Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Mr. Baseball" & His 1943 Milwaukee Brewers

With the world at war, baseball was declared to be an important diversion for the folks back home by FDR. Milwaukee's "Mr. Baseball" did his part to "divert" them and the team was pretty entertaining too. Out of the primordial ooze of the Waukesha "Moors" came the 1943 Milwaukee Brewers...

by Paul Tenpenny
Copyright 2009 Tencentzports
Printed with permission of the Author

FDR Green Light Letter January 15, 1942
(Courtesy Baseball Hall of Fame)
"My dear Judge:-

Thank you for yours of January fourteenth. As you will, of course, realize the final decision about the baseball season must rest with you and the Baseball Club owners -- so what I am going to say is solely a personal and not an official point of view.

I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.

And that means they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.

Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half, and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.

As to the players themselves, I know you agree with me that individual players who are of active military or naval age should go, without question , into the services. Even if the actual quality of the teams is lowered by the greater use of older players, this will not dampen the popularity of the sport. Of course, if any individual has some particular aptitude in trade or profession, he ought to serve the Government. That, however, is a matter which I know you can handle with complete justice.

Here is another way of looking at it -- if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens -- and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.

With every best wish,
Very sincerely yours,

1943 Milwaukee Brewers Scorecard
(Author's Collection)

In 1943, America entered its second year of World War II. While industry geared up for wartime production and baseball had gotten the "green light" from FDR, things would be very different from the pre-war days.

One major change for baseball came with spring training. The government Office of Defense Transportation called for less travel by baseball teams, the result was having them train closer to home. Milwaukee for the first time since 1918 announced that spring training for the team would open April 6th in Wisconsin at Waukesha's Frame Field. This was the home for Waukesha's entry in the Land O Lakes league.

While General Manager Rudy Schaffer quoted weather bureau records predicting temperatures in the 50's, jokes were plentiful about Waukesha's winter wonderland.

The team would have a varied conditioning program according to the Milwaukee Journal's R. G. Lynch, which would include snowball fights, playing in snowshoes and ice skating. Bill Veeck wanted them to play ice hockey but this was deemed too rough a sport for the team.

Bill Veeck and Schaffer were both against Charlie Grimm's idea of a Polar Bear club, fearing that cutting holes in the ice of the Fox river for midnight swims, may result in losing a player to the swift current. With the war on, players were hard enough to come by to risk losing one to nocturnal swimming. 2 sled dog teams driven by Eskimos would carry the team to and from the field. Doc Feron was at the Mayo Clinic to learn how to care for frostbite and chilblains.

All kidding aside, the weather was expected to be a bit raw, but the facilities were considered adequate and Charlie Grimm felt that the nearby Moor Mud baths would help get the team into condition.

Charlie Grimm and Mickey Heath enjoying the Moor Mud Baths of Waukesha, Wisconsin
(Author's Collection)

Envelope Opener, Moor Mud Baths
(Author's Collection)

Charlie Grimm was confident his Brewers would be in as good of shape as any other team. Plans were set for the arrival of the players, with practices starting at 10 am and finishing by 2:30 pm. Workouts would begin with warm up calisthenics led by Red Smith.

The players arrived in good physical condition due to the war work many were involved with. Bill Norman actually reported in at 10 lbs under his playing weight from last year and Grey Clarke was said to have lost the “Alderman’s Front” he had last year.

After coming so close in 1942, expectations were high for the upcoming season and opening day in Minneapolis. Milwaukee was sporting a sound infield and were leading the league in batting strength with the addition of Ted Norbert, Texas League Home run champ Merv Connors and returning Brewer home run champ Bill Norman.

With a little boost to their pitching staff, things would be looking strong for the start of 1943.

1943 Milwaukee Brewers Team Photo
(Author's Collection)

1943 Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Schedule
(Author's Collection)

1943 Home Opening Day Ticket
(Author's Collection)

While Charlie Grimm worked hard preparing his team on the frozen soil of Waukesha, Wisconsin, the Brewer's "Mr. Baseball," tilled the fertile pastures of his creative genius. He combined shrewd deals for players and promotional ideas to bring the fans into the stands, a skill which no one was better at than Veeck. People outside of the American Association were beginning to notice the Sporting News 1942 Executive Of The Year. No less than 3 major magazines ran articles on Bill Veeck in 1943:

Baseball's Number 1 Screwball: Bill Veeck of Milwaukee
Look Magazine

Boy Magnate
Saturday Evening Post

Squirrel Night at the Brewers, Billy Veeck is baseball's best showman.
Esquire Magazine

1943 "Mr. Baseball" Bill Veeck
(Author's Collection)

When FDR wrote his response to Judge Landis, he expressed confidence in the judge and the baseball owners that they would do what was best for baseball and the country.

Milwaukee had a strong industrial base and Bill Veeck, taking Roosevelt's words to heart, made sure that baseball would be accessible to those working hard in the war effort. As in 1942, special Defense Plant nights with group discounts were offered for several of the city's employers including:

A O Smith; Allen Bradley; Allis Chalmers; Ampco Metal; Briggs and Stratton; Chain Belt Co.; Cutler Hammer; Harnischfeger Corporation and Wisconsin Electric to name just a few.

Blood drives were also a regular fixture at the games, with fans donating a pint of blood being given game passes.

Morning Baseball's First Game Handbill
(Courtesy John Effenheim)

Listening to fans' concerns during off season meetings at factories, some night shift workers told Veeck that they weren't always able to attend games due to their work schedules. Bill told them he'd do something about it. True to his word, he scheduled several morning games and seasoned them with that "Screwy-but Funny," Bill Veeck sense of humor.

While vendors passed out the breakfast, the players and coaches hammed it up, adding to the merriment. Bill Veeck believed he could fill the stands if you gave them a game and a gag.

This morning game seems to have started a bit too early for Red Smith...

Veeck never announced his gags in advance, preferring to get the best results from his surprised fans. Unsuspecting victims would be given live pigeons, blocks of ice, live lobsters, ladders etc., anything to get a response. Milwaukeeans flocked to Borchert to take part in the fun.

Bill Veeck, Lefty Grimm and Rudy Schaffer
(Author's Collection)

The Brewers also provided some music to the home games with "Jolly Cholly" on his banjo, Veeck on the slide whistle and GM Rudy Schaffer on a one string tin can fiddle. They even coaxed outfielder Herschel Martin to join them on piano for a home series opener in June against Louisville.

Joe Berry, Bob Bowman, Earl Caldwell and Dutch Hoffman joined in and performed as a barber shop quartet.

Dick Rice's popular "Brewer band," a 5 piece Dixieland jive band finished the pregame music and the fans cheered their approval.

Veeck the Fan...
(Author's Collection)

Bill continued his habit of spending time with the fans to get their perspective because he was a fan himself.

Age didn't matter...he listened
(Author's Collection)

Age was no barrier to finding out what the fans loved, in fact Bill spent a lot of time with the youngsters and befriended many of them.

A young Bill Topitzes first met Sportshirt Bill in 1942, when he fell in love with baseball after his uncles took him to his first game at the age of 9. He started going by himself and Veeck soon took a liking to the lad. They became good friends. Young Bill started out as a ball watcher on 8th street.(chased down balls hit out of the park and returned them) Because of his relationship with Veeck, he moved inside and eventually worked his way up from ball boy to bat boy and then to clubhouse boy for the Brewers. Soon he was taking care of both clubhouses by himself. He also worked the scoreboard. Topitzes pitched in as one of the people in charge of the hoses underneath old wooden Borchert Field to put out the small fires started by cigarettes being dropped through the seats.

Fencing with the opposition...

Determined to press any advantage or minimize any disadvantage to win last year, Bill Veeck introduced opposing teams to a wire screen atop the right field fence at Borchert field to compensate for the Brewer's lack of left hander hitting.

By the time the Toledo Mudhens came to town for its first series of the year, June 13, 1943, they too were greeted by the same wire screen. But a controversy seemed to be building on its effectiveness.

The screen was designed to blunt the opposition's left handed hitters. While it stopped two home runs during the double header that day it had little effect on the outcome of the games as the Brewers split the twin bill with the Mudhens. In fact both fans and local baseball writers seemed to dislike the screen. Besides depriving the players the home runs which could help keep them on the job or justify a raise in pay, the fans tended to favor seeing the home runs, be they "homers" or round trippers hit by the visitors.

In early September the screen came down. The final tally was 11 to 7 in favor of the opposition. The Brewers actually lost more home runs than their foes.

When asked if he regretted putting up the screen, the fleet of mouth Veeck said he no longer needed it because he had a couple good left handed hitters now and a pair of southpaws. He went on to defend it as good psychology as his right handed pitchers had more confidence when facing left handed hitters. "So you see, it has been of real value, ask our pitchers."

A much different response may have come from Milwaukee Brewer outfielder Hershel Martin who lost 9 home runs to the screen.

Although it has been reported that Bill Veeck moved this screen several times during games to gain an advantage, during its life span, the only detected movement of the screen in 1943 was generated by the "spin" of Sport Shirt Bill.

Let them Eat Cake...

Never one to pass up a birthday surprise, Bill Veeck presented Charlie Grimm with one on his 45th birthday, August 28, 1943.

Prior to the start of the game against Indianapolis, Charlie was given various presents while the band played "Happy Birthday." But Bill had one more birthday present for the manager of the Brewers. A large cake was carried out from home plate by his Milwaukee players. Suddenly the heads of a bunch of dancing girls popped out of the cake while another round "Happy Birthday" was sung to the surprised manager. As the girls stepped out of the cake, Veeck told Charlie maybe he should take a closer look inside as there might be another surprise. Out popped recently acquired pitcher Julio Acosta in a Milwaukee Brewer uniform. Bill had just obtained him from the Piedmont league. He played for the Richmond club and was their strike out leader with a record of 17 wins 6 losses for the year. Just what Charlie needed, a left handed pitcher.

Happy Birthday Charlie Grimm
(Author's Collection)

The Season ...

Milwaukee won its first game behind a 5 hitter pitched by Joe Berry in the second game of the new season after losing the opener to Minneapolis. They struggled early in the season pretty much playing .500 ball in May and it wasn’t until later in June that they moved into 2nd place.

July found them in 1st place as Joe Berry continued to pitch masterfully on his way to a 11 game winning streak. Team hitting was very strong and they played well defensively. Most of the month they traded the 1st and 2nd place positions with Indianapolis.

They held this position at the top by a thin margin until a slump hit them in August.

The nose dive in August caused by the pitchers losing some of their steam had the fans nervous...but the Brewers did not give up or give in. Neither did Veeck nor Charlie Grimm, both kept the team battling. The Brewers came roaring back in September and clinched the pennant on September 17th.

1943 Milwaukee Brewers Roster
Courtesy Rex Hamann

*(The following Milwaukee Brewer baseball card series has had a somewhat obscure history, not much of anything has been written about them until now. These high gloss (3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches) cards have the name Grand Studio printed on the lower right hand edge.

The Grand Photo Studio was located on the south side of Milwaukee. Specializing in portraits, of which I have many old family photos that were done by them, they were the “Official Brewer Photographer” according to their advertisements. These beautiful glossy cards that sported printed autographs, were sold at the Borchert field concession stands.

Similar in layout to the 1942 Brewer poster, they remain quite scarce and demand a premium price when found in complete near mint sets. Here is a rare view of the complete 22 card set. )

Joe Berry / Bob Bowman
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

“Jittery” Joe Berry "as jittery as the rock of Gibraltar," finished 1943 with a 18-10 record with a 2.78 ERA. An untiring powerhouse in spite of his size, he actually pitched 5 games in 13 days at one point of the season.

The mighty Brewer "Atom" had a extraordinary season and advised teammate Wes Livingood on pitch selection.

Bob Bowman went 6-2 with a 3.04 ERA during the season.

Earl Caldwell / Grey Clarke
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Earl "Teach" Caldwell won 10 while losing 11 in 1943 with a 3.68 Earned Run Average.

3rd baseman Grey Clarke led the Brewers and the league with his .346 batting average, gathering 185 hits with 29 doubles. He added 10 home runs and tallied 97 RBI’s.

Merv Conners / Paul Erickson
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

1st baseman Merv Connors batted .246 in 32 games played.

Pitcher Paul Erickson, before being called up to the bigs, won 6 games and lost 4 with a 3.19 ERA.

Charlie Grimm / Hank Helf
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Manager Charlie Grimm did not insert himself as a player this year as he did in the past, but spent his time concentrating on managing the Milwaukee Brewers, winning his first American Association Pennant, their 1st since 1936.

Hank Helf had what was considered his best year in baseball, fielding spectacularly and pitching in with a .260 batting average.

Don Johnson / Wes Livengood
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

2nd baseman Don Johnson played his position well and hit for a .283 average for the season.

Wes Livingood was the perfect complement to Joe Berry winning 18 games while losing 10. His ERA was a low 3.04.

Hershel Martin/ Tommy Nelson
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Hersh Martin was clearly a fan favorite in 1943 and in spite of some ailments, batted .307 while playing right and center fields for the Brewers. He hit 13 round trippers and compiled 66 RBI’s. Not only a great hitter, pitchers credited him saving many a game by his skill in the outfield. Not a showboat fielder, he made the plays look easy.

Utility man Tommy Nelson hit .256 in the 66 games played and would have been a regular on any other team. He stepped in to play for Grey Clarke and saved a game for the Brewers.

Ted Norbert / Bill Norman
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Left fielder Ted Norbert hammered the ball for a .293 average in the 1943 season, playing in 146 games. He led the team and the American Association with 25 home runs and 117 RBI’s.

Spectacular plays in center field and power hitting were Bill Norman's contribution for 1943 finishing the season at .275 with 18 Home runs and 82 Runs batted in.

Henry Oana / Jimmy Pruett
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

The Hawaiian Prince, Hank Oana was a strong offensive threat for the Brewers while pitching. He won 3 game and lost 5 before joining the Detroit Tigers in the majors.

Jimmy Pruett put on a strong performance and complemented Hank Helf well at catcher. He hit .287 in the 52 games he played.

Bill Sahlin / Frank Secory
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Bill Sahlin had only a brief stay with the Brewers in 1943 pitching two innings with no decisions.

Destined to be a Major League umpire, Frank Secory was a steady and experienced back up in the outfield. He hit .219 in 50 games.

Red Smith / Charlie Sproull
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Big Red Smith was Charlie Grimm's able assistant as coach in 1943.

Pitcher Charlie Sproull exceeded expectations in 1943 pitching in with 5 victories in 92 innings.

Hugh Todd / Tony York
1943 Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Considered a good prospect, Hugh Todd hit .250 and was a reserve outfielder for the Brewers, appearing in 57 games.

Shortstop Tony York had a great year in the field and hitting in the 150 games played. He finished with a .287 batting average.

1943 Bill Veeck Presents Trophy To Grey Clarke
(Author's Collection)

Grey Clarke finished atop the American Association as Batting Champ in 1943 with his .346 Average. He was the 9th Brewer to win the title since the league began play in 1902.

1943 Bill's Home Made Champions Banner
(Author's Collection)

The Milwaukee Brewers preseason concerns with pitching were allayed as soon as the season started. The addition of Jittery Joe Berry was an instant plus. This tiny but tough pitcher was virtually unstoppable in 1943 and was the anchor of its pitching staff. Always cool and dependable, he was ready to go to the mound as a starter or if need be, to relieve. Joe had a phenomenal 11 game winning streak during the season. Pitcher Wes Livengood also performed brilliantly going 18-10 for the season. Charlie Sproul performance more than exceeded the team's early expectations. Bill Fleming and Charlie Gassoway did a great job in relief.

The predicted strong offense was a force the opposition had to contend with. Hershel Martin and Grey Clarke battled early and often for the batting lead in the American Association. The return of Heinz "Der Schlager" Becker in June also contributed to the power hitting Brewer team which included sluggers Ted Norbert, Bill Norman and Tony York.

Defense played a major role for the Brewers, as Tony York and Don Johnson sparkled as a double play combo. Fielding was excellent at all positions. Bill Norman made the loss of Ted Gullic a lot easier to bear as he made many spectacular game saving catches.

Catchers Hank Helf and Jimmy Pruett handled the pitchers well and performed well defensively. They also added to the batting punch of the Milwaukee Team. Helf was rated as "the outstanding catcher in the AA" in August as he excelled at cutting down base runners and catching attempted steals. He had his best season as a player in 1943.

The Brewers, in spite of injuries, had good depth on the bench to help them when the injuries cropped up. Many of them would have been starters on another team. This was another example of Bill Veeck being an excellent baseball man first and a great promoter second.

Charlie Grimm received deserved credit for his ability of bringing out maximum cooperation from his players. His Brewer team was not made up of nine individuals but a coordinated team with each player putting out his best effort.

They became the team to beat. They finished on top of the American Association 5 1/2 games above the 2nd place Indianapolis Indians, winning 90 games while losing only 61.

Controversy over the playoffs again flooded the sports pages. Many writers as well as fans felt the American Association champion should represent their league in the Junior World Series, having bettered the teams in their division over the long baseball season. Some felt it hurt baseball to have these playoff games.
But, there was no stopping the scheduled playoffs and unfortunately for the Brewers, they were eliminated in the first round, losing to 3rd place Columbus, 3 games to 1.

Milwaukee in spite of losing in the post season had a banner year. The Milwaukee Brewer team and their fans had a lot to look forward to for 1944.

1943 Signed Team Baseball
(Author's Collection)
At the end of 1943, World War II was still front page news ... and changes were on the horizon ... in Milwaukee and elsewhere...

During the year Bill Veeck began corresponding with some 50 - 60 boys in the service, sharing with them what was going on with Milwaukee baseball. As news of his letters spread from camp to camp, the list of those writing him swelled.

Bill took very seriously keeping up the morale of those in the service.

He strived to bring a bit of home to those away from home.

Bill took a much larger step for the war effort in November of 1943, as he enlisted in the Marines.

Veeck Joins the Marines, November 1943
(Milwaukee Sentinel)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Other Fall Classic

Tonight, as CC Sabathia takes the mound in Yankee Stadium for Game One of the Fall Classic, baseball celebrates its signature event. The World Series is the culmination of an entire summer, as the field of clubs has been whittled down to the best in each league, facing off in a possible seven games to determine baseball's World Champion.

The name "World Series" has been borrowed and applied (or mis-applied, depending on your perspective) to competitive events from auto racing to poker to cricket to, of all things, beer pong. All wanting to borrow a little of baseball's grandeur for themselves.

One of the truly worthy namesakes was the Little World Series, founded only a year after Boston's American League squad upset the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first postseason meeting of the American and National Leagues. The minor league championship featured the pennant-winners from the American Association and International League, then the two strongest minor leagues. The Little World Series was played off and on until 1920, when it became an annual event.

With that in mind, let's take a walk through the Brews' playoff history.

Milwaukee's first two AA pennants came during "off" years for the Little World Series, so other postseason contests were held to determine the championship of the minor leagues.

Following the 1913 season, the Brewers played a series against the Western League champion Denver Grizzlies. The Brewers prevailed in six games.

The Brewers repeated their AA pennant the following year, and the Milwaukee Sentinel would publish this cartoon on the cover of its Sunday edition, listing the reasons why all "local sportsmen" should be thankful on this Thanksgiving of 1914:

In the lower left corner is Pep Clark, player/manager of the Brews from 1904 through 1923.

The interior of the paper continued this list, beginning with the "season of good baseball" from their pennant-winning Brewers.

After bringing their second pennant to Milwaukee, the Brewers played a championship series against the Birmingham Barons, victors of the Southern Association. Once again, the Brewers prevailed in six and claimed the minor league baseball championship for the Cream City.

Although no Milwaukee baseball fan would know it during those heady days of back-to-back championships, it would take 22 years for the Brewers to claim their next flag.

By 1936, the city was hungry for a championship, and when the Brews finally delivered Milwaukee was again "baseball-mad." The Milwaukee Sentinel published a special "Victory Section" commemorating the event:

Included were player profiles and highlights of the championship season, as well as pages and pages "best wishes" from local merchants and public officials, scrambling to congratulate the AA champs:

The pennant won, it was on to the postseason. By this time, the American Association postseason series was firmly established against the winner of the International League, and had been renamed the Junior World Series (although "Little World Series" continued to be used in the press).

1936 was also the first year that the American Association inaugurated a playoff system for its Series representative, rather than simply sending the league champion.

Not that a playoff stopped the Brewers - they stormed through the AA playoff and took down the International League's Buffalo Bisons in five games.

1943, 1944 & 1945
The Brews would return to the top of the AA under the guidance of owner Bill Veeck and owner/manager Charlie Grimm. They assembled a series of powerhouse Brewer teams, capturing the pennant in three successive seasons: 1943, 1944 and 1945. These three-peat clubs never made it to the Junior World Series. Not even the dominant 1944 squad, which was led by Casey Stengel to a 102–51 record, could get out of the playoffs (as reported here by the Daily News of Luddington, Michigan):

This was the main objection to the Shaughnessy playoffs - it devalued the regular season standings. Under this format, the playoffs opened with the first place finisher taking on the second, and the third facing off against the fourth. All too frequently, this resulted in the top teams beating each other up and the lower-ranked teams being given an easier path to the Series.

The Daily News article is also illuminating for the clear distinction it draws between the team heading to the Junior World Series and the pennant winner. The American Association pennant was awarded to the club which finished first in the standings, regardless of post-season play, at least for the half-century in which Milwaukee was represented by the Brews. This distinction has confused many modern researchers, leading some to conclude that the Brewers weren't actually American Association champions in those years. This modern revisionism couldn't be farther from the truth, as was well-documented at the time.

Take, for example, this ad for Boston Store which ran in the Milwaukee Sentinel on Opening Day, April 19, 1944.

The department store advertisement exhorts fans to "remember!" the Brewers' 1943 pennant (but not, presumably, that the Brewers were bounced out of the playoffs by the Columbus Red Birds).

Your Milwaukee Brewers won the championship last year... remember! As the Brewer baseball season opens in Milwaukee again today, let's all pull for our home team... your team... to win the pennant again!

The Brewers appeared to remember as well, taking the AA flag but losing again in the playoffs, this time to Louisville.

If that's not enough, perhaps the Paper of Record will suffice, which reported on September 9, 1945 that the Milwaukee Brewers had just won their third pennant in a row:

Veeck's magnificent pennant-winners would fall in the first round of the playoffs all three years, provoking Veeck to publicly denounce the playoff format and lobby to have it scrapped.

Veeck's campaign against "Shag" Shaughnessy's playoff format, although impassioned, was to be short-lived. Later that very month he sold the Brewers for a hefty profit, in favor of a return to the Majors, putting a group together to purchase the Cleveland Indians.

Veeck would go on to buy (and sell) the Indians, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox (twice).

If Milwaukee fans were concerned that the Brews would return to their losing ways without Sport Shirt Bill in charge, they wouldn't have to wait long to have their fears dispelled.


Just two seasons later, the Brews, now owned by the Boston Braves, managed to finally get back over that wall. They beat the Kansas City Blues and Louisville Colonels in the AA playoffs, and took the Series from the Syracuse Chiefs in seven games.

This was the only time the Brewers would benefit from the Shaughnessy playoff structure, winning the American Association playoffs without also winning the pennant (ending the season in third place behind Kansas City and Minneapolis).

This October 2, 1947 Milwaukee Sentinel column gives us some insight into the financial payoff for postseason players (three extra weeks' pay plus a $198.42 bonus) and teams ($25,000 minus approximately $14,000 in expenses):

The Brewers finished their Milwaukee tenure with back-to-back championships. In 1951, they cruised through the playoffs to face the Montreal Royals. After losing the first game, Milwaukee came back to tie the Series at 1-1 .

The ticket at the top of this article is for Game 5, held at Borchert Field on October 3, 1951. The Brewers won the game 6-0, behind the dominant 4-hit piching performance of Ernie Johnson, and never looked back. For the box score, and New York Times recap of the game, click the headline to the right.

The final game of the 1951 Little World Series was a real barnburner - Montreal got off to an early start, scoring three times in the top of the 1st. By the middle of the third inning, the Royals led the Brews by 10-2. But Grimm's boys were not to be denied, and they came on strong to win 13-10 to claim the Series.

This was also Charlie Grimm's first Series win - he had played on pennant winning teams with the Cubs, and managed both the Cubs and Brewers to a pennant, but had never won a Series on any level.


The 1952 Brewers got off to a roaring 24-15 start defending their crown, and Charlie Grimm was rewarded with a callup - he took over the managerial reins of the Braves (when he returned to Milwaukee the following year, it would be with the big league club in tow).

While Jolly Cholly was leading the Braves through their last campaign in Boston, the Brewers were managed first by Milwaukee GM Red Smith, then by Braves pitching coach Bucky Walters.
Although the Brewers repeated as pennant winners that year, they would fall in the first round of the playoffs to the second-place Kansas City Blues, who would go on to represent the AA in the Little World Series.

This article from the Spokane Daily Chronicle confirms the pennant win, as well as illustrating how different times were. Would a minor league managerial shift make the papers thousands miles away today?

Still not convinced? How about this June 7, 1953 article from the Toledo Blade? When the Boston Braves moved to the Cream City, the Brewers were left homeless, and shifted to Toledo. Once there, Red Smith and his fellows decided to recognize their accomplishments in Milwaukee:

Despite objections from other sectors of the American Association, the Toledo Sox on Wednesday night will fly a championship pennant, symbolic of supremacy in the American Association.

Toledo has not won an American Association title since 1927, but the current Sox players, as color-bearers for Milwaukee last year, won the flag for the second straight year and General Manager Red Smith has decided to unfurl the flannel on Wednesday night's program.
The league's perspective is curious - if the Toledo franchise didn't deserve to fly the 1952 American Association pennant, who did? In the majors, trophies and honors have long followed the franchise, no matter where it happened to be located in a given year. The Blade's implication is that the AA associated the flag with the city and not the team ("Toledo has not won an American Association title since 1927"). Or perhaps that once the Brewers moved to Ohio, the AA was somehow left without a reigning champ.

In any case, it is clear that the American Association championship was determined by the standings at the end of the season, and that the post-season playoff was apparently used solely to determine who would represent the AA in the Junior World Series. That might seem strange to us today, but no less so than a relocated team being asked to leave its championship behind when it moved.

So for the record, the Milwaukee Brewers' championship history reads:
American Association Pennants (8):
1913, 1914, 1936, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1951, 1952

Minor league baseball championships (2):
1913 - Milwaukee over Denver, 4 games to 2
1914 - Milwaukee over Birmingham, 4 games to 2

Junior World Series (3):
1936 - Milwaukee over Buffalo, 4 games to 1
1947 - Milwaukee over Syracuse, 4 games to 3
1951 - Milwaukee over Montreal, 4 games to 2