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In 2018 Atlanta Braves fans watched as a rookie outfielder took the league by storm just as Boston Braves fans did 88 years earlier.
Ask an average Atlanta Braves fan to name a player from the 1930s Boston Braves roster, and they might say, Rabbit Maranville or Babe Ruth, who played for 46 days in 1935. But it’s more likely you get a blank look.
He isn’t as famous as others who played for the franchise, but in his day, he was the best in the National League.
Walter Alton Wally Berger patrolled centerfield in cavernous Braves Field for seven years and 30 games, as the Braves (later the Bees) won more than 78 games once. The club was so mind-numbingly bad in 1935 that they managed only 38 victories and a .248 winning percentage.
As a result, he’s also the first player on the outfield list without a postseason game for the franchise.
None of that is Berger’s fault; he was a superstar before the word existed, setting rookie home run and RBI records that stood in the NL for seven decades. He was a perennial MVP and All-Star caliber player.
After signing in 1927, Berger batted .382 with a .670 slugging rate between C-ball and AA. In 1928 he hit 20 homers, batted .327, and slugged .528 for the AA Angels of Los Angels and followed that with a 40 homer season batting .335 and slugging .565.
He was a force in the Pacific Coast league in 1929, swatting 40 long balls for the Angels of Los Angeles, and he carried his West Coast success to the east, banging out 38 long balls as a freshman.
Wally led NL left fielders with 38 homers and 119 RBI as a rookie while also hitting a lusty .310 with a .614 slugging percentage.
The 1929 Boston Braves as a team – 43 players – hit just 33 homers, and one of those came from pitcher Bob Smith. So, the Braves sent him a ticket to Boston in time for the 1930 season.
Before going further, it’s worth moving sideways a bit to talk about Braves Field in Boston.