Thursday, March 14, 2019

Vintage Brew: "Spring Fever 1947"

Ok, I am officially tired of winter and since I can’t just sit here and complain, here’s a warm blast from the past to keep you focused on the warmer spring weather, which someone tells me is right around the corner.

"Spring Fever 1947"
by Paul Tenpenny
Copyright 2019 Tencentzports
Printed with permission of the Author

Our 2018 Central Division winning Milwaukee Brewers are in Arizona as I write this and are getting ready for the MLB season home opener on March 28, 2019 against the St. Louis Cardinals. I am looking forward to being there for many games this season, as well as listening to them with Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker at the mic on WTMJ radio.

WEMP Listener Magazine from 1947 (Author’s Collection)

The cold winter season always makes the fan’s hearts long for the green grass of home and by that, I mean … the green grass of the home ballpark. It was no different in Milwaukee as the 1947 Borchert Field Brewers were looking forward to the new season after finishing with a 70-78 record in the past year.

The games would be broadcast on WEMP radio. Like today, a popular former player did the play by play, Mickey Heath. “Minor” Heath played 1st base for the Brews from 1937-1940.

Schedule from WEMP magazine

Brewer fans could enjoy the game either from the popular Orchard or listen in on the broadcasts. WEMP was also planning on sharing updates on away games via telegraph.

Skipper Nick Cullup (Author’s Collection)

1947 would be a better year under the new ownership of the Boston Braves. The team improved their record to 79-75, finishing 3rd in the American Association under Nick Cullop. Good enough to gain a spot in the playoffs, they took advantage of the opportunity and went on to win it all. After besting the Kansas City Blue 4 games to 2, they beat the Louisville Colonels in the finals 4-3. The Brewers defeated the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League in the Junior World Series 4 games to 3.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Out of Left Field - the Orchard's Ads

Looking at that photo from Borchert Field's last-ever game got me thinking. I was wondering how the outfield ads changed over time, specifically those in the left field corner, since it's featured in our 1952 photo.

We don't have many photos showing the left-field corner, but we have a couple. We can compare them and see how that's changed over time.

First off, there's the giant ad for Snirkles in the left-field corner:

Same basic ad in this photo circa 1948, but all the details are different. Somewhere along the line it seems to have lost its tagline "A really good caramal bar".

And even if the basic advertiser was the same, the ads to its left, along the 8th Street wall, were all different between 1948 and 1952.

On the other hand, we can see to the right pieces of ads for WEMP, John Schroeder lumber yards, and the Miller Brewing Company, all of which feature in this rare color photo of the ballpark.

Going back in time a little bit, that fence was a lot lower in this early 1940s shot:

You can see that the wall was really built up during that decade.

So we know the Snirkles ad came about in the mid-to-late-1940s and remained until the ballpark's final year. And that just about everything around it was in a constant state of change, which may be expected.

There isn't a ton of photographic reference of the old wooden ballpark, but I'll take any opportunity to piece together its history. Hope we get more of this.

Friday, February 15, 2019

"It's All Over Now!", 1952

We've seen this photo before—it was one of the first pictures I ever posted, a decade ago when this site was new—but never quite like this.

It's all over now! Eddie Kretlow, ground keeper at Borchert field took a final look at the deserte field late Sunday afternoon after the champion Brewers had lost to second place Kansas City in the seventh and final game of the American association play-offs, 8-7. The victory qualified the Blues for the little world series against the winner of the International league play-off still in progress.
—Journal Staff
I had certainly seen this picture before, but always devoid of any context. Now we know that it was taken after the final game at Borchert field, with the Brewers scheduled to move into the almost-ready County Stadium the following spring.

Back in 2009, I wrote of this photo:
This photo is one of the more commonly-reproduced Borchert Field pictures. There's something very melancholy about it, with the usher (in his peaked cap and team coveralls!) looking away from us, past all those empty stands towards the field. I guess that's fitting, for a departed ballpark.

You can see the unique angled dugout, and that most of the "good seats" were metal folding chairs. Yikes.

I don't have any context for the photo. The "Brewers" script seems to indicate the 1940s, as they were using a Braves-inspired wordmark by the 1950s. I hope someday we learn when it was taken, and the name of the lonely figure all alone in the Orchard.
I was right about the feeling of melancholy, although I mistook the groundskeeper for an usher. It's interesting to me that they were still using the 1940s logo several years after it had been replaced on the uniforms. Then again, Edward Kretlow had been the Orchard's groundskeeper since at least the 1930s (we previously saw him oiling turnstyles before the 1947 opener), so it's possible he'd been wearing it all that time. And understanding the long connection he had with the ballpark, a sense of melancholy at its final game seems more than reasonable.

So much to love about this picture. And so glad we finally know more about it.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Happy, Happy Day!

Today we celebrate a decade of I don't really know how to introduce this particular announcement, so I'm just going to leave this tweet here.

Humbled by the honor. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you all.

And yes, this is indeed the 10th Anniversary of this here website thingy. It was ten years ago today that I posted my very first entry.

My name is Chance Michaels. I am a baseball historian who has been interested in obsessed with the old minor league Brewers ever since I discovered the Wauwatosa Public Library's microfiche machine and their stash of old Journal and Sentinel back issues. I was fascinated by the realization that Milwaukee already had a storied baseball history by the time the Braves came to town.

To that end, I am officially launching this online museum to the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association, 1902-1952. Because Milwaukee's first ballgame wasn't in 1953.

I hope to meet others who are also interested in the previous incarnation of the Milwaukee Brewers. I hope to share my knowledge, and to learn from you in return.

So, please take a look around. It may take us a while to build this museum together, but I am confident that it will be something special when we do.
And it is. It really, really is.

I have met so many good friends writing this site. I have learned so much, and shared so many good times. Thank you for all your support over this past decade, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do in decades yet to come.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Milwaukee Chicks 75th Anniversary Night!

Yay! It's official!

For the past several weeks, I have been in talks with the Milwaukee Brewers to host an event honoring the 75th Anniversary of the 1944 AAGPBL Champion Milwaukee Chicks. And now they've made it public!

From the Brewers' website:

Milwaukee Chicks 75th Anniversary

The Brewers are teaming up with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Milwaukee Chicks' 1944 AAGPBL title. Join us as we celebrate women in baseball by purchasing this special ticket package, which includes a seat for the Brewers matchup against the Pirates on Saturday, June 29, and a commemorative Milwaukee Chicks 75th Anniversary hat. Additionally, a portion of all Milwaukee Chicks 75th Anniversary ticket package proceeds will be donated to the AAGPBL Players Association.

Saturday, Jun 29 7:15 PM v. the Pittsburgh Pirates
The giveaway will be a cap - I haven't seen a mockup yet, but I'm hoping that it looks like the old Chicks/Schnitts cap with the "M" in front and maybe a 75th Anniversary logo on the side.

Can't tell you all how overjoyed I am that this is finally official. It honestly hasn't seemed real, even as I spoke with the club about it. But now that they've gone public, I can breath a little easier.

Thank you all for making your voices heard, and I'll see you at the ballpark!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Land of the Free, and the Home of the... Cards?

We all know the story, how the success of the Brewers coupled with the shiny-new County Stadium led the Braves to relocate from Boston to Milwaukee.

But... what if Perini didn't move his club from Beantown to Beertown? What if another club just barely beat him to it?

This is one of the great lost stories in baseball lore, almost forgotten today. It's the tale of how the Cardinals almost moved to Milwaukee in the spring of 1953.

St. Louis had long struggled to support both its clubs. The Cardinals were easily the more successful, but the Browns owned the ballpark that they shared. One would have to move, and when push came to shove real estate may well have been the deciding factor.

Fred Saigh
St. Louis's bad situation came to a head on January 28, 1953, when Cardinals owner Fred Saigh pleaded "no contest" to two counts of income tax evasion stemming from his purchase of the club six years earlier. The National League quickly moved towards expelling him from organized baseball, and Saigh agreed to sell his full ownership of the Cards before serving his fifteen-month prison sentence.

At the same time, just three hundred and twenty-five miles north, the brand new Milwaukee County Stadium was nearing completion. Workers were putting the finishing touches on the ballpark in advance of its planned April 15 opening, just ten weeks away.

Ostensibly built to house the Brewers, the new "Milwaukee County Municipal Stadium" offered state-of-the-art facilities and nearly 30,000 seats. It was designed to put many major-league parks to shame, and openly intended to lure one of them to the Cream City. The Brewers would be its first tenants, but not for long.

So the pieces were all in place. St. Louis had a baseball team in need of new ownerhip and a new ballpark, while Milwaukee was in a unique position to offer both.

Fred Miller
On January 30, 1953, local brewer and sports booster Frederick C. Miller told the Milwaukee Journal's R. G. Lynch that he had been offered a chance to bring the Browns to Milwaukee over the previous winter, but the move would not have included a majority ownership stake, which wasn't to Miller's liking. At the same time, Miller denied that he had been in talks to buy the Cardinals, but in reality they were far enough along that Saigh had already offered to sell the club to him. Miller had balked at Saigh's initial asking price of $4.5 million dollars, but negotiations between the two men were ongoing.

The Cardinals had other bidders, including groups from St.Louis and Houston, but Milwaukee seemed the favorite to win. At one point, front office employees were told that the organization would cover their moving expenses should they decide to move to Milwaukee with the team.

In the end, Miller lost out when Anheuser-Busch bought the team. Saigh settled for less money—$3.75 million—to keep the Cardinals in St. Louis. Browns owner Bill Veeck saw the writing on the wall, knew he couldn't compete with the beer company's deep pockets, and sold them the only thing his Browns had that the Cardinals wanted: Sportsman's Park. Veeck decided to move the Browns back to Milwaukee (where they had played from 1885 through 1901) but was foiled by Lou Perini, who still owned the Milwaukee territorial rights along with the Brewers.

So the Cardinals stayed put in St. Louis. Veeck was eventually able to secure a home for his club in Baltimore, where they still play today as the Orioles. The Braves, of course, moved in to Milwaukee County Stadium themselves, and you know the story from there. The tale of the would-be "Milwaukee Cardinals" was quickly forgotten.

Fred Miller at County Stadium (Credit: MillerCoors Milwaukee Archives)

Now, it seems likely that Saigh was just using Fred Miller and the other buyers in an attempt to drive up the price before selling to local St. Louis interests. And it's also very possible that Perini would have had the National League block the relocation even if Miller and Company were able to complete the sale, as he did with Veeck's Browns.

But man oh man, think about how different the baseball landscape would be today had Stan Musial gotten his 3,000th hit in front of his hometown fans at Milwaukee County Stadium.

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!"