Did you know that the Braves didn't start out in Atlanta? That they moved there from Milwaukee? And that they actually began in Boston? Well, that's all true. And in 1948, they had their last hurrah in Beantown.
That’s only six winning seasons out of thirty years. Forgot the Red Sox: The
Braves fans were the long suffering ones. They broke the century mark in losses
five times. And in 1935, the Braves managed an execrable 38-115 record,
averaging less than 3,100 fans per game.
In 1946, the team showed signs of life, improving from 67 to 81 wins and
nearly tripling attendance. In 1947, they had their best season since 1916,
finished third and broke the million mark in attendance for the first time
ever. With many fans excited for Braves baseball for the first times in their
lives, what would 1948 hold in store?
“Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.”
Warren Spahn finished serving in World War II and in 1947, his first full
season in the majors, won 21 games and led the league in ERA and innings
pitched. He would go on to be the winningest left handed pitcher in baseball
Johnny Sain returned from his military service and won 20 games in 1946 and
21 more in 1947. Though his career was much less successful than that of Spahn’s,
he finished second in the 1948 MVP voting.
As Boston raced
to the flag, Boston Post sportswriter Gerald Hearn overheard manager Billy
Southworth say, “From here on I will rotate my pitching staff. Spahn one day,
Sain the next.”
How fortunate for Hearn that ‘Sain’ and ‘rain’ rhymed! On September 14, the
following poem appeared in the Post:
First we'll use Spahn, then we'll
Then an off day, followed by rain
Back will come Spahn, followed
And followed, we hope by two days of rain.
It was paraphrased as “Spahn and Sain, then pray for rain” and is still
recognizable to baseball fans today.
The refrain is a bit misleading, though. Sain had a brilliant season,
winning a league high 24 games. He would also lead the league in complete games
and innings pitched. His ERA was a stellar 2.60. He certainly would have won the
Cy Young Award if it existed yet.
But Warren Spahn actually had the worst season of his peak years. He only
went 15-12 with a 3.71 ERA. Vern Bickford was 11-5 with a 3.27 ERA and even
Bill Voiselle, 13-13 with a 3.63 ERA, was comparable. But Southworth knew he
had a tough lefty who had just won 21 games the year before in Spahn. And of
course, he would go on to win at least 20 games eleven of the next thirteen
Spahn and Sain started 74 games in 1948: the rest of the staff combined for
75. But the two started three of the six post season games (Spahn and Sain and
somebody else…) as the Braves fell to the Indians.
1948 was the last hurrah for the Boston Braves, who had joined the National
Association in 1871 and moved to the National League in 1876. They would finish
under .500 in three of the next four seasons, with attendance plummeting. It
was only 281,278 in 1952: down almost one million from just four years before.
So, the team packed up and moved to Milwaukee for 1953, drawing a stunning 1.8
million fans (Brooklyn owner Walter O’Malley paid attention to that!). They
also got suddenly good, finishing first or second in seven of the next eight
However, the team struggled from 1961 to 1965, attendance declined and the
Braves abandoned Milwaukee after only thirteen seasons, moving to Atlanta. Now
they just abandon ballparks in the Atlanta area…
‘Casey at the Bat’ is baseball’s most famous poem. And dedicated fans will
recognize ‘Tinkers to Evers to Chance.’ But "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain"
has certainly endured for close to seven decades.