On January 30, 1936, the new owners of the hapless Boston Braves held a contest in the local Globe to rename the team. Requests flood in, and when the winner was finally announced as the Boston Bees, many people in the town hoped the curse would be lifted on their team's mediocrity. It's sad to say that was definitely not the case.
The 1936 team (managed by future Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie) featured a modicum of talent among it: outfielders Gene Moore and Wally Berger provided some necessary pop, while second baseman Tony Cuccinello batted .308. Unfortunately, the pitching was mediocre at best, with journeyman Danny McFayden providing the only sub-3.00 ERA among the starters. At the All-Star game (held at the team's stadium, the nostalgically-named Braves Field), only Berger made the team (and didn't play at all), while then league batting leader, first baseman Buck Jordan, wasn't even invited to the game. Jordan ended up with a .323 average, but the team finished 71-83 and in sixth place in the National League.
The 1936 season had been dominated by the outstanding play of New York Yankees rookie Joe DiMaggio and Boston, seizing on his abilities, purchased the contract of his younger brother Vince in the offseason. Like his brother, Vince was rushed to the big leagues and roamed centerfield for the Bees. Unfortunately, Vince was quite unlike his brother at the plate, batting a meager .256 and striking out 111 times in 1937. With injuries to Jordan and Berger (traded in June for $35,000 cash), the Bees struggled to score runs for their new starting rotation, featuring an again-superb McFayden to complement stellar pitching from 33-year-old "rookie" Milkman Jim Turner and fastballer Lou Fette. On August 6, Roy Johnson and Rabbit Warstler teed off for home runs against Cubs pitcher Tex Carleton, the first two players to open a game with four-baggers in the 20th century. It didn't help, as the team lost the game 6-2 and slunk down to 46-52 and fifth place in the league. Despite a last season run to go 33-21 down the stretch, the team finished where they started - in fifth place.
1938 saw a major change of pace in the dugout, when McKechnie was ousted and replaced by funny man Casey Stengel. Other changes included two rookies in the outfield, Johnny Cooney and Max West, to complement their second-year man DiMaggio. The players combined for power, but suffered along with the team, whose .250 batting average was worst in the league. That combined with expected falloffs from Turner, Fette, and McFayden, and the team's 77-75 record was not only something of a surprise, but was nothing short of miraculous - for the Boston squad, anyway. Perhaps the highlight of the club's season was when Gaylord Perry was born on September 15, creating a small glimmer of hope for future Braves fans. The current ones only got to see destruction and despair, and at the end of the season, Gene Moore and DiMaggio was gone, replaced only top first base prospect Buddy Hassett. Would he be the answer the Bees had been looking for to improve their chances?
You haven't been paying much attention, have you?
Stengel's 1939 team was positively anemic. Benchwarming catcher (and Hall of Fame manager) Al Lopez was called into starting duty, and batted .252, while Hassett and youngster West provided the majority of the pop in the bat, Hassett batting .308 and stealing 13 bases while West clocked 19 home runs. Before the season had begun, former Bees start Tiny Chaplin had passed away in a car accident, and the season was just as grim as his fate. Turner, McFayden, and Fette continued to struggle, and the best pitcher on the team was a throw-in from the Hassett trade, Bill Posedel, whose 15-13 record was the best on the squad. A big surprise was shortstop Eddie Miller who, while on his way to his first full season, made the headlines twice in July: first as a rare rookie All-Star, and then two weeks later, when he broke his leg sliding into second, ending his year prematurely. Six days later, when the less-than-sure footed Lopez dropped an easy foul ball, a fan jumped onto the field and punched Lopez in the back of the head. At the end of the 63-88 season, Turner, McFayden, and other pitching rascal Johnny Lanning were let go, along with spitballer Fred Frankhouse.
1940 saw a team almost precisely as anemic as the one from the year prior. With a knee injury to team regular Cuccinello, a major drop off in output from West and Hassett, and the lack of strong starting pitching with injuries to Fette and rookie Nick Strincevich all contributed to yet another sad season. While Miller returned to good form, batting .276 with 14 home runs, and rookie leftfielder Chet Ross had career highs in home runs (17) and RBIs (89), and outfielder Johnny Cooney batted a .318, the bad outweighed the good, and the team struggled to a 65-87 record. As if to highlight the general nature of the Johnny-come-lately Bees, they traded their average leftfielder Debs Garms to the Pirates to make room for Ross. Garms promptly batted .355 to lead the league. Trading away Lopez and reacquiring Moore didn't help, and once again, the highlight of the season was the birth of a future Brave, this time Joe Torre.
Midway through the 1940 season, owner Charles F. Adams passed away from a long illness. Twelve Boston millionaires combined to buy up the Bees, whom they promptly renamed the Braves, ending the reign of ineptitude that that name had enacted in Boston. It would take 8 more years before the team saw the playoffs again.
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