Monday, September 3, 2012

What If the Red Sox Had Moved and the Braves Had Stayed In Boston?

In spring training of 1953, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee, as Milwaukee County Stadium neared completion.

The move was entirely justified.  Today, with the success of the Boston Red Sox having converted New England into "Red Sox Nation," and the Sox not having played to an unsold seat since 2001 and tickets being pretty hard to come by since the 1986 Pennant, it could be argued that the New England region could support a second Major League Baseball team.  Granted, due to the locations of the population bases and the transportation network, it couldn't be in Hartford.  Or Providence.  Or Manchester, New Hampshire.  Or in the small towns that serve as those cities' suburbs.  It would have to also be in Boston.

But in 1953? Forget it: The 1950 Census had the population of the city of Boston at about 800,000 (today it's about 617,000), but the metropolitan area could not approach the 7.6 million that it is today.  In 1952, the last season of two-team Boston, the Braves averaged 3,677 fans per game.  Per game.  The Red Sox averaged 14,490.  Combined, that's 18,167, both teams combined, about half what the Sox alone get now.

And after 1933, a good season for the Braves, and the year Thomas Austin Yawkey bought the Red Sox and started to rebuild both the team and Fenway Park, the Braves never had a higher per-game attendance than the Red Sox.  Not even in 1948, when the Braves won their only Pennant after their 1914 World Championship, and the Red Sox lost a one-game Playoff for the American League Pennant to the Cleveland Indians: The Braves averaged 19,025, a total they never surpassed in Boston, while the Red Sox averaged 20,602.

Once the Braves moved to Milwaukee, they had a better attendance than the Red Sox 10 years in a row.  County Stadium had 44,000 seats at the time, 4,000 more than Braves Field, and about 10,000 more parking spaces.  Plus, their farm system was bearing fruit.

Which should make one wonder: What if they'd held out just one more year? In 1953, already having Warren Spahn, they had the first full season of Eddie Mathews.  And 1954 was the first season of Hank Aaron.

What if...


If you're going to imagine a scenario in which the Braves stay in Boston, you're going to have to admit the truth: Boston could not remain a two-team city.  Therefore, the Red Sox have to go.

Tom Yawkey did talk about moving the team out of Boston... if he did not get a replacement for Fenway Park.  That was in 1967, and then the Red Sox got into their first Pennant race in 16 years, won their first Pennant in 21 years, and suddenly Fenway Park was the place to be.  Yawkey sat back and enjoyed the glory, and essentially forgot about replacing Fenway.  It would be the late 1990s before anyone seriously discussed replacing Fenway again.

Yawkey was rich.  Filthy rich.  And, whatever his flaws, he loved baseball.  He was not going to sell the Red Sox.

Therefore, if you want to change history so that the Braves stay in Boston and the Red Sox don't, you have to use a date prior to March 17, 1953, the date the National League approved the Braves' move to Milwaukee, as your point of divergence.  You have to remove Yawkey from Boston.

The story I heard is that, in 1933, Yawkey turned 30 and inherited the lumber-mill fortune of his uncle and adoptive father, a former co-owner of the Detroit Tigers named William Hoover Yawkey.  With his uncle's connections, he knew several Detroit baseball figures, including the one and only Ty Cobb.  He asked Cobb if the Tigers were for sale.  Cobb said he'd look into it.  When he got back to Yawkey, he said, No, the Tigers were not for sale, but the Red Sox were.  The rest is history.  Not all good history, but history nonetheless.

We now know that Frank Navin, who had put his name on the ballpark that we would later know as Tiger Stadium (and opened on the same day as Fenway, April 20, 1912), was in both poor health and financial difficulty.  He died a few weeks after the Tigers won their first World Series in 1935.  This left Walter O. Briggs Sr. as the sole owner.

So let's imagine that Cobb brokers a deal by which Yawkey buys most of Navin's shares, and most of Briggs' shares.  This would leave Bob Quinn, who had bought the Red Sox from the much-maligned Harry Frazee in 1923, to continue as Sox owner -- preventing him from joining the front offices of the Brooklyn Dodgers and, oddly, the Braves in TTL, as he did in RL.

In 1951, Quinn, by then President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, suffered a stroke, and retired from that role.  In TTL, this could be the impetus for his selling the Red Sox to someone who would move them.

(Quinn died in 1954.  His son John also served as Braves general manager, in Boston and Milwaukee.  One grandson, Bob, was GM of the Yankees, Reds and Giants; another, Jack, was GM of the NHL's St. Louis Blues.  Today, great-grandson Bob Quinn is a front-office man with the current Milwaukee team, the Brewers.)

So here we go...


With Yawkey in charge of the Tigers, he does what Navin would have done, buying catcher Mickey Cochrane from the Philadelphia Athletics, as owner-manager Connie Mack had lost all his non-baseball assets in the stock market crash of 1929 and needed to break up his 1929-31 dynasty.  In RL, Mack sold first baseman Jimmie Foxx  and pitchers Lefty Grove and Rube Walberg, to the Red Sox, and left fielder Al Simmons to the Chicago White Sox.  Yawkey brought the Ferrell brothers to Boston: Pitcher Wes of the Cleveland Indians and catcher Rick of the St. Louis Browns.  His big move came in the 1934-35 off-season, buying Joe Cronin from the Washington Senators -- who was not just the shortstop and manager for Senators owner Clark Griffith, but also his son-in-law.

With Yawkey in charge of the Tigers, Cronin won't be the manager.  But he'd be a better shortstop than Billy Rogell.  Hank Greenberg gets moved to left field to make room for Foxx (as, in RL, he would briefly do for Rudy York), with Goose Goslin then moving from left to right, and Simmons replacing Jo-Jo White in center.  Now imagine a pitching staff of Lefty Grove, Wes Ferrell, Elwyn "Schoolboy" Rowe and Tommy Bridges.  Even good pitchers like Elden Auker and Alvin "General" Crowder would either go to the bullpen or get traded.

The Tigers almost certainly beat the St. Louis Cardinals' "Gashouse Gang" in the 1934 World Series (thus ruining the goofy-and-braggy-but-victorious image of Dizzy Dean, who almost certainly does not make the Hall of Fame), and still win the '35 Series as in RL.  In RL-1936, the Yankees, with an unbelievable rookie season from Joe DiMaggio, finished 19 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers.  I don't think the Tigers overtake them, especially as some of those guys were getting older.  Nor do they win in '37, '38 or '39.  But the 1940 race, a nailbiter between the Tigers, Yankees and Indians, is not one, and the Tigers beat the Cincinnati Reds in the Series -- which they nearly did anyway.  The Tigers just missed winning the Pennant in 1944 and won the whole thing in 1945; in TTL, they win the Series both years, taking another title away from the Cardinals (1944) and keeping one they won in RL (1945).

Tom Yawkey doesn't win the Pennant in 1967 -- but the Tigers do still win the 1968 World Series, as in RL.  Yawkey dies in 1976, and his widow Jean Yawkey inherits the team.  She is the owner of the 1984 World Champion Tigers, and she dies in 1992.  Little Caesar's pizza mogul Mike Ilitch then buys the Tigers from the Yawkey Trust.  (And so, history reasserts itself: In RL, in that same year, he bought them from Domino's Pizza owner Tom Monaghan.) The Tigers win the Pennant in 2006, and nearly do so again in 2011.


That's what happens to the Yawkeys.  Now for the Red Sox: 

Perhaps if Ted Williams hadn't been away in the Korean War in the winter of 1952-53, he could have had some input on where the team went.  Possibly to his native California? Possibly to Florida, where he lived?

Here were the cities that, in RL, would all get major league teams in the next 10 years, 1953 to 1962: Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, San Francisco.  In RL-1952, the Sox' top farm club was the Louisville Colonels.  This would have made it simple: The Sox already owned the market.  But Louisville, which hadn't had a major league team since 1899 (and still hasn't, in RL), was then (and is now) too small a market for a big-league club.

At that point, Milwaukee, whose minor-league Brewers were the Braves' top farm team, was building County Stadium to have 44,000 seats (and was expanded to 53,000 by 1973), Baltimore was converting Municipal Stadium into Memorial Stadium to 49,000 ( later 54,000), Kansas City was double-decking their Municipal Stadium so it would seat 35,000, and none of the others then had, or were about to have, a stadium seating more than 21,000.  Also, moving to the Pacific Coast would make travel really expensive, especially if there wasn't a second team moving out there.  And since one League having 2 West Coast teams and the other having none would have brought lots of recriminations, the TTL-Red Sox are not moving to the West Coast.

So here were the Red Sox' options: Make a deal with the owners of the Triple-A teams in Milwaukee (Braves), Baltimore (Phillies) or K.C. (Yankees), and wait for the cities to finish their stadiums; or stay put and suffer.

Since the Yankees were trying to get a major league team in Kansas City, and also trying to make sure that the Philadelphia Athletics were that team, which would make the Phillies the only game in their town, it makes sense, in TTL as in RL, if the Boston team that moves, moves to Milwaukee.  So the Braves, in order to be the only game in town, swap the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association to the Red Sox for the Louisville Colonels of the International League.

On September 28, 1952, the Boston Red Sox play their last game at Fenway Park, losing 5-4 to the Washington Senators.  In 1955, Fenway, the home of the 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 World Champions, and the 1946 American League Champions, is demolished to make way for housing for nearby Boston University.

On April 20, 1953, the Milwaukee Red Sox play their first game at Milwaukee County Stadium, also against the Senators.  This time, they win, 4-2.  The return of Williams later in the season makes it even more of a special season, as Wisconsinians go nuts over their first big-league baseball team in 52 years, and Ted gets greater appreciation from the fans -- and especially from the media -- in Milwaukee than he ever got in Boston.

However, the enthusiasm soon dims.  Unlike the RL-Braves, the TTL-Red Sox do not win Pennants in 1957 and '58. When Ted plays his last game on September 28, 1960, and hits a home run in his last at-bat, 43,768 fans -- over 4 times as many that came out at Fenway in RL that day -- cheer him wildly.  But, as with the RL-Braves, the attendance drops precipitously.

When the Minnesota Twins arrived in 1961, that took the States of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota -- admittedly, the Dakotas are not huge population centers, but Minnesota is a big loss -- and northern Iowa and the westernmost part of Wisconsin, away from the Milwaukee market.

So the TTL-Red Sox, with no 1957 World Championship, with no 1958 Pennant, and with no Ted Williams -- and with Carl Yastrzemski not yet developed into a star, are in trouble.

And Yaz wouldn't have gone to the Milwaukee Red Sox, anyway.  He grew up in the Hamptons on Long Island, and his father, Carl Sr., wanted him to play for a Northeastern team.  When the Dodgers came calling, Carl Sr. said, "If only you were still in Brooklyn." When the RL-Red Sox came calling, Boston's comparative proximity was good enough for Carl Sr., and so Carl Jr. became Captain Yaz, the Red Sox legend.

But Milwaukee? Sorry, Yaz doesn't go there.  He could, though, go to the TTL-Boston Braves... But that's to discuss later.

So, for the next round of expansion, nothing changes from RL.  For the 1961 season, Los Angeles got the Angels to go with the Dodgers, the Senators became the Minnesota Twins, and Washington got a new Senators to replacement.  For 1962, New York got the Mets and Houston got the Colt .45's (who became the Astros in 1965).

So where can the Milwaukee Red Sox go? The following cities either got big-league teams or were rumored to be getting them in the following 10 years: Atlanta, Oakland, Kansas City (to replace the A's), Montreal, San Diego, Seattle, Milwaukee (who got the failed-after-one-year Seattle team), Dallas, Denver and Louisville.  Only Louisville ended up not getting one, although Charlie Finley did briefly consider moving the A's there, as well as to Denver and Dallas, before moving them to Oakland (and eventually made a second, nearly-successful, attempt at moving them to Denver).

Obviously, in TTL, Milwaukee isn't getting the Red Sox, because they're losing them.  In RL-1962, of the cities listed above, only Kansas City had a decent-sized ballpark, and at that point, in both RL and TTL, they still had the A's.

But Montreal had Delorimier Stadium, 20,000 seats, sitting vacant after the Dodgers pulled the Montreal Royals out after the 1960 season.  Mayor Jean Drapeau was something of a megalomaniac, and he wasn't able to get a team for his city until 1968 (for the 1969 season).  Instead of Jarry Park, an inadequate baseball park, and the Autostade, an inadequate football stadium, maybe this time Drapeau gets it right.

On September 28, 1963, for the last time after 92 years, a team called the Red Stockings or the Red Sox played in Major League Baseball.  The Milwaukee Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels, 4-3.  Only 12,577 came out to County Stadium.  (That's how many came out for the last Milwaukee Braves game, on September 22, 1965, a 7-6 loss to the Dodgers in 11 innings.)

On April 17, 1964 -- the same day that Shea Stadium opened in New York, which doesn't change in TTL -- for the first time, a Major League Baseball game is played outside the United States.  At Stade Macdonald, named for Canada's first Prime Minister, on the Ile de Soeurs, where the pavilions for the Expo 67 World's Fair were soon to go up in RL, the renamed Montreal Expos beat the Chicago White Sox, 4-1, in front of 45,585 fans.  (I'm keeping the name "Expos" for simplicity's sake, and it does make some sense, as Canada began planning for the fair in 1962.)

The Expos won the American League Pennant in 1967, Canada's Centennial year.  How can they do this, when they are, essentially, the same team as the RL-1967 Boston Red Sox, only without the key figures of Carl Yastrzemski and (as you'll see later) Tony Conigliaro?

Ah, but their owners are not the same.  They were quicker to bring in black players, and not just role players but those of consequence.  They make a trade with the Phillies to bring in Dick Allen -- who is a better 3rd baseman than either Joe Foy or Jerry Adair.  The left fielder they got was former San Francisco Giant Matty Alou, and he wins the American League batting title in 1966 (instead of the National League batting title).  With Montreal being a multicultural city in ways that Allen's Philadelphia definitely was not at the time, and even Alou's San Francisco wasn't yet quite embracing, these players embrace their new environment and vice versa, and they excel.

And the Expos beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series -- with Al Downing, obtained from the Yankees, pitching on 3 days' rest instead of Jim Lonborg, who was on 2 and, in RL, just didn't have it that day.  This is the franchise's first World Championship in 49 years.

The Cards also lose the '68 Series to Yawkey's Tigers, meaning that Bob Gibson doesn't have nearly the same mystique, and Orlando Cepeda waits another few years to get into the Hall of Fame -- but he does get in.  Still, Bob Feller ends up taking Gibson's place on the All-Century Team in 1999.

The Expos beat out Yawkey's Tigers for the AL Eastern Division title in 1972, but lose the AL Championship Series to the A's.  (Oakland, right? Hold on... ) They win the 1975 Pennant, and Carlton Fisk -- whose hometown of Charlestown, New Hampshire isn't that much further from Montreal than it is from Boston -- waves his fly ball fair to win Game 6 of the World Series, but the Reds win Game 7.

The Yankees and the Expos faced each other in battles for the AL East title in 1974, '75, '76, '77 and '78, and the rivalry was fun.  But it wasn't especially nasty.  With Baltimore being the closest AL city to New York (yes, a little closer than Boston is), Yankees vs. Orioles becomes THE rivalry in the AL.  But even that is not at the level in TTL as Dodgers vs. Giants or even Cubs vs. Cardinals is in RL, much less at the Yanks-Sox rivalry that we know.

The Expos lose the 1986 World Series to the Mets, but Quebec fans figure it out: It was relievers Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley, and manager John McNamara, who screwed it up.  Unlike RL New Englanders, they forgive Bill Buckner pretty quickly, since the lead was already blown.

True, the 1999, 2003 and '04 ALCS were tightly-fought affairs between the Yankees and the Expos, but there were few Montrealers defending Pedro Martinez when he threw Don Zimmer to the ground by his head.  Montrealers didn't like getting beat by Aaron Boone, but they also appreciated that their Expos didn't look like a bunch of slobs when they won it all in 2004 and 2007.  The steroid revelations hurt, but then, lots of teams had players like that -- including the Yankees.  There is little bitterness between Yankee and Expo fans over that period.

And while the Expos fell apart  in TTL-2011, they don't have the "choke" reputation of the RL-Red Sox.  And nobody ever wrote The Curse of the Bambino -- because what do Montreal fans care that Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth in the 1919-20 off-season? It was the same franchise as the one they're watching now, but it wasn't their team then.


That's the Red Sox.  What about Milwaukee? Same as in RL: They get a team in 1953, then lose it, while the Seattle Pilots flop in their inaugural season, 1969, and become the Brewers in 1970.  Only now, they've never won a World Series, and the city only has the 1982 Pennant.

What about Atlanta, who now won't have the Braves? Well, they don't wait for expansion again in 1969 (to take the RL-Expos' place).  They make a play for Charlie Finley's Kansas City A's, who move there in 1966.  That may not sit well with the black A's, including Reggie Jackson, but with the A's winning 5 straight AL West titles from 1971 to 1975, the city and the players both get over it, and are a boost toward racial reconciliation in the South.  It is the Atlanta A's that beat the Detroit Tigers in the 1972 ALCS, and Atlanta gets an MLB Pennant 19 years sooner than in RL.  The A's have won 4 World Series in Atlanta, which is 3 more than the RL-Atlanta Braves.

When Finley gets frustrated, and breaks up his team in 1976, Atlanta's Ted Turner steps in and makes Finley an offer he can't refuse.  Turner builds the A's team that wins the 1981 AL West title, and then the 1988-92 "Bash Brothers" quasi-dynasty.  Ted raises a lot of money for relief to go toward San Francisco when the Atlanta A's play the Giants in the 1989 World Series.  And with the building of Turner Field in 1997, there is, unlike in RL-Oakland, no danger that the Atlanta A's will move anytime soon.

Okay, so what about Oakland? They have the Coliseum.  But the NL is reluctant to put a 2nd team in the metro area, already having the Giants.  In TTL, Oakland never gets a Major League Baseball team.

So it is, ironically, the city that, in RL-1976, nearly got the Giants after the A's 1970s success made it seem like they would be the only team that could stay in the Bay Area: Toronto.  Exhibition Stadium had opened in 1959 and was the home of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts.  So in TTL-1977, the Toronto Blue Jays debut -- in the NL East, in the place held by the RL-Expos/Nationals.

The teams that debut in TTL-1977 are the same ones that we know: The Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners... Except that they're in the National League, which expands to 14 teams, while the American League stays at 12.  This results in the Jays winning the 1992 World Series over Atlanta, but it's the Atlanta Athletics.  But the "Macho Row" Phillies beat them and in 1993, and the Phils go on to beat the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS and the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.  As for the M's, they win 116 games in 2001, to win the NL West and the Pennant.  The Yankees beat the 1998 expansion Arizona Diamondbacks to win the 2001 ALDS 3 games to 2, and the A's to win the ALCS, before topping the Mariners in the post-9/11 World Series, winning Games 4 and 5 on walkoff hits: Derek Jeter's home run in the 10th in Game 4, and Alfonso Soriano singling home Chuck Knoblauch in the 12th in Game 5.

What about Washington? If the Expos never move there, what team do they get? They get an expansion team in 1998.  In the American League.  The 3rd incarnation of the Washington Senators -- can't call them the Nationals if they're in the AL -- take the place of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Senators Park opens in 2003, allowing them to get out of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium 5 years earlier.  By the time the "Nats" (remember, the old Senators were called that, short for "Senators," even though the NHL's Ottawa Senators are the "Sens") win the 2008 AL Pennant and lose the World Series to the Phillies, their ballpark is corporate-named Capitol One Park.  "What's in your wallet?" Enough money to have a rotation that includes David Price, James Shields and Stephen Strasburg.

Tampa Bay remains stuck with their "gray elephant" dome, which is used by the cross-State Marlins as bait to get a new ballpark near downtown Miami, which works, as Marlins Park, as in RL, opens in 2012.


Now for the remaining Boston team, the Braves: They win the 1957 World Series and the 1958 NL Pennant, as in RL  But now, that 1957 title is Boston's first in 39 years, rather than Milwaukee's first ever (and still only).  And the increased attendance leads to a reconfiguration of Braves Field, thus different fence distances and wind conditions, and they take advantage of this to beat the Dodgers out for the Pennant in 1959.  But they lose the World Series to the White Sox -- Chicago's first title, for either the White Sox or the Cubs, in 42 years.

Being Boston's team, and with the amateur draft not yet in place, it is the Braves who sign local wonderboy Tony Conigliaro.  Being a Northeastern team, it is the Braves who sign Carl Yastrzemski.  Being in the NL, Tony C comes to bat on August 18, 1967, but not against Jack Hamilton, and he is not beaned.  The Braves aren't really in the Pennant race in 1967, despite a great year from Yaz.  It is they who battle the New York Mets for the NL East title in 1969, but they fall a little short.  In RL, the Atlanta Braves won the NL West; in TTL, the Cubs are in the NL West, and win it, their first 1st-place finish in 24 years.  But the Mets beat them in the NLCS, and win their "Miracle" World Championship over the Orioles.

Tony C, his career uninterrupted, becomes the big folk hero, with Yaz essentially being Lou Gehrig to his Babe Ruth.  Or, considering that Hank Aaron is still there, the analogy should be that Aaron is a still-playing Joe DiMaggio, while Tony C is Boston's Mickey Mantle, Yaz is their Roger Maris, and knuckleballer Phil Niekro is their Whitey Ford.  However, Bill Lee does not become their Yogi Berra: The quotable southpaw whackjob spends his entire career with the TTL-Expos, instead of the team they were, the RL-Red Sox, and the RL-Expos, and he becomes a folk hero in Montreal.

In 1972, Patriot Park opens at Massachusetts and Westland Avenues, across from Symphony Hall to the north and the First Church of Christ, Scientist to the east.  It was chosen (by me for this story, by the City of Boston in TTL) for its proximity to all four of the MBTA's Green Lines, and is no worse to drive to than RL-Fenway Park.  The dimensions make it a hitter's park, which means that Aaron hits his 714th and 715th career home runs on September 30, 1973, the final day of the regular season, in a 6-5 win over the Houston Astros.  Dave Roberts gives up the equalizer, and Don Wilson gives up the record-breaker.

And with Hank, Yaz, Tony C, Darrell Evans and Davey Johnson providing one of the most potent attacks the game has ever known, the Braves win the bunched-up NL East, instead of the Mets, and go on to win the Pennant over the Reds.  But they lose the World Series in 7 games to the Atlanta Athletics.  They win the NL East again in 1974, and beat the Dodgers for the Pennant, but again lose to the A's.  The people of Boston can't understand how they can lose to a city like Atlanta.  Still, since their 1948 Pennant, the TTL-Braves have won 5 Pennants, and that's 1 more than the RL-Red Sox won over the same stretch.

Aaron, who never played in Milwaukee, stays with the Braves for his entire career, and retires in 1976 with 766 home runs -- which means that, at 762, Barry Bonds falls short, and Hank still holds the record.  Like Hank, Tony C joins the 500 Home Run Club, retiring in 1981 with 508.  Like Hank, Yaz joins the 3,000 Hit Club, retiring in 1983 with 3,419.  (In Yaz' case, the total is as in RL.) By the time the Braves win the NL East title in 1982 (losing the NLCS to the Western Champion St. Louis Cardinals, a geographic reverse of RL), new players are there, led by Dale Murphy, with Niekro as the only holdover from the 1974 Pennant, let alone from the 1969 near-miss.

The Braves, led by Ron Gant, Terry Pendleton, David Justice, and the pitching of Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and John Smoltz, win the 1991 Pennant.  They fall short in 1992 (Toronto) and '93 (Philadelphia).  But in 1995, having added Chipper Jones and Greg Maddux, they go all the way.  In 1996, for the first time since 1912 -- and for the first time since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth -- the World Series is New York vs. Boston.  No change: The Yankees beat the Braves in 6.

While Turner Field opens for the A's in Atlanta the next season, the Boston Braves' Patriot Park still stands as of 2012, its 40th Anniversary season, and while there have been some adjustments to make it more modern (including skyboxes), the great atmosphere -- not to mention the byzantine nature of politics in Massachusetts in general and in Boston in particular -- mean there are no plans to replace it.  It is generally regarded as the best ballpark built between Dodger Stadium in 1962 and Camden Yards in 1992.

The Boston Braves beat the Florida Marlins out in both the 1997 regular season and NLCS, but the Cleveland Indians reverse the result of 1995 -- and 1948, and win their first World Championship since that year.  The Braves lose another World Series to the Yankees in 1999, and the rivalry between New York and Boston, so much bigger in basketball and hockey (and soon to be in football as well), has perked up a bit in baseball.  But in TTL, it's the Mets who build a rivalry with Boston, as the Braves beat them out for the NL East title in 1998, 1999 and 2000, and in a taut 1999 NLCS.

So here's the Braves' titles in TTL:

World Series Champions, 3: 1914, 1957, 1995.

National League Champions, 19 (more than any other NL team): 1877, 1878, 1883, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, 1898, 1914, 1948, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1973, 1974, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1999.

N.L. East Champions, 16 (more Division titles than any other NL team): 1973, 1974, 1982, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005.

Or, to put it another way, from 1953 onward, here's the totals, in TTL and RL: World Series wins, Braves 2, Red Sox 2; Pennants, Braves 9, Red Sox 5; Division titles, Braves 16, Red Sox 6.

Granted, in terms of going all the way, it's not an improvement, and it's 17 years since the last title, not 5.  But the Boston Braves, in spite of their 1920s and '30s struggles, have never in the post-World War II, post-integration era, had an image as a losing or a choking team.  Not even as much as the RL-Atlanta Braves.

So if this is how it would have gone had the Red Sox moved out of Boston and the Braves stayed, I think it's an improvement.