang the National Anthem and, also, Lee Maye as he sang a couple popular tunes. Once again…a good time was had by all!!
Illinois Senator, Everett Dirksen, congratulates award-winners, Roger Staubach (L) and Warren Spahn (R) at the 1964 Washington Touchdown Club’s Annual Awards Dinner. The event typically attracts celebrities from many fields and awards various scholarships and helps fund numerous charities.
The message on the scoreboard was true at the time but…not anymore; Hank and Eddie are the Number ONE Home Run Duo in history!! This picture was part of the Braves’ pre-season advertising campaign.
At some point during the off-season, Braves fans lost one of their own: Earl Gillespie resigned as the “Voice of the Braves” to become the sports director for WITI-TV, Channel 6, in Milwaukee. He’ll do play-by-play for the Packers, Marquette University and The University of Wisconsin. We will miss “that voice”, that “Holy Cow” excitement; not to mention the verbal interplay with The Blainer…
Merle Harmon has been hired to do the Braves’ play-by-play announcing. He worked previously for the Kansas City A’s until he was fired by Charlie Finley for refusing to take part in a campaign to spite the sports editor of the KC Star. Since then he’s been part of the ABC Sports team in the studio and doing college football play-by-play.
Braves’ Equipment Manager, Dave Pursley, is in charge of packing up everything needed to head south for spring training. It gets mighty chilly in the nether regions of County Stadium in late January…!!
This clever ticket sales piece is designed to look like a team newspaper (Smoke Signals, et al.) but is really a slightly more sophisticated advertisement. These actually started going out toward the end of last year.
The “Hi Neighbor” troupe went to various clubs and businesses in Rockford. You may recall that the Braves had quite a number of loyal fans in the corridor just south of the Wisconsin state line. The second February foray went to Appleton and Green Bay.
The Braves released a Spring Training Guide early on that very much resembled media guides of past years. It had stats, who’s who in management, ticket info, both spring training and regular season schedules, a ’63 game-by-game record, brief bios of regulars and rookies (very helpful), some farm system/scout info and a current (spring training) roster. This particular copy is autographed on the inside by Denny Lemaster, Billy Hoeft, Phil Roof and Cecil Butler.
This memo is pretty self-explanatory. The “before” and “after” pages referred to are the pages immediately before and after the actual scoring page.
The Florida Development Commission is similar to a state Department of Commerce or Chamber of Commerce. It promotes tourism and is geared toward bringing more people into the state to see all the “attractions” the state has to offer and getting them to spend money in Florida…every state does this…
Earlier we noted Hot Stove League questions of “if and/or when” the Braves might be leaving Milwaukee…Furman Bisher, then a sports columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote a book in 1966 entitled Miracle in Atlanta. It summarizes the Braves’ move to Atlanta from the perspective of the Atlanta baseball fan. It should be required reading for anyone interested in this piece of sports history. In his reporter role, Bisher was privy to lots of information not readily known to the average Milwaukee fan. The Atlanta folk had apparently been “rocked” by the Milwaukee “Go to Bat for the Braves” program. But…they were also aware that it had failed to generate enough season ticket sales to impress Braves, Inc.
In the book Bisher reports that sometime toward the end of January, 1964, the discussion regarding the franchise move was resumed.
He further reports that in mid-February of ’64 the Atlanta contingent met with Tom Reynolds (one of the new Braves’ owners) in Chicago. Obviously none of this was doing a thing to dispel the rumors in Milwaukee. It got widespread enough that on February 18, Bill Bartholomay was moved to announce: “The Braves are going to play in and for Milwaukee…We are not going anywhere no matter what you hear…I think the day of transferring franchises is pretty well over.” He went on to say the Braves are no more apt to switch to Atlanta than to West Palm Beach, Florida. Kinda like “Pay no attention to the man behind the screen…”.
Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training on February 28; position players are scheduled to report on March 5.
Before we get immersed in spring training in West Palm Beach, let’s look at who are our “new guys” and to whom will we bid “adieu, see ya later”. We’ve already noted the loss of Del Crandall, Bob Hendley and Bob Shaw who were traded to the Giants. We also noted parting company (sadly) with Lou Burdette, Norm Larker, Bubba Morton, Amado Samuel, Claude Raymond and Hawk Taylor.
Tommie Aaron-Tommie was sent down for more seasoning and to get more playing time as the Braves were fat with outfielders and first basemen. However…he will be back up in ’65.
Don Dillard-Don also was sent down to get additional playing time and will be back in “The Show” in 1965.
Mack Jones-In spite of some very good appearances, it was decided that he needed more daily playing time to hone his already impressive skills…He, too, will be up again in ’65.
Maybe it’s just my imagination but turnover in 1964 seemed pretty high. We’ll meet some of the “new guys” and more, it seems, are coming…
Santos “Sandy” Alomar-A 20-year-old rookie shortstop from Puerto Rico, he was “Pioneer League Player of the Year” at Boise in 1962 plus was an All-Star selection. In ’63 at Austin he led the Texas League in put-outs, assists and double plays while, again, earning an All-Star spot.
Felipe Alou-An outfielder/first baseman, he came to the Braves in the Crandall, Hendley, Shaw trade. He was a rookie in ’59, is a consistent .280 hitter with some power.
Ed Bailey-Another new veteran acquisition via the Crandall et al. trade. Was a rookie catcher in ’53, hits in the .250-.260 range and also comes with some muscle.
Ethan Blackaby-My “neighbor”, was a 22-year-old rookie with the Braves in ’62, was sent to Denver for more at-bats, did well and is back up for another shot.
Ernie Bowman-Was the “player to be named later” in the trade with San Francisco. He was sent to Denver (PCL) and did not play again at the ML level.
Miguel “Mike” de la Hoz-Was a rookie with Cleveland in1960. A 26-year-old shortstop from Cuba, he was acquired in exchange for Chico Salmon.
Phil Roof-A catcher, Phil was up oh-so-briefly in 1961. After stints with Louisiana (A.A.), Denver (PCL) and Toronto (Int’l), he was deemed ready for another shot.
Billy Hoeft-A veteran pitcher and Wisconsin native (Oshkosh), Billy came over in the SF trade.
Dick Kelley-He signed with the Braves as a free agent in 1959 and was an All-Star pitcher at Cedar Rapids (III) in ’61. He spent ’62 with Austin (Texas) and “63 with Denver (PCL). He’s up as a legitimate rookie.
Phil Niekro-Phil broke into organized ball in ’59. He spent ’63 serving his Uncle Sam. He’s a rookie, right-handed pitcher.
Federico Emilio “Chi Chi” Olivo-A right-handed, 34-year-old rookie pitcher from the Dominican Republic who has been in organized baseball since 1955. He’s a Ben Geraghty signee who was up briefly in ’61…keep an eye on him…
Jack Smith-He’s a right-handed pitcher whose rookie year was 1962 with the Dodgers. The Braves selected him in the Rule 5 ML draft in December1963.
Bobby Gene Tiefenauer-A veteran righty who’s been around since 1952. He came to Milwaukee from St. Louis in the Howie Bedell deal.
Position players reported to West Palm Beach for spring training on March 5. It may or may not have been coincidence that Denny Lemaster’s number 23 is precisely the number of wins the wily Spahnie needs to tie the current NL record held by Christy Mathewson and Grover Cleveland Alexander.
It also may or may not be a coincidence that Atlanta Mayor, Ivan Allen, chose March 5th to announce to the citizens of Atlanta that an unidentified Major League team had committed to move to Atlanta in 1965. The commitment was predicated on the city’s promise to have a stadium built by 1965. On March 6th, the City of Atlanta had approved the site for the stadium and by the end of the month had awarded a contract for $18,000,000 to Thompson and Street Construction to build it. Imagine this fuel to a rumor-mill already over-heated…
West Palm Beach sportswriter, Ray Boetel, used these tickets and this parking pass to cover the Braves as spring training continued; March 4 was an intra-squad game; March 16 was with the Orioles and Sunday, the 22nd was with the Dodgers.
Speaking of Ray Boetel, here’s one of his spring training shots of the guys we got in the SF trade-from left to right; Ernie Bowman, Billy Hoeft, Manager Bragan, Felipe Alou and Ed Bailey.
The Coke Scorecard is not scored so it’s nearly impossible to ascertain a date. It has been autographed by John Braun, Phil Roof, Dan Schneider and (on the inside) Ethan Blackaby.
During the pre-season the Braves sent out alternative options to the usual fare available at the stadium; fans could also choose either a box lunch or a buffet lunch.
While it is not an absolute certainty, it is quite likely that the Pompano Beach Senators scorecard is from a game at Pompano Beach on March 14th. This would have been the first game of the Grapefruit League season.
The Milwaukee Braves’ Boosters made their annual trek to Florida on March 16th. The nearly two-week gala included Braves’ games, Jai Alai, dog racing, golf, sight-seeing and a side-trip to Miami Beach.
The West Palm Beach Times and The WPB Post ran, on successive days, a section dedicated to the Braves and spring training. It’s certainly no accident that both coincide with opening day and the arrival of the Boosters. The inside features more Boetel photos. The back cover is a full-page ad for a housing development, Palm Beach Lakes, by Perini Land and Development Company.
These tickets are for a Monday evening game with the Detroit Tigers that is on the Boosters’ agenda to attend.
This undated memo is an interview with Bobby Bragan and appears to be an in-house piece directed to Braves fans. It is from sometime during the pre-season and most or all of its contents appear in other forms and publications.
On Wednesday, April 1st, the Braves played the White Sox at Sarasota…This was also the date they purchased shortstop, Mike de la Hoz, from the Cleveland Indians.
On April 9th, Bob Uecker was traded to St. Louis for outfielder Gary Kolb and catcher Jimmy Coker. Coker was traded to the Reds in August and does not appear on any Braves roster. On April 11th, Bill Bartholomay issued another denial: “We are positively not moving. We’re playing in Milwaukee, whether you’re talking about 1964, 1965 or 1975. I hope this is the last time someone tries to link us to Atlanta or any other city.”
Milwaukee Journal staff writer, Cleon Woolfort, does a very nice piece on the Marvelous Mr. Spahn…and it’s just in time for the first game. The season opens on the road this year with two games in San Francisco. Sadly, Spahnie loses the first one-to Marichal, 8-4…then Sadowski loses the second one to Sanford, 10-8. They fly to Houston for a three-game series with the Colt 45’s. Denny Lemaster and Hank Fischer win the first two and Cloninger loses the third, 3-2. Back to California for two games with the Dodgers. In the first game it’s Spahn and Drysdale. After nine innings it’s all even at two apiece and the starters are gone. Bobby Gene Tiefenauer pitches four scoreless innings. With two out in the 12th, Mathews doubles Alou home all the way from first and the Braves Win!!! Sadowski beats Wilhite on the 20th and it’s a day off to travel back to Milwaukee for Opening day there.
A fine crowd of 38,693 turned out for the Braves Home Opener. It was the largest crowd in County Stadium since August 1961. The Braves batting order was Felipe Alou-CF, Eddie Mathews-3B, Hank Aaron-RF, Joe Torre-C, Gene Oliver-1B, Lee Maye-LF, Frank Bolling-2B, Roy McMillan-SS and Denver Lemaster-P.
Neither starter (Hendley for SF) was in at the end. Joe Torre’s two homer, three-RBI performance was, sadly, overshadowed by Willie McCovey’s three HR, four RBI day in an 8-6 SF win.
The rest of the week was better: Four wins, one loss…making them 8-5 for April. Torre and Bolling had three homers, Bailey had two and Aaron, Mathews and Maye each had one.
While it might take awhile to see why, this is the beginning of what many have called the most exciting NL pennant race in history…don’t change that dial…!!
In early May, Hank Aaron was presented with the Annual Mel Ott Award for being the National League leader in Home Runs-44-in 1963.
Hank Fischer got a close shave from Braves’ pitcher (and off-season barber), Jack Smith for winning his first ML shut-out by a whisker…Fischer beat the Phils on a two-hitter Sunday, May 3rd.
Warren Spahn was the pitching hero on May 5th with a 6-0 victory over the Mets. It was Spahn’s 63rd career shut-out and the third by Braves’ pitching in a week.
On May 8th, steady veteran shortstop, Roy McMillan, was traded to the Mets for Jay Hook (who had pitched his final ML game on May 3rd) and Adrian Garrett who never appeared on the Milwaukee roster.
While it’s kind of an aside at this juncture, it’s only fair to note that one of the rumors going around has to do with the paucity of cash within Braves, Inc. and the necessity of conducting player (and all) transactions with the bottom line firmly in mind.
On May 11th, an off-day in New York prior to a three-game series with the Mets, Warren Spahn, Phil Roof and Frank Bolling check out the sights at the World’s Fair. Here they’re checking cheeses at the Wisconsin Pavilion.
Here they are at the Ford Wonder Rotunda admiring Ford’s new concept car, the Cougar II…only two models exist. The September issue of Ford Times Magazine features this same picture on page 49.
Hank Fischer is on a roll!!! He wins number four on the season with his second shut-out…facing only 29 batters. Rico Carty’s first ML home run with Frank Bolling aboard, gives the Braves the 2-0 win…over the Reds.
John Braun (L) and Jerry Hummitzsch (C) get some tips from pitching coach, Whit Wyatt in this year’s spring training. Tragically, on May 22, Hummitzsch was killed in an auto accident. He was one of the Braves’ top right-handed prospects with a 1.28 ERA in’63 and leading all Texas League starting pitchers with a 1.22 ERA in ’64. He was 23…from Sheboygan, WI.
Hank Fischer notched his third shut-out of the season with a 2-0 win over the Colts. While allowing just four hits, both Milwaukee runs came on errors as Houston pitcher, Hal “Skinny” Brown, only gave up two hits.
The Houston-Milwaukee series afforded the White family (JoJo is the Braves’ third base coach; son, Mike is an outfielder for the Colts) an opportunity to get together and catch up…Mom looks quite pleased!
The Braves send pitcher, Phil Niekro down toward the end of May so he can get some additional innings-pitched…he’ll be back up before the season ends.
As a team the Braves had (just barely) a sub-.500 month, 15-16. But, coupled with an 8-5 April, they were a cumulative 23-21 on the year. Hitting was NOT the problem: the team had 30+ HRs and 120+ RBIs; pitching was not yet up to usual standards. Spahn was 4-4; Cloninger was 3-5; Sadowski was 2-4; Tiefenauer, 1-4; all fairly slow starts. However, Lemaster was 6-2 and Fischer was 5-2. Home runs? Did you say home runs? We got home runs…!! At the end of May Torre has 9; Hank has 5; Eddie and Rico both have 4;Maye, Bolling and Menke each have 3; Alou has 2 and Oliver and Spangler have one each!!
On June 3rd, the Braves released veteran Gus Bell, outfielder and senior member of a distinguished baseball family, who then retired as a Major League player.
Also on June 3rd, the Braves sold OF Len Gabrielson to the Cubs for $40,000 and a player to be named later.
Players received a travel-related memo in early June due to a stop in Austin, Texas, where the parent-Braves will play an exhibition game (6/10) with their AA affiliate, the Austin Senators.
On June 8th, Merritt Ranew reported to the Braves as the “player to be named later” in the Len Gabrielson deal. Most will recall Ranew as a highly-regarded prospect we lost in the expansion draft.
On June 21st, after appearing in 22 games, Jack “The Barber” Smith was sent down for more seasoning.
In what appears to fans as yet another mind-boggling move by Braves, Inc., mere hours after the Braves had lost their seventh game in a row, manager Bobby Bragan, on June 22 , was signed to a contract through 1965.
June ends another less-than-stellar showing: They go 13-16 for the month which adds up to 36-37 for the year…in 6th place; nine games out of first. Spahn is 5-7; Cloninger is 6-7; Sadowski is 3-6 and Tiefenauer is 3-4. Lemaster is 8-5 and Fischer is 6-2. But, we’re still hitting home runs at a prodigious pace…the team total is over 60. Hitting and pitching aren’t coming together…in one of those games in the losing streak Braves’ hitters had five homers…and we lost…
In very early July, another bombshell hit Milwaukee: The Sporting News, a veritable bulwark of dignity and veracity, reported “from an unimpeachable source” that the Braves would transfer their franchise to Atlanta. The baseball community clearly understood the magnitude of the statement; heretofore, C.C. Johnson Spink, SN Editor, had quoted other papers, other reporters regarding the rumors of such a transfer.
On July 2nd, John McHale said, “We have definitely made no commitment of any kind to any other city. We have a commitment with the county extending through 1965 and we intend to keep it…this rumor, if you want to call it that, has gone full circle…How many times do we have to keep answering?”
On July 3rd McHale said, “There are 12 people in our executive operation but nobody is going to commit this club without my knowing about it.”
On July 4th, Bill Bartholomay issued this example of circumvention, red herrings and semantical mish mash.
July opened with the Braves going 2-3 prior to the All-Star Break. Cloninger and Blasingame (who’d been called back up in June) got the wins; Spahn, Fischer and Lemaster got the losses.
The 1964 All-Star Game was played on July 7th at the brand new Shea Stadium in New York. A fine crowd of 50,850 was in attendance. It was an exciting event, both on and off the field. Teams were selected in the usual (since 1958) manner. Catcher Joe Torre was the lone Braves selection; however, NL manager, Walter Alston, also picked Hank Aaron to represent Milwaukee. Neither figured in any of the scoring. With the NL trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Willie Mays walked and stole second. He came home on Cepeda’s single and a bad throw with Cepeda going to second. Curt Flood came in to run for Cepeda. After an out and another walk (to Johnny Edwards) and another out, it was two out, two on with Johnny Callison, Philly OF, at bat. Callison hit a home run, won the MVP and tied the All-Star series at 17 each. NBC broadcast the game on radio and TV. Once again it was sponsored by Gillette and Chrysler. Lindsey Nelson and Buddy Blattner did the TV account; Dan Daniels and Blaine Walsh handled the radio play-by-play.
As a sort of post-script to the All-Star break: Apparently the talk among the sportswriters and dignitaries gathered for the mid-season intermission was that the franchise move to Atlanta was a “done deal”, a given, a foregone conclusion…even among the Milwaukee folk. This from Bisher’s book, page 81.
On Thursday, July 9th, the venerable veteran, Warren Spahn, took the mound for the Braves in Pittsburgh. The Braves scored nine runs in the first three innings; Maye had four RBIs and Mathews had a home run. For the eleventh straight time the Old Master was unable to go the distance. Sadowski came on in the sixth and after a couple scares got the win for the Braves and Spahn, 11-6. It is nearly incomprehensible, even this much later, to realize this would be Spahnie’s last win as a Brave…I still think of him as ten feet tall and bullet-proof…!!! It’s like we should observe a moment of silence…or something…but…we didn’t know that then…
For the Braves, this was the start of a 15-8 run to the end of the month…They’d been looking to play .650 ball all season…everything working together. On the 16th, Fischer pitched a four-hitter against the Giants for his fourth shut-out this year; Aaron, Torre and Menke helped with HRs and the crafty right-hander helped his own cause with a two-run double in the eighth. On the 18th Spahn broke Grover Cleveland Alexander’s record for appearances by a pitcher-697.
On Monday, July 20th, The Braves’ Boosters embarked on their 34th road trip with the Braves which included side trips to Atlantic City, NJ and Washington, DC.
As it happened, on Sunday the 26th, the Braves’ Boosters got to witness an unusual turn of events during the double-header with the Mets at Shea Stadium. It was a wild affair…
Spahn started game one and gave up five runs in two innings. He was relieved by Sadowski, Tiefenauer and Olivo. The Braves came back and since the winning run was scored while Olivo was pitching, he got the win, 11-7. Aaron, Carty and Torre homered in the game. In game two, Blasingame started and was relieved by Sadowski, Tiefenauer, Hoeft and Olivo. Once again the Braves came from behind to win and because they took the lead-again-during Olivo’s stint, he got the win, 15-10…thus winning both ends of the double-header!! Further…after Spahn got knocked out of the first game, he came back to finish up the second game–and earned his first save of the season!! Aaron had a three-run homer in the ninth inning of the second game…The Boosters got their money’s worth at that Sunday double-header…!!!
So… that makes them 15-8 since the All-Star break; add in the 2-3 prior and they’re 17-11 in July (.607); 53-48 on the season; in 5th place; 6 1/2 out of first…That’s still improvement!! Sadowski is 5-6; Cloninger is 10-9; Fischer is 9-5; Lemaster is 10-7; Tiefenauer is 3-5; Spahn is 6-11; Blasingame is 2-2; Olivo is 2-0 and Hoeft is 3-0 with one win in May, one in June and one in July. Aaron is hitting at a .353 clip; Mathews has a .596 OBP; Maye is at .327; Menke is .348; Joe Torre is hitting .300; Carty is at .350 and Alou has been on IR for all but three games in July.
On July 27th, the Braves called Dave Eilers up from Yakima (Northwest L.) where he had a 1.50 ERA in relief…we could use some more relief…!!!
Given the boost, the hope of July’s performance; August began rather inauspiciously. We lost six of the first eight games; Fischer got three of those losses…two on successive days.
On August 8th, the Braves sent minor league pitcher, Dennis Ribant and some cash to Detroit for veteran right-hander Frank Lary who was an All-Star and Gold-Glover in ’61.
The National League owners held their annual meeting in Chicago on August 10-11. In the face of the multitudinous rumors in Milwaukee (especially rife after the Sporting News report and the All-star break), NL prexy, Warren Giles, asked Braves, Inc. officials if they had been or were considering such a move. Bisher reports that Bartholomay’s response never did receive it’s “proper place of prominence in the treasury of sports circumlocution”: “Because of the many factors involved, we are unable to evaluate fully our position until a later date”.
On August 16th, the Braves, behind homers by Mathews and Oliver and in spite of four homers by the Giants, beat them in the first game of Sunday’s double-header, 5-4. It was Lary’s first start as a Brave…plus he got the win…Tiefenauer got a save. Cloninger scattered seven hits in the nightcap and got the win, 10-2. Oliver hit a three-run homer in that effort.
In Los Angeles, on August 20th, they won, 8-2. Sadowski got his seventh win against eight losses. The Braves got 10 hits and Aaron was four for five.
Then they lost three in a row in Houston; then won two and lost one to Philly at home. Then SF came in for a five-game series: The Braves won the first one; lost three in a row and won the second game of the Sunday double-header to close out the month with 13 wins and 16 losses. That’s 66-64 on the year; tied with Pittsburgh for fifth; 12 1/2 behind the league-leading Phillies. Comparatively…it was a disastrous month!!
At the end of August Cloninger is 14-12; Lemaster is 13-9; Fischer is 10-8; Spahn, 6-12; Olivo, 2-1; Lary, 3-3; Sadowski, 8-9; Blasingame, 3-4 and Tiefenauer is 3-6. On offense Aaron is hitting .359 with 23 Hrs; Mathews’ BA is .267 but his OBP is .552 and he has 21 homers; Torre and Carty are .304/16 HRs and .300/16 HRs, respectively; Menke has 13 homers; Oliver-11 and Maye-9.
In response to the report by an Atlanta advertising guy saying he had an appointment with persons representing the Braves to discuss sponsorships on Atlanta radio and TV, Bartholomay said, “It’s the wildest of the wild”. McHale said, “It’s the same old story we’ve been hearing for months-and years.”
September was wild!! It was wild in many ways and it certainly was wild for Braves fans!! Do you remember earlier references to 1964 being referred to as the wildest NL pennant race ever? Well, Hang On…!!!
On September 2, the Braves brought RHP Clay “Hawk” Carroll up from Denver (PCL) where he had a 3.47 ERA for the season.
Although the first half of the month was played at a paltry 8-7, The remainder of the month (plus the five games in October) gave us lots to cheer about!! “Paltry” may be an unfair term since the middle of that stretch included consecutive wins by Tiefenauer, Hoeft, Cloninger, Blasingame, Lemaster and Fischer; that’s six in a row from September 7th through September 12th!!
Lemaster’s gem on September 11th was a 1-0, one-hitter win for the young lefty. Battery-mate, Gene Oliver got one of the two Braves’ hits and scored the game-winning run.
Sadly, that six-game win streak ended with a loss for Spahnie. That put him at 6-13 for the season and, again, as unbelievable as it seems, it was his final decision with the Milwaukee Braves. After a double-header loss to St. Louis on Tuesday, September 15th, the Braves won three of their next four games. On Monday, September 21, the Phillies had the league-lead well in hand with a 6 1/2 game lead over St. Louis with just 12 games left to play. Philly was 90-60, St. Louis was 83-66 as was Cincinnati (83-66), San Fran was 83-67 and the Braves were fifth; 77-72…12 1/2 games out of first…and right there was where it all started to get crazy…and the excitement level started to rise…!!! The Phillies lost 10 straight games…the first three losses were to Cincinnati…
This scorecard, from John Braun’s collection, is from the Braves’ four-game series that marked four more losses for Philadelphia (September 24-27) and the beginning of eight consecutive wins for the Braves. During this same two-week period, the Cardinals won eight in a row, the Reds won nine in a row and the Giants won seven out of nine…Wild, Wild, Wild…!!!
Of the Braves eight wins in a row, Wade Blasingame got three of the wins; Tony Cloninger got two; rookie reliever, Clay Carroll got two and Denny Lemaster got one.
On Friday, October 2nd, at County Stadium, rookie RHP, John Braun, pitched the fourth and fifth innings in relief. He allowed one base-on-balls, one single, struck out Roberto Clemente and allowed no runs. It was his only Major League appearance…he’s still “one of our guys”!!!
On Saturday, October 3rd, rookie righty, Arnie Umbach, made his ML debut, also versus the Pirates…he went 8.1 innings and won, 11-5. He needed just a little help from peerless, though little-used, veteran reliever, Warren Spahn, who was making his next-to-last appearance for the Braves.
On Sunday, October 4th, still at County Stadium, in their final game of the ’64 season, the Braves defeated the Pirates, 6-0. Madison, Wisconsin’s own Bill Southworth hit his first Major League home run. The synergistic efforts of Bob Sadowski (8 innings) and Warren Spahn (one inning) produced the shut-out victory. In Spahnie’s final appearance for the Braves, two of the three outs he got…were strike-outs…!!!
When all the dust had settled, the Cards won the pennant; Cincinnati and Philadelphia were tied at one game out; San Francisco was fourth…three back and the Braves, although still in fifth, were just five games out of first–Wowzer!!! Now that was some excitement!!!
In spite of the scintillating finish, the ’64 Braganites were pretty unbalanced. In terms of hitting, they were gangbusters!! In terms of pitching…not so much. Tony Cloninger, some rough early outings notwithstanding, hung in and demonstrated (19-14, 3.56 ERA) that he’s definitely got the stuff. Denny Lemaster looked good at 17-11. Fischer, Sadowski and Carroll all look promising. However, despite these (sometime) bright spots, Braves’ pitchers set a most dubious record in ’64 with a team ERA of 4.12. No Milwaukee Braves team had ever been even close to a 4.00 ERA. In the league, only the Metsies were worse.
It was a hitter’s year for the Braves…their .272 BA was a team record…one that would stand for at least another 20 years. Rico Carty’s .330 BA was second only to Roberto Clemente; with Hank Aaron third at .328 and Joe Torre fourth at .321. Torre was also fourth in RBI with 109. Lee Maye led the league in doubles with 44 and Eddie Mathews (who batted lead-off part of the year) once again led the team in bases-on-balls, merely one behind league-leader, Ron Santo. The Braves, as a team, also led the league in runs scored (803), doubles (274) and slugging average (.418).
The formidable slugging average was due in large part to an uncommon and record-setting display of long-ball hitting by (L to R) Denis Menke (20 HRs), Joe Torre (20), Rico Carty (22), Eddie Mathews (23) and Hank Aaron (24). Additionally, Gene Oliver hit 13, Lee Maye-10 and Felipe Alou-9…Veeerrry Cooool!!!
And…unhappily…the inimical Father Time finally bested the inimitable Warren Spahn…at age 43. Most kids, until they reach some certain age, guilelessly suppose that their Heroes don’t age like Dad and Grampa and will, like they think about themselves, pretty much go on being and doing fairly much just as they are now being and doing. Fortunately, we generally outgrow this existential and timeless bliss…but…that doesn’t make watching it happen to your heroes any easier…
Back-tracking just a bit to catch up with off-the-field activities: On September 11th, The Milwaukee Board of Supervisors offered Braves Inc. all concessions revenue which would increase Braves Inc. revenue by some $125,000 annually. As an additional incentive to stay in Milwaukee, Schlitz Brewing Company proposed a three-year Radio-Television Contract of $525,000 per year which amounted to $125,000 more than the current contract. John McHale’s response: “There are many other factors and considerations which we must study in the overall picture of Major League Baseball here…”
On Wednesday, September 23, in response to a rumor that had Lou Perini alluding to the Braves moving to Atlanta, McHale said, “The situation is no different now than it was two months ago”. On Thursday, September 24th, McHale was quoted as saying, “We’ve never said we’re going to move and we’ve never said we’re thinking about moving”. He also said he was “Very impressed” by the Board’s willingness to change the current agreement. This sentiment was echoed on Sunday, September 27, by Chairman of the Board Bartholomay who was quoted regarding the County Board’s offer; “…certainly a very fine indication of our landlord’s interest”.
Again, the following day, Bartholomay is again quoted; “It is extremely encouraging that the County Board saw fit to act, and you can be sure that this attitude will be conveyed to the Braves’ Board”. Once again, on Tuesday, September 29th, John McHale is quoted, “The Braves have never sat down with representatives of another city and made a commitment to move there”. They “have never had an offer as such to go anywhere”.
As noted, October began with a bang…four wins, one loss to close out the season…and with about a week-long respite…the bangs will continue…
On Sunday, October 11th, The Milwaukee Journal published this pictorial review of the Braves’ 12 seasons in Milwaukee. Of course it also has a ton of great vintage advertising. It doesn’t go into great depth but does have a poignant, yet succinct chronicle of those “Dazzling Dozen” years.
Braves Inc.’s COB Bartholomay, once again, on that selfsame day gives his final incongruous denial: “We didn’t buy the club to sell it and we didn’t buy it to move it either. If it works out that way, it will be a personal disappointment.” Three days later, on October 14, 1964 (per Furman Bisher in Miracle in Atlanta, p. 177), William Bartholomay signed a 25-year contract with the Atlanta Stadium Authority and Mayor Ivan Allen for the use of the Atlanta Stadium…and, later, announced/admitted that the Braves are considering moving to Atlanta for the 1965 season…and that Braves Inc. are trying to evaluate whether or not Milwaukee is the “right place” for them.
Also on October 14, catcher Phil Roof and pitcher Ron Piche were traded to the Los Angeles Angels for pitcher, Dan Osinski.
On October 15th, in what could, in retrospect, be considered naivete, straightening chairs on the Titanic or business-as-usual, Max Margolis thanks Milwaukee Sentinel writer, Ray Grody, for
noting the availability of these signs which, over the years, have become nifty collectibles. If you have some idea re the actual year these first came out…let me know, please…
In an incredibly telling (and, perhaps, confirming at least one more rumor) admission of the severity of the economic condition of Braves, Inc., Bill Bartholomay is quoted as saying that, fiscally the organization could not survive even if they got a million in annual attendance.
On October 19, Wisconsin-born pitcher, Billy Hoeft, was released by the Braves. Billy was 4-0 in ’64 with a 3.80 ERA. Later Hoeft made some rather disparaging remarks about Bragan as a manager and suggested that his constant juggling of the line-up was, in essence, his trying to lose on purpose. Read Bob Buege’s book with Eddie Mathews: Eddie disagreed about the “losing on purpose” part.
The Braves Inc. board met in Chicago on October 21st; the day before the National League Meeting, and voted to request permission from the League to move the team to Atlanta.
It passed easily, with little discussion…in spite of the six dissenting votes by the Wisconsin Directors. Interestingly, the announcement of that decision-an apparently hastily written, mimeographed copy-was handed to media representatives by former Braves’ pitcher and current Braves’ Publicity Director, Ernie Johnson.
Immediately (actually two and a half hours), after the Braves, Inc. Board vote, The Milwaukee County Board, got a temporary restraining order to prevent Braves. Inc. Board from asking permission at the League meeting.
The National League Meeting convened on Thursday morning, October 22nd in New York. The entire meeting was given to discussion of the situation including 30 minute presentations by Milwaukee County Board Chairman, Eugene H. Grobschmidt, and Milwaukee Sentinel Sports Editor, Lloyd Larson.
Some highlights of Chairman Grobschmidt’s speech: There are alternatives to moving the team; it could be sold to a Milwaukee group. There will ensue legal action and extended litigation, including possible anti-trust litigation, to keep the team in town. The 1964 attendance figures, though low, are still higher than 10 ML teams. Civic pride is great and Milwaukee can still support the team. Low attendance is not the fault of the fans, but of new, inexperienced and disloyal management coupled with duplicity, deceit and bad faith. The move would be a breach of the contract that runs through 1965. Braves, Inc. has been offered an additional $250,000 in annual income. Braves, Inc. never approached the County Board re contract adjustments or increases in revenue. The plan to leave was conceived in June of 1963, a mere eight months after the sale of the team. Atlanta is a smaller city than Milwaukee-741,324 to 487,455. Atlanta is a smaller metropolitan community than Milwaukee-1,194,290 to 1, 017,188. Georgia has a lower per capita income then Wisconsin. (These last all quoted as Department of Labor statistics.)
Braves, Inc., presumably to avoid muddying the legal waters any further, decided not to make their request to the League at this meeting.
Milwaukee Braves fans came in all sizes and shapes…most of them had opinions-some had informed opinions, some had the more common, uninformed opinions. Emotions ran high and discussions sometimes got heated. I really like Bill Povletich’s (Braves New World) analogy of the fans as the jilted lover; some felt cuckolded and expressed varying levels of vituperation in response. Some felt they could still win her back and spoke far more hopefully. The picture above seen in the window of a bar near to the Stadium seems to indicate these folks were somewhere in the first category.
Tom Reynolds, Executive Vice-President of Braves, Inc., visits the site of the under-construction Atlanta Stadium on November 5th. Obviously, he is hoping the Braves will be playing here in 1965.
On November 6 1964, NL President, Warren Giles and the NL owners met in Phoenix, AZ, and decided the Braves should play in Milwaukee in 1965. There was time for a nanosecond of rejoicing until they further announced that the team would be allowed to move to Atlanta for the 1966 season. Wow…there it was…just takes your breath away!!! It also took considerable wind out of the sails of those anticipating a protracted court battle. This decision was from Major League Baseball…The Commissioner…and the National League owners.
Just over a week later, Atlanta’s “Dandy Little Mayor”, Ivan Allen and Milwaukee County Board Chairman Eugene Grobschmidt, had arranged a meeting wherein Allen was hoping to compensate Milwaukee $500,000 to nullify the Stadium contract and allow the team to move to Atlanta for the 1965 season. In Allen’s mind it appeared “more sensible” to take the half-million than to gamble on what a “lame duck” season in Milwaukee might bring. Nothing could have been further from Grobschmidt’s mind; in clear and certain (…and, reportedly, often ridiculing) terms he stated that ONLY IF Milwaukee got a Major League team to replace them, would the Board ever consider letting the Braves go.
On a day of great sadness, November 23, 1964, Warren Spahn was sold, for cash, to the New York Mets. The “thinking man’s pitcher” thought he could still go…undoubtedly his mind could; probably his body just couldn’t anymore. It happens like that. His lifetime, world-class stats can be found in many, many places…not here…not today. He has been acclaimed as arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher EVER. For those of us who watched (and listened) to his manifold feats: We can do nicely without the word “arguably” thank you very much!! If there’s more to be said about his courage, his gallantry, his amazing consistency or his monumental endurance, let it be said elsewhere, by others. We may also be slowed by Father Time; but, our memories of Spahnie remain…undimmed…
December was cold…no surprise. The news on December 1 was that the Houston Colt 45’s had changed their name to the Houston Astros and…the name of their brand-new stadium to the Astrodome…to honor Houston’s role in the space program…Cool!!
Braves, Inc. had their annual stockholders meeting in Chicago on December 11th. Someone made a motion to change the number of board members from 21 to 14. As quick as that the Wisconsin members were out!! The remaining directors had some cockamamie story about sparing the Wisconsin members the embarrassment of experiencing the conflicts still to come. Since credibility was already at an all-time low, not much came of it after a few days.
On or about December 15, the Braves hired Jim Fanning as assistant General Manager to John McHale. Fanning had been a ML catcher with the Cubs and had been a scout for the past six years. He will assist with player selection and development and with on-field activities.
Emotionally it was a strange time; fandom was no longer fanatical…enthusiasm was mostly found in the young. Loyalties were stretched…or strained…or worn thin from the ups and downs of 1964. It was tiring…and tiresome…We lost a lot of formerly faithful, feverish fans. It was also odd regarding our observance of the team: Eddie and Hank were the last vestiges of the team of the fifties; we did have some new young heroes but it wasn’t at all the same atmosphere. It wasn’t a mutual love affair. There weren’t stories of meeting these guys in a downtown bar and just hanging out over a couple beers. That’s not meant as even remotely negative…times had changed, people had changed, we had all changed…it wasn’t the old days–it was now…it was different, it was strange…maybe it was sorta kinda like being jilted…!!
At some point after the season had concluded, former Brave and forever-fan-favorite, Billy Bruton, announced his retirement in Detroit. He intimated plans to spend more time with family; wife-Loretta; children-Denise; Donna; Billy, Jr. and Jacqueline Kay.
Probably it’s time to look at some memorabilia…The souvenirs and collectibles are as diverse as always. However, the outstanding records and memories lavished on us by Warren Spahn may result in an uncommon number of Spahn-related items.