Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Charlie

66 years ago today, in 1943, Milwaukee Brewers manager Charlie Grimm was celebrating his 45th birthday at Borchert Field, with a pregame ceremony before the Brews' contest against the Indianapolis Indians (among the fans in the stands for the festivities that night was a nine-year-old Brewerooter named Allan "Bud" Selig). No birthday party would be complete without presents, of course, and the birthday boy was showered with them, including a $1,000 war bond (from Bill Veeck, who promptly deducted it from Grimm's next check), a new left-handed banjo, and a rocking chair from the players, wiseacres all.

The best present, or at least the most flamboyant, would come with Veeck's signature on the card. At the end of the ceremony, a 15-foot cardboard cake was wheeled out to home plate. At a pre-arranged signal, a group of dancing girls burst out, followed by Julio Acosta, southpaw hurler formerly of the Norfolk Tars. Grimm had been lobbying for another starting pitcher for some time, and Veeck had secretly bought Acosta from the Piedmont League franchise for $7,500 (about 50% over the going rate) plus an extra $5,000 for the Tars to keep the deal secret. In fairness to Veeck, Grimm had been joking with the press a few weeks earlier, and when asked what he wanted for his birthday, he had replied "A left-hand pitcher".

Not one to be outdone by his boss's legendary sense of showmanship, Grimm started Acosta just minutes later. Acosta pitched well against Indianapolis, allowing only eight hits in his first six innings, but couldn't close it out. The Indians tied the game on an unearned run in the ninth and beat the Brewers on a home run in the tenth inning. Not the best ending to Jolly Cholly's birthday party, but still a pretty good present: Acosta would win his remaining three starts for Milwaukee.

This photo from the Brewer News shows Grimm and Acosta, fresh out of the cake and ready to take the mound:

Now that's a party.

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