Famous Teams: The Miracle Braves (1914)

Here they are.

An underdog story for the ages, the Boston Braves of 1914 made a remarkable comeback to win the division and the World Series.

Before 1901, the Boston Beaneaters were a very successful major-league team in the National League, but with the arrival of the Boston Americans, an American League team, the Beaneaters ran into some bad luck. The best players, like on so many other teams, ran to the newly-formed American League in search of better salaries, and the Beaneaters’ owners didn’t even bother to try to match the offers. The Boston Americans would become the Red Sox, and the Beaneaters would become the Doves (frightening), the Rustlers, and, finally, the Braves in 1912. Two years later, they would finally break their string of bad luck.

The bad luck, however, seemed as though it wouldn’t stop. Through May 20, the Braves were a dismal 4-18, and they had just lost 9 of 11 (one of the other two was a tie). They were also 11.5 games back. Coming up to July 4, the Braves were 26-38, but with two losses in a doubleheader on Independence Day, the Braves fell to 26-40 and were 15 games back. For the next 53 games, the team looked completely different. Instead of losing 40 more games, they won 41 of the next 53 to take first place from the New York Giants on September 8th. With the pressure on, the Braves would win 25 of 31, but the Giants would play .500 ball (16-16) and lose the division. They became the first team to ever come back from last place on July 4th to win the pennant. Not only did they win the division, they won it by 10.5 games (an amazing 25.5 game turnaround).

Despite this, the “Miracle Braves” were severe underdogs to Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics for the World Series. However, just like the rest of the season, the Braves would prove the doubters wrong and sweep the World Series from the A’s. It was, in fact, the first four-game World Series sweep (Game 1 of the 1907 World Series ended in a tie on account of darkness — yeah a World Series game ended in a tie, take that Selig). Some believe that the A’s players were upset with A’s management and refused to play hard, and others believe that the Series was fixed. Neither has any real evidence.

The 1914 Boston “Miracle” Braves rode the backs of three, relatively unknown starting pitchers. Bill James led the way going 26-7 with a 1.96 ERA, but he was unsuccessful otherwise and his career basically ended when he signed up for the military in 1916. Dick Rudolph would add 26 more wins and a 2.35 ERA, and while he went on to have a few more good seasons, I like him for the fact that he was a spitball pitcher (one of those who was able to continue even after the pitch became illegal). Lefty Tyler added his own 16 wins and 2.69, and he stayed a solid but relatively unspectacular pitcher for the next four seasons. From July 26th on, James and Rudolph were a combined 35-2. The offense was decent with key contributions from OF Joe Connolly (.306, 9 HR, 65 RBI) and 1B Butch Schmidt (.285, 1, 71), but the pitching was the key.

An interesting note — the last game played at the South End Grounds (the Braves home park) was August 11, 1914, and the Braves would play the remaining home games in Fenway Park until the next season when Braves Field became available.

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