Thursday, April 16, 2009

Home of the Brewers

From 1902 through 1952, the entirety of their existence, the Brewers made their home at Borchert Field. Bounded by North 7th and 8th Streets, and Chambers and Burleigh Streets in Milwaukee, the confines of the single block creating some very unusual field dimensions:

Originally known as Athletic Park, and known for the first few decades of the 20th Century as Brewer Park, it was renamed for team owner Otto Borchert following his death in 1927. Sportswriters referred to it as "Borchert's Orchard" and simply "The Orchard."

The original tenants were the Milwaukee Creams of the Western League. The Milwaukee franchise in the Western League would eventually be known as the Brewers, but by the time the Western League renamed itself the American League and declared itself the second major league, the Brewers had left Athletic Park for another Milwaukee baseball field, the Lloyd Street Grounds (on Lloyd Street, naturally, taking up the two blocks between North 16th and 18th Streets south of North Avenue). The American League Brewers would play only one season before moving to St. Louis, where they set the standard for futility as the Browns.

Filling the void was a new club in the minor league American Association, adopting the now-traditional Milwaukee Brewers name. They moved into Athletic Park and built a colorful 50-year tradition, a success which would ironically would pave the way for the return of the majors.

Milwaukee had been interested in luring a Major League team since at least the 1940s, and to that end built Milwaukee County Stadium on the site of Story Quarry (where Miller Park now stands). The magnificent new ballpark was completed in time for the 1953 season with a capacity of 36,000 and lots of room to expand should the city land a major league franchise. In the spring of 1953 the Brewers were prepared to move in, as seen in this 1952 postcard:

It was not to be. Just days before the start of the regular season, the Braves got permission from the National League to finally move to Milwaukee. The Brewers would never have a chance to play ball in their new park, moving instead to Toledo to replace the recently-departed Mud Hens, and a proud chapter in Milwaukee baseball history would come to a close.

Borchert Field would eventually be razed and the entire block is now taken up by Interstate 43:

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The neighborhood is still known, as the map indicates, by the ballpark's name. An historical marker was unveiled in August 2008 in Clinton Rose Park, a few blocks east of where the Orchard once stood.

1 comment:

  1. As I was research this Baseball field. I notice some artifacts that, in my opinion, would indicate that there was a major public gathering place around 8thth St. and W. Chambers and 7th St. and W. Chambers. First there is a old police phone booth still standing at 7th St. corner. And there are 2 closed abandon taverns across the street from each other. Now today it will be viewed as neighborhood residential so why would taverns and a non-operational phone booth be there.