Atlanta Braves Top-Ten Franchise Managers– #3 Frank Selee

The forerunners of the Atlanta Braves were the 1890 Bostons managed by Frank Selee.
The forerunners of the Atlanta Braves were the 1890 Bostons managed by Frank Selee. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages
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Next up on my list of the Atlanta Braves best managers is a slightly built man with a glorious mustache, who held the franchise record for most games managed and won until 1993.

As my list of the Atlanta Braves Franchise’s best managers, we permanently enter Hall of Fame territory. Six former managers have plaques in Cooperstown, but only one never played a Major League game, Frank Selee.

Watch Maker to Team Builder

Frank Gibson Selee was born in Amherst, New Jersey, on October 26, 1859, and grew up in Melrose, Massachusetts. He played ball for the Melrose Alphas and had more will than skill.

Selee decided he wanted to run a team rather than play the game badly. His journey began in 1884 when he quit his paying job at Waltham Watches to create a new team for the city. He rounded up players and convinced local businesses to put $1,000 for a fence and seating. His new team didn’t last long, but Selee was undeterred,

He convinced Haverhill to hire him to manage their team in 1885 and performed well enough that Oshkosh two years later. It’s apparent that Selee had a good eye for talent and a knack for persuading owners to spend their money.

Innovation and success

In 1887, Oshkosh signed a 23-year-old player who had a few games in the NL but never didn’t impress teams enough to earn a contract, Tommy McCarthy, and a pitcher who made 16 starts for the Athletics in 1885, Tom Lovett.

Selee got word of an outfielder named William Hoy, a gifted outfielder and speedy base runner who threw out three baserunners attempting to score from second base. Hoy was the center fielder. But there was a problem; Hoy was deaf.

Hoy had taught teammates to use sign language, but he couldn’t hear the umpire call balls and strikes. He still hit .219 but had to turn around to see the call after every pitch.

Selee supported Hoy by giving him ball/strike calls from the third base coaches box, and Hoy asked umpires to give a signal when it was too dark to see Selee. Hoy batted .367, McCarthy 345. and Selee won his first pennant.

The Atlanta Braves franchise is home to many great pitchers. None were better than Charles "Kid" Nichols.
The Atlanta Braves franchise is home to many great pitchers. None were better than Charles "Kid" Nichols. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

From Omaha to Boston

The Western Association bought the Oshkosh club in 1888 and moved it to Omaha minus Hoy and McCarthy. Without their stars a d pitching o support Lovett they struggled to a fourth-place finish. Selee found a pitching replacement in a skinny 18-year-old right named Charles Nichols, better known as Kid Nichols. Nichols went 39-8, and Omaha finished 83-38 to nail down Selee's second pennant.

When the season ended, the Beaneaters made the best single-player acquisition in franchise history, adding Nichols for $3,000. . . oh, and they hired Selee to manage the team too.

The team Selee inherited was older and lost players to the short-lived Player’s League, but Selee convinced the owners to acquire Herman Long and Bobby Low. Nichols won 27 games, Lowe batted .280/.366/.391/.757 with 113 OPS + in 52 games, and Long became one of the league’s best shortstops, but Boston finished fifth.

Another Year, Another Pennant

Former Boston stars Billy Nash and Harvey Stovey returned from the defunct players league, and Selee’s crew was in the race from the start. When King Kelly returned at the end of August, the Bostons caught fire. After losing to the Chicago Colts (Cubs) on September 4, the Beaneaters went on a 23-4-1 run, ending the season 87-51, 3.5 games up on Chicago.

In 1892, John Clarkson’s sore arm in the spring saw him replaced by Jack Stivetts. Selee persuaded the owners to sign Tommy McCarthy and Hugh Duffy, Stivetts and Nichols posted 35-16 records, and Boston finished 102-48-2, making them the first 100-win team in Major League History.

Expansion to 12 teams led the league to play a split season. Boston won the first half, but the Spiders won the second, forcing a playoff. BBR lists this as a World Series when it was actually an LCS. The series was scheduled for nine games, but Selee’s crew ended it in six. Stivetts and Cy Young pitched to an 11-inning tie in game one, then Boston swept the next five, crushing Cleveland 5-0-1.

Boston would win again in 1893, but Baltimore emerged as a new power in 1894 as the Beaneaters aged.

The Atlanta Braves play the Mets at Citi Field, and the Bostons played the Brooklyn Grooms Park at Washington Park.
The Atlanta Braves play the Mets at Citi Field, and the Bostons played the Brooklyn Grooms Park at Washington Park. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages

Atlanta Braves 1991 – Boston 1897

In 1991, the Atlanta Braves were in second place, one game back with four games left. Glavine, Avery, and Smoltz won the next three games putting the Braves up by two, and they went on to break Pittsburgh’s heart in the LCS.

After three years out of first place, Selee’s Bostons entered 1897, retooled and ready. Boston was a half up when Baltimore came to town to open a three game set.

Nichols won game one, but Ted Lewis lost game two. Game three was a slugfest, but when the dust settled, Boston was on top 19-10. They made quick work of Brooklyn in the next two games and brought the pennant back to Boston.

All Good Things

Selee shuffled the deck again before the 1898 season and led Boston to a 102-47-3 record and his fifth league championship. The team got older, and injuries piled up, but they still finished second with a 95-57-1 season in 1899.

Having learned nothing from their previous failures, players once again tried to create a league of their own. But by this time, the game had grown too big and costly for their league to have a chance. A year later, it was gone.

Selee managed Boston for two more seasons, but the owners were no longer open to spending the money need to keep restocking the team, and no formal minor league system existed as a pipeline to feed the club. The Bostons finished fourth in 1900, and fifth in 1901, and Selee was fired.

Atlanta Braves #4 Much Like Their #3

Summing up my post on Atlanta Braves skipper Brian Snitker, I quoted Snit saying his secret was being honest with his players. Selee’s SABR biography shows he felt much the same way.

“I want them to be temperate and live properly. I do not believe that men who are engaged in such exhilarating exercise should be kept in strait jackets . . . but I expect them to be in condition to play. I do not want a man who cannot appreciate such treatment . . “ (Harold Kaese, The Boston Braves (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1948), 55-56.)

In a Baseball Magazine article for 1911 quoted in his SABR biography, Selee said it’s all about having good people as well as good players.

“It was my good fortune to be surrounded by a lot of good, clean fellows who got along finely together. To tell the truth, I would not have anyone on a team who was not congenial.”

I think Brian Snitker and Frank Selee would get along well.

One hundred years before the 1991 Atlanta Braves won the NL title, the Bostons won the 1891 NL title with Frank Selee at the helm.
One hundred years before the 1991 Atlanta Braves won the NL title, the Bostons won the 1891 NL title with Frank Selee at the helm. / Transcendental Graphics/GettyImages


Selee’s old rival Jim Hart was now GM of the Chicago Orphans (Cubs) and inserted Selee as manager. He spent four years with the team but wasn't able to change their fortunes.

Hart’s health was failing, and he wanted to sell the team. Selee contemplated buying it but had health issues of his own. He moved to Colorado, bought an interest in a minor league team there, and managed the team for three years.

Selee died on July 5, 1909, in Denver. Ninety years later, a Veteran’s Committee awarded him a plaque in the Hall of Fame.

That’s a Wrap

We watch Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker talk about the team and his players, and can tell how much he cares for them as a group and as individuals. It feels as if Selee was that kind of man as well.

It was a different time with a different society. He inherited a group of hard-drinking, hard-partying, loud, and rough men. He was teetotal and the son of a preacher, but unlike some of the game's founders who would fine a player for drinking or swearing, Selee understood they were his to lead, not judge.

dark. Next. Brian and Frank would enjoy talking baseball.

Selee found and signed at least a half-dozen future Hall of Famers, and his 1004-649-24 record with five NL titles as Boston’s manager is second only to that of Bobby Cox. I think that’s pretty good work.