Wednesday, January 9, 2019

AAGPBL Baseball Card - Vivian Anderson

We've previously seen a Fristch card remembering pitcher Sylvia Wronski, now she is joined by Vivian Anderson, the only other Milwaukee woman to play for her hometown AAGPL team.

Like the first card, this one is part of a set of All-American Girls Professional Baseball League cards produced in the mid-nineties by Larry Fritsch Cards, LLC of Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Born Vivian Sherrifs on April 21, 1921, she was an athlete from an early age, playing not only baseball but also basketball, field hockey, and football with local boys. Her parents made her give up football over injury concerns, but she continued her baseball career, playing in local baseball leagues by the time she was fourteen. There she would later meet Daniel Anderson, a coach who would become her husband in 1942. Daniel was also a a staff sergeant in the Army, and was shipped overseas shortly after their marriage.

Two years later, Anderson was signed out of the very popular West Allis League, where she had played with and against other local girls. The AAGPBL extensively scouted the league for talent, and she was invited to the league's 1944 spring training camp.

The AAGPBL was a league of nicknames, and she was no exception. She was known to her teammates as "Andy". With her husband in the service, Anderson lived with her parents during her time with the Schnitts.

Her season was cut short by an injury. On June 4, 1944, the Schnitts were in South Bend playing a double-header against the Blue Sox. She suffered a collision at third, trying to field the ball as the runner crashed into her.

"The baseball, someone sliding into the base, and me – all at one time – hit (my) fingers."

The contact smashed the index and middle fingers of her right hand, taking her out of the game.

The club was enduring a rash of injuries at the time, with four starters on the bench nursing various ailments. Pitcher Connie Wisniewski had a twisted knee, second baseman Alma Ziegler a twisted leg, and left fielder Thelma Eisen a sprained knee.

Anderson was initially diagnosed with a sprain, less serious than Wisniewski's twisted knee, and the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that all four women were expected to "return to action in a few days." The league cancelled its next game following the D-Day invasion of France, which should have given Anderson an extra day to recover.

When she was checked out by a doctor back in Milwaukee, however, the true extent of her injury was apparent. She had four fractures in the two fingers, and that was it for her season. The doctor—the same sawbones who had removed the toes of Brewers outfielder Hal Peck after his hunting accident—suggested smputating the fingers, but she balked at the suggestion and found physicians willing to use less extreme methods. Anderson was able to keep her fingers, but not her spot on the team.

Andy stayed with the club as a third-base coach for the next few months, where the large splint on her right hand couldn't stop her. A true teammate to the end, she stayed with the Schnitts all the way to the end of the season, traveling with them to Kenosha for the championship series, where they defeated the Kenosha Comets in seven games to take the AAGPBL championship.

Anderson never returned to the AAGPBL, but not even two permanently-crooked fingers could kill her love of baseball or keep her off the diamond. As the team moved to Michigan to become the Grand Rapids, she headed south to play professional fast-pitch for the Bluebirds in the Chicago National Girls Baseball League. She played two years in Chicago before coming back to Milwaukee to play professional and semi-pro ball before finally hanging up her spikes. She and Daniel divorced in 1946. She returned to her maiden name, and had a long professional career before retiring at the age of 89 in 2010.

She died in 2012, having lived long enough to see a resurgence of interest in her youthful career. She was one of five former player interviewed by students at the the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for their "Forgotten Champions" oral history project.

Andy is part of the "Women in Baseball" permanent exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown and was inducted into the Wall of Honor at Miller Park as part of its inaugural class in 2001. A lifelong resident of Milwaukee, she became a fixture on the local baseball scene, appearing at SABR conventions and telling stories. Much of what we know of the Schnitts, we know from her first-hand recollections.

Andy in her playing days and at an AAGPBL player panel discussion
at the 2001 SABR Convention in Milwaukee

Although her time on the Borchert Field diamond was short, she had an invaluable contribution in preserving the story of the AAGPBL in Milwaukee. For that, we will always be grateful.

Friday, January 4, 2019

1937 Season Pass

This wallet-sized card, 3¾ inches wide by 2¼ inches tall, served as a season pass for 1937.

Stamped number 125, it "extends the courtesy of Borchert Field" to Sentinel Engraving. The name obviously fed into the typewriter at somewhat of an angle.

I don't know if Sentinel Engraving was a separate business, or referred to the engraving department at the Milwaukee Sentinel. But I'm struck that the line for a name includes "MR" as standard. I suppose an extra letter could have been typed to accomodate any "Mrs", but did they really extend the courtesy of Borchert Field to so few "Miss"es?

The pass is printed with the signature of Henry Bendinger, then the owner of the club. A lawyer by trade, Bendinger bought the Brewers in 1932. He restored the struggling club to a hint of its former glory, winning the American Association pennant in 1936. He can be seen in the second row in this photo of his championship club, wearing a brown suit:

Some time around 1940, Bendinger decided to sell his interest in the Brews. He approached Chicago Cubs owner Phil Wrigley to gauge his interest. Wrigley declined, but two other figures in the Cubs' administration knew a good opportunity when they saw it, and in June of 1941 Charlie Grimm and Bill Veeck took over as the new owners of the Brewers.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year from Owgust and All of Us!

Happy New Year from!

We have big things coming in 2019, including celebrating our 10th Anniversary this February! Thanks for being part of our story so far.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Happy Holidays from Borchert Field

Here at Borchert Field, we have an annual tradition of re-publishing some of our favorite holiday-themed posts. Or, if you prefer, we drag out some old chestnuts.

This year, it's the wonderful Brewer News: Volume 3, Number 1, the December '44 issue.

It features a Santa-themed version of the Brews' mascot Owgust, the forerunner of the modern-day Barrelman, hawking Gift Certificates, Box Seats and Ticket Books. "Brewer fandom's most popular gift", after all.

Delightful. This is why mascot logos are the best.

The rest of that issue of Brewer News can be found here, originally published on in December of 2010.

As Owgust himself might exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:

"Happy Christmas to all,
and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"The Stroboscope Light Stops Hal Peck", 1940

This gorgeous nighttime photo was published in the Milwaukee Journal on June 28, 1940.

The stroboscope light stops Hal Peck in midswing and shows the arm pull which gives the young Brewer outfielder all his power. After a miserable start in Class AA baseball, Peck has found himself and pushed his average up to .280. Manager Mike Heath predicts that the youngster will be in the .300 class before the season ends. —Journal Staff
We have a review of Peck's career as "Bill Veeck's Good Luck Charm", originally published way back in February of 2010, when this blog was just over a year old.

Although this particular photo is credited to "Journal Staff", I can't help but wonder if it was taken by their pioneering staff photographer Frank J. Scherschel. In the early 1940s, Scherschel was experimenting with stroboscopic equipment, "making possible exposures at 1/100,000 of a second". It allowed him to freeze the action at a nighttime game, although all the photos I've seen have been like this one, staged for the camera.

The paper published a series of Scherschel's results, and we've looked at his stroboscopic photos of second baseman Barney Walczak (aka "Barney Walls") at the plate and right-handed fastballer Robert George Kline, Jr caught in mid-pitch.

Could this have been another in the series? The uniforms certainly match. That's the late 1930s look that would eventually be replaced by new president Bill Veeck before the 1942 season. Classic red "M", thick blue piping. And all three were taken about the same time, in 1940, during the period when the three men were on the Brewers roster.

If Scherschel didn't take this third photo, he must have worked with the person who did.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Milwaukee Schnitts Jersey from Ebbets Field Flannels

I recently had this jersey made by our friends at Ebbets Field Flannels. It's a reproduction of the jersey worn by Hall of Famer Max Carey as manager of the Milwaukee Chicks/Schnitts.

I chose "24" for the back not for Carey himself (I do not believe AAGPBL managers wore numbers, at least not in 1944) but because the All-American Girls professional Baseball League Players Association lists twenty-four members on the Schnitts' all-time roster. That seemed a fitting tribute to those pioneering women.

They re-created the jersey patch based on photos I took at the Milwaukee County Historical Society's recent exhibit "Back Yards to Big Leagues: Milwaukee’s Sports and Recreation History".

Ebbets Field did a marvelous job, very true to the original.

I'll be proud to wear this to Miller Park next year: maybe even for a Schnitts "Turn Back the Clock" game?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"An Impromptu Game of Base Ball", 1859

The Wisconsin Historical Society posted this on Twitter today, featuring the site of what is believed to be the first baseball game in Milwaukee, one hundred and fifty-nine years ago today:

At the time, the Wisconsin State Fair was still located at the old Brockway Fair Grounds; it wouldn't move to its current site in West Allis until 1892. The grounds were at Twelfth Street and what was then Grand Avenue, renamed Wisconsin Avenue in 1926. Now part of Marquette University's campus, in 1859 it was the very edge of the city. Perfect spot for a large agricultural fair, or for a pickup game of "Base Ball".

It's nice to be reminded that not only does Milwaukee's baseball history extend past 1953, but it also goes deep into the 19th Century, to the earliest days of the game.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"A New Career - That of a Leatherneck", 1943

As we celebrate Veterans Day today, we look at this photo of the most famous veteran in the Brewers' organization: team owner Bill Veeck.

Marine Private William L. Veeck, 29, who started out selling pop in baseball parks and now owns the profitable Milwaukee Brewers ball club, starts a new career - that of a leatherneck. Veeck is reporting to his recruit tent at San Diego, following his initial equipment issue on Dec. 24, 1943. (Marine Corps photo)
Veeck came home from the war with an injury that would plague him for the rest of his life, but at least he came home. Many were not so fortunate.

You can read the full story of "Sport Shirt Bill's" time in the Marine Corps here.

Friday, November 2, 2018

"BASE BALL TO-DAY", c. 1915

Today, The Hop celebrates its "Grand Hop-ening", and Milwaukee has a streetcar again for the first time since 1958.

In honor of this momentous day, we present to you this postcard, circa 1915, showing two conductors posing on their streetcar.

On the streetcar's side, the letters "T. M. E. R. & L. CO." stands for The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company. Yes, that's right, the streetcars and electric power company were under one umbrella.

This particular style of car was introduced around 1906, and they remained in service until the 1940s. The conductors look very proud in their uniforms with heavy wool coats and brass buttons.

What's really interesting to us, though, is the sign on the front of the car.


8th & Chambers Sts.
This, of course, refers to our own beloved wooden ballpark, then known as "Athletic Park" and still over a decade away from being renamed for Otto Borchert.

The streetcar was a reliable mode of transit to the ballpark for the rest of its existence, as seen in this Milwaukee Journal ad from May, 1936:

Who knows? In future expansions, we could be able to jump The Hop on our way to a game at Miller Park, just as baseball "bugs" did back in 1915.

(Photo credit: Chuck Quirmbach)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Uni Watch: "It's A Nice Day For A ... White Webbing"

To celebrate the Brewers' playoff run, I have a new piece up on Uni Watch this morning.

It's the story of one very small mistake a quarter-century ago, and how that mistake has influenced our vision of the Brewers ever since.

Check it out!