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Mudville: July 14, 2024 11:30 pm PDT

Jimmy & The Braves

Before Ernie Banks said, “Let’s play two”, the Boston Braves played two; and again, and again, and again – and when it was over, they had played in nine consecutive doubleheaders in September of 1928.

They didn’t play on nine consecutive days – Boston did not allow Sunday baseball games — but with rainouts and a postponement, the team played 18 games from September 4th-15th. Boston swept one doubleheader, were swept six times and split two – for a 4-14 record – as they were outscored 149-106. After a September 19 game was rained out, the Braves played four more consecutive doubleheaders.

Seven games were made up from earlier rainouts and one game was postponed because of wet field conditions.

Here’s how the team fared:

September 4: Brooklyn 3, Braves 2 (10 innings) [makeup of September 3 rainout]

September 4: Brooklyn 9, Braves 2

September 5: Braves 9, Brooklyn 2

September 5: Braves 7, Brooklyn 1 [makeup of September 3 rainout]

September 7: Philadelphia 4, Braves 0 [makeup of September 6 rainout, at Baker Bowl, Philadelphia]

September 7: Braves 4, Philadelphia 3 (11 innings)

September 8: Philadelphia 10, Braves 6 [at Philadelphia]

September 8 Philadelphia 4, Braves 0 [makeup of September 6 rainout]

September 10: Giants 4, Braves 1 [makeup of April 24 rainout]

September 10: Giants 11, Braves 0

September 11: Giants 11, Braves 6 [makeup of April 25 postponement due to wet grounds]

September 11: Giants 7, Braves 6

September 13: Giants 12, Braves 2 [makeup of June 19 rainout]

September 13: Giants 7, Braves 6

September 14: Giants 6, Braves 2 [makeup of June 20 rainout]

September 14: Giants 5, Braves 1 (8 innings) [makeup of September 12 rainout]

September 15: Braves 5, Cubs 2

September 15: Cubs 6, Braves 1

The only days Boston did not play during that span were September 6 and September 9 -because as previously mentioned, baseball was not played on Sundays; with the last ten games in the stretch all played at Braves Field against the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs. Boston lost all ten of those games.

The Braves did not have a scheduled major league game on September 16, but, according to Bob Brady, president of Boston Braves Historical Association (BBHA), the team played an exhibition game against a local team from New Haven, CT, and lost. After the 16th, the Braves played a single game against the Chicago Cubs and lost yet again, 15-5.

1928: Rogers Hornsby (right) poses with Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees. Hornsby was the player-manager for most of the 1928 season for the Boston Braves.

That 1928 season began with Jack Slattery managing the team. He resigned on May 23rd after an 11-20 start and was replaced by Rogers Hornsby, who had been a player-manager for two teams previously (and two more teams after he left the Braves). Hornsby had a great year in ‘28, winning the batting title with a .387 average, hitting 21 homeruns, with 94 RBIs and leading the league with 107 walks. The team, however, went 39-83 under him, and finished in seventh place that season, with a record of 50-103, surpassing only the Philadelphia Phillies in the standings.

One of only two franchises to relocate twice (the other being the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics), the team became one of the National League’s charter franchises in 1876. They had several nicknames over the years but settled on The Braves for good in 1912. Known as the “Miracle Braves” of 1914, they were in last place on July 4, but came on strong to win the pennant. They shocked the country by defeating the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series in four games. Another historical milestone for the team was April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Dodgers in Brooklyn against the Braves.

Poor attendance was blamed for the club moving to Milwaukee in 1953. The team was successful for a stretch in its 12-year stint in Wisconsin. From 1956 to 1959, it finished first (twice), second (one game behind the Brooklyn squad) or tied for the pennant (and lost a playoff to the Los Angeles Dodgers). They won the 1957 World Series against the Yankees but lost a rematch to the New York squad the following year. Despite the initial fan frenzy when the team arrived, attendance inevitably declined and their last season in Milwaukee was 1965.

The next year, the club moved to Atlanta where it has now been for 55 years. Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews is the only player who played for the Braves in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. Henry Aaron was signed by the club when it was still in Boston but reached the majors while the team was in Milwaukee. Catcher Del Crandall was the last living person to play for the Boston Braves; he passed on May 5, 2021, at the age of 91.

The Boston Braves won their last pennant in 1948 (losing the World Series to the Cleveland Indians in six games – but that season was also memorable for what the team did off the field.

That year, the now-named Dana-Farber Cancer Institute opened in Boston and launched the Jimmy Fund.

According to the Institute’s web page, Dr. Sidney Farber selected a 12-year-old leukemia patient to be the poster boy for the center, and even though he was never photographed from the front and was only referred to as “Jimmy” to protect his privacy, “Jimmy” was selected to speak on Ralph Edwards’ national radio program “Truth or Consequences” which was broadcast from his hospital room on May 22, 1948.

During the broadcast, Edwards spoke to the young cancer patient from his Hollywood studio as Boston Braves baseball players, from Jimmy’s favorite team, surprised him with a visit to his hospital room. The show ended with a plea for listeners to make donations so Jimmy could get his own TV set to watch his Braves play. Not only did he get his wish, but more than $200,000 was collected… and the Jimmy Fund was born. When the Braves left Boston, the Red Sox became affiliated with the fund, and is the official charity of the club.

The statues on Jimmy Fund Way in Boston show “Jimmy” in his authentic Boston Braves uniform and cap given to him by the team.

The Milwaukee Braves returned to Boston to play charity exhibition games against the Red Sox and in 1997, the Atlanta Braves returned to Boston to play the Red Sox during the first year of interleague play.

The inaugural interleague regular season series between the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox that took place on August 29-31, 1997, featured many special events said Brady, the BBHA president. The organization played host to the Atlanta Braves 400 Club, a Georgia-based fan club of the Boston team.  A large contingent came to Boston for the games, and the BBHA took the group to the remains of old Braves Field at Nickerson Field on the Boston University campus for a guided tour by the group’s Braves Field expert, Brady said.

“The Red Sox gave me a pregame photographer’s field pass for the August 30 contest so that I could photograph a special on-field ceremony,” said Brady. “Former Boston Braves were called out onto the field individually and formed on the first base line.  Included in that grouping were Al Dark, Tommy Holmes, Johnny Logan, Johnny Sain, Sibby Sisti and Ernie Johnson.  Sain was honored by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Both teams wore throwback uniforms dating back to the early days when Boston was a two-team major league city.”

1997: Mo Vaughn (left) and Troy O'Leary show off the Boston Red Sox throwbacks worn in their first interleague series against the Atlanta Braves.

While the Braves return was being planned, it was assumed “Jimmy” had died. That, however, didn’t stop some men from coming forward as Jimmy. “While there might have been ‘Jimmy’ pretenders over the years, the predominant view was that he had not survived his childhood. Childhood cancer during his time produced a high fatality rate,” said Brady.

Finally, “Jimmy’s” sister contacted her brother, who had survived and was living in Maine. Einar (Carl) Gustafson called the Dana Farber Center saying, “Hi, I’m Jimmy, and I heard you were looking for me,” he said. The BBHA has about 300 members, and Brady is one reason for its continued existence.

Not only was “Jimmy” Gustafson honored during the August 1997 events, he attended a 1998 BBHA sponsored player-fan reunion where he was reunited with some of the former Boston Braves ballplayers who visited him in the hospital as part of the Ralph Edwards radio broadcast that launched the Jimmy Fund, said Brady. Gustafson, who died a few years later from a stroke, and Dr. Faber, are memorialized by a statue outside of the Institute, where Gustafson appears as a child in a Braves uniform. “My passion for the Braves and their history is derived from my maternal grandfather.  He came to America from a small rural village in Southern Italy by himself as a teenager,” noted Brady. “I believe my grandfather was attracted to the Braves because two of the three principal owners of the club were Italian, Lou Perini and Guido Rugo, who had built up successful contracting businesses — fulfilling the ‘American Dream’ of immigrants.

Jon Caroulis has been writing about baseball for more than 20 years. Many of his articles have been about "unusual" events or players. He is a graduate of Temple University.

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