Jacksonville Braves - History


Two teams named the Jacksonville Tars had played in Jacksonville since 1926, with the last incarnation playing in the Sally League from 1936. The Class A affiliate of the New York Giants, the Tars were described as an unprofessional outfit, and played mostly losing baseball during their run. In 1953 Jacksonville businessman Samuel W. Wolfson bought the Tars franchise, and signed an affiliation agreement with the Boston Braves (who became the Milwaukee Braves very shortly after). The team was reorganized and renamed the Jacksonville Braves. Wolfson retained manager Ben Geraghty, but little else of the Tars survived the transition.

Among the major changes included integration. Three black players from the Braves' farm system, Hank Aaron, Félix Mantilla, and Horace Garner, came to Jacksonville, making it one of the first two integrated teams to play in the South Atlantic League. As such, they were also one of the first teams in Florida to field black players. Aaron in particular was a standout, and was named league MVP in 1953; both he and Mantilla were later called up to the major leagues after their success in Jacksonville.

The Braves drew strong crowds and performed well on the field, proving more successful than the Tars had ever been. They went to the South Atlantic League playoffs five times in eight years, advancing to the finals in 1953, 1954, and 1958, and winning the championship in 1956. They were the impetus for the construction of a new stadium, which opened in 1955 and replaced the aging Durkee Field. The new park was later named Wolfson Park after Samuel W. Wolfson.

In 1957 Wolfson, suffering from ill health, sold the team to a group of businessmen including Bill Terry, who in turn sold it to Texas millionaire Craig F. Cullinan, Jr. When Cullinan won a Major League Baseball expansion franchise in 1960, league rules required the Milwaukee Braves to pull their affiliation with Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Braves came to an end, and were replaced with the short-lived Jacksonville Jets, affiliates of Cullinan's new team, the Houston Colt .45s (now the Houston Astros).

The Jets were not nearly as successful as the Braves had been. They played in Jacksonville for only one year before Samuel Wolfson returned with a new Triple-A team, the Jacksonville Suns.

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