"Home of the Braves"

June 7, 2018

Written with the skill of a historian, the heart of a baseball fan, and the soul of a Wisconsinite, Home of the Braves chronicles the saga of the Milwaukee Braves.  Covering their move from Boston and their eventual move to Atlanta, the book is the story of a city and team falling in love with each other... and the subsequent heartbreak of a romance gone wrong.

It's important to know what you're getting with this book.  It is not, primarily, a story of the team's on-the-field exploits.  The Braves' pennant runs and World Series championship – and later lean years – are covered to the extent that they contextualize the evolution of the relationship between the town and the city.  The book is, rather, principally a history of the politics, economics, and relationships that determined the arc of the Braves in Milwaukee.

Professor Steele's exhaustive research is evident in the richly sourced narrative. The chain of events of the Braves' move from Boston, their gradually souring relationship with their new hometown, and their eventual move to Atlanta are presented in such a way that invites readers to make their own conclusion as to who was the most to blame.

For me, it was a genuinely thought-provoking work not just because I spent my undergraduate years in Milwaukee and still have relatives in Wisconson, but because the same fate nearly befell two of my own favorite teams.  In the mid-1990s, word was the Seattle Mariners may move to Florida and the Seattle Seahawks were owned by a businessman who couldn't move them to Los Angeles fast enough (and in 2008, Seattle would lose its professional basketball franchise).  Following the story of Milwaukee and its Braves invited me to make my own comparisons and contrasts. How professional football and baseball were saved in Seattle would probably make for fascinating books as well, assuming they had an author as gifted as Professor Steele.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book (and while I have the good fortune to know the author, I bought my own copy – and would happily do so again). I think knowing what you're getting into when you start reading it is critical: a reader who is looking for a vibrant recreation of the exploits between the foul lines and in the dugout may well be frustrated (even though the forward is pretty clear about what the book is and what it isn't).  On the other hand, readers curious about the events and decisions that determined the franchise's fate in Wisconsin will be richly rewarded.

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