Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mystery Merchandise Revealed

As I detailed in a previous post, Milwaukee Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes had mentioned in a Journal Sentinel article back in March that the Beer Barrel Man merchandise was on the way:

The Barrel Man was used less after the 1978 season. Bernie Brewer gets top billing now, but Barrel Man still lurks at Miller Park.

"We have a good amount of Barrel Man products on order, and it should be in very soon," said Brewers spokesman Tyler Barnes. They include shirts, caps and plush Barrel Man toys.
I hadn't heard about them actually hitting Miller Park shelves until today.

Visiting my family in Milwaukee, I went to a game with my brother and stepfather. Aside from an outstanding 6-3 victory over the Mets, I found these in the Hot Corner team store:

It's an interesting assortment. Looking left to right, starting with the gold t-shirt:

This "Welcome Brewers" logo, while made to look as though from the 1970 inaugural season, was actually created in the 1990s by MLB Properties for inclusion in the Cooperstown Collection line.

MLB worked up a whole bunch of throwback logos for the various clubs. The same logo appears on the shot and pint glasses.

I like the 1970s Beer Barrel Man cap, even if I'm not wild about the gold bill. And the stuffed Men are pretty cute.

The second cap is definitely the same c. 1970 water transfer Flex-Cote decal we've seen before.

The blue t-shirt is a women's cut, and it features a variant of the Beer Barrel Man which was featured on the cover of the team's 1975 Media Guide (hence the uniform number).

For what it's worth, the caps seem to be the only items currently available in the Brewers' online shop. But that can change - I know the gold t-shirt was up there earlier in the season.

So, on the whole, my reaction? Something of a mixed bag. I wish there was more focus on the Beer Barrel Man himself, aside from the "Welcome Brewers" dressing. But I'm so glad the Brewers are finally recognizing this long-neglected chapter in their history (and Milwaukee baseball history in general), I don't really mind.

Now it's our turn. If you're also glad that he's getting a shout out in the land of the Ball and Glove, let the Brewers know. Perhaps even buy an item or two. That might be the only way we can get the National League outfit to recognize the legacy of the American Association Brewers in any form.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Let There Be Light(s)

On June 6, 1935, the Brewers took the field for the first time under Borchert Field's new floodlights.

Milwaukee wasn't the first American Association club to go electric - in 1931, the Columbus Redbirds had installed lights, and the following year they outdrew their parent Cardinals 310,000 to 279,000. When Redbirds General Manager Larry MacPhail jumped up to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1933 season, he dragged the big leagues into the Electric Age.

The first major league game played under floodlights was at Crosley Field on May 24, 1935 as 20,422 fans watched the Reds down Philadelphia Phillies, 2-1. As with Columbus, night baseball was a success in Cincy - the seven night games averaged 18,620 spectators, far and above the 4,700 average the remaining 69 home games drew.

The Brews had already jumped on the electric bandwagon, working on illuminating the Orchard, and less than two weeks later were ready to play their first game under the floodlights:

(click for full Milwaukee Journal article)

Borchert Field's unusual layout, wedged in between 7th and 8th Streets, forced some creative work from the lighting crew. The outfield standards were in fair territory and their infield counterparts were placed in front of the grandstands, as you can see in this 1940s promotional photo:

(Click to enlarge - huge)

As if the Orchard's sightlines hadn't been bad enough....

Monday, June 22, 2009

Gimme an "M"!

In this Milwaukee Journal photo from April 25, 1935, the Brewers inspect their new home uniforms, delivered just in time for Opening Day.

The caption reads:
Brewers Home, Look Over New Uniforms for Friday's Opening

The Milwaukee baseball team pulled in from Minneapolis at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and-much to the surprise of trainmen who know the late sleeping habits of ball players-turned out at once, having orders to report for practise at Borchert field. The picture shows Manager Sothoron and some of the players looking over the new uniforms they will wear Friday in the opening game. Left to right they are Ted Gullic, Sothoron, Wayne La Master, Ernie Wingard, Massmann, Detore, Hope, Forest Pressnell, Jack Rowe and Tony Rensa. (Journal Staff Photo)
I rather like the stylized M logo, matching the "MILWAUKEE" wordmark from the team's road jerseys. And is that a new cap Gullic is holding? Perhaps with a matching M? I'll see if I can dig up some more photos.

Sadly, this stylish new home uniform was to be short-lived; by the 1936 season, when Sothoron's boys brought the American Association pennant back to Milwaukee, the Brewers were wearing a block M over their hearts. The Brews would then stay with the block monogram until adopting a script wordmark for their jerseys in the late 1940s.

So why ditch the new jerseys?

I suspect I know the answer. It seems likely to me that the Brews decided to drop their new logo because they looked too much like that of the Minneapolis Millers, who were wearing an almost-identical monogram, modeled here by former Brewer legend Joe "Unser Choe" Howser, who spent several seasons off and on with Minneapolis:

I don't know when the Millers adopted their version of the "M" logo - reliable information on the Millers information isn't any easier to find than that of the Brewers - but it was no later than 1932. The "M" isn't exact, but it's pretty darn close to the Brewers' 1935 duds.

As of 1933 the Millers were sporting a more flowing M:

But by 1938, the Millers would return to their similar monogram, seen here on a young Ted Williams:

The logo had changed a bit in the intervening years. That's not quite the same as our 1935 Brewers' initial - the diagonal lines are thicker, and the verticals are missing the inside spur.

So, was that it? Did the Brews decide that their fancy new jerseys made them look more like Minnesotans than Wisconsinites? Again, more research is needed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Who is That Mystery Man?

The LIFE Magazine photo archive on Google once again reveals new treasures.

You have to get creative with the search terms, though. Every new search term you add yields an entirely different set of results. Under a search for "world series braves" we find this series of photos of the 1957 World Championship parade down Wisconsin Avenue.

The item of particular interest to Brewers fans comes from these two photos of the Milwaukee Braves Boosters. At the left edge of the frame, next to the Boosters, we get a glimpse of a familiar uniform:

Does that group look like they know how to party, or what? Hilda's got her cowbell at the ready.

Unfortunately, there aren't any better photos of our mystery man, at least none yet posted. The photographer, Yale Joel, doesn't appear to have been particularly interested in him beyond his proximity to the Braves Boosters.

While we don't get a good look at him, we do know a little bit about his jersey. The patriotic "HEALTH" patch was worn on all major league jerseys in 1942 before being replaced by a stars-and-stripes shield. The American Association also wore the patch, and so far as I know, dropped it at the same time. The zip-front jersey with sleeve and neck piping would have been worn that year.

So we have what appears to be an older gentleman wearing a fifteen-year-old uniform to the Milwaukee Braves victory parade. But who is he? Does anybody recognize him? Could he be a former player, turned up to the parade in his old duds like a veteran at the Memorial Day parade? So many questions....

Hat tip once again to Hat tip to Lance Smith for continuing to teach me how to navigate the nigh-impenetrable archive. I can't help but wonder what other old Brews items are hidden out there, obscured by Google's poor search tagging.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Brews merchandise from Ebbets Field Flannels

I got the new Ebbets Field Flannels catalogue in the mail yesterday (yes, I know, I'm terribly retro that way).

You can see their Grounds Crew Jackets on the website.

These garments are practical as they are affordable, and best of all, can be ordered in almost any team we make a jersey for!
That tears it - I'm going to get a Brews jacket. I love the style, and $79 is pretty good.

So what would it look like? We'd start with a basic navy jacket. It's tempting to put the stadium name on the back, but I think I would prefer to use the elegant 1940s wordmark, as was actually seen on the ushers' uniforms:

Maybe even with the city name above it:

Okay. So that's the back. But what about the front? The Brewers never had a really identifying cap logo, so I'd have to go with something like Owgust. The "running" version the Brews wore on team jackets in the 1940s.

So whad'ya say? Anybody with me? The more interest in Brews merchandise we show, the more stuff Ebbets Field will make.