They were deader than the ball with which they played, stuck in last place in the National League on July 18, 11 games behind the Giants. The Boston Braves were baseball’s bottom-feeders in 1914, operating on the wrong side of the tracks and drawing a few thousand fans to the smallest major league park in the country.
Then came the most remarkable resurrection in the game’s history as the “Miracle Braves” not only won the pennant by 10½ games over the three-time defending champion New York Giants but also wiped out the Philadelphia Athletics in the first four-game sweep of a World Series.
“We did something nobody ever believed possible,” shortstop Rabbit Maranville said decades later. “Gamblers were laying 100-1 against us on Opening Day with hardly any takers. They raised the odds to 1,000-1 after the first month. By July 4, after we had been in the cellar all but three days, you could have gotten 1,000,000-1.”
The Braves’ takedown of the Athletics, who were scheduled to play each other in period uniforms in Atlanta Saturday night, was voted as the biggest upset of the first half of the century by the Associated Press. “It reaffirmed Boston’s position as the hub of the baseball universe,” said Richard Johnson, the Sports Museum’s curator. “From 1871 to 1918, Boston teams in five major leagues won championships.”
The most dominant of them were the Beaneaters, the Braves’ earlier incarnation who collected five pennants between 1891 and 1898. “They were hugely successful at the end of the 19th century,” says Bill Nowlin, vice president of the Society for American Baseball Research and editor of “The Miracle Braves of 1914: Boston’s Original Worst-to-First World Series Champions.” “They were the Yankees of that decade.”
The Beaneaters played in the South End Grounds in a magnificent medieval wooden edifice with “witch’s hat” turrets and a double-decked grand pavilion. When it burned down in an 1894 blaze that took most of the neighborhood with it, the franchise was never the same. Since the park only was insured for 60 cents on the dollar, the owners built a smaller version on the same site.
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