A veteran baseball writer chronicles the unlikely triumph of big-league baseball’s first small-market team.
The baseball bookshelf bulges with accounts lamenting the 1957 exodus of the Giants from New York and the Dodgers from Brooklyn. Still getting no respect is the 1953 move of Lou Perini’s Boston Braves to Milwaukee, a city eager to shed its “Bush League” image and finally become Major League. Klima (Willie’s Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend, 2009, etc.) remedies this oversight with his tale of the franchise relocation, the hotly contested 1957 pennant-winning season, and the World Series triumph over the powerful Yankees. He devotes colorful attention to eventual Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, spitballer Lew Burdette and his surly mound-mate Bob Buhl, catcher Del Crandall and shortstop Johnny Logan, a solid nucleus vastly improved by the addition of the transcendent Hank Aaron. When no-nonsense manager Fred Haney replaced the lackadaisical “Jolly Cholly” Grimes in 1956, the Braves finally had the necessary winning ingredients. Hard-nosed, crude and profane, the team character strikes modern fans as more boorish than endearing. But Milwaukee loved them, and it’s this working-class city that emerges as the narrative’s MVP. From the parade welcoming the team to town, to the tailgate parties accompanying the games, to the mobilization of the entire business community, especially the Miller Beer Company, in support, Milwaukee adopted the Braves with a touching small-town boosterism that embarrassed big-city opponents and jaded reporters unaccustomed to Wisconsin Nice. During the autumn of 1957, Milwaukee stunned the baseball world and humbled mighty New York, a victory for Bushvilles everywhere.
A rollicking read that captures the spirit of the team, the city and a unique moment in baseball history.