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:

"NO DELIVERY OF GROCERIES FRIDAY AFTERNOON - BASEBALL OPENING"

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

by JOHN GURDA
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.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Flying Milwaukee's Flag, Part II: The People's Flag


In an earlier post, we explored the interesting (if not particularly successful) history of Milwaukee's flag. At the end of that post, I linked to MilwaukeeFlag.com, a campaign to create the "People's Flag of Milwaukee", that the current mess might be replaced with a design more worthy of a great American city.


This campaign is the brainchild of Milwaukee graphic designer Steve Kodis. Kodos is inviting designers to submit up to five designs, and I've decided to join in.

Remember the five principles of good flag design, as identified by the North American Vexillological Association:
  1. Keep it simple.  The flag should be so simple that a child can draw it from memory.
  2. Use meaningful symbolism.  The flag's images, colors or pattern should relate to what it symbolizes.
  3. Use two to three basic colors.  From the standard color set: red, white, blue, green, yellow and black.
  4. No lettering or seals.  Never use writing of any kind. If you need to write the name of what you're representing on your flag, your symbolism has failed.
  5. Be distinctive.
With that in mind, here we go. A little background of my process, and we'll look at the proposals.

COLORS

I started with the color palette - light blue, dark blue, gold, and cream.

Blue

Blue is a defining color for Milwaukee. Not only is it the base for the current flag, but it has a long history with our civic institutions, including the current tourism campaign.


From the Press Club to the Athletic Club, Milwaukee is true blue.


The sole surviving daily paper's masthead? Mostly blue.


When the mayor issues a proclaimation (such as he would for, say, "Borchert Field History Day", if somebody were to propose such a thing), the certificate leans rather heavily on one color:

Milwaukee Area Technical College

Blue is also undeniably Milwaukee's sporting color, associated with every professional team in the city. The True Blue Brew Crew have made it famous across the country, but the Admirals and Wave have also spent plenty of time wearing it.


Milwaukee has two semi-professional outdoor soccer teams; one the historic Bavarian Soccer Club, fostering the world's game since 1929, and the brand-new Milwaukee Torrent. Both prominently use—guess what?—blue.

 

Even the Bucks recently added a touch of blue to their uniforms:


Given all that, blue is a must.

I decided to double down on this connection and combine two shades of blue; a dark blue to represent both Lake Michigan and the rivers which nourish our downtown, and a lighter shade for our brilliant clear sky.

Mick Rampart
UWM

With the primary colors settled, I looked at supplementing our blues with additional accent colors.

Cream

To compliment the blues, I first turned to cream. "The Cream City" is one of Milwaukee's historical nicknames, rising not from the state's dairy industry but the pale brick used to make so many of our buildings. Varying in color from a soft yellow to beige, the Cream City brick defined the city's look for so long I thought it had more than deserved inclusion.


Once you start looking for Cream City brick, you see it everywhere.

katherinewikoff.com
Wikipedia
preservationaction.org
UrbanMilwaukee.com
OnMilwaukee.com
Bobby Tanzilo/OnMilwaukee.com
OnMilwaukee.com
OnMilwaukee.com

This photo from OnMilwaukee.com really captures the look. Dark and light blue play against the cream brick of downtown Milwaukee.

Bobby Tanzilo/OnMilwaukee.com

Gold

I wanted another accent color as an option in case the cream was too washed-out or otherwise didn't work with the design. And, of course, everyone knows that there's a glorious history of pairing gold with two shades of blue:

Rich Pilling/Getty Images

So that leaves us with these two color schemes:


or


We may need to play with the specific shades based on their usage, but that gives us the broad strokes.

I was rather amused to find this photo on Milwaukee Flag's Instagram account with the caption "These would make great colors for the new flag.":


Great minds think alike.

ICONOGRAPHY

With the color scheme set, I turned next to defining a symbol for the city. How do you encapsulate something so diverse into a simple icon? We can look to see what's already in use.


The answer was right there in the middle of the current flag.


The gear can easily be emblematic of the city.

When I was a Cub Scout in the 1980s, we wore this Council patch on our left shoulders:


I always admired this design. The Hoan Bridge is an underutilized symbol, perfect for such a horizontal layout. And there to the left, married with Scouting's fleur-de-lis, is our gear.

That's our first symbol. To which I would add our own Rule of Three. The phrase is famous as a comedic technique (repeat three times with a twist on the third), while our version of the rule is a nod to Milwaukee's past. Milwaukee was founded from three settlements—Kilbourntown west of the Milwaukee River, Juneautown between the river and the lake, and Walker’s Point on the South Side—which joined to become the City of Milwaukee.

So now we have our colors, and we have two symbols we can incorporate. Let's look at my designs.



1. "The Brew City"

Since beer was so often mentioned in the previous design competitions, perhaps Brew City would consider this sudsy banner?


A geometric study; the bottom two-thirds filled with lager gold, the top third foamy white, bubbles in the canton.

Okay, might not be entirely serious with that one. But it sure is fun.

2. "Reflection"


Our next design starts with the gear.

A strong symbol of Milwaukee's industrial heritage. Two shades of blue, the river and the lake. Nothing extraneous to clutter the design. The vertical split between blues provides a dynamic effect that elevates the simple gear into something more distinctive.

3. "Gearing Up"


Again we start with the two shades of blue, the river and the lake. This interpretation, however, highlights the gear as a symbol of Milwaukee by separating it from the background. The bright gold brings it out.

I have experimented with different layouts, as well as a cream-colored gear:



The advantage to this design is its adaptability. We can use the center of the gear as a place for icons, to identify the City's various departments.


Instantly, we have a logo set that clearly identifies public property, facilities, equipment, or personnel. If fully utilized, public servants would wear it on their uniforms, visitors would see it on the local signs, and Milwaukeeans would even carry it around in their wallets.


The central image is distinctive enough to work in situations where full-color is neither preferable nor feasible.


In this “Gearing Up” concept, we have not only a flag but a true civic symbol for the city, an image that we can integrate into the daily life of all Milwaukeeans.

4. "Pointing Forward"


Again we utilize our Rule of Three, this time three triangles arranged to create a pennant. The dark blue triangle points to the right, the direction we perceive as "forward". "Forward" is of course the simple yet powerful motto of Wisconsin, which we can reference without needing to clutter the flag with lettering.

The pennant shape adds a nautical feeling, wholly appropriate to a Great Place on a Great Lake.

This can be adapted to either gold or cream, with bars separating the blues or without.


We also have the option of a more detailed gear.


I tried inverting the blues, but this seems less successful.


I think it works better with the darker background, providing greater contrast with the gear and emphasizing the pennant shape.

4. "Morning in Milwaukee"

This design symbolizes a sunrise over Lake Michigan. Morning is a powerful image, a reminder of our best days yet to come.


Simple, but elegant. The top two-thirds in light blue, the bottom third in royal, the water and the sky. These colors, with gold from the sun, are emblematic of the city. And when the sun is pictured over the water, it's got to be morning in the Cream City.

I tried to incorporate the gear, but I think it's less successful.


5. "Wings"


This is my vexillological interpretation of two icons of modern Milwaukee architecture, the wings of the brise soleil at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the supports of the 6th Street Viaduct bridge.

Three even white bands evoke the lines of these skeletal structures, set against the bright blue sky of a summer's day in Milwaukee. The number of bands symbolize the three settlements (Kilbourntown, Juneautown, and Walker’s Point) which would join to become the City of Milwaukee. The upward diagonal movement symbolizes a city on the rise. Our gear is re-created here as the shining sun.

The Art Museum in particular has become a symbol of the city since it was completed in 2001. We can acknowledge Calatrava's masterpiece on our flag without needing a literal reference.

Although itself not internationally-reknowned, the 6th Street Viaduct is nonetheless key to our understanding of Milwaukee in the 21st century. In 2003, the city replaced an outdated bridge from 1908 with a modern marvel seven-tenths of a mile long, comprised of two bascule bridges, two approaches, four driving lanes, two bicycle lanes and two sidewalks. At either end, two unique, state-of-the-art cable-stayed supports soar into the sky.


Infrastructure can be as beautiful as it is functional. The 6th Street Viaduct is a perfect example of this.

At the viaduct's opening ceremony, Alderman Michael D'Amato was quoted as saying "design matters." And I couldn’t agree more. The 6th Avenue Viaduct marries new approaches to traffic movement with a forward-thinking understanding of shared public use, all in a package that uplifts the spirit.

The "Wings" design pays tribute to both of these unique structures, triumphs of engineering and design, each a fitting symbol for a city embracing its future with a determination to improve the quality of life of its citizens.

6. "Milwaukee Crossing"


This flag incorporates an off-center cross design reminiscent of an Irish "Brigid's Cross". The outer lines are ½ the width of the inner lines. The design has an echo of the Nordic Cross flags common in Scandinavian nations and in Germany, reflecting the area's ethnic heritage, but with a distinctly local twist.

The layout represents the three cities which would eventually merge to become Milwaukee; Juneautown on the east shore of the river, Kilbourntown on the west, and Walker's Point to the south. If you've ever wondered why the street grid doesn't line up on either side of the river, or why the bridges all jog at an angle as they cross the water, this would be why. Kilbourn and Juneau's two independent cities skirmished and fought, culminating in an open conflict now known as the Milwaukee Bridge War, before they finally joined to become the City of Milwaukee.

In the offset lines of this cross we see reflected the intersection of the Milwaukee River and Kilbourn Avenue, where the bascule bridge links two sides of the city.


This cross can be adapted to our colorway in many variations.


We can also dress it up with our gear in the center:


7. "City Hall Proud"


Milwaukee's city hall is an iconic structure and very much worthy of inclusion on the flag. Completed in 1895, it was for four years the tallest building in the United States.

MilwaukeeFlag.com

For nearly a century and a quarter, the elegant Neo-Renaissance building has been a symbol of the city city, a constant reminder of our shared purpose, a vision of good governance. City Hall was designed to represent the city as surely as the legislators within are tasked with representing its citizens. It is only fitting that the City Hall be retained on Milwaukee's flag.

From the current flag, we start with the sky blue field. City Hall is enlarged and made front and center. Its clock hands are set at 6:46, or 18:46, to honor the year the city was founded.

To this, we add two more elements brought forward from the current flag. Milwaukee's industrial legacy is represented by the gear, its brewing and agriculture by a barley stalk. What had been disparate elements are now combined to a single unified icon.

This icon can be set against a variety of backgrounds, or a solid background, without losing its power.

  

It can again be applied to a variety of applications.


I like this design as a logical evolution of the current flag. The basics are still there; light blue background, gear, City Hall, barley. But everything else has been stripped away, leaving the central symbol bolder and stronger.

  


8. "The Eternal Flame"


If City Hall represents the Old World charm of the 19th century, the Wisconsin Gas Building exemplifies the progressive spirit of the 20th. Built in 1930, this Art Deco masterpiece stands out even in the shadow of the tallest building in the state. It is without a doubt my favorite building in Milwaukee, and a fitting symbol for the city.

The teardrop-shaped "gas flame" was added in 1956. This decades-later addition could have destroyed the original building, but instead it completed it, giving the wedding-cake structure a fitting topper and creating something entirely new. To this day, I find it hard to believe that the building wasn't conceived with this electrified crown in mind.

Lit originally by neon tubes and now by a sophisticated LED system, the color of the flame changes with the weather forecast, as this mnemonic poem indicates:
When the flame is red, warm weather's ahead.
When the flame is gold, watch out for cold.
When the flame is blue, there’s no change in view.
When there’s a flickering flame, expect snow or rain.

I have it blue not only to fit the color scheme but to signal that Milwaukee is going to keep moving on the right path into the future!

I've also worked up a version of this flag using our gold.




And those are my ideas to solve Milwaukee's flag problem, a conversation that has been ongoing since at least 1897.



Each person can submit up to five entries. I'll let you know which five I select.