The Braves left Milwaukee after the 1965 season, becoming the Atlanta Braves by Opening Day in 1966. But the move had been a long time in the making, even though the Braves were relative newcomers to Milwaukee.
Indeed, the Braves spent the first 77 years of their existence in Boston. Beginning as the Boston Reds in 1876, the team became the Boston Nationals in 1901, the Boston Doves in 1907, and the Boston Braves in 1912.
After a name change to the Boston Bees in 1936, the club was back to being Braves for the 1941 season. But with Ted Williams hitting .406 that summer and the Red Sox challenging the Yankees for American League supremacy and more popular than ever, fans were hard to come by for the National League club.
It didn’t help matters that the Bees/Braves were under .500 every season from 1939 through 1945, a period during which they routinely drew fewer than 300,000 fans, roughly half of what the Red Sox were pulling.
Attendance ticked upward as the Braves started winning in the latter half of the 1940s and fairly exploded to nearly 1.5 million when Boston won the N.L. pennant in 1948. Even so, the Red Sox still outdrew them, counting nearly 1.6 million patriots at the Fenway Park turnstiles that summer.
Braves’ attendance dwindled in the early 1950s as the team resumed their losing ways. Finally, after the 1952 season, owner Lou Perini moved his team to Milwaukee. He had been wooed by brewer Fred Miller‘s promise of new beer-based advertising revenue, as well as Milwaukee’s shiny new County Stadium.
The first team to relocate since the American League Milwaukee Brewers became the St. Louis Browns after the 1901 season, the Braves set off a wave of franchise moves that would last for nearly a decade and then pick up again in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Things took a turn for the better in Milwaukee, as the Braves posted a winning record in 1953, then won a World Series in 1957 and another National League pennant in 1958. They also unleashed a bevy of superstars that included the immortal Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Joe Adcock, Johnny Sain, and others.
The Braves were also a box office success, drawing more than 1.8 million fans in 1953, then more than 2 million in each of the next four seasons before narrowly missing that mark again in 1958.
But as the team slid out of contention in the 1960s, attendance also cratered, bottoming out at well under 600,000 in 1965.
Perini read the writing on the wall and sold his team to some Chicago investors in 1962. In turn, they wanted to move the team to Atlanta, but Perini had locked the team into a lease with Milwaukee through 1965. With their intentions to leave clear, the Braves faced legal hurdles when Wisconsin Attorney General Bronson La Follette sued the new owners, along with other MLB owners, to keep the team in Milwaukee.
Opposing judgements came down in multiple states, with the outcome seeing the Braves in Atlanta for the 1966 season, Milwaukee with the promise of a new team, and young Bud Selig as the founder of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club, Inc.
Three years later, the Seattle Pilots would become one of four expansion teams, along with the San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos, and the Kansas City Royals.
The Pilots would last only one year in the Pacific Northwest, moving to Milwaukee to become the Brewers for the 1970 season — one year after the “new” Atlanta Braves won the first-ever National League West crown before losing to the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.