Thursday, April 24, 2014

Today in 1944 - A Clubhouse Card Game

Seventy years ago today, the Brewers were forced into an idle afternoon by heavy rains.

At the ball park on a rainy day a visitor usually will find the Brewer players engaged in a clubhouse card game. Monday was no exception. Gathered around the trainer's rubbing table are shown (left to right) Pitcher Charley Sproull, Catcher Jim Pruett, Pitchers Jack Farmer and Julio Acosta, Coach Red Smith, Outfielder Hal Peck and Trainer Bob Feron.
An outstanding backstage look at Borchert Field. I don't know that I've ever seen the trainer's room before.


At this point in the season, the Brewers had a perfect 4-0 record over three days, and had another three games rained out. This would be why Miller Park has a $50 million roof.

Notice also the top sidebar, featuring the Milwaukee Common Council's resolution of gratitude to Brewer manager Charley Grimm for "his efforts to give Milwaukee a winning baseball team." Also their hopes that team president Bill Veeck would soon return from the Marines and "carry on where he left off." A lot for the city to be excited about, as the Brewers got off to a red-hot start to the 1944 season. Only the rain could stop them.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Today in 1944 - The Brews Take a Double Header


Editor's Note: This is the latest in an occasional series of day-by-day looks at the Brewers' 1944 season. For a more complete review of the season as a whole, please check out Paul Tenpenny's fantastic overview.

Seventy years ago today, the Brewers played their first double header of 1944, a twin-bill with the Minneapolis Millers. The Brewers won both games; actually, they crushed the Millers, 11-0 and 16-0. The Milwaukee Journal had a cameraman on the scene, and he returned these photos (which were sadly published without a byline):
The Brewers Win Their First Double Header of the Season With a Journal Cameraman on the Job
As always, we'll take a closer look at the individual photos in the series.

One of Milwaukee's 27 runs, with Herschel Martin scoring on Pruett's short fly in the fourth inning, second game, as Catcher Mike Blazo drops the ball.
An excellent action photo. I love the cap flying off Martin's head and the ball bouncing away from the catcher's mitt.

The "grandstand managers" were out, wrapped in a blanket. Left to right are Mrs. Charles Sproull, Mrs. Herschel Martin, Mrs. Jack Farmer, players' wives.
Always good to have family in the park, much more so when you win convincingly.

Charley Sproull's two hit pitching for Milwaukee in the second game (seven innings) got him mobbed by young fans, most of them after his autograph.
Any shutout win presumes good pitching, but the Brewers' hurlers that day were exquisite. In the first game, Julio Acosta held opposing batters to six hits while recording eleven strikeouts, easily enough for the early American Association season best. As the caption notes, Charley Sproull was equally dominant in the second game as the Millers, allowing only two hits while fanning eight.

Third baseman Bill Nagel of the Brewers slides into third on Pruett's single in the sixth inning (first game). The Miller player is Frank Danneker.
That's a good look at the numbers the Brewers wore with their script "Brewers" jerseys. Heavily serifed (top and bottom of the "5"), in red felt outlined with blue.

Of course, the Milwaukee Sentinel had to have a camera there as well, and their shutterbug captured shortstop Dick Culler rounding third after belting the American Association's first home run of the season.

FIRST OF YEAR The Brewers' Manager Charley Grimm is shown shaking Dick Culler's hand as the latter rounds third base on his way home after belting the league's first round-tripper of the season Sunday against Minneapolis at Borchert field. The shortstop pounded out the circuit drive in the first inning of the first game.
Not content to sit in the dugout, Brewer manager Charley Grimm was often seen coaching third base. Here he gives Culler a handshake and slap on the back. Over Charley's shoulder, you can see the houses across 8th Street, marking Borchert Field as a truly neighborhood ballpark.

It was more than just "the first inning of the first game"; Culler was the first Brewer batter of the game, meaning the Brews took the lead from their first opportunity and never looked back.

They got off to an even better start in the second game, plating four runs in their half of the first inning.

First baseman Heinz Becker, recently re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs, drove in six runs, two in the first game and four on the second. Hal Peck batted .750 on the day, with three hits in each game.

The drubbing in that second game could have been worse; the second game was called after seven innings on account of rain. That rain would continue to fall on Milwaukee, forcing the cancellation of the next day's game.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Reposted: 1944 Pocket Schedule


Editor's Note: This is part of our 1944 retrospective. It was originally posted on September 16, 2011.

We return again to early 1944 - this pocket schedule gave Brewer fans a peek at the season ahead of them.

On the cover, Owgust makes a great leap for the catch. This is why I love mascot logos; the graphic versatility. The Brewers' marketing department could field a whole team of Owgusts running, pitching, catching, batting and even flashing a little glove.

On the inside, we see the Brewers' schedule of games, both at Borchert Field and "abroad". I love that every Sunday and holiday game, nineteen in all, was a scheduled doubleheader. Those were the days.

And there's Brewer skipper Charlie Grimm. The pocket schedule was obviously printed before Grimm was hired away by the Cubs and Casey Stengel was brought in to replace him as manager.

Below Grimm we have Brewer announcer Mickey Heath at his microphone. As we learned from the May 1944 issue of Brewer News, the games weren't broadcast on the radio in 1944. Instead, Heath hosted a 15-minute highlight program on WISN sponsored by Miller Brewing Company six days a week, Monday through Saturday.

The back of the schedule shows us the ticket prices as well as another ad for Miller, whose relationship with Milwaukee baseball long preceded the ballpark which bears its name today.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Today in 1944 - "Sunshine, Big Crowd and a Victory for the Brewers"

On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 19, 1944, the Milwaukee Journal rushed this photo on to the front page of its late-afternoon edition.

Baseball fans inspired by balmy weather and the opening game of the Milwaukee Brewers, filled the grandstands at Borchert field Wednesday to see the game against the St. Paul Saints. It was a complete sellout.   —Journal Staff
The following day, the paper carried a somewhat more complete look at the Opening Day festivities.

R.G. Lynch, the Sports Editor of the Milwaukee Journal, contributed this review of the day's proceedings:
Sunshine, Peanuts and Beer—Baseball Is On

Opening day! All streets lead to the ball park.... Curbs lined with cars for blocks around.... Buses dumping overflow loads.... "Keep moving, please!" ... "Use any entrance." ... "Gee, what a crowd! Do you think we'll get a seat?" ... "Get a cushion—nice S-O-O-FT cushion—the seats are hard" ... "Luggy number score cards, get a score card can't tell the players without nummers." ... And no numbers listed for the St. Paul players after you part with 10¢.

"Peanuts! Peanuts!" ... What's a ball game without peanuts? You buy a sack and the first taste tells you these must be last year's peanuts.... "Let's see your ticket stubs - third box to the right."

A half hour before the game and already the crowd is standing around the top of the grandstand.... "Nothing left but bleacher seats." ... Fans pour across the field to the bleachers. Kids climb the fence to beat more dignified grownups to the few remaining bleacher seats. A few fans mill around the outfield. The crowd there grows. Policemen herd the flock over into the far corners and groundskeepers appear to string ropes.

Uniforms and flags and a band an endless speeches that nobody wants to hear. Some day will they learn to run these pregame ceremonies off with speed. Baseball is what this huge crowd has come to see.... At last! Mayor Bohn walks out to pitch the first ball. Catcher Pruett puts a cap on his head and somebody hands him a glove. Cameras click. The canny old mayor stops two-thirds of the way to the pitcher's mound and looks at home plate. Far enough for his right arm, he decides. The Brewers break from the bench and fan out to their positions. The mayor takes his stance. Cameras click. He throws! Good enough—he knew his strength, the ball makes it to Capt. Robert Rankin's mitt.

"The first batter for St. Paul," boom the loud-speakers, "is Riskosky!"

Up steps Riskosky. "Play ball!" yells the umpire.

The baseball season is on!
It was, indeed. Let's take a closer look at the photos in that series.

Milwaukee baseball fans turned out 13,694 strong for the Brewers' first game Wednesday afternoon. Long lines of buyers stood at the ticket windows right up to game time. Mayor Bohn threw the first pitch to Capt. Robert Rankin of the Marines.
That same photo of the fans lining up to buy tickets for Opening Day was also published in the club's score cards later that season, giving us today a much better look than the low-res scan of the grainy Xerox copy of the newspaper page.

Mayor John Bohn, throwing out the first pitch, had plenty to celebrate on that day. Just a few weeks earlier, on April 4th, Milwaukee voters elected him to his first full term as Mayor. Formerly the President of the Common Council, Bohn had been serving as acting mayor for two years, ever since Mayor Carl F. Ziedler had joined the Navy. It was the culmination of a long career in Milwaukee politics that had begun in 1898 with a four-year stint on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. Bohn was elected to the Common Council in 1926 and served there until taking over the reins at City Hall in April 1942. Mayor Ziedler's ship went missing off the coast of South Africa on October 11, 1942, and when Ziedler's term was up Bohn ran for his own term. He was 76 when elected, and served out his full term before retiring from politics.

The "Capt. Robert Rankin" waiting to receive Hizzoner's ceremonial first pitch was the head of Marine Corps recruiting for Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Speaking at the annual Elks' Club baseball dinner the night before, Captain Rankin had won over the crowd of 500-plus baseball fans with the line "I'm quite a talent scout in my own right; I signed (Brewer owner) Bill Veeck for the marines."

Then, of course, there were the fans. The Journal highlighted four of them in attendance at that first game:

Coast Guard (member) Spiegel is home at 2469 W. Lisbon on leave. Mrs. Zarder, 65, of 2412 N. 27th st is the Brewers' No. 1 fan. She says she has not missed a home game since 1926 and has always had the same seat, just at the right of the main entrance. The Baumes, who live at 2322 N. 29th st., had a warm spot in the sun.
Not to be outdone, the Milwaukee Sentinel featured a look at a pivotal play in the fourth inning, as the Brewers extended the lead they held since the bottom of the first, a lead they never relinquished.


We've taken an in-depth look at this photo before, but I'm still amazed at the numbers of fans standing on the warning along the outfield wall. Must have been very interesting if a batter managed to get one all the way to the wall, four hundred feet from home plate.

Those fans crowded in the outfield saw a heck of a game. The Brewers scored early and often, defeating St. Paul 5-2.


A great start to the 1944 campaign, as the Brewers set out to win their first back-to-back pennants since 1913/14.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Today in 1944 - the Opening Day Lineup is Set


Editor's Note: This is the latest in a series of day-by-day looks at the Brewers' 1944 season. For more detail, please check out Paul Tenpenny's fantastic overview of the season.

Seventy years ago today, the day before Opening Day Brewer manager Charley Grimm announced his starting nine. The Milwaukee Journal had the men line up for the camera, in batting order, at their Spring Training camp in Waukesha:
Here Are the Brewer Regulars Who Will Start Play Wednesday Afternoon in the Order They Will Bat
Let's take a closer look at that lineup:


They are wearing their old uniforms with the block "M" on the chest, not the script "Brewers" introduced for the 1942 season. Those uniforms were still part of the rotation in '42 and '43, but I don't think they ever saw the field in 1944 once Spring Training closed.

Leading off for the Brews, we have shortstop Dick Culler. Grimm liked to put his shortstops at the top of the order, and Culler was no exception. He had come to the Brews after spending 1943 with the White Sox. He had appeared in 53 games for the South Siders, hitting .216.

Up second, Milwaukee favorite Hal Peck. Peck had been a Brewer since 1942. In late 1943, team president Bill Veeck had signed a deal to send him to the White Sox before Peck lost two toes in a hunting accident. The Brooklyn Dodgers were still willing to take a flyer on the hard-slugging outfielder. He stayed briefly in Brooklyn before being claimed on waivers by the Chicago Cubs. Peck sat out most of the 1943 season recuperating from his accident, and in August the Cubs traded him... back to the Brewers.

Frank Secory was in his third season in a Brewer uniform. He had been on the Brewers' radar since 1940, when he was in the Detroit Tigers' farm system, but couldn't land him for another two years.

Our cleanup hitter, Herschel Martin, was a switch-hitter who also came to the Brews during the 1942 campaign. Veeck had bought him from the Tulsa Oilers when Hal Peck was injured, but Martin quickly earned his own spot on the team.


Bill Nagel was the only one of these starters in his rookie season with the Brewers; his contract had been purchaed from the White Sox after the 1943 season, in one of Bill Veeck's last deals before entering the Marine Corps. Nagel had spent the 1943 season with the Albany (New York) Senators, where he led the Eastern League in both hits and home runs. Nagel's bat seemed perfectly tailored to American Association parks, and there were high expectations when he arrived in Milwaukee.

First baseman George "Bingo" Binks had been wearing a Brewer uniform since the '41 season. He was discovered with the Green Bay Bluejays by their manager Red Smith, who had long ties to the Brewers organization. Smith's recommendation paid off when Binks knocked a home run in his first game as a Brewer. Bingo was also known for his lucky glove; the webbing had worn out and been replaced by a mess of bailing wire and tape by Bluejays clubhouse attendant. The resulting Frankenstein's Monster of a mitt became his calling card.

Tommy Nelson, was another player brought to Milwaukee by Bill Veeck. He was purchased from the Macon Peaches in the South Atlantic League. He had only played in 66 games in 1943, his rookie season at Borchert Field, but was ready to assume the full-time Role at second base.

The last of Grimm's position players is the catcher, Jim Pruett. He was a hot prospect in 1943, who returned his 1944 contract to the Brewers' offices with a note reading "I'll be your No. 1 catcher this year." True to his word, he spent 114 games behind the plate for the Brewers in '44.

In addition to his batting order, Grimm also announced his starting pitcher.

Opening game pitcher for the Brewers Wednesday afternoon at Borchert field will be the veteran Earl Caldwell. He was chosen definitely Tuesday by Manager Charley Grimm after Hi Vandenberg, who had first call on the job, reported his wrenched knee was too sore for him to pitch. Vandenberg was sold Tuesday to the Cubs.
Earl Caldwell was indeed a veteran, beginning his 18th year in baseball. He was another of Veeck's recent acquisitions (Sport Shirt Bill was certainly putting his own stamp on the club), in his sophomore season at the Orchard. He had a 10-11 record in '43, and was in better shape as the 1944 season approached.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: your 1944 Milwaukee Brewers, ready for Opening Day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today in 1914 - Game Two!

Like out streaking 2014 National League Brewers, the Brewers of 1914 were off to a red-hot start. They followed up their Opening Day 4-0 win over the St. Paul with another shutout victory, this time a 3-0 blanking of the Saints.


Pitcher Joe Hovlik took the mound for Milwaukee, while former Washington Senators hurler Dixie Walker got the got the start for the visitors. Walker would later have a son who inherited the nickname and who, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, asked in 1947 to be traded rather than play with Jackie Robinson.

This game was closer than the final score suggests; as you can tell from the box score, one half-inning made all the difference for the Brews. The Saints hit Hovlik's pitches hard right from the first, they couldn't manage to convert a singe hit until the top of the fourth, as center fielder Charlie Hemphill beat out an infield hit. St. Paul's elation was short-lived, as on the next pitch Milwaukee catcher John Hughes caught Hemphill trying to steal second with a bullet throw to shortstop William Joseph "Jap" Barbeau. Another four scoreless frames followed.

It wasn't until the bottom of the eighth that either team managed to get on the board. With one out, right fielder Johnny Beall lined a clean infield single, moving to second on an error. Center fielder Happy Felch brought him home with a double. Felch himself scored on a triple from second baseman Phil Lewis, who came home on Hughes' sacrifice fly. That was enough for the Brewers to cruise to victory.

The short streak would end the following afternoon, as the Saints managed a measure of revenge by beating the Brewers 4-1; but as any Milwaukee fan can tell you, a winning streak is a lot of fun while it lasts.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today in 1914 - Opening Day!

One hundred years ago today, Milwaukee turned out in force to watch their Brewers open the 1914 season at Athletic Park. And what a game - the hometown boys defeated the visiting St. Paul Saints 4-0.

The Milwaukee Sentinel gave its readers this first look at the game:


The next morning, they followed up with photos from the game:

Top row—Left to Right—Centerfield Bleachers—A Fair Rooter. Bottom row—Jap Barbeau Watching a Foul; John Beall Sprinting Home After His Home Run; Happy Felch Lining Out Triple.
The champions look very sporty in their new white caps and striped socks.

The Milwaukee Journal took a slightly different tack, contrasting a photo of the players with one of "the youngest fan" at the ballpark.


The Brewers started their title defense in fine form. 1914 was looking like a good year for Milwaukee and her Brews.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Today in 1914 - "How the Brewers Will Appear When They Take Field Tuesday"

One hundred years ago today, writers from the Milwaukee Sentinel took a look at the American Association field and liked what they saw.


The headlines tell the story: "FANS NOT IMPRESSED WITH MILLERS' MAKEUP" and "SAINTS NOT AS STRONG AS THEY WERE IN 1913", contrasted with "(INDIANAPOLIS) INDIANS EXPECT TO BE IN FIGHT ALL TIME" and "SENATORS SHOULD FINISH IN THE FIRST DIVISION".

As for our Brewers, the Sentinel's Manning Vaughan said if "Jap" Barbeau and Happy Felsch could deliver, the club "may win the pennant again":
(N)aturally everyone is anxiously waiting to see whether the 1914 model of the Clark machine will stack up as formidable as the pennant-winning Blitzen of a year ago. On paper the club looks just as strong, if not stronger, than the club which represented the Cream City last season. It has pitching, batting and fielding strength, and a volcanic fighting leader, a leader who never knows when he is beaten, and who has the happy faculty of instituting that fighting spirit in the men he commands. It is a club with a mighty PUNCH—a real wallop. It may not repeat its pennant parade of '13, accidents and injuries always figure in the final reckoning, but the club that beats 'em to it will know it has been through the mill. I am not predicting that another bit of muslin will come here next fall, but unless mishaps throw the machinery of the Clark speedster into disorder, the Brewers will finish one, two, three.
Bold words, Mr. Vaughan. We will see if the Brewers can live up to them.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Back in 1944 - "Until a Better Man Comes Along"

Today, we bring you a brief tale from the Brewers' Waukesha spring training camp in 1944.

Until a better man comes along, Jack Pavelecic, Chicago semipro, will handle the first base chores for the Brewers. Jack has shown promise of developing into a fancy fielder at the Brewers' Waukesha spring training camp.
What an exciting opportunity but man, that's gotta be a humbling caption.

Unfortunately for the Chicago semi-pro, the Brewers had a prospect who had come up from their Green Bay Bluejays farm club named George "Bingo" Binks, who despite wielding an unusual glove in the field was able to win the job outright.

I wish we could identify the players in the background wearing the Owgust-patch jackets. They're standing behind the movable batting cage with what appears to be the Fox River in the background.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Today in 1914 - Counting Down

One hundred years ago today, Milwaukee baseball "bugs" were counting down the days until Opening Day.

Check out the graphic in the upper-left corner of the "Final City Edition" of the Milwaukee Sentinel:

Subtle. Obviously the readers knew what was coming on Tuesday, April 14th.