Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hats Off

Well, well, well. Look what arrived in the mail from Ebbets Field Flannels today. My reproduction 1936 Milwaukee Brewers cap. Stunning.

I've been emailing Ebbets founder Jerry Cohen since the cap was added to their catalogue last week. I initially expressed some doubt about the design, since many of the 1936 photos I have show a white outline of various thickness around the M. But after speaking with Jerry, I've been pouring over the photos again, and I'll say in public what I told him in private - he was right.

I'm willing to bet that the photos I'm looking at were either taken in 1935 or in Spring Training of 1936, when the Brewers tended to wear the previous year's gear, and by the time the season rolled around the Brews were decked out in navy-and-red lids.

You can see both versions in this color 1936 team photo - team trainer Doc Buckner appears to be wearing the old cap along with his road jersey:

Paul Tenpenny contributed this photo of Brewers shortstop Chester "Wimpy" Wilburn, which seems to settle the argument:

I've also seen the Brews wearing what appear to be all-navy monochrome caps during the 1930s and 1940s, but the more I look into this the more convinced I am that the caps are actually wearing navy with a red logo, or in some cases red with a navy logo. The grayscale contrast between the two colors isn't enough to tell them apart in some black-and-white photos (which is why the Boston Red Sox added a white outline to their red cap logo in 1946).

This is evident in the small photo at right. Wilburn is wearing a cap with the athletic block "M", but it's awfully hard to distinguish it. The logo disappears against the background. And that's a posed photo - no wonder that the cap would get washed out in game photos and appear to be a solid color.

We also have good examples of Wilburn in the white-outline cap as well. That he played but one year in Milwaukee - the season in question, 1936 - yet we have pictures of him in the two-color and three-color caps, either means the Brewers wore two caps during the season (not unheard of, even in those days) or it lends some weight to my idea that the club might not yet have been wearing their 1936 caps.

Wilburn again, possibly taken at 1936 Spring Training
(collection of Paul Tenpenny)

Using the old caps in Spring Training would seem to account for the discrepancy. It would also fit with the Brews' history - as recently as the year before, the Milwaukee players hadn't even received their new home uniforms until the day before their home opener, after the regular season had started:
Mystery solved? Can't say for sure, but it certainly seems to fit. You might also notice in the newspaper photo that Ted Gullic is wearing a third distinct Milwaukee Brewer cap, but that's a subject for another post.

In any case, Ebbets Field Flannels has really outdone themselves with this cap. Please support their work and buy one or ten (hey, they're on sale). And while you're at it, check out Jerry's "Flannel of the Month" blog, well worth following in its own right.

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