Friday, March 18, 2016

Living Former Boston Braves

September 21, 1952: The Boston Braves play their final home game at Braves Field. They lose 8-2 to the Brooklyn Dodgers. They close the season with a trip to New York City, losing 3 to the Giants, and then a loss to the Dodgers, a win over them, and a tie that is not replayed.

March 18, 1953: The Major League Baseball owners approve the Braves' move to Milwaukee. You could do that in those days, move a team within a month of Opening Day.

There are 11 former Boston Braves still alive, 63 years after the move. I have arranged them in chronological order, by time with the Braves, not necessarily by age:

* Eddie Carnett, 99, from Oklahoma. Left fielder, he played 2 games for the Braves in 1941, before going into the service, got his discharge, and played with the 1944 Chicago White Sox and 1945 Cleveland Indians. If he lives to see October 21, it will be his 100th birthday.

* Mike Sandlock, 100, from Greenwich, Connecticut. Catcher, played 2 games in 1942, returned for 30 games in 1944, later played for the Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The oldest living former major leaguer.

* Harry MacPherson, 90, from the Boston suburbs. Pitcher, faced 4 batters on August 14, 1944, and got 3 of them out, without allowing a run -- and never made another big-league appearance. He was finished at age 18, a situation that could only have happened with the manpower shortage of World War II.

* Clint Conatser, 94, from Los Angeles. Outfielder, 1948 and '49. The last survivor of the Braves' last Pennant team in Boston, of 1948.

* Johnny Antonelli, 85, from Rochester. Pitcher, 1948-50, then went into the Korean War. By the time he pitched for the Braves again, they'd moved. Traded to the New York Giants in 1954, won 21 games, the National League ERA title, and the World Series. Was also with the Giants when they moved in 1957, and closed his career back with the Braves in 1961.

* Del Crandall, 86, from the Los Angeles suburbs. Catcher, 1949-50, then went into the Korean War. By the time he pitched for the Braves again, they'd moved. An 8-time All-Star in Milwaukee, won 3 of the 1st 4 NL Gold Gloves for catchers, and starred on their 1957 and '58 World Series teams. Later returned to Milwaukee as Brewers manager.

* Luis Olmo, 96, from Puerto Rico. Outfielder, appeared in the 1949 World Series for the Dodgers, then wrapped up his U.S. big-league career with the Braves in 1950 and '51, before returning to the Caribbean.

* Dick Manville, 89, from Des Moines. Pitcher, tossed 2 innings on April 30, 1950, and had a brief return to the majors with the 1952 Chicago Cubs.

* Bob Addis, 90, from the Cleveland suburbs. Outfielder, 1950 and '51. Briefly played in the Yankees' minor-league system.

* Bert Thiel, 89, from Marion, Wisconsin. Pitcher, made 4 relief appearances for the Braves in 1952. Ironically, given his home State, never got called back up after they moved to Milwaukee.

* Gene Conley, 85, from the Seattle suburbs. Pitcher, made 4 appearances in 1952, the last season in Boston. Went into the service, came back to the Braves in Milwaukee, was the winning pitcher in the 1955 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, and pitched for them in the 1957 and '58 World Series. Also pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox.

The last active player for the Boston Braves was Eddie Mathews, who was also the only player to have played for them in Boston, Milwaukee (all 13 seasons) and Atlanta (just the 1st season, 1966). He remained active until 1968. The last active player for the Milwaukee Braves was Phil Niekro, who lasted until 1987.

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UPDATE: Mike Sandlock died on April 9, 2016, making Eddie Carnett the oldest living former MLB player.

Carnett did live to see his 100th birthday, but not much more. He died on November 4, 2016.

Bob Addis died on November 15, 2016. Harry MacPherson died on February 19, 2017. That leaves 7 living former Boston Braves: Clint Conatser, Johnny Antonelli, Del Crandall, Luis Olmo, Dick Manville, Bert Thiel and Gene Conley.

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