Officially: Boston National League Baseball Company (Nov. 28, 1906-Oct. 12, 1910)
- Also known as Boston Doves: (Apr. 12, 1907-Oct. 12, 1910)
- Win-Loss Record: 219-382-12 (.363) RS: 1969; RA: 2658 (-689)
- Ballpark: South End Grounds III: 122-179-5 (.407) RS: 1059; RA: 1354 (-295)
The Boston Doves was the unofficial name that the press used to refer to the Boston National League Base Ball Co. during the four seasons that the Dovey Brothers owned the team. Along with the Doves nickname, the team was also referred to as Boston Nationals, a name that was used more frequently with the creation of the Boston Americans in 1901.
The End of the Triumvirs
Following the success of Boston's new American League club in its inaugural season, longtime team owner Arthur Soden decided to sell his team, the National League's entry subsequently referred to as the "Boston Beaneaters". At this point most of the value of the team’s stock was in the real estate it owned. Soden transferred the ownership of the team’s ballpark to the Columbus Avenue Trust, with trustees consisting of himself; William Conant and James Billings' son, George. This was done for a couple of reasons: To maximize the value of the team and its franchise in the National League. As such, these items were the only ones tied to the shares of stock in the team. Another reason was that this effectively transferred the ballpark asset to the next generation of two of the three remaining triumvirs. The other triumvir, Billings, who by this point was no longer a significant stockholder with the team, was compensated for a share in the ownership of the ballpark as his son George was one of the trustees. By 1904 when no buyer had appeared, Soden forced out Billings presumably by purchasing his last remaining share of stock.
For the 1906 season new manager Fred Tenney was charged with finding a new owner for the team. Reportedly Tenney was looking into three or four men. One of those who was interested in acquiring the team was Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Roy Thomas. It was humorously reported in the Philadelphia North American that a Norristown, PA capitalist was said to have been a financial backer of Thomas.
The team was finally sold on October 10th of that year to a group led by George Dovey and his brother John Dovey. It was reported that Soden and Conant would get $75,000 in cash, $7,000 per annum – interest at 3½ per cent. The brothers also paid $200,000 for the mortgage on the South End Grounds. The sale was finally closed on November 29th with the brothers owning 60% of the team, while Tenney retained his 40% share. Serving as the brothers' financial backers were two men from Pittsburgh, PA - Pittsburgh Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss and theater owner John P. Harris - though their involvement remained unknown to the public. This was probably due to the fact that syndicate ownership had been unofficially banned by the National League. It should be noted that former Beaneaters owner James Billings did not receive any of the $75,000 from the sale of the team, but his son George did benefit from the sale because he was a trustee of the Columbus Avenue Trust, which owned the South End Grounds. George Dovey then assumed the position of team president on December 1st, and oversaw the day-to-day operations, while his brother John remained in St. Louis, MO for a few months as it was reported that he was putting everything in order concerning his exit as salesman with the St. Louis Car Company.
Over the next several months, George made several changes: On the advice of Tenney, he changed the team uniforms by eliminating the red stockings which had been a part of their clothing since 1871. The reasoning behind this was based on the belief that "the dye in any colored stocking is apt to give blood poisoning when a player is cut … sliding or on being spiked on a play or a bruise from a shinnied ball or a pitched ball." Therefore the home uniforms would be white and the road uniforms blue. Ever since then, these colors have essentially served as the Braves' team colors. Because of the change in team colors, the Boston Americans would go on adopt the Braves' old team colors, and on December 18th officially adopted the name the Boston Red Sox.
Another change concerned the upkeep of the ballpark: Meeting with groundskeeper John Haggerty, George Dovey discussed making some improvements particularly to the visitors' clubhouse, such as adding showers and lockers; and adding a new press box. In late January it became official that John Dovey had resigned from his position at the car-company and would be taking over as the team's treasurer and business manager. Then in March, the brothers dismissed Haggerty. Haggerty had originally done some carpentry work for the team as far back as 1872, and had become the team's groundskeeper in 1883. Whatever the reasons the brothers had in letting Haggerty go, they did not make any friends with his dismissal, as he was beloved by fans and players alike. Fortunately or unfortunately, Haggerty would find work with the Red Sox where he would remain until 1921.
The team opened the 1907 season at home with a 1-0 win against the Brooklyn Superbas. 6,246 fans were on hand to see the team debut its all-white uniforms. As a result of the new look and in addition to the team owners' last names, the press took to calling the team the Doves. It should be pointed out that the team was still referred to as the Beaneaters, and sometimes even in the same article. The Doves won the three out of their first five games, but a four-game losing streak dropped it to 5th place, where they would spend the rest of the first half of the season and a few games of the second.
It was during a 21-game road trip out west starting in late July that the team stopped off in Central City, KY. This was the place that George and John had called home. Though they both had been born in Pennsylvania, the family moved to Kentucky when the boys were young, and operated a coal mine nearby. It was here that the brothers had worked at some point or another. While it may have been many years since they had lived in Central City, George remembered his time there and still had friends and acquaintances. Initially the team was supposed to have played there as part of the team’s post-spring training exhibition tour, but the game ended up being postponed until August 7th due to the death of right fielder Cozy Dolan from typhoid. The team had been scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals on that day, but the game had been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on August 11th.
Although the team arrived by train around midnight, a large crowd turned out to see them and an even larger crowd showed up the next day for the team’s game against the local picked nine. To help strengthen the opposition, the Doves loaned the team five players as well as their team president, who played shortstop. The Doves won the game, 5-4, while the team president turned a double-play, had three singles and stole a base. It was one of the team's few memorable moments that season as it posted a 58-90-4 record for a 7th-place finish, well ahead of the Cardinals, but of no one else. Another high point came in August when the league granted honorary lifetime memberships to former owners Arthur Soden and William Conant, but not to James Billings, who had sold out a few years previously. Lastly the team also saw attendance rise to 203,221, an increase of almost 42% over the previous season.
The off-season saw more changes to the team. On December 3rd manager Tenney was sent to the New York Giants in an eight-player trade. Tenney tried to sell his stock, which was worth $10,000, to George Dovey for $12,500, but the owner refused. Despite the conflict of interest, Tenney held on to his stock until he was bought out by the new team owner, William Russell in the summer of 1911. A week after the trade, the Doves named former Cincinnati Reds manager Joe Kelley to a two-year contract to manage the team. Kelley would also serve as team captain and received an annual salary of $5,500. Kelley was seen as a popular fellow, and it was hoped that he would inspire the team to some improved play.
Capacity at the South End Grounds was increased to 11,000, with an addition of 4,000 bleacher seats which extended from right field to left field, with an entrance located at the end of Columbus Avenue at Cunard Street. About 500 seats were also added to the area in the third base section. There had been some discussion about adding an awning as well in order to protect the fans from the cinders that would come from the passing trains, with construction beginning by the time season started. The 1908 season started on April 14th with the team defeating the Superbas, 9-3. The team lost the next four games, dropping to 7th place with a 1-4 record, but it would manage to end the month with a 7-7 record in 4th place. The next month the team won its second series meeting against the Superbas, giving it a 10-8 record. Unfortunately an 18-game road trip gave the team a 17-19 record and drop them into 6th place, where they would stay for the rest of the season.
It was during another long road trip out west that the team made another appearance in Central City on August 26th. The team again defeated the local team in an 8-3 blowout win. When the season ended on October 7th, the Doves had posted a 63-91-2 record, a slight improvement from the previous season. It should be pointed out that the added seats helped increase attendance to 253,750. Despite the slight improvement in the win column, team manager Joe Kelley was fired. Apparently the manager's popularity had had an opposite effect on the team, with players taking advantage of him. It did not help that he took an informal approach to enforcing team rules. As a result the team played uninspired baseball for the entire season.
Because of the team's lack of discipline, President Dovey began to look for ways to get out of the second year of the deal. Kelley of course was livid over this course of action and threatened legal action with league president Harry Pulliam. The two eventually met in Baltimore, MD where the matter was eventually settled. Kelley was let out of his contract and would go on to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Eastern League for the same contract he had with the Doves.
The End of the Doves
To replace Kelley, the team hired the fiery Frank Bowerman to manage the team. The change in managers got the team off to its best start in the Dovey Brothers' tenure as owners with a 4-0 record. By early May the team was in second place with an 8-5 record. Starting with a doubleheader on May 6th, the team played 23 straight home games. During that time it won only 4 games and posted a 13-game losing streak which dropped it to 8th place with a 12-24 record by the end of the month. The following month tragedy struck.
On June 19th, while scouting players in Ohio, George Dovey died of a pulmonary hemorrhage while he was riding a train. John then became team president. One of his first acts came about a month later when he sacked Bowerman and replaced him with Harry Smith, who was the team's catcher. The change did not help as the team finished the season with a 45-108-2 record. At the annual shareholders meeting, John P. Harris announced he wanted to take a more active role in the team, and was named Vice President.
The team's interim manager, Harry Smith, was not retained as club manager, and was replaced by former Red Sox manager Fred Lake. After taking a big step backwards the previous season, the team made a slight improvement in 1910 by posting a 53-100-4 record. Rather than continue on as team president, John Dovey decided to get out of baseball and sold the team to Harris in November. However, Harris' tenure as majority owner barely lasted a month before he too sold the team to a lawyer from New York, NY, William Hepburn Russell bringing the Doves era to an end. The last surviving player from the Boston Doves era was catcher Chick Autry who died on January 16, 1976.
- Gary Caruso: The Braves Encyclopedia, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1995, pp. 114-115
- William J. Craig: A History of the Boston Braves: A Time Gone, The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2012.
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.
- Harold Kaese: Boston Braves: 1871-1953, Northeastern University Press, Boston, MA 2004. ISBN 978-1555536176. Originally published in 1948.
- Sporting News Baseball Guides
- "Soden Ready to Sell Out", Boston Globe, January 11, 1902, p. 1.
- "Boston Club For Sale", New York Times, January 12, 1902, p. 10.
- "Boston National Baseball Grounds Transferred", Boston Globe, April 8, 1902, p. 11.
- "Ball Ground Transfer", Boston Post, April 8, 1902, p. 3.
- "Realty of Boston National Club Valued at $205,000", Boston Globe, April 22, 1905, p. 3.
- "Triumvirate Broken: Director J.B. Billings of Boston Club Out", Boston Globe, July 7, 1904, p. 7.
- "George B. Dovey Is President of Boston Nationals", Boston Herald, October 10, 1906, p. 5.
- J.C. Morse: "The New Boston National Club Owner Extolled by Manager Tenney – The Retiring Magnates Well Fixed etc.", Sporting Life, October 15, 1906.
- Francis C. Richter: "Dovey’s Doings: Facts About the New Boston Club Owner", Sporting Life, October 20, 1906.
- "Deal for Boston National League Club Completed", Boston Globe, November 29, 1906, p. 9.
- "Dovey Talks of Boston Nationals", Boston Herald, December 9, 1906, p. 22.
- "Boston Nationals Will Ditch Red Stockings", Boston Journal, December 7, 1906, p. 8.
- "Dovey and Tenney at South End Grounds", Boston Journal, December 19, 1906, p. 8.
- "Old Grad" column, Boston Herald, January 13, 1907, p. 16.
- "Big Fellow Dovey Will Soon Be Here", Boston Herald, January 23, 1907, p. 9.
- "Nationals Start Friday", Boston Globe, March 5, 1907.
- "Bill Bailey Says", Boston Post, March 12, 1907.
- "Boston Briefs", Sporting Life, March 30, 1907.
- "Dovey to Bring Bostons to Central City", ..Louisville Courier-Journal, July 23, 1907,p. 6
- "Red-Letter Day for Central City: Boston National League Team Play There This Afternoon", Louisville Courier-Journal, August 7, 1907, p. 7.
- "President Dovey at His Old Home: Boston Nationals Play in Central City", Boston Globe, August 8, 1907, p. 8.
- "Dovey Shares the Honors".
- "Honored by League: Diplomas Presented Messrs Soden and Conant", Boston Globe, August 21, 1907, p. 9.
- Arthur McPherson: "Bleacher in Center Field at South End Grounds", Boston Journal, December 20, 1907, p. 8.
- Tim Murnane: "Bleachers in Centrefield", Boston Globe, January 7, 1908, p. 5.
- "Planning for Big Crowds at the South End Grounds", Boston Journal, January 1, 1908, p. 8. (note that the work did not begin until the summer of 1910).
- "Doves and Cincis Play Double-Header Today", Boston Herald, June 11, 1910, p. 4.
- "Harris Now Owns Doves", Boston Herald, November 13, 1910, p. 7.
- "Russell Gives Details of Deal", Boston Globe, December 14, 1910, p. 7.
- "Boston Nationals Sold", Boston Evening Transcript, December 17, 1910.
- Babe Waxpak: "Babe: Boston Doves season pass a nice find", Redding.com
- "National League News" Doves Sold
- John Paul Hill: "August 7, 1907: Boston Doves delight fans in western Kentucky during owner’s homecoming" SABR
- Jimmy Keenan: "Joe Kelley" SABR
- Bob LeMoine: "Boston Braves team ownership history" SABR
- Boston Doves
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