Friday, May 24, 2019

On This Day - "Girls Selected to Play Here"

After the Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee's morning paper, broke the news of the first three All-American Girls Professional Ball League players assigned to the new Milwaukee Chicks team, the afternoon Milwaukee Journal was able to follow up with the full roster.

On this day seventy-five years ago, on Wednesday, May 24, 1944, the city of Milwaukee was introduced to its new ballclub. Or, at the very least, the women who would wear its uniform.

Girls Selected to Play Here

Three Are Canadians

Journal Staff Correspondence

Peru, Ill. – Girls from seven states and three provinces of Canada make up Milwaukee's first all-girl ball team. They were selected here Tuesday night after a week and a half of spring training in the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league.

The girls are: Pitchers Connie Wisniewski, 22, Detroit, Mich.; Lafern Price, 18, Terre Haute, Ind.; Viola Thompson, 22, Greenville, S.C.; and Josephine Kabick, 22, Detroit. Catchers Emily Stevenson, 18, Chapaign, Ill.; and Dorothy Maguire, 25, Cleveland, Ohio. Outfielders Shirley Schulze, 21, Chicago; Thelma Eisen, 22, Los Angeles, Calif.; Olga Grant, 23, Alberta, Canada; Mary Shostal, 19, Winnipeg, Canada. Infielders Judy Dusanico, 22, Regina, Canada; Vivian Anderson, 23, of 2417 N. 68th st., Milwaukee; Doris Tetzlaff, Watertown, Wis.; ALma Ziegler, 22, Los Angeles, Calif.; Dolores Klosowski, 21, Detroit; and Betty Whiting, 18, Ida, MIch.

Vivian Anderson, the only Milwaukee girl on the team, is a graduate of West Division high school. She has been playing ball about 12 years. She is married to Staff Sergt. Dan Anderson, who is with an army unit on maneuvers in Tennessee. Vivian works for the E. F. Schmidt Co.

The chaperone of the Milwaukee team will be Dorothy HUnter of Winnipeg, Canada, a player with the Racine team last year. Max Carey is manager and Eddie Stumpf general manager.

The girls will leave Peru early Thursday and will play their first game in Milwaukee on Saturday. They will live in private homes while in Milwaukee.
I love the focus on Vivian Anderson, as the only native Milwaukeean on the Opening Day roster. We've looked at her career before; she was scouted out of the very popular West Allis League, where she had met her future husband as a coach.

"Andy", as she was known to her teammates in this league of nicknames, lived with her parents during the season. The curious newspaper convention of the day, where people mentioned in articles are identified by their full address, lets us know what her commute would have been like.

By my reckoning, 2417 N. 68th Street is actually in Wauwatosa. But perhaps that wasn't the case in 1944, or it was a distinction not worth noting. Regardless, it's a straight shot from her house to Borchert Field, fourteen minutes by car today.


I wonder if Vivian ever made that fourteen-minute drive to the Orchard to watch the Brewers play?

So now the initial roster was set. The team was coming together, and Opening Day was right around the corner. The Milwaukee Chicks were about to hatch.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

On This Day - "3 Gals Assigned" to the Chicks

On this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks lineup was starting to come together.

After watching the players at the All-American Girls Professional Ball League's Spring Training camp in Peru, Illinois, managerMax Carey had selected his players and sat down with the other five managers (plus league representatives) to hammer out the rosters.

Here's what the Milwaukee Sentinel had to say about it.

Haggling vs. Charm!

3 Gals Assigned to Milwaukee Club

Peru, Inc., May 23—At a late hour here tonight the Milwaukee club of the All-American Girls Baseball league had been assigned three players as the pilots of the six clubs in the league haggled over player rights—all of which will be assigned by the league.

Manager Max Carey of the Milwaukee club was able to announce he had been assigned Delores Kiosowski, a lefthanded first baseman from Detroit; Shirley Schulze, outstanding centerfielder from Chicago, and Vivian Anderson of West Allis, a third sacker who was personally scouted by Jimmy Hamilton, vice president of the league and chief scout, last season.

The Milwaukee pilkot was reported battling for the contract rights to "Bullet" Wisniewski, od Detroit, considered by many critics as the outstanding softball pitcher of America and Canada.

While the pilots were haggling over player rights, seemingly forgetting the lessons in charm and drawing room behavior as taught the girls by a representative of the Ruth Tiffany school, Chicago, the girls themselves were in anxious huddles—some worried whether or not they would be signed to contracts, others concerned if training camp friendships would be disrupted by being assigned to different clubs.

Jewel Sladek, Milwaukee catcher, who was signed for the training camp session, was released today because of a sore arm.

The Milwaukee team will leave here early Thursday morning and will arrive in Milwaukee before noon.
The article doesn't carry a byline, but it certainly appears to be the work of Margot Patterson, who had been covering the AAGPBL training camp for the Sentinel. The emphasis on the players as people, and the striking image of the women huddling together, anxious about their futures, is a dead giveaway.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

On This Day - Who Will "Wear the Red and Grey of Milwaukee"?

On this day in 1944, Milwaukee Chicks managerMax Carey was working with the players of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League at their Spring Training in Peru, Illinois. Carey, along with the skippers of the other seven clubs, were dividing up six score ballplayers between them. And the Milwaukee Sentinel, or at least a Chicago freelancer cashing a Sentinel paycheck, was there to cover it.


The article is by Margot Patterson, who had been covering Spring Training for the Sentinel.

CAREY 'PICKS' GIRLS FOR LOCAL LINEUP

By MARGOT PATTERSON
Sentinel Staff Correspondent

LA SALLE, Ill., May 21 – Allowing for the fundamental differences of the game, Max Carey, who is to manage the Milwaukee Girls professional team, said today he would challenge any man pro to face the pitchers in the All-American Girls league.

"There isn't one of our pitchers," he declared enthusiastically, "who doesn't pack a few surprises."

Although rained out of the exhibition games which were to be the deciding factors in the final selection of team members. Carey already has his eye on a few of the players whom he was watched in practice.

SCHULZE IS PICKED

For centerfield he has picked Shirley Schulze of Chicago who played last year with the Rheingold industrial team. Miss Schulze, a good looking blonde, has speed and finesse in the field and is a good hitter.

Two Los Angeles girls, Annabelle Lee and Alma Ziegler, look good to Carey for first and second basemen and Betty Whiting of Ida, Mich., a solid all-around player would be his choices for shortstop.

On the mound he would like to have either Audrey Haine of Winnipeg or Connie Wojnewski of Detroit. Haine, who has an amazing delivery, is easily one of the outstanding pitchers in the league.

EQUAL DISTRIBUTION

"For the rest of the team," Carey commented, "I'll have to wait until the games to decide and then choose." The players will be distributed equally to provide a balance of talent to all teams. The final decision will be made by the managers in council with Ken Sells, league president, and Jimmy Hamilton, scout and vice president.

Carey, who is a newcomer to girls' baseball, can barely wait until he knows which of the girls will wear the red and gray of Milwaukee.

"Women," he continued, have taken their place in most of the major sports—swimming and golf, for example. This is the league that will do the same for them in baseball."
I think this might be the first reference in print to the uniforms the Chicks would eventually wear. As anyone who has seen A League of Their Own knows, each team in the AAGPBL would wear identical tunics in a distinctive team color. They wore those same tunics for all games; the league wouldn't introduce different home and road uniforms until 1948. The original teams were Rockford (peach), Racine (gold), Kenosha (green) and South Bend (blue). The tunics were a pale version of the color, while the caps, belts, and socks were a darker shade (red, brown, kelly green and royal blue, respectively.

For the 1944 season, the new kids in the league were also given their own unique shades. For Milwaukee, it was a soft dove gray. A good traditional baseball color, even if one rarely seen on the home team. Even so, it was classic, and fitting for Otis Shepard's classic mid-century design.

You can see the difference between the players' gray tunics and the white flannel uniform worn by Carey himself in this photo:


As for the players that Carey wanted to wear Milwaukee's gray uniforms, the pitcher mis-identified by Ms. Patterson as "Connie Wojnewski" was actually Connie Wisniewski, and Carey was indeed able to land her for the Milwaukee pitching staff. Lucky for him, and very lucky for the fans in Milwaukee; Wisniewski hurled her way to a 23-10 record in her freshman year, and was an integral part of the Chicks' championship.

Wisniewski would go on to win the AAGPBL's inaugural "Player of the Year" award for MVP in 1945, and is pictured here in her Milwaukee grays on the back cover of Whitman's Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures and Official Rules, 1946 edition.

Mother Carey was also able to secure Alma Ziegler for his squad. She went on to a long career with the Chicks, first in Milwaukee and then in Grand Rapids, playing until the league ceased operations following the 1954 season.

Centerfielder Shirley Schulze also made the team but struggled in the AAGPBL, appearing in only fifteen games in one season in the league.

Betty Whiting was a better pickup. She was a utility player for Carey, logging time at first base, the outfield, and catching (though not at short). She too had a long AAGPBL career, playing for seven teams in nine seasons. That journeyman wandering shouldn't be read as poor performance, though; as Patterson notes in her article, the league had a tendency to shuffle good talent as well as bad in an attempt to create parity across the teams. Whiting was one of those, a solid player welcomed wherever she went.

Whiting at Borchert Field

Max wasn't so lucky with his other two targets, though. Both Annabelle Lee and Audrey Haine ended up with the other expansion team in Minneapolis. Ah, well, you can't win 'em all.

Carey wasn't able to get all of his preferred players into "the red and grey of Milwaukee", but he got enough of them to field a great ballclub.

On This Day - "Schnits Open Play Here Saturday"

This is part of an "On This Day" series, reviewing the Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League, as it was then known, and their 1944 championship season as it happened exactly seventy-five years ago. And this one... is a bit of a cheat.

Today, we're looking at an article that was published in the Milwaukee Journal seventy-five years and one day ago, on Sunday, May 21, 1944. Yesterday we reviewed a pair of articles from the Milwaukee Sentinel, the first one a fascinating look at the players themselves and the other a peek at the upcoming Opening Day ceremonies that also happened to christen the team the "Brewerettes". Today, we see what the Journal had to say on those subjects.

Keep in mind that baseball team nicknames were much less official in those days. They were used by fans and the media, but not always by the clubs themselves. The Brewers were known as the Brewers beginning in 1902, but hadn't actually put that name on their uniforms until 1942. For the first forty years, it was always a simple "M" or "Milwaukee". The AAGPBL followed suit, with city names (and city seals) on their uniform but not official nicknames. But if Milwaukee's team did not have an official nickname, the papers would provide one. The Sentinel had volunteered its choice, and the Journal had its own offer to make.

Schnits Open Play Here Saturday in Girls' Loop



Manager Max Carey to Bring 17 Players Here Friday; Public Invited to Workout

Girls' professional ball will be introduced to Milwaukee next Saturday ay Borchert field, when the Milwaukee Schnits (Little Beers) will play the South Bend Blue Sox at 2:30 p.m. Before the game, Mayor John L. Bohn will welcome the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league to Milwaukee and will throw the first ball; military units, an American Legion color guard and the players will parade for the flag raising.

Manager Max Carey will bring the Milwaukee team into town Friday morning. The girls have been training at Peru, Ill. They will work out at the ball park Friday afternoon and the public will be admitted free. The team will have 17 players and a chaperon. Bert Niehoff manages the South Bend team, which was runnerup in the both the first and second halves of last season.

Eddie Stumpf, general manager, has invited Ken Sells, league president; Judge Ed Ruetz of the Kenosha club; Capt. R. H. Rankin and Lieut. Sally Tucker of the Marines; Lieut (jg) Betty Russell of the SPARS; Lieut (jg) Dorothy Davies of the WAVES; Capt. Mary W. Stephenson of the WAC and Dr. Royal L. Mashek, commander of the county council of the American Legion, to be guests at the opening game.

Milwaukee and South Bend will play a double header Sunday, starting at 1:30.
So there you have it.

I had wondered whether the term was in common usage in Milwaukee at the time; that the Journal felt compelled to define it indicates possibly not. And it's worth noting that they spell it with a single "t". whereas the word in German actually ends in two. And before you know it, the Journal would adopt the German spelling.

It's tempting to read "Schnitt" as "Little Beer" with the same dismissive and kid-sister approach as "Brewerette". And I suppose that's not an unreasonable interpretation. Plus it has a certain unfortunate audio echo in modern English. But it shouldn't have a sexist connotation, only that the club was somewhat lower than the mighty (and established) Brewers themselves. Thirty years earlier, Milwaukee had a team in the Wisconsin-Illinois league that aldo played at Borchert Field, a team that was known sometimes as the "Creams", for the Cream City, and sometimes as the "Schnitts" for their relationship with the Brewers.

Check out this Journal sports page from Thursday, May 1st, 1913, following the Schnitts home opener at then-Athletic Park:


They get pretty good coverage for a low-level minor league, about on par with the just-below-the-majors Brewer club.


Given that history, I'm not inclined to read "Schnitts" as dismissive or derisive. And considering how much more seriously the Journal took the AAGPBL than the Sentinel did, I think they earned the benefit of the doubt.

By the off-season, when it wasn't yet clear if the league would return to Milwaukee for a second season, the AAGPBL made it official, choosing to endorse "Chicks". And it's hard to argue with that. Certainly the modern Brewers are as well, in their 75th Anniversary celebration. But I often find myself thinking of them as the "Schnitts". Which is why I'm tickled they appeared that way on my proclamation; somebody in the Mayor's office agrees with me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

On This Day - "Bohn to Open Girls' League"

Today, we have a rare two-fer "On This Day" review of the Milwaukee Chicks' championship year. Earlier, we looked at an incredible human-interest story in the Milwaukee Sentinel about players in the All-American Girls Professional Ball League's Spring Training in Peru, Illinois. There was a second piece on that same page, uncredited, that is equally valuable for what it tells us about the Chicks' plan for opening day.

Bohn to Open Girls' League

Milwaukee's first All-American Girls' Professional Ball league season will open in "big league" style Saturday at 2:30 p.m.at Borchert field with Manager Max Carey's "Brewerettes" meeting the South Bend Blue Sox.

Pregame ceremonies include tossing of the first ball by Mayor John L. Bohn; parading of Wacs, Waves, Spars, women marines, legionnaires and players of the two teams, flag raising and the firing of a salute by an American Legion unit.
The first thing we notice is the name. "Brewerettes"?

Like many clubs in the early days of baseball, the All-American league used its nicknames more unofficially than today. Nicknames did not appear on uniforms or on official league materials; the Chicks were referred to almost exclusively as "Milwaukee". Nonetheless, team nicknames are essential, and the league appeared to take a "kid sister" approach to its two new franchises. For the first time, they were in cities with established and beloved men's baseball teams, and sought to borrow a little of that good will by borrowing the names.

The Minneapolis club became known as the "Millerettes" after the American Association club, and the Milwaukee club appeared to be trying out the name "Brewerettes". The Millerettes would acquire another nickname after losing their home and becoming a traveling team: the Orphans. That is the name I prefer for them, but in the official AAGPBL records they remain "Millerettes" to this day. On the other hand, and fortunately for all involved, "Brewerettes" was roundly rejected before the season even started, and the papers would be left to come up with a nickname on their own. Ah, but that is a story for another day.

It's also revealing to see what kind of Opening Day festivities the league had planned for Borchert Field. For those unfamiliar with some of the terms in the article, those refer to women's auxillary units during the war. They're actually acronyms: Women's Army Corps was the Army branch, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service as you might suspect was for the Navy, SPARS for the Coast Guard (derived from the Coast Guard's Latin motto Semper Paratus, meaning "Always Ready").


The Marines eschewed such nicknames, simply calling their women's branch the "United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve". Or as in this case, "women marines".

I'm intrigued by the association. Natural enough in wartime, I suppose. Patriotic displays were all the rage, and what could be more natural than pairing women in service uniforms with women in baseball uniforms?

But the women's branches of the military did have something in common with the All-American League. They all involved new opportunities for women, opening up jobs that were traditionally reserved for men. And as women were sometimes grudgingly accepted into the service because there just weren't enough men to do the job, Philip K. Wrigley founded the AAGPBL in part out of fear that men's baseball would be forced to shutter during the war. And, of course, when the war was over, both struggled to reconcile those new opportunities with an expected return to traditional roles.

On This Day - "Baseball Gals Are Awaiting Contracts"

This column is part of our "On This Day" review of the Milwaukee Chicks' championship year. Exactly seventy-five years ago, on this day in 1944, that the women of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League, were wrapping up their Spring Training in Peru, Illinois.

And after largely ignoring the league to date, the Milwaukee Sentinel stepped up strong with its coverage.


It may be below the fold, but the Sentinel was at least devoting a nice chunk of its sports pages to the women's league.


There are actually two stories here, both well worth examining.


The first, and longer, piece gives us a rare peek into the human side of the league's spring training.

BASEBALL GALS ARE AWAITING CONTRACTS FOR THE SEASON

By MARGOT PATTERSON
Sentinel Staff Correspondent

PERU, Ill., May 20—There is hijinx in the locker rooms at Washington park, the Peru, Ill., ball field where the All-American Girls Professional Ball league is completing spring training.

NO MAN'S LAND

An almost imperceptible air of suspense hovers over the 130 girls who have sifted in for the final weeding out. Many have their fingers crossed, hoping they will be offered contracts to be signed. Those who have contracts aren't sure to which team they will be assigned.

In the "no man's land" that is the locker room, the players come and go, happy go lucky, giving no indication of their status. In the center of the room a coach-chaperone rubs down a player with a practice lame arm. On the benches sprawl other players, an outfielder who forgot to put sunburn lotion on the backs of her knees, a third baseman who has turned an ankle. Another coach-chaperone, who has just helped button one of the players into a uniform, mends a catching glove.

As they rest between practices, or dress before games, some talk turns to husbands, many of whom are overseas, or the brothers or friends in the armed forces. Once in a while they will query a new girl about her out of season occupation, for new girls arrive continuously. Out of season they follow such fields as school teaching secretarial work, welding, bookkeeping, housekeeping. Some few are students, just out of high school or completing a second year of college.

BIG LEAGUE COACHES

Right now main interest is centered in the practice diamond. They swing bats, warm up, and take instruction from former big leaguers who are teaching them the ropes.

There is no sign of feminine jealousies. On the side lines, at the locker room, back at the hotel in he evening an easy camaraderie reigns. The girls' ages range from 15 up —oh, say, to 24. Their likes and tastes are similar and they gather like campers to listen to one who can play a mouth organ or piano.

Today, when no player knows to which team she will be assigned. all are close friends. Later, after all are assigned to the six teams in the league, they will single out their team mates with intense loyalty.

When teams are selected criticism will become sharper. Now it is impersonal—for all have the American virtue known as good sportsmanship. Later they intend to prove to the spectator public they retain that — along with an intense desire for victory.
Fascinating. I'm not familiar with Margot Patterson, the "Sentinel Special Correspondent", but I'm almost positive that's Margot Patterson Doss, who went on to write a column for the San Francisco Chronicle for thirty years. Ms. Doss had graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, about sixty miles south of Peru, the previous spring, and was working as en editor for Seventeen magazine in Chicago about this time. Seems a likely candidate for the Milwaukee papers to contract for a human-interest story.

And this doesn't read like your typical sports-page filler. Ms. Patterson makes the scene come alive with vibrant and emotional detail usually overlooked by (overwhelmingly-male) sportswriters. Perhaps we can forgive Patterson her small dig at "feminine jealousies", for all the work she does making these women come alive even today, seventy-five years later.

There's a second piece on this page, but that deserves its own entry.

Friday, May 17, 2019

On This Day, the Sentinel Kinda Covers the League

Seventy-five years ago today, on this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks were still in spring training in Peru, Illinois, preparing for the upcoming All-American Girls Professional Ball League season.

You may have noticed that all the coverage we've shown so far comes courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal, the city's evening paper. What about the morning Milwaukee Sentinel?

Well, the Sentinel did cover the league, just not quite as much. Here's what they ran seventy-five years ago on this day, while the Journal was printing photos of Milwaukee manager Max Carey teaching the woman how to steal bases:


See it there?


Let's get in just a little tighter.


Baby steps, I suppose, but emblematic of the uphill battle the league fought to be taken seriously.

Now, the Sentinel's coverage would improve, to be sure. But they started out with a long way to go.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

On This Day - Max Shows Annabelle How to Steal

Seventy-five years ago today, on this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks started coming together.

The women of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League, as it was then known, were in their Spring Training in Peru, Illinois. The women were being instructed by, among others, freshly-minted Milwaukee skipper Max Carey.

Milwaukee's manager, Max Carey, coaches girls Monday at the Peru (Ill.) training camp of the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league. Max, who was one of the greatest base stealers baseball has had, shows Annabelle Lee of North Hollywood, Calif., how to slide under the ball. Lorraine Borg, Minneapolis, is tagging the California girl out. Former big leaguers, who will manage teams, are training 120 girls, 90 of whom will be retained.
—Acme
Shame that the microfiche scan of this photo isn't better, but even in this state it's fascinating.

And boy, the caption writer wasn't kidding about Max's base stealing. He had a twenty-year big league career, most of it with the Pirates. After sixteen and a half seasons in Pittsburgh, where he had become the star and team captain, Carey had an argument with a minority owner and was waived by the club. Brooklyn quickly scooped him up and Carey finished out his career with three and a half seasons in a Robins uniform.

Over those two decades, he led the National League in stolen bases an astonishing ten times (1913, 1915–1918, 1920, and 1922–1925). He was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame, where his biography begins with the paragraph:
Many Hall of Famers made it to the big leagues with their bats or their arms. Max Carey did it with his legs.
The two women he's instructing would indeed be signed by the league, although neither would accompany him to Milwaukee. Lorraine Borg would stay in her native Minneapolis, joining the expansion Millerettes club. She only played in the AAGPBL the one season.

The other player had a much longer career. Annabelle "Lefty" Lee was also assigned to the Millerettes, pitching a perfect game on July 29th. When the Minneapolis club was moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana the following season she was one of a handful of players to go with it. She would go on to a seven-year career in the league, pitching not only for the Millerettes and Fort Wayne Daisies but also the Peoria Redwings and the Chicks after they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

On July 7, 1945, two years before she put on a Chicks uniform, she visited Grand Rapids as a member of the Daisies. Lee pitched a complete game no-hitter and Was immortalized in a poem by K.C. Clapp, published in the Grand Rapids Herald three days later on July 10. Titled “Annabelle Lee Again Arouses Poet’s Muse”, it was a play on Edgar Allen Poe's 1849 poem "Annabel Lee":
It wasn’t so many hours ago
July 7, specifically,
That a maiden there pitched whom you may know
By the name of Annabelle Lee,
And she hurled so well that not a Chick hit,
Going down to her, one, two, three.

She was not wild, this talented child,
Who twirled so effectively.
And no free passes were handed out
By this stingy Annabelle Lee
But the base hits rang for the Fort Wayne gang
For a 6-0 victory.

And this is the reason as 3,000 know
Who witnessed her wizardry
That not a Chick could hit a lick
Off the slants of Annabelle Lee,
So they sharply dropped from second spot
To a humble berth in 3.
But Fort Wayne cheers its peach-clad dears
Because of Annabelle Lee.

The moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the curves of Annabelle Lee.
And the South Field lights will gleam many nights
Before such a sight I may see—
No hits by Ziegler or Tetzlaff or Eisen,
No hits by the bustling “B.”
No hits by Maguire or Petras or “Twi,”
Why? Because of Annabelle Lee.
Nothing in there about her base stealing, but that's a heck of a review for her pitching.

Lee is today also remembered for her nephew, Red Sox and Expos pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee. He gave her a lot of credit for his fourteen-year major league career, saying "She was the best athlete in the family. She taught me how to pitch." One of her uniforms, from her Peoria days, is in the collection of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

As for Carey's squad, we would have to wait to see which players were assigned to Milwaukee.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

On This Day - the Chicks Start Spring Training

Today, we continue our "On This Day" review of the Milwaukee Chicks' championship year. It was exactly seventy-five years ago, on this day in 1944, that the women of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League, as it was then known, started their Spring Training in Peru, Illinois.

To us, a small town one hundred miles west-southwest of Chicago may seem a strange place to hold Spring Training. But this was the 1940s, and there was a war on. Wartime travel restrictions constrained all levels of baseball to some degree; the Brewers themselves were forced to relocate their Spring Training camp from Ocala, Florida to Waukesha, just twenty miles from Borchert Field itself.

The AAGPBL held one combined training camp for all six teams: the four originals returning for a second season, and two newcomers representing Milwaukee and Minneapolis. This was how the Milwaukee Journal covered the start of camp:

Girl Players Start Training

Assemble at Peru, Ill.

Journal Special Correspondence

Peru, Ill.—Max Carey, manager of the Milwaukee team in the All-American Girls' Ball League, and the circuit's five other pilots arrived at Peru, Ill., Sunday to direct the league's 10 day spring training grind which started Monday. Heading the league delegation were Ken Sells, president, and Jim Hamilton, vice-president and chief scout.

About 120 American and Canadian girls have signed contracts. At the close of the training period, 90 will be retained and divided into six teams to represent Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Racine, Kenosha, South Bend, and Rockford. The pennant race is scheduled to open May 27, with Milwaukee at home to South Bend at Borchert field.

Four of the six teams have carryover nicknames from the 1943 race. They are the Kenosha Comets, Racine Belles, South Bend Blue Sox and Rockford Peaches. The Milwaukee and Minneapolis teams have no nicknames as yet.
Ninety players divided by six teams yields a tidy fifteen players per squad. Time would tell which of those one hundred and twenty women would be sent to Milwaukee.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Grey Clarke, 1943 Batting Champion

On Sunday, September 19, 1943, the Brewers played the final two games of the 1943 season. The Brews had already clinched the American Association pennant, but that doesn't mean there was nothing left to play for.

Between games of the double-header, team president Bill Veeck stepped up to the microphone (and onto the Borchert Field turf) for a special presentation. Third baseman Grey Clarke had clinched the league's batting title, and Sport Shirt Bill never passed up a chance to celebrate.

The batting championship trophy was presented to Grey Clarke (left), Brewer third baseman, between Sunday's games at Borchert Field by Bill Veeck, president of the Milwaukee baseball club. Clarke finished the season with a .346 average, 13 points ahead of his nearest rival. Attached to the trophy was an envelope containing a $100 war bond. Clarke's victory made him the third Brewer to win the batting title in the American association in consecutive years. Last year it went to Eddie Stanky and the year before to Lou Novikoff.
—Journal staff
In 534 at-bats, Clarke hit 185 hits, with 29 doubles, nine triples, and 10 home runs. With all that, he tallied 97 RBI. Veeck had sold Clarke's contract to the Chicago White Sox in September, although they agreed to let him stay in Milwaukee through the end of the American Association playoffs. The Brewers took almost as much advantage of the extra weeks with Clarke's bat as Clarke himself did.

I love this photo of Veeck, so obviously in his element. Mic in hand, trademark shirt sleeves rolled up, towering over his diminutive third-sacker. Of course, the Brews gave him many reasons to smile.

Clarke, as the caption notes, was the third Brewer in a row to win the batting crown, but he wouldn't be the last. First baseman George "Bingo" Binks would take home the batting title in 1944; Veeck sure had an eye for sluggers.