Boston / Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves
At the turn of the century, the Boston Nationals were in their 26th year as a league member, being one of the original franchises from the first year of National League play (1876). Their uniforms by the 1890’s were of the laced collar type with either the name BOSTON or an Old English capital B on the shirt fronts. After 1900, both home whites and road grays displayed BOSTON in standard ar ched block capital letters across the chest. Caps were usually the Chicago” style, a pillbox shape with horizontal striping of various combinations. The trim color was most often maroon or red through the first five or six years of the decade. The arrival of the Boston Americans in 1901 offered unwanted competition and an eventual identity crisis with respect to uniform identification of the two teams. The upstart Americans, although using blue as a trim color, had pretty much duplicated the uniform look of the Nationals — using the identical lettering style of BOSTON on their shirt fronts and often adopting a similar cap style. American League club was so identified. Black and white photographs of the period often made the players appear to be from the same team.
When John Dovey assumed control of the Nationals, he had the uniforms radically restyled for the 1907 season. The newspapers had pinned a new nickname on the team, DOVES, and the redesigned suits reinforced the new image. The new home uniforms were WHITE from head to foot with only a maroon Old English B on the shirt front and a yellow leather belt to provide relief. The road uniforms were a gray French flannel material with a fine green striping (one of the first uses of pinstriped fabrics). Road caps were plain gray and the stockings were off-white natural wool. The Old English B was repeated in BLUE on the road jerseys. Buttons replaced the lacing on the shirt fronts in keeping with uniform trends of the new decade. These uniforms received much comment around the league and the Boston Americans assumed that red or maroon was abandoned as a standard trim color by the Doves. Accordingly they seized the opportunity to use RED in their uniform designs for 1908 since no other American League club was so identified.
WHO ARE THE BOSTON RED SOX?
Apparently President Dovey, disenchanted with his 1907 uniforms, was determined to reclaim RED as the trim color of his new uniform sets for 1908. Bright red caps with white piping down the crown seams, solid red stockings, and even a red belt were featured on both home whites and road grays. A fancy red capital B appeared on the left breast of the home shirts while the name BOSTON was returned to the front of the road shirt, this time in fancy red capitals. The photographic similarity to the Americans’ uniforms was not at issue for the time being, but the two Boston teams were now “Red Stockings” for most of the next several seasons. The similarity climaxed in 1910 when both teams used identical lettering on the shirts in the same color of red.
The new 1911 uniforms broke the “look-alike” pattern with another re-design by the Nationals. The fold-down style collar had already been replaced by the short stand-up “cadet” style in keeping with current trends. The Old English B was restored to the left sleeve of the home jerseys and the new road uniforms were a solid dark navy blue with the same B in white on the sleeve — a “negative” image of the home whites. A dark visor and seam piping were added to the caps. In 1912, new President John M. Ward elected to rename the team BRAVES after a series of forgettable nicknames had been tried (i.e. HEPS, RUSTLERS). Once again, the uniforms restored the block-lettered BOSTON to both home whites and road grays. RED was also resurrected as the sole trim color and a small Indian head profile patch was added to the sleeve as a symbol of the new nickname. With solid red stockings, part of the similarity to the other Bostons returned but by this time the Americans had abandoned the name BOSTON on their shirts in favor of RED SOX and their stockings were no longer solid red but a wide band of red around the calf. By the next season, the Boston Red Stockings identity crisis was history.
THE MIRACLE BRAVES
The new BRAVES nickname proved a popular choice and the totally new uniforms for 1913 repeated the Indian head patch on the left sleeve for both home and road. Navy blue and red were combined as the new trim colors. Caps were solid navy with a thin red band around the base of the crown. Stockings were basically navy with a series of red stripes. A new red block capital B appeared on the left breast of the home jerseys. The new road uniforms were of a musty blue fabric with darker pinstriping and repeated the red B and Indian head patch. These uniforms set the stage for 1914 — the most incredible year in the history of the franchise.
Veteran baseball man George Stallings was hired to manage the Braves in 1913. Stallings was indeed a rare breed — one of the few managers who never donned a uniform and one of the most superstitious men in the history of the game. Last place in 1912, Stallings pulled the team out of the cellar in 1913 and acquired the scrappy veteran Johnny Evers to lead the team in 1914. Dead last on July 4th, these “miracle” Braves defied all logic by surging to a pennant and a world series upset of the legendary Philadelphia Athletics. The Braves were not seen again as a pennant contender for over three decades.
WORLD WAR AND THE TWENTIES
As reigning world champions for 1915, the Braves uniforms were once again revamped to celebrate the occasion. The new home uniforms adopted pinstripes, a popular fad by this time. The home cap had a white crown (made of the same pinstriped fabric) with a navy visor and a red fancy capital B on the front. The road uniforms reverted to the traditional gray. Red and blue striped stockings were continued from previous years. The most unusual new design feature was the new emblem on the left front on both home and road shirts. The red Indian head profile was positioned on a circular blue field, reminiscent of an oversize Indian head penny. They repeated this uniform scheme through the 1920 season.
In 1921, the round Braves emblem was dropped in favor of a stylized fancy capital B, curiously similar to the B on the Brooklyn road suits. Caps had a solid white or gray crown with a dark visor and no B on the front. Stockings in the early twenties were various combinations of black and white striping. Pinstripes on the home whites were discontinued in 1921 but restored in 1924. In 1925, the B on the home jersey was modified to duplicate the form of the Brooklyn B. That same year, the road uniforms introduced some radically new features. Pinstripes were incorporated in the gray fabric and the name BRAVES was spelled out in fancy capital letters across the chest. This idea was also repeated on the home shirts in the late twenties. The caps were also changed to solid navy with a white Old English B on the front. The decade of the twenties were lean years for the Braves (and Red Sox as well), perennially mired in the second division and often dead last.
THE THIRTIES — MORE COLOR AND A NEW IDENTITY
Beginning in the late twenties, a surge of new innovations and extra color trim ideas appeared on major league uniforms and continued on through the thirties. The Braves participated in this renaissance and their new uniforms for 1929 were the talk of the league. With a startling combination of flaming red and yellow trim, they had once again restructured their image. Recalling that uniform numbers on the back were not just yet standardized, they displayed a large, blazing red Indian head profile in the middle of the back (an idea borrowed from the Detroit road shirts of ‘28). The caps were solid red with white seam stripes. Stockings were basically red with a yellow striped pattern at the calf. The BRAVES lettering of past seasons was repeated on the shirt fronts in red with gold outline trim plus a new twist — a smaller version of the Indian head was positioned smack in the middle of the BRAVES letters. The same combination was repeated in 1930 with a “Pilgrim hat” patch added to the left sleeve to observe the Boston Tricentennial year. This general uniform scheme was continued through the 1935 season with some modifications along the way — Sox striping was changed several times, when numbers were added to the shirt back the Indian head was transplanted to the sleeve, and navy blue was restored in the trim scheme by 1935. Babe Ruth was photographed repeatedly in this uniform — the last one he wore as a player.
THE TENURE OF THE “BEES”
Perhaps out of desparation to stimulate sagging attendance or to shake off an image of endless futility, the Boston National League Club re-christened themselves BEES to start the 1936 season. Once again it was a new look in uniforms — royal blue and gold the new trim colors. The first BEES uniforms were the conventional white at home and gray on the road with the name BOSTON in fancy capitals on the shirts for the first time since 1912. Piping trim was a mix of blue and gold, caps were solid blue with a gold B in front, and stockings were solid blue. For 1937 and ‘38, pinstripes were added to the home whites and separate versions of a capital B replaced BOSTON on the shirt front. Gold stripes were also added to the blue stockings. In 1939, the royal blue and gold trim theme was scrapped in favor of a return to red and navy. The name BOSTON was restored on the home shirts. Stockings were basically white or gray with a combination red and navy striping. Cap crowns were also white or gray with dark visors.
For the 1940 season, it was another new design but with a more conservative flavor. All piping trim was eliminated and navy blue was suddently the predominant trim color. A new rendition of the Old English B appeared on the home jerseys as well as on the cap front. BOSTON in plain block arched capital letters on the road jersey was disturbingly similar to the latest Red Sox road uniform. The white stripes on the stockings were also dropped in favor of solid navy by ‘43. The home uniform of 1940 remained basically intact through 1944, but the 1941 road jersey introduced a slanted script BOSTON in place of the block letters. The BEES nickname was wearing thin by the WWII years and yielded to tradition as the Bostons were once again officially the BRAVES in 1945. The new ‘45 home uniform made it official, displaying the name BRAVES proudly across the front of the pinstriped jersey. The team was still struggling in the standings, but a 37-game hitting streak by Tommy Holmes focused some extra attention on this uniform.
A POST-WAR FLAG AND ADIEU TO BEANTOWN
In 1946, things were looking up for the Braves. A new manager, veteran Billy Southworth; a solid pitching staff paced by Sain and Spahn; and even a radical new uniform design that was destined to become a classic. To conservative tastes it was a gross overstatement with an abundance of color trimmings but it seemed to enrapture the fans who have since identified this image with success on the field. It was a generous balance of red and navy blue from top to bottom. A brand new slanted script version of BRAVES across the front was dramatically underscored with a tomahawk silhouette. The now familiar Indian head profile graced the left sleeve. Red and navy piping was everywhere you could put it on a baseball uniform. There was even a modified satin version for night games only. Meanwhile, back to the pennant wars, these post-war Braves finally captured a pennant in 1948 and the franchise had a new lease on life. The ‘Tomahawk” uniform design was here to stay for awhile.
Although a contender into the early fifties, the Braves couldn’t quite recapture the needed momentum for another flag and as the phenomenal post-war attendance figures began to steadily dwindle, the question of Boston being a two-team town was beginning to surface. Major league baseball’s stubborn resistance to any change in the status quo was likewise crumbling. Lou Perini was finally able to persuade the league fathers to allow him to transfer the Braves to Milwaukee for the 1953 season. And so the Boston Braves became the Milwaukee Braves and took their uniforms along. The only change for the maiden season in Wisconsin was to replace the white B on the cap to an M and to add the uniform number to the shirt fronts.
THE MILWAUKEE ADVENTURE
Beyond Mr. Perini’s wildest dreams, attendance in Milwaukee was truly phenomenal — averaging over two million a year for the balance of the decade. And since success breeds more success, the Braves won pennants in 1957 and 1958 and missed by an eyelash in 1959. All this in those popular “tomahawk” uniforms, revised only by a new Braves “face” patch on the sleeve, replacing the profile Indian head. It all seemed too good to be true — a baseball “fairy tale” — and sure enough, it eventually began to sour. The team’s performance began to slip, and so did the attendance. In 1963, the uniform was “cleaned up” and “quieted down”. Piping was reduced to a minimum and the beloved tomahawk was removed. By 1965, the honey moon was over and the Braves packed up their uniforms and headed south.
WELCOME TO THE SOUTHEAST
As before, the new Atlanta Braves opened the 1966 season with the same uniforms from Milwaukee except for a script A on the cap to replace the M. They stayed with this uniform set through the 1968 season. The new uniforms for 1969 were as much an understatement as the ‘46 suits were the opposite. Plain white pinstripes at home, plain gray on the road, solid blue stockings, no number on the front, simple script BRAVES with no underline — it was a soothing contrast to the golden years in Milwaukee, but it was not to last. With the advent of double-knit fabrics and their special new features, the Braves entered the 1972 campaign with another new look. The new pull-over jerseys offered a two-tone “softball” shirt appearance — white trunk with navy sleeves at home, navy trunk with white sleeves on the road. A colorful and highly conspicuous “feather” design blended into each sleeve. The BRAVES script was “awakened” with a double outline treatment and the stylized number was restored under BRAVES in the same treatment. The cap included a front white panel with a lower case stylized letter ‘a”. In the only concession to tradition, the trousers retained the separate belt feature. Baseball history was made in this uniform when Henry Aaron finally eclipsed Ruth’s career home run record in 1974.
THE BICENTENNIAL YEAR & BEYOND
The new Braves home uniforms America’s bicentennial year (1976) were another breakthrough of color barriers - spectacle of red, white and blue. If this was now “America’s team”, as owner Ted Turner labeled it, it was close to being draped in an American flag. With red pinstripes and red a blue trim, it was also comparable to a can stick. The ‘76 road uniform restored gray to the trousers and torso part of the jersey, which repeated the decorative “feather” sleeves. The city name ATLANTA also appeared for the first time on this road jersey. This uniform set finished out the decade of the seventies.
For 1980, it was another celebration of the double knit uniform styles for the Atlanta Braves. The home suits were back to basic white but with generous red, white and blue striping on the collar, sleeve ends and the new beltless waistband. The ‘80 road uniforms went to the more trendy powder blue with navy blue and white trim — not a trace of red anywhere (except on the cap “A”). In 1982 the caps were changed to a solid blue with white letter A in front. Also in ‘82, the ATLANTA on the blue road shirts was modified by changing the first letter A to a capital (vs. enlarged form of lower case). This uniform set ran its course when, with an apparent yearning for past glories, the club decided to join the trend toward the traditional by introducing its 1987 re-issue of the “tomahaw" uniform — replete with buttons, separate belts, generous red and blue piping and even return to standard gray color on the road. The public response to this concession to the past has been enormously favorable and it may be that the tomahawk is back for good.