clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

This day in Braves history: The Braves play their first game in Atlanta

New, 6 comments

We're taking a look back at some memorable moments in Braves history.

Mike Powell/Getty Images

The year was 1962. The Milwaukee Braves, despite 86 wins, finished in fifth place behind the NL Champion Giants. Attendance had dropped for the fifth year in a row, which was the same problem team owner Lou Perini cited as the reason for moving the Braves from Boston to Milwaukee in 1953.

Enter William C. Bartholomay, leader of a business consortium from Chicago. Perini wished to sell the Braves, and Bartholomay agreed. Meanwhile, down in the growing southern city of Atlanta, Georgia, newly elected mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. had promised to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to the city during his campaign. He first courted Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics, in an attempt to persuade them to relocate. Finley was impressed with the location, which was in the Washington-Rawson neighborhood (one-quarter mile south of the state capitol). However, the American League nixed the idea and the plan fell through. Then in 1963, Allen heard that the Milwaukee Braves wished to relocate, and a deal was struck: the Braves would move to Atlanta if a stadium was completed by 1966.

Allen backed the construction of an $18 million, 52,000-seat stadium, and broke ground on April 15, 1964. Less than one year later, on April 9, 1965, the stadium was complete, and the Braves and Tigers played an exhibition game there that evening. However, Milwaukee wouldn't let the Braves go so easily. Milwaukee County officials filed an injunction that kept the team in the city for another year. During that year, the Atlanta Crackers of the International League used the newly built stadium as its home turf.

Finally, in 1966, the Braves moved south to Atlanta, and opened the season on Tuesday, April 12 against the Pittsburgh Pirates with Mayor Allen throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in front of a packed house of 50,671 fans.

Tony Cloninger was the starting pitcher for the Braves; Pirates shortstop Gene Alley had the first hit, while Rico Carty had the first Braves hit; Joe Torre hit the first home run. The Pirates ultimately won 3-2 in 13 innings, with Cloninger pitching all 13.

The Braves would finish the year 85-77 and in fifth place, but would eventually become one of the premiere teams in the league with a nationwide audience. The stadium would host four World Series, and one championship team in 1995 before its demolition in 1997.

Sources:
Ballparks of Baseball
New Georgia Encyclopedia