The Richmond Braves of Richmond, Virginia, played 43 seasons in the International League. For that entire lengthy span, they served as the Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. The affiliation wasn’t the only thread of connection between the two teams. When the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season, they displaced the IL’s Atlanta Crackers. At that time, the city of Richmond happened to be devoid of baseball, with the Richmond Virginians (also of the IL) having moved one year prior–becoming the version of the Toledo Mud Hens that plays today. In ’66, the Crackers moved to Richmond, and the Richmond Braves began.
Right out of the gate, the R-Braves were a COTOB identity. Their original uniform set bore many similarities to Atlanta’s, down to a loopy R for a cap logo in place of the parent club’s similarly-styled A. Around the early seventies, they also wore a pillbox-style cap with the cursive R superimposed upon horizontal stripes. When Atlanta redesigned their entire look in 1972, Richmond followed suit and wore two-tone caps with a lower-case cursive R. Likewise, when Atlanta pivoted back to the A we know today, the R-Braves went back to an R similar to their original. Aside from minor tweaks over the years, this R would continue with Richmond through the rest of their days.
Many outstanding and notable ballplayers took to the field for the R-Braves over the years. In their inaugural season, they featured Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro, who was still developing his deadly knuckleball. That same season, Felix Millan and Sandy Alomar were also on the roster. In the later sixties and early seventies, there was a wave of players who would go on to notable managing careers after their playing days, including Dusty Baker, Cito Gaston, and Bobby Cox. The great Dale Murphy passed through in the mid-seventies, and was followed by notables like Steve Bedrosian, Pascual Perez, Brett Butler, and Duane Ward.
The golden age for the R-Braves came was roughly from 1987 to when Atlanta won the World Series in 1995–a time period that produced the players who would form the core of what was arguably the strongest team of the nineties decade. It all began in ’87, when two future Hall of Fame pitchers, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, climbed the mound in Richmond. Jeff Blauser was also on that team, and the ensuing late-eighties seasons featured Ron Gant and David Justice.
In the early nineties, Niekro returned to Richmond to manage the R-Braves, and players included Steve Avery, Vinny Castilla, Mark Wohlers, Ryan Klesko, and Chipper Jones. Things slowed down a bit in the later nineties, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that Andruw Jones, Jermaine Dye, and Kevin Millwood are alums. The aughts were less forgiving, and the biggest names (for what it’s worth) are Adam LaRoche, Martin Prado, Gregor Blanco, and Charlie Morton.
The end of the line came following the 2008 season, when Atlanta decided to move their Triple-A affiliate to Gwinnett County, in the Atlanta suburbs. The Gwinnett Braves existed as a distinct identity for nine seasons before they were rebranded as the Gwinnett Stripers. The Stripers play in the International League to this day, and the R-Braves are a distant memory.