This Day in Baseball History: March 5th, 1964

The man who brought my favorite team to Atlanta.

On March 5, 1964:

Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. says that he is in contract talks with a major-league team to bring it to Atlanta.

I’ll save the feigned suspense and reveal that team would ultimately be the Milwaukee Braves, but I would like to say Atlanta first tried to woo the Kansas City A’s, who ultimately moved to Oakland in 1968. In Milwaukee, the Braves had been a moderately successful team, and they are still the only team in major-league history to not have a losing record while in a city for more than one season. In 1957, the Braves celebrated a World Series victory, and as a result 2.2 million people walked through the turnstiles. However, when the team started to decline and become mediocre, the fans stopped coming quite so much, and by 1965, the attendance dropped to 550,000 (granted, that number might be low considering everyone knew the Braves would be moving, but the prior numbers aren’t much better). Owner Lou Perini decided the drop in attendance no longer made the team worth having, so in 1962, he sold the team to William Bartholomay.

Bartholomay wasn’t interested in keeping the team in Milwaukee. Ivan Allen Jr. wanted a professional sports team in the worst way for his rapidly growing metropolis. When he talked to Bartholomay, Bartholomay told Allen that he would come if Atlanta could have a stadium ready for the next season. The very next day, the Board of Alderman approved $15 million to be used to build a new stadium, and the construction of Fulton County Stadium started not too long after. It would be ready for the next season, but Milwaukee wasn’t letting go of the team just yet. An injunction was filed to keep the Braves in Milwaukee, but it only lasted another season. The Braves were on their way to Atlanta.

The reasons for Bartholomay’s decision are varied. One reason was the attendance, but Bartholomay really wasn’t interested in having a team in Milwaukee. When Allen approached him, he saw the perfect opportunity to own the first team in the Deep South (Cincinnati was the furthest south at the time, I believe — scratch that: Houston was in existence, but they don’t really count as Deep South, do they?). He worked with local leaders to make this possibility a reality. Another reason is the money (let’s all say it together — Jason is always right). It’s very likely that Atlanta’s desperation led them to make a deal that was much better than anything Milwaukee could muster. Don’t fret too much for Milwaukee fans. The Brewers moved there in 1970.

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2 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: March 5th, 1964”

  1. The Common Man Says:

    Keep in mind, also, how rapidly Atlanta has expanded since WWII. Milwaukee has had comparatively little growth as their port has gone underutilized and the US has shipped out less iron ore. Savvy, it sounds like that Mr. Bartholomay was.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    I should have been a bit more explicit about such things. I mentioned Atlanta but not Milwaukee. This is why we are here — to make sure people know as much as possible.

    Quick question — as a Twins fan, what is your opinion of the Brewers — rival, friend, don’t care? I don’t know if there’s a regional conflict or not, but I’d like to know.

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