One of the few organizations in the game that has existed in more than 2 cities, the team became the Atlanta Braves in 1966
We covered the anniversary of the founding of the team just yesterday, which makes today’s number even more notable. The Atlanta Braves just recently marked the 50th year of their tenure in the city of Atlanta by moving themselves, like so many 50-year-olds do, to the suburbs!
Seriously, though, the Atlanta Braves have an incredibly long and rich franchise history to live up to, but when the team first moved to Atlanta in the 1960s, having the team’s star player be an African-American on a team in the South while the country was in the midst of serious racial upheaval nearly seemed a recipe for disaster.
Today also being Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Day brings some great perspective to that legacy. Whether you’re a local to Atlanta or a Braves fan from far away, there’s no denying the history of race in and around Atlanta is murky, to say the least.
Yet, when the team moved, the team was mired in mediocrity. While never having a losing record in the 13 seasons in Milwaukee, the Braves had not finished higher than 5th since 1960. Coming to Atlanta wouldn’t end up changing that a whole lot, as the team was able to hover around .500 for roughly the first decade in Atlanta, but only had the 1969 run that was ended by the Miracle Mets in the NLCS as better than even a 3rd place finish.
What the team did have was a slugger, one of the best sluggers of all-time, in fact, Mr. Henry Louis Aaron, otherwise known as Hank Aaron. At the conclusion of the 1965 season, Aaron had 398 home runs on his career and was 31 years old. Few saw him becoming the all-time home run leader.
Aaron went out and led the National League in home runs the next two seasons, and after clubbing 44 during the exciting 1969 season as the Atlanta Braves won their division, he was suddenly within reasonable striking distance. Hitting 85 home runs over the next two seasons essentially made the question a matter of time.
When national fans began writing nasty letters to Hank, threatening his life if he were to pass Babe Ruth‘s all-time record, he was cheered even louder at home in Atlanta, where many would think a man of his skin color would face a tougher reception. That wasn’t the case with the Braves and their fans, however.
While life wasn’t always perfect and there are always bad apples, Atlanta Braves fans were amazing throughout the home run chase, and on the night he took his place in the record book, legendary announcer Vin Scully even noted the crowd in his call of the moment:
Scully would comment in multiple interviews later how that moment was among those in his career as a broadcaster that gave him hope for the world.
Atlanta Braves fans, giving hope to the world.
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Fans ebb and flow in their support and criticism for the team, but the Atlanta Braves have been a notable part of the positive history of the city of Atlanta now for over 50 years.