Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Buy me some Peanuts and Cracker Jack..."

Editor's Note: Paul Tenpenny has a rare treat for you today; a brief home movie shot at Borchert Field!

"Buy me some Peanuts and Cracker Jack..."
by Paul Tenpenny
Copyright 2016 Tencentzports
Printed with permission of the Author

Dates really don’t matter much when it comes to our memories as they last us a lifetime. While not always accurate, we cherish every detail remembered.

When it comes to baseball, we all have those memories of going to a ballgame for the first time. For me it was my father taking me to see the Milwaukee Braves at County Stadium. The green grass of the outfield, the manicured infield and the colorful uniforms blended perfectly within this dreamscape of my youth. Add to that the crack of the bat, the cheers of the crowd and you have found paradise for a young fan. Not to mention, the hot dogs, sodas, souvenirs etcetera, all of it etched deeply in my memory.

Whether it was 10 years or 75 years ago…we do lose some of the details. How lucky would it have been to have someone film the experience so we could really relive that day as it happened? A movie camera is now as close as our phones these days and someone can always take pictures or videos to chronicle the minutiae of our lives.

In the pre-war days of 1940. This would have been rare if not impossible. A snapshot or two, maybe, a film, never!

Until Now...

James and Francis Keppeler
11 year old Jim Keppeler and his bespectacled brother, Francis (what a great cap!) were treated to a visit to Borchert Field by their father, Joseph on Sunday May 12, 1940.

The Brewers were hosting the Indianapolis Indians in a double header on this spring day in Milwaukee. Everyone had on their Sunday best, even the kids wore ties as you can see from these pictures. A far cry from our casual days of today.

Joseph Keppeler
Dad looked relaxed, enjoying a smoke while the boys were having the time of their lives.

While the film runs less than a minute (36 seconds to be exact), it shows us a rare glimpse of this Northside neighborhood in the 1940’s, including the peanut vendors on the street.

Inside the ballpark, dad poses for the camera, taking off his fedora, smiling and showing off his deftly combed hair. Fans behind them can be clearly seen passing a program.

What a day it must have been.

The Brewers split the double header that day winning game one 6-5 and losing the second by the score of 6-2. Fans were treated to some spirited hitting by outfielders Hal Peck (3 for 7) and Ted Gullic. (5 for 7)

It was a rough season for the Brews, finishing in last place with a record of 58-90. A detail I am sure is best forgotten.

Special thanks to Jimmy (James) Keppeler for sharing his Grandfather’s (James) memories with us here at Borchertfield.com. Priceless memories.

Monday, May 2, 2016

"What's a Little Fog When It's Opening Day at the Ball Park?"

This photo was printed in the Milwaukee Journal on May 2, 1936, as part of their Opening Day coverage. I deserves a spotlight of its own.

DESPITE fog and some rain a good sized crowd turned out for the first home game of the 1936 Brewer season. Here are some of the dyed in the wool fans going into the grandstand to see the Brewers play Louisville Friday. (Journal Staff Photo)
I don't think I've ever seen a photo of the grandstand entrance before. Behind the patrons, we can see one of the Orchard's distinctive sidewalk ticket kiosks.

I love the houses in the background, reminding us that it truly was a neighborhood ballpark.

This photo is a rare street-level look at Borchert Field. Really gives us a sense of what it was like to attend a game.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Opening Day, 1936

On this day in 1936, the Brewers held their home opener at Borchert Field. Here's how the Milwaukee Sentinel presented it to their readers:

That's Mayor Daniel Hoan throwing out the ceremonial first pitch (for the record, it was "low and wide"), and Philip La Follette beaming as he watches the game. To the right, #28 is Chet Laabs, hitting his fifth homer of the season in his first trip at bat.

The Journal led with a photo of the first batter grounding out to second. That's Milwaukee catcher Bill Brenzel behind the plate.

As the headlines indicate, the Brewers came out on top, defeating the Colonels 7-4.

9,677 fans turned up to Borchert Field to see the Brews open the season. Temporary bleachers had been set up in left and right fields, but they were not used. Balls hit into the empty stands were ground rule doubles.

The Journal described the festivities this way:
Borchert field was draped in bunting and resounded with band music during the flag raising ceremony, in which American Legion color bearers and members of both teams participated. Gov. La Follette and members of his party occupied a box. Tom Hickey, former association president, returning from a sojourn in California, and George Trautman of Columbus, present league head, were among the honored guests.
Almost better than their game coverage is the ads:

WISN had a long history with the Brews. Good to see they were helping Milwaukeeans follow their club.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Forget the Groceries, It's Time for Baseball!

On this day eighty years ago, the Brewers were preparing for their Home Opener at Borchert Field. And the city of Milwaukee turned out, as seen by this grocery store sign.

The Brewers, despite injuries and a batting slump, arrived home Wednesday in fourth place and Milwaukee began to prepare for the opening game Friday. Signs like the one shown above at Herman Militzer's grocery, 4303 W. Vliet St., blossomed out. Some factories also will let as many employees as possible attend the opener. (Journal Staff Photo)
I love it:


In addition to grocery clerks and factory workers getting time off, Milwaukee school superintendent Milton C. Potter agreed to let high school students out of class early so they could make their way to the Orchard for Opening Day.

Friday, April 22, 2016

More Goodness from MoonlightWraps

A few months ago, we talked about Brewers wall hangings from a company named MoonlightWraps.


At the end of that entry, I speculated that there were a ton of Brewers material they could use as inspiration for future products, including the club's 1943 programs. And sure enough, look what they've added to their roster:

This is one of my favorite covers, and they've done a great job replicating it on canvas.


They've also added the 1951 cover showing manager Charlie Grimm dressed as Owgust, the Beer Barrel Man.

Again, it's a very faithful reproduction of the original.


So now we have four classic Milwaukee Brewers programs re-created as canvas wall hangings. Check them out, along with the rest of MoonlightWrap's offerings, at their shop.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Play Ball! Milwaukee's Love Affair With Baseball"

Milwaukee's love affair with baseball continues to draw interest. Milwaukee historian and writer John Gurda filed this report with Wisconsin Life, produced by Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television:

Play Ball! Milwaukee's Love Affair With Baseball

AUDIO | April 8, 2016

Ah, baseball! The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the cries of the peanut vendors. Those have been fixtures of summertime in Milwaukee for almost as long as there’s been a Milwaukee. When the Brewers take the field for their home opener on April 4, they’ll renew one of the city’s oldest traditions.

It was in 1859 that the first game was played on a local diamond. Baseball was a different sport in those early days. Pitchers threw underhand, players fielded without gloves, and the bats were so heavy they were sometimes called “wagon tongues.” Everyone wore woolen uniforms, even on the hottest days, and they could really work up a sweat; it wasn’t unusual for scores to reach the triple digits.

As the game evolved and the fan base grew, what had begun as a gentleman’s hobby became a professional sport. The minor-league Milwaukee Grays made their debut in 1878, and the city fielded any number of pro squads in the decades that followed.

The most durable minor-league team was the old Milwaukee Brewers. From 1902 to 1952, they played their home games at Borchert Field, a North Side ballpark shoehorned into a single city block at Eighth and Burleigh. Interstate 43 now runs through its ghost. The park’s wooden benches held roughly 10,000 fans, who risked getting splinters in their backsides. The foul poles were a scant 266 feet from home plate, and long balls sometimes sailed through living room windows across the street.

It may have been primitive by modern standards, but fans loved "Borchert's Orchard." For fifty years, they took the streetcar to watch players with nicknames like Hot Potato, Specs, Cuckoo, Dinty, Tink, Ski, and Wee Willie take on the Toledo Mud Hens, the St. Paul Apostles, and the Louisville Colonels. The team rewarded its fans with eight American Association pennants during its long run.

It was the minor-league Brewers' success, both on the field and at the gate, that gave Milwaukee the confidence to build County Stadium in 1953. We built it, and they came. The Boston Braves moved in as soon as the stadium was ready, and Milwaukee was finally in the bigs. The team set a National League attendance record in its very first season and won the World Series just four years later, vanquishing the mighty New York Yankees.

After the intoxicating success of the Braves, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin, have lived through the heartbreak of their defection to Atlanta, the soporific slumps of the early Brewers, the glory years of the Yount-Molitor era, and the ups and downs of the Miller Park period.

Win or lose, Milwaukee remained a good baseball town. The Brewers’ attendance passed one million for the first time in 1973, when the team finished 23 games out of first place. Last year, at the start of a painful rebuilding period, 2.5 million showed up.

And why not? Every spring, hope returns like the tulips in our gardens. Will this season be the one? Will the Brewers still be contenders in September? There’s only one way to find out: Play ball!
Outstanding. I love anything that helps spread the word about our Brews.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Flying Milwaukee's Flag, Part III: My Final Five

Here they are, the five designs I submitted to the People's Flag of Milwaukee design contest.

I agonized over including this one, but ultimately I thought it was too complicated and couldn't find room in my Final Five for it:

Full descriptions of each are in the original post.

Good luck to all the entrants!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Road Opener, 1936

Eighty years ago today, the Brewers opened the 1936 season on the road in Louisville. Our heroes fell to their hosts 6-1, a disappointing beginning to a season so filled with promise.

Although it's not specifically Brewers-related, I love this ⅔ Chesterfield ad published in the Milwaukee Journal celebrating the return of baseball:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"The Rookies' Dream", 1936

I love this photo, printed in the Milwaukee Journal eighty years ago today.

THE ROOKIES' DREAM of spring baseball training—Lin Storti, Brewer infielder, is a veteran and knows from bitter experience that a pose like this is just a gag. He was photographed near the Milwaukee training camp at Lake Wales, Fla. (Journal Color photo)
Lin Storti was the Brewers' third baseman, settling in after his first complete season at his new position. He was a superb hitter who led the 1934 Brewers with a .330 average and an amazing 35 home runs, nine more than his closest teammate. He slumped a bit in 1935 with 29 home runs. Among the Brews, that was second only to Ted Gullic's 33, and the next-closest Brewer behind those two was Frank Doljack with a mere nine.

Storti's production did not go unnoticed around the league, and the Minneapolis Millers had tried to pry him away from Milwaukee after the 1935 season. The Brewers turned down all offers, even when Minneapolis Manager Donie Bush offered the then-amazing sum of $5,000 for him.

The Brews weren't interested, though, as manager Al Sothoron considered Storti a key to Milwaukee's chances for a pennant in '36.

With all that in his recent past, Lin must have felt pretty good on that Florida day in Spring Training. He could well afford a little gag.

Monday, April 11, 2016

"Selecting Their Bludgeons", 1936

The Milwaukee Brewers traveled to Louisville to open the 1936 season against the Colonels. So what does a ballplayer do with an afternoon off in the Derby City? Head over to the Louisville Slugger factory, of course, and the Milwaukee Journal's camera captured three Brewers doing just that.

"GO OVER to the bat factory and pick out a good supply. It looks as though you might break some," Heinie Bendiger told the three hard hitting youngsters on whom Milwaukee's pennant hopes rest. So here are shown (left to right) Chet Morgan, Chet Laabs and Rudy York selecting their bludgeons at Louisville Saturday.
These three batsmen came on loan from Detroit, who had signed a development agreement with the Brewers the year before. The Brews were an independent team for most of their existence (unlike the minor-league farm system we are familiar with today), but had working agreements with major league teams from time to time.

Henry "Heinie" Bendiger was the Brewers owner, who had purchased the Brewers from the Phil Ball estate in early 1934. Nice to see that he was giving his three new sluggers all the tools they would need to succeed.