Sunday, August 16, 2009

Out On A Lin

One of the wonderful things about researching a team like the Brews is that you never know where inspiration will strike. Every treasure you find in an antique store or flea market, every reference gleaned from an old newspaper, can send you in search of another story.

I recently picked up this vintage 1934 photo of infielder Lin Storti on eBay. He piqued my interest - I had seen his name mentioned, often in connection with the 1936 pennant-winning season, but didn't know much about him. Long baseball career, but only a couple years as a reserve in the majors, and those were with a long-defunct club. Not the kind of player who attracts much attention seventy-five years later. He doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry.

Lindo Ivan Storti came to Milwaukee in 1934, right around the time that picture was taken, after having played parts of four seasons with the St. Louis Browns (the Browns owned the Brewers from 1933 through 1935). He stayed with the Brews until 1938, the longest stint in one place of his 16-year minor league career.

Moving to Milwaukee meant a regular spot at second base, and when given the opportunity to play on a daily basis Storti came through. He led the 1934 Brewers with a .330 average and an amazing 35 home runs, nine more than his closest teammate.

This production didn't go unnoticed. Storti soon attracted offers from other clubs. Having seen enough of Storti from the other dugout, the Minneapolis Millers made repeated overtures of $4,000 in cash to the Brewers. Milwaukee manager Al Sothoron wasn't interested:

Sothoron, who knew Storti from a brief managerial stint with the Browns in 1933, moved him from second base to third for his sophomore season with Milwaukee. The Millers continued to watch him from the opposing dugout, and raised their offer to $5,000 during the 1935 winter meetings:

Storti's "poorest season" was poor only by his own high standards. While not quite up to his 1934 production, his 29 home runs in 1935 was second only to Ted Gullic's 33, and miles ahead of Frank Doljack's third-place 9 dingers.

Sothoron's refusal to sell his third-bagger would pay off; the Brewers won the 1936 pennant by five games, their first in twenty-two years, clinching with what must have been a satisfying doubleheader sweep of the Millers. Storti got his share of the credit in the Milwaukee Sentinel's post-season retrospective:

Storti, for his own part, didn't exactly discourage offers from other teams. He was famous for sending back contract extensions when first offered.

He would eventually sign a new contract and continue his pace, hitting three home runs in a single game against the Columbus Red Birds.

Minneapolis eventually got their man. The Brewers sold his contract to the Millers on December 9, 1938, but his stay in the Twin Cities was to be short-lived, and he was sold to the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League during the 1941 season. Lin would finish out his career with a couple seasons kicking around the Pacific Coast League.

Like the famously maladroit Browns organization for which he played, Lin Storti has never received his due recognition. But, like the Browns, his story continues to intrigue those who remember. In 2006, his 1933 St. Louis jersey sold for $7500 at auction. Clearly, neither he nor his club have been completely forgotten, Wikipedia be damned.

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