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Braves Field

 

Braves Field was a baseball park that formerly stood on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. The stadium was home to the Boston Braves National League franchise from 1915–1952, when the team moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Significant portions of the original structure still stand in place, and make up part of the Nickerson Field sports complex.

Braves Field was also known as The Bee Hive (or National League Park, formally) from 1936–1941, a period during which the owners changed the nickname of the team to the Boston Bees (the renaming of the team and stadium never took hold with the public, and were both eventually dropped). It did host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game during that span in 1936, however. Braves Field served as one of two homes (with Fenway Park) of the Boston Bulldogs of the first American Football League (in 1926) and the Boston Shamrocks of the second AFL (in 1936 and 1937). It was also the home of a National Football League franchise which began in 1932 and also called itself the Boston Braves for one year. The next year, the team moved to Fenway Park and changed its name to the Redskins (which served the dual purpose of sounding like "Red Sox" and allowing the team to retain its Native American-logoed Braves uniforms). In 1937 the team transferred south to become the Washington Redskins. With its capacity to hold more fans than Fenway, Braves Field was actually used by the Red Sox in the 1915 and 1916 World Series.

 

The concourse under the ballpark's remaining seating area still exists almost exactly as it did when the Braves played there.

The owner of the team at the time the stadium was built, James Gaffney, wanted to see the game played in a wide open field conducive to allowing numerous inside-the-park home runs. Thus, the stadium was built in what was, at the time, the outskirts of Boston, in a large rectangular plot, contrasting with the cozy and lopsided block containing Fenway Park. The stands were almost entirely in foul territory, leaving little in the outfield to which players could hit a home run into - with the fences over 400 feet away down the lines and nearly 500 feet to dead center, hitting the ball over the outer fences was all but impossible during the "dead ball" era. A stiff breeze coming in from center field across the Charles River further lessened any chances of seeing home runs fly out of the park. The only possible target in the outfield was a small bleacher section, which came to be known as The Jury Box after a sportswriter noticed during one slow mid-week game that there were only twelve individuals sitting in the 2,000-seat stand. Ty Cobb visited the park and commented, "Nobody will ever hit a ball out of this park." The large foul ground area further favored the pitchers.

 

In fact, it would take 10 years, and a livelier ball, before a batter hit a home run that cleared the outer wall on the fly. Meanwhile, it remained a pitchers' park, perhaps never more so than on May 1, 1920, when Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Leon Cadore and Braves pitcher Joe Oeschger locked horns for a pair of complete-game performances that went on for a still-record 26 innings. After all that work, the game ended in a 1-1 tie, called on account of darkness.

 

At the advent of the lively ball era, it became clear that the fans were unhappy with Gaffney's vision of how baseball should be played, and inner fences were built, and regularly moved, being moved in and out based on whims. The ownership of the team even went so far as to shift the entire field in a clockwise direction (towards right field) at one point.

 

After the Braves moved to Milwaukee just prior to the 1953 season, the stadium was sold to Boston University. The old ballpark was used as-is until 1955, when the university reconfigured the stands, demolishing all but the pavilion grandstand at the end of the right field line, which was retained as the core of a football, soccer, field hockey and track-and-field stadium. The stadium was initially called Boston University Field and was later renamed Nickerson Field. Aside from the pavilion, parts of the ballpark retained included Gaffney's original outer wall; and the ticket office, which was converted to the university police station. The rest of the stadium property was replaced by dormitories covering the former main grandstand; and the Case Physical Education Center, which houses Walter Brown Arena and Case Gym in the vicinity of what was the left field pavilion along Babcock Street. Of the various demolished Jewel Box ballparks, Braves Field probably has the largest proportion of visible remnants still standing.

 

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Tagged:
1915 World Series, 1916 World Series, 1948 World Series, Boston Braves, Braves Field

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