Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Milwaukee's Original Athletic Park, Part III (1901 – 1903)

By Dennis Pajot


Editor's Note: This is the third of a three-part series detailing the early history surrounding Athletic Park at North 7th and West Chambers on Milwaukee's northside. The first two parts may be found here and here. Of course, later the second park at this location would be known as Borchert Field.

After the American League Milwaukee Brewers (who played at Milwaukee Park on Lloyd Street) were transferred to St. Louis in early December 1901, two minor league franchises were slated for Milwaukee—one in the new American Association (to be named the Brewers), another in the Western League (nicknamed the Creams). The Milwaukee Sentinel reported on December 1st the AA team, owned by Harry D. Quin and 4th Ward Alderman Charles S. Havenor [Milwaukee's 4th Ward at that time ran from the Milwaukee River west to 13th Street and the Menomonee River north to Kilbourn Avenue. Havenor was also owner of the downtown Davidson Hotel], would play at the "old Chambers Street grounds, where modern stands will be erected and all the comforts of home provided for the spectators."

It was also reported President James Whitfield of the Western League secured Milwaukee Park at 16th and Lloyd for the Creams. However, it was also being reported the American Association franchise was interested in the Lloyd Street location, having a preference for these grounds rather than building new stands at Athletic Park. Quin wanted to erect stands at Athletic Park, but Havenor had been in favor of securing the Lloyd Street Park (reportedly for a yearly lease of $2,400) to shut out the Western League franchise from the only available grounds in Milwaukee, and also save the expenses of erecting new stands at 8th and Chambers. It was reported Havenor had convinced Quin, but this turned out not to be the case.

The Christmas Day issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel reported President Thomas Hickey of the American Association had come to Milwaukee the day before to secure a lease on the park at 8th and Chambers for the Brewers, but an agreement was not yet reached. Harry Quin made a statement there would be a steel structure built at 8th and Chambers. For a few weeks it was uncertain which League would play at the Lloyd Street grounds, but finally on January 10, 1902, it was announced the Western League Creams had deposited the money and signed a five year lease on Lloyd Street Park.

Quin announced he would build a new park at 8th and Chambers, and Troop A Cavalry was to vacate by March 1 to enable the contractors to tear down the stables and prepare for the erection of the grandstand and bleachers. It was stated the fences were in good repair and would not have to be replaced, and there would be no grading to be done to prepare the field for play, only some steam rolling and sodding. In mid-February it was reported the stands would be built of timber instead of the steel originally intended. Quin stated after receiving bids from Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works he was notified by the Carpenter's Union that firm was on the unfair list and had been requested to withdraw the offer to it. Quin stated he would honor his agreement with the labor people and only employ union labor at the park. The Carpenter's District Council of Milwaukee reported it was "favorably inclined toward the team" due to Quin's use of union carpenters at the site. Quin also revealed there was an $8,000 difference in the bids between a steel and wood structure.

The architects of the new Athletic Park were James B. Angove and Trowbridge E. Pierce (address 466 Seventh; later address would have been 1436 North 7 Street), the same firm that had been in charge of the building of the park at 16th and Lloyd Streets seven years earlier. Harry Quin received a building permit on February 28. It was reported the grandstand would be 357 feet x 54 feet and seat about 4,100, with the center section having 1,200 "opera chairs." The front row had 25 boxes, seating 5 persons each. At the west end of the grand stand were ladies' toilet rooms, fitted up in the most improved style. The two bleacher sections were to be 34 x 140 feet and each would accommodate between 1,500 to 2,000 people. These bleachers were of only one deck and brought closer to the base lines, giving the spectators a better view of the players. Quin stated improvements would cost about $12,000 and he expected to spend about $15,000 by the time the park was ready. By mid March it was reported the bleachers were up and they received their first coat of paint April 1st. Work on the grandstand started March 18 and by April 15 it was reported all of the grandstand was under cover. By late April all the chairs would be in place. A wire netting was installed in front of the center section of the grandstand "so that women need have no fear of being hit by the ball."

One last minute change was the building of a clubhouse for the players in the northeast corner of the grounds, instead of the dressing rooms originally planned for under the grandstand. The change was made to improve the ventilation in the dressing rooms. In late May a scoreboard was erected in center field to give the results of other American Association games. In June a new scoreboard was installed, which was "quite an improvement over the little two by four they had in the first place." Still, the Daily News thought "were it bigger no harm would result". The new board had some flaws, as shortly after it was put in place it was reported when the wind started all the numbers were blown off the board. The Athletic Park management also decided it would post the batteries of the teams playing each day on the side wall at the entrance to the grandstand, and also on the high board inside the stand where the fans accessed the bleachers.

Milwaukee Sentinel May 4, 1902

Hiram G. "Buck" Ebright was in charge of laying out and setting up the diamond at the new Athletic Park. Ebright was a former manager in the Western Association, an former umpire in the Western and American Leagues, and for 1902 in the American Association, and reported to be an "old college chum" of Brewer catcher 'Kid' Speer. Now working as a clerk at the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, he was also reported to be an expert in setting up baseball diamonds, After laying out the field at Athletic Park a surveyor found Ebright was only a quarter of an inch out of the way on 324 feet. The diamond at Athletic Park was sloped from the pitcher's box toward first and third base, where catch basins would take in the water during heavy rains—Ebright believing catch basins worked better than an under system of drainage. Grading on the diamond started in early April, with sodding starting mid-month.

Home plate was only 75 feet from the grandstand, about 20 feet closer than the Lloyd Street Grounds. Quin explained this was because "the people want to be close to the players and that's just what we are going to try and give them." It was possible to put the grandstand closer because of a change in the rules that called for a catcher to stay behind the batter at all times. Unlike the Lloyd Street grandstand, the grandstand at Athletic Park was not elevated so the first row of seats was only about a foot or so off the ground. The Milwaukee Sentinel reported the new stands to be a model of convenience and pleased the spectators on opening day. The Evening Wisconsin wrote "the whole park presents a pretty appearance," and made Milwaukee Park on Lloyd Street "look about like three dimes."

Athletic Park was not as big as Lloyd Street Park, the Journal quipping "the entire new Athletic Park could be put into the Lloyd Street Grounds and there would be room left over." Dimensions at Athletic Park were later reported to be: Left field-266 feet; center field-395; right field-266 feet. Despite the smaller dimensions the Evening Wisconsin though the situation was "most favorable" to the American Association's "handsome new park." In addition to its having about 2,000 more seats, the streetcar facilities were better, the park being only 14 minutes from the center of the city. Streetcar service to the park improved more when in April the Eighth Street extension of the line of the railway company was completed to Burleigh Street. The Sporting Life would say the stands were the best in the American Association, but the diamond was the roughest. The Milwaukee Daily News was of the opinion that "the park, taken as a whole, can easily be included among the best ball grounds in the country."

However, not everyone was overly impressed with the new Athletic Park. "Brownie" of the Milwaukee Journal reported of the seating in the grandstand: "Opera chairs at Athletic Park. Rot! House of Correction chairs nailed on a board. That's what they are." When the management objected, "Brownie" wrote: "Since that time I have learned different and in justice to all parties I will say that I was mistaken. The House of Correction makes only good chairs. The park chairs are simple common, everyday sold wood kitchen chairs painted red."

The Milwaukee Daily News said the opera chairs at the park were "O.K." "Brownie" also reported some fans thought the grandstand entrance at Athletic Park "puts them in mind of a gang plank on an immigrant ship or a horse chute in a livery stable."

Charles S. Havenor Milwaukee Journal February 2, 1905

Although Harry Quin was obviously the spokesman for the 1902 Athletic park ownership, he was not sole owner. As stated above Charles Havenor—the club's treasurer—had an interest in the park. In February it was reported Charles Clark, a Montana millionaire, owned half interest in Athletic Park, having bought out R.W. Maguire's half interest as a business proposition, "but was not associated in any way with the Milwaukee club." Quin told the Evening Wisconsin Clark gave him carte blanche in making improvements at the park. However, later documents in a court battle between Quin and Havenor showed Clark did not contribute in any way to the erection of the grandstand and bleachers or preparing the field, which cost $9,234.

Later documents revealed the terms of the park and ball club. On April 16, 1902, the grounds at 8th and Chambers were secured for a period of ten years and according to the terms of the lease the buildings on the premises erected by the Milwaukee club would become the property of the owners of the premises upon the termination of the lease, which provided that at any time within a period of ten years the club would have the privilege of purchasing the premises for the sum of $35,000. For 1902 the baseball club paid 6 percent interest on a mortgage of $16,000 in lieu of the rent. Another report after the season simply stated the rent at Athletic Park was $800 a year, including taxes.

The Brewer American Association management decided to start weekday games at 3:45pm (as the American League Brewers did at Milwaukee Park in 1901), Saturday games at 3:30, and Sunday games at 3:15, as that seemed to be the times desired by most fans. A white flag with a large blue centerpiece would be flowing on top of the Pabst Building tower (at today's East Wisconsin Avenue and North Water Street) when the Brewers played at Athletic Park. This method was not foolproof, however, as in July the Evening Wisconsin reported the flag had been flying over the Pabst Building for a week, despite the Brewers being out of town. It was later said there was trouble with the flag wrapping around the pole and not being visible. As was done many times in Milwaukee baseball history, the Brewers offered a Ladies' Day at the park; this year the women of Milwaukee would be admitted to the park for 25 cents—including grandstand seating—on Tuesdays and Fridays. However, problems arouse on this issue. In early July it was announced ladies would be admitted free to Athletic Park everyday except Sunday. However when the women arrived the next week, they were told it was not a free day, causing the Journal to print this was "a nice way to fool the girls". Later Harry Quin explained what happened. He stated he was out of town at this time, and learned the Western League Creams were outdrawing his Brewers. He informed the press and his partner, Charles Havenor, that every day, except Saturday and Sunday, ladies would be admitted free to the grounds. When Quin arrived at Athletic Park one afternoon he found from 15 to 50 women near the entrance. When he asked why they were not inside he was told Mr. Havenor had not honored the notice. Quin stated a compromise was reached between the two owners, after Quin offered to pay for all the women who had come to the park. After this dispute between owners, the Brewers went back to Tuesday and Friday free days for the ladies.

The new Athletic Park opened, with the Brewers winning 3 to 2, on May 11, 1902. On this cold day, with a northeast wind "chilling the spectators to the marrow and benumbing the fingers of the players," the attendance was 7,000; 6,272 paid. (This is the Evening Wisconsin attendance report. The Sentinel reported 5,000, while the Journal estimated about 6,500.) It was reported the overflow crowd was eight rows deep in the field. G. Pfefferkorn of 21st Street won a contest run by the Evening Wisconsin. The person guessing closest to the actual paid attendance won two season passes to the Brewers home games. Mr. Pfefferkorn's guess was 6,265. (To the west the Creams drew from 300 to 700 spectators the same afternoon to their game at Lloyd Street Park, having drawn about 700 or 1,500 for their opener a week earlier—depending on which paper one takes the attendance from). The Brewers attendance fell off as the year went on, as the team did not do well in the American Association race, finishing in 6th place with a 65 and 75 record. When Indianapolis beat the Brewers 4 to 3 on Friday, August 1, placing the Hoosiers in a tie with Louisville for first place in the American Association, 650 attended the game. Among these spectators was the Milwaukee Western League manager Hugh Duffy, with nearly every member of his team, as guests of the Brewers. The Creams had an unexpected off day as the Kansas City team had not arrived in Milwaukee in time to play the scheduled game, their train being delayed. The Milwaukee Daily News commented "from all appearances they enjoyed the contest." Another promotion during this same Indianapolis series was at the Saturday game, when the Milwaukee Sentinel hosted all the city's newspaper carriers and "newies" at Athletic Park. One entire bleacher section was reserved and about 800 newsboys, carrying a mammoth banner and hundreds of rustlers and kites, took advantage of the offer of a free game. The Evening Wisconsin estimated the 1902 Brewer home attendance at about 55,000. According to court testimony the club lost $4,876.25.

Immediately after the season ended the Brewers played an exhibition game against the National League Chicago Colts at Athletic Park. On a cold Monday afternoon, between 300 and 500 spectators witnessed the Colts win 7 to 2, when the game was called in the 8th inning due to heavy fog.

In addition to the American Association Brewers, some amateur baseball was played at "Quin's Park" in 1902, including a game between teams of retailers from the city's south and west sides. The most interesting part of this game was the reporting of the score. The official umpire of the contest alleged the score was 10 to 9, "but he was not aware of the fact that all the men leaving third base scored." It was claimed the westsiders won 48 to 7, but a committee decided the correct score was 68 to 49, still in favor of the west side team. While the game was being played, delightful music was furnished by the Third Ward brass band. After the baseball season football was played on the field. In October the University of Wisconsin football team played Beloit College at Athletic Park. Expecting a very large crowd, 40 boxes were built along the sides of the gridiron and 3,000 reserved sets were put on sale, in addition to 3,500 general admission tickets. The boxes were filled with "Milwaukee society people." General Charles King witnessed the game from the back of his saddle horse on the sideline, and Troop A of the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry watched the game from their tallyho, drawn by a couple of sturdy mules. The Milwaukee Sentinel reported "the bleachers were a mass of the prevailing color, cardinal, as was also the grandstand." The Milwaukee Journal had this to say about the crowd: "The bleachers were comfortably filled and the grandstand had its share while Milwaukee's noted beauties waxed cheerful in gay tally ho parties on the side lines. The crowd was smaller, however, than anticipated, notwithstanding the beauty of the day." The Beloit eleven "got honor out of defeat" by scoring a touchdown on the big time college team—the final score was 52 to 6. Also played at the Chambers Street park was the annual East Side High School versus South Side High School football game. The east side team, said to be the best to put on the orange and black for five or six years, beat the south side team 6 to 0 for the city championship in front of about 2,000 spectators, in "one of the prettiest games of football ever played on the local gridiron."

On January 31, 1903, Charles Havenor was elected president and became the primary spokesman of the Brewers baseball club and Athletic Park. For this 1903 season a few improvements were made at Athletic Park—enlarging the clubrooms underneath the grandstand and putting a new roof on the building. In addition, the seats were painted and cleaned and the grandstand was reported "to be in the best of condition." More room was also made for the press. The playing field needed to be improved "so that the players will not be afraid to take a chance on a bounding grounder". The pitcher's box was also lowered about five inches to conform to league rules. C.J. McGilley was appointed groundskeeper in March. (This name is that given in the Milwaukee Journal. The Evening Wisconsin gave his name as Dan McGillian. The Milwaukee Daily News named the groundskeeper a "Naily" McGinley—a Janesville native, who had been around baseball for twenty-five years in many positions, including player and umpire. The Milwaukee Sentinel also called him McGinley, saying he was from Chicago.) Under this groundskeeper's direction "a gang of men" worked to get the field in shape by opening day. McGilley was replaced by H.O. Messier a month later. In May Messier resigned and the position was taken by H. G. "Buck" Ebright.

Sporting News October 12, 1895

In late July Ebright left to take aposition as an umpire in the Southern League. The management of the Brewers of the American Association and Creams of the Western League agreed to work together in certain areas to help both clubs profit, starting with the avoidance of scheduling conflicting games at home. Also included was an attempt to get better service to their respective parks by the street railway company, and a plan of advertising on the streetcars. The streetcar service did not improve. The Milwaukee Daily News reported in May the service was worse than ever, and in June stated John I. Beggs, president of the company, "must be opposed to baseball." In April it was announced the Creams at Milwaukee Park would have a woman as its ticket seller, but Havenor said there would be no women sellers at Athletic Park. He would handle the "coin himself", or let his business manager, Joseph Holland, handle the overflow. The Brewer president changed his mind, as in May there was a young woman ticket seller at the park "and the fans were not kept waiting either." Another nod to the ladies, was the continuation of Ladies' Days on Tuesdays and Fridays at the park. Again, the Brewers flew a flag over the downtown Pabst Building on the days a game was to be played at Athletic Park. This year a new black flag with a white ball was used, as this would show less dirt than the colors of the previous year.

It was announced there would no fireworks or parade for opening day 1903, Joseph Holland believing these types of things were "out of date now." Ex-Alderman Havenor considered them bad luck. He did, however, introduce mascots. The Evening Wisconsin reported:
If the baseball fans fail to get their money's worth at Athletic Park this summer they may turn in and have a rabbit hunt instead of watching the ball game. Citizen Havenor has a nest of rabbits, or as the Germans in that part of the city call them, Belgian hares, and it is expected that by the time the first of August comes around there will be enough to go around. Citizen Havenor has threatened to annihilate any person who hurts any of the pets, as he considers them mascots, but should the Brewers get a losing streak the chances are that the Citizen will offer a special reward for the extermination of the hares. Business Manager Holland is chief game warden.
Perhaps with the help of the mascots, the Brewers won the opening day game, under new manager Joe Cantillon, 10 to 7 over St. Paul.

Attendance at Athletic Park on this Wednesday opening day was only 1,378 paid admission, due to bad weather. Four days later, "an ideal day for baseball", 6,823 attended the Sunday game against the Minneapolis Millers. But attendance remained low the first months of the season, again due to the weather conditions, even though the Brewers were in first place. As late as June 1 the Milwaukee Daily News commented Charlie Havenor intended to place stoves in the grandstand. On a Thursday in mid-May only 250 attended, and in early June a crowd of 293 looked even smaller to some reporters, as "the stands are so large that a few hundred people are lost in them." The June 2, 1903, Milwaukee Journal estimated the bad weather had caused the Brewers to lose $5,000 up to that time.

Milwaukee Journal July 1, 1903

The June 30 rain out at Athletic Park shows a grounds keeping practice of the time.

The fall of water early in the day made the field soggy, but groundkeeper Ebright poured gasoline around the bases in the afternoon and then set fire to it and had it not been for the second storm…the field would have been in fairly good shape.

Attendance at both Athletic Park and the Western League Park on Lloyd Street continued to be low even after the summer weather arrived. In late June both teams played in Milwaukee. On Wednesday, June 24, the Brewers played before 275 fans, while the Creams only drew 225 to a doubleheader. The next day 449 attended Athletic Park and 186 showed up at Milwaukee Park. The Friday crowds were 578 on Chambers Street and 275 on Lloyd Street. The weekend crowds were better, with 2,200 attending the Brewer game on Saturday and 800 the Creams game. On Sunday both teams played doubleheaders, with 4,700 in attendance at Athletic Park and 4,000 at Milwaukee Park. These attendance figures are from the Milwaukee Sentinel, but one has to keep in mind the unreliability of attendance numbers in those days. Take, for example, a July 14 doubleheader at Athletic Park. The box score in the Milwaukee Journal gave the attendance as 900. In the story of the game the attendance was given as 1,100. In the same edition of the newspaper the sports writer "Brownie" stated the attendance was 1,500. The Milwaukee Sentinel also gave two difference attendance totals of 1,000 and 1,200.

On June 26 the Milwaukee Journal printed an editorial headed FANS MUST DO THEIR DUTY IN SUPPORT OF GOOD BALL. In mid-July Charles Havenor blasted fans, saying when the Brewers were losing in 1902 the cry was "Give us winning ball, and we well support it." For the 1903 season he "spared no expense" to put a winning team on the field, and Milwaukee was still not supporting it. He ended by threatening "to accept some of the flattering offers made for several members of the team," if attendance did not improve. Attendance improved slightly, 6,000—the largest attendance to date for the 1903 season—attended a doubleheader that put the Brewers in first place the next weekend. But still "Brownie" said the only thing that keep the crowds up at either ball park were the Ladies' Days. Others were taking note of Milwaukee's poor attendance. Jack Tanner wrote in the Chicago Inter-Ocean: "Cantillon and Duffy are high-class managers, and Milwaukee—well, Milwaukee is daily turning out crowds of at least 300 people to see two of the best minor league ball teams in the country play the fastest kind of ball." At the time this was written, in mid-August, the Creams were in first place in the Western League, and the Brewers were in second place—playing .621 ball—in the American Association.

A few activities at the park seem odd and dangerous today. It was claimed Milwaukee was one of the few towns in the larger circuits where players were permitted to practice in front of the grandstand while a game was in progress. Incredibly players were also permitted to hit balls toward the grandstand during practice. It was reported during an early series one of the Minneapolis players hit several balls into the grandstand and one just missed hitting a women in the face. Less than two weeks later a pitcher was throwing toward the grandstand and a foul tip just grazed the temple of an elderly man in the stands. "Had it struck the man an inch lower it would have put him out for the count." The Evening Wisconsin called for the end of this practice hitting near the grandstand, and in mid-May manager Cantillon issued on order prohibiting any players from batting toward the unprotected part of the grandstand.

The Brewers finished the 1903 season in third place in the American Association.

A Brewers' League played at Athletic Park in 1903 on weekends when the American Association team was on the road. (See below in Milwaukee Park section for more detail on this league). In June the Brewers' League switched its schedule to play Sunday mornings at the Western League Park and the afternoon games at Waukesha Beach, a resort located on the south end of Pewaukee Lake. After Waukesha Park was remodeled in late June the league abolished Sunday morning games, but continued to play at all three parks. The cost of park rental can be found in a dispute Charles Havenor had with another amateur league at this time. The Commercial League at first planned to build two new parks as it felt the rents asked at both Athletic Park and Milwaukee Park were too high. However, the league decided in April to play all its games at Milwaukee Park, as Havenor would not match the rent offered at the Lloyd Street grounds—$10. Havenor stated he offered the Commercial League his park on Sunday mornings for $10 and $15 for Sunday afternoons. He could not offer them Saturday dates, as he had already rented the grounds to the Brewers' League. He thought his prices fair, as other cities charged $25 for Sunday afternoons.

After the 1903 baseball season football games took place on Chambers Street. Milwaukee's East Division and South Side high schools played home games at Athletic Park. On November 21 somewhere between 1,800 and 2,000 spectators witnessed the South Side High School beat East Division, 33 to 8, for the city football championship at the park. Another team to play games at Athletic Park this season was the First Battery football club. In November this outfit's big game was with the 21st Regular Army Battery of Fort Sheridan, Milwaukee's eleven winning 28 to 0.

After 1903 Milwaukee had only one minor league baseball club, the American Association Brewers, who played until 1952 at Athletic Park—of course more commonly referred to as by its later name of Borchert Field—so the early history of this park can conveniently be stopped here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

On Top of the World

I don't like to make this blog about me personally, but I wanted to share this photo.

It was taken on the 12th of October, 2010, 1:30pm local time, standing on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, 19,341 feet above sea level.

Everybody likes to take pictures of themselves at the summit with objects of significance. Some hold up national flags, some pictures of family. I'm wearing my Ebbets Field Flannels reproduction 1936 Milwaukee Brewers baseball cap.

Spreading the word about the Brews to the roof of Africa.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays from Borchert Field

This wondefully festive graphic is Owgust, the original Beer Barrel Man, in one of his many guises.

The scan comes from Brewer News, the club newsletter: Volume 3, Number 1, the December '44 issue. Brewer News was a four-page newsletter published throughout the season (and occasionally in the off-season) to keep fans appraised of the latest news and upcoming events. At this particular Christmastime, it was also used to sell season ticket packages for the upcoming 1945 campaign.

The cover page gives us the ticket details ($43.00 bought exclusive rights to a box seat for every home game in 1945) as well as Owgust in his Santa suit. The normally black-and-white newsletter was given a seasonally-appropriate splash of color:

This issue of Brewer News also reveals Borchert Field's street address - 3000 North 8th Street, and the team's telephone number - COncord 3180.

The interior spread introduced the fans to Nick Cullop, the Brews' second new manager in as many years. Cullop was familiar to the Orchard's patrons from his regular visits as the Columbus manager in 1943 and 1944. In those two years, he led his Red Birds to a very respectable 170-134 record. The fans also surely remembered Cullop from the 1944 All-Star Game, played at Borchert Field. In those days, the format was Association All-Stars against the reigning champs, which happened to be the Brewers. Guided by Cullop, the All-Stars cruised to an 18-0 whalloping of the mighty hometown Brewers, their most embarrassing loss of an otherwise sterling championship season.

Cullup replaced Casey Stengel, whose single season in Milwaukee was marked by success on the field and constant conflicts with team administration off it.

The interior spread also includes a preliminary roster for 1945 and a handsome headshot of Marine Private First Class (not to mention Brewer President and owner) Bill Veeck in his dress blues. Veeck was in the Corona Naval Hospital in California, recovering from wounds sustained in action.

The back page introduced two new players to the Brews' upcoming lineup - Bill Burgo and Lew Flick.

The men were acquired from the the Philadelphia A's as part of the deal for Brewer hero Hal Peck. Neither would last long in Milwaukee - Burgo was sent down to the Little Rock Travelers during Spring Training of 1946, and Flick followed him to Arkansas in May, after playing the first 21 games of '46 in Brewer blue.

With the news of wheeling and dealing, a brief look backwards and a great gaze into the team's future, this issue of Brewer News sustained the Cream City hopeful during that 1944/45 Hot Stove league and beyond.

There is a message on the interior pages which is as relevant to us today as it did to those fans who received this issue hot off the presses:
"Owgust and the entire Borchert Field force wish you and yours a merry, merry Christmas and the best for the new year."

 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Milwaukee's Original Athletic Park, Part II (1892 – 1900)

By Dennis Pajot


Editor's Note: This is the second of a three part series detailing the early history surrounding Athletic Park at North 7th and West Chambers on Milwaukee's northside. The first part may be found here. Of course, later the second park at this location would be known as Borchert Field.

A new Western League was formed for 1892, and Milwaukee was part of it. At first Harry E. Gillette of the Brewers announced he was negotiating for grounds just west of North 13th Street between West Fowler (St. Paul) and West Clybourn. This land was owned by Henry Colclough, owner the Cream City Brick Company, and could be leased for 15 years. Gillette reported it would only be an eight minute walk from the Plankinton House [located at present day 2nd and Wisconsin Avenue], and the Evening Wisconsin further pointed out "West Siders will have no trouble in walking to the new grounds in ten, or at the most fifteen minutes, and it is a short ride by street car from any East Side place of business, while the new viaduct will put the South Side within easy reach." Tongue in cheek, the paper wrote "there is a coffin factory near at hand, so that there need be no unnecessary delay about the obsequies of the umpire." The report of this brickyard location was denied by both the baseball club and the brick company. In addition to the brick company having eleven years to run on its lease, there was estimated to be brick clay to a depth of 98 feet, enough to last the life of the company's lease. This brick clay was so valuable to build a ball park there "would be like making a solid silver foundation for our pavements instead of laying pine plank for the purpose." The club decided to again play at Athletic Park, no doubt feeling a park nearer to the business or residential part of town might have jeopardized the club's very profitable Sunday ball games.

Athletic Park Milwaukee Sentinel May 8, 1892

The grandstand seating at Athletic Park was enlarged by 1,000. A stairway also would be built directly from Chambers Street to the grandstand. New dressing rooms for visiting players were constructed. To add to the beauty of the park, groundskeeper Murphy—who would leave about one month into the season to go to Minneapolis—planted flowerbeds near each of the player's benches. Employees were to be dressed in "neat and tasty uniforms." One sad note was the big shade tree in left field, where Abner Dalrymple and other left fielders had hid from the sun, was scheduled to be cut down. The complaint mentioned above about vendors in the stands was addressed as the sale of beer was discontinued in the grandstand, and other vendors could not sell while an inning was in progress. Another move, 100 years or so before it again became fashionable, was the setting aside of two portions of the grandstand for ladies and their escorts in which smoking was not permitted. Perhaps hoping to cut down on rowdy behavior inside the park, baseball club secretary A.W. Friese offered passes to games to the pastors of the city. The Sentinel predicted:
"With the absence of the peanut boy's cry and the rule preventing riots on the field with the umpire as the central figure, together with other changes in view, the ball park will be almost unrecognizable next season."
Unfortunately, the new Western League was not very successful and the Milwaukee club disbanded in July. Harry Quin tried to make arrangements with Chicago's National League club to play at Athletic Park, offering $700 per club and 75 per cent of the gate, but nothing came of it. As usual, amateur teams played at the park when the Brewers were on the road, and more often after the club disbanded. In August, through mid-September, Athletic Park was shut down to baseball while it was set up for the great pyrotechnical exhibition of "The Last Days of Pompeii", presented by the London company of James Pain & Sons. The program included a mock-up city of Pompeii, with "massive buildings and quaint architecture," including a marble palace. "A mammoth lake 250 feet long by 75 feet wide" was also dug out inside the park.
"The awe-inspiring eruption of Vesuvius, sending forth its flood of molten lava, burying and burning the entire city, is a sight never to be forgotten…"

Yenowine's Illustrated News August 27, 1892

The evening ended with $1,000 in fireworks being set off. Not until after this event did baseball resume at Athletic Park, with a game between Milwaukee's real estate men and attorneys on September 24, the "dirt dealers" winning 8 to 7. After the baseball season football was played at the park by various teams, including Marquette College, Wisconsin State University, Milwaukee High School and St. John's Military Academy. In December the inside was turned into a skating rink, with "1,000 feet of good ice". A Grand Concert was given at the park on Christmas Day and the 26th, with 10-cent admission for adults and a nickel for children. In February a Grand Ice Carnival, with a concert and fireworks, was put on at Athletic Park.

A bicycling craze was hitting the country in 1893, and Milwaukee was no exception. In the spring Harry Quin began to build a ¼-mile cycle track inside Athletic Park, which was completed in May. The cinder track was greeted with general favor among the local wheelmen, although the track was a little rough and uneven, plus complaints were registered on the banking. In July an additional $5,000 was put into the cycling facilities, and in that same month the National Cycling Association made Athletic Park its official track. Professional races were held at the track in August. The first was not attended well and lost money. It was said the large number of amateur events in the area were just as interesting. The international races on August 21 drew a large crowd, but Milwaukeeans were upset when local cycling champion Walter Sanger—in addition to some other big names—did not appear as promised. The unhappy spectators were offered refunds from the promoters. A few days later Sanger stated he had told officials he would not ride at Athletic Park because he was "timid of riding on tracks with sharp turns" when not in good condition. Although baseball games were played at Athletic Park, cycling had become the main attraction there, so much that when Cincinnati and Cleveland of the National League agreed to play there on a date already secured by the North Side Cycle Club, they were told to forget it.

Baseball at Athletic Park was not quite dead, however. Amateur clubs played, including the University of Wisconsin. A City League was formed, playing games at Athletic Park until July when the park was refitted for a Turner festival. After this event the James Morgan Cream City Club won the City League championship, and the all-female Rose Royals of Washington lost to the J. M. Cream Citys in August, before a good sized crowd.

Milwaukee Sentinel August 13, 1893

Harry Quin arranged for the Boston National League champions to play an all-star team at the park in early October. Not quite dead, but on life support, as only 300 and 123 attended the two games at Athletic Park.

Other activities took place at Athletic Park in 1893, including a track and field event for Marquette College students in June. In October and November amateur football games were again played on the field. But by far the biggest non-baseball event of the year was the festival of the North American Turnerbund, held in Milwaukee from July 21 to July 25. The five-day gymnastic event was expected to bring 10,000 athletes to the city and about 25,000 visitors. The main campus for the festival was Athletic Park and the spacious grounds of the Shooting Park, a few blocks east, which were connected by an avenue 140 feet wide.

Turnerbund Campus Milwaukee Journal May 27, 1893

Shooting Park was reserved for concerts and other entertainment, while Athletic Park was used for the gymnastic performances. A space 260 feet wide and 420 feet long was set up for the gymnastic exhibitions. It was reported about 300 men could perform at one time in this arena. Around this arena ran a 25 feet wide walk for use as a public promenade. Three hundred electric lamps were put up, supported with wooden posts, encircling the arena. A 150 x 40 foot stage, flanked by two towers, was erected on the north end of the grounds. Inside these towers were a number of rooms used by committee members, while on the stage itself were seated judges, observers, and an orchestra. Numerous temporary buildings were also put up between the two parks. Although large crowds attended the festival, it ran a total deficit of about $8,000 for the promoters.

The Western League was revived again for the 1894 season. The Milwaukee Baseball Association agreed to a year lease of Athletic Park, with a two-year option. Gus Alberts, a local favorite who played with Milwaukee teams from 1889 to 1891, was placed in charge of the grounds and refreshment stands in April. W.D. Davis, who had been in charge of the Duluth Northwestern League entry until that league was abandoned, was placed in charge of the grandstand. Athletic Park was considered "probably the most complete in all its appointments" of the Western League parks, "its stand was easily superior to that in any other city," (the bicycle track skirting the field was the only cited drawback). One major defect was noted by the Sentinel at the end of the season:
"Because of the roughness of the outfield at Athletic Park, one of the best in the league, many a ball bounded away from a fielder and kept on going."
Admission to Brewer games this season was the traditional 25-cent general admission, with seats in the grandstand costing 50 cents. Boys under 15 were admitted to the park for 15 cents, and ladies accompanied by escorts were free, except on weekends. A comparison with other forms of entertainment in Milwaukee gives the modern reader an idea of 1894 entertainment prices. At the Exhibition Music Hall, "America's Greatest Place of Amusements", "a monster program of leading European and American novelties" was presented for 25 cents. The Milwaukee Musical Society performed Franz Liszt's cantata "Saint Elizabeth", featuring Miss Irene Pevny of the Munich Royal Court Opera, at the Academy of Music with a $3.00 admission fee for non-members—an extra "lady ticket" was $1.00 for members. The Arion Musical Club presented a song recital by Mr. Plunket Greene, from London, England, at the Academy of Music, with prices ranging from 50 cents to $1.50.

At the Stadt Theater the 20-year old Violinist Henri Mateau performed, seats costing 50 cents, 75 cents or $1.00--boxes were also on sale at the office for $7.50. A Sunday afternoon Grand Military Concert at Schlitz Park was a dime. A picnic, including instrumental and vocal concerts at National Park cost adults 10-cents, with children free. A dime would also get one into Wonderland to see Cleopatra, complete with 25 "handsome young ladies", staged by LeRoy & Clayton's Lyceum Specialty Company; or a mammoth bill headed by Professor Peat's Australian Monkey Circus. The Grand Trotting Meeting at State Fair Park cost 50 cents for a grandstand seat, but ladies and children were free. Dancing at Germania Hall was 25 cents. Fare for round trip excursions from Milwaukee to Chicago on the Whaleback Steamship "Christopher Columbus" was $1.00. A shorter trip to Sheboygan on the Steamer "Nyack" was 50 cents round trip. The Brewers entertainment value was diminished, however, as the team finished last in the 1894 Western League pennant race.

In addition to the usual amateur baseball games played during the 1894 season, and football games played in the fall, two major events attracted people to Athletic Park. On June 23 the Milwaukee Athletic Society held a field day event in which athletes from the Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago areas competed in track and field events, plus swimming events, which took place in the Milwaukee River. Then in August the park was the scene for two big fireworks displays, put on by Professor L.J. Witte of Chicago. Large crowds "witnessed the discharge of fifty-one devices of fireworks." The principal features of the performances were the "roaring Falls of Niagara", a Ferris wheel, an illuminated electric fountain, a moving elephant and a moveable clown. One added special feature was a 50 foot figure of Milwaukee's founder, Solomon Juneau, which went up in a "variegated fire." In the second show a Plankinton monument was featured.

Harry Quin was in on plans to put a second team—in a new American Association—in Milwaukee for 1895 and the Brewer management decided to build a park at North 16th and West Lloyd Streets. The new league never materialized, and professional baseball was not played again at Athletic Park until 1902. However, Athletic Park was used for amateur clubs and leagues in 1895 and 1896, and both a Commercial League and City League played games there. In July 1896 the Milwaukee Athletic Society announced it would use Athletic Park for all its track and field exercises. After the baseball season high school and college football were played on the field, Marquette College using Athletic Park as its home field. On January 1, 1897, a football game between the 1895 and 1896 East Side High School teams was played on the grounds, for a benefit to pay the debts incurred by the high school athletic society for events. The 1895 team won 14 to 0. By the 1897 baseball season only a few amateur games were being played at Athletic Park. The City League was playing at Milwaukee Park on Lloyd Street, the press now claiming only that park in Milwaukee was suitable for play.

In June 1897 the Light Horse Squadron of Milwaukee rented Athletic Park for 2 1/2 years, or 3 mounted seasons, with an option to purchase the park after this time. The old grandstand was torn down and new buildings constructed. A 35 x 156 foot stable, with accommodations for 54 horses, was built midway down the south side of the grounds.

Milwaukee Sentinel August 28, 1897

In the southeast corner a 42 x 20 foot barracks was built, with "a comfortable lounging place" on the porch. This barracks contained an assembly room with 60 lockers for use by the troopers, a sleeping room, shower baths, and a mess room. On the southwest corner of the grounds stood a "cosy cottage" which was occupied by one of the sergeants and his family. Capt. W.J. Grant was the commander of this six acre camp housing Milwaukee's Troop A, First Cavalry. It was reported the cost of the property and maintenance of the camp—designated as Camp Grant—for its first fiscal year was to be over $12,000. However the baseball park was reported to be ready to be used in planned leagues discussed during 1899 and 1900 by owner Harry Quin, who bought out the last remaining partner in spring of 1900.

TO BE CONCLUDED IN PART THREE

Friday, December 3, 2010

"I Lived in Milwaukee, I Ought to Know..."

This 1950 ad for Blatz showcases one of the Cream City's most famous former residents, promoting Milwaukee's most famous product:

Although the ad was printed several years after Veeck sold the Milwaukee Brewers and moved on to the big leagues, the Brews were an important part of the sales pitch.

"I lived in Milwaukee, I ought to know...
Blatz is Milwaukee's Finest Beer!"

says Bill Veeck, former owner of Milwaukee Brewers baseball team (American Association) and Cleveland Indians (World Series Champions in 1948)

"Milwaukee is the all-time leader when it comes to producing fine beers," says Bill Veeck. "Naturally, I've tried the best of them... and only Blatz Beer bats 1.000 with me. It's Milwaukee's finest beer!" Yes—official figures show that Blatz is the largest-selling beer in Milwaukee and all Wisconsin, too. Try Blatz Beer, today!
and then, to further establish Mr. Veeck's bona fides:
Milwaukee baseball fans have warm memories of Bill Veeck. In his pre-Cleveland days he owned the Milwaukee Brewers, won 3 consecutive American Association pennants for "America's Brewing Capital."
This was part of a larger campaign of the late 1940s and early 1950s in which former Milwaukee residents (including Don Ameche, Fred MacMurray and Uta Hagen) and natives (such as Liberace, Alfred Lunt, Pat O'Brien, 1948 NFL MVP Pat Harder, SCUBA inventor and pioneer Max Nohl) all showcased their local Milwaukee credentials to support the assertion that "Blatz is Milwaukee's Finest Beer!"

The campaign also included celebrities who could say "I've BEEN to Milwaukee, and...", including Groucho Marx, Sid Caesar and English actor George Sanders (forever immortalized as Shere Khan in The Jungle Book).

I never doubted you for a minute, Groucho.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hope Hot Springs Eternal

This panoramic photo of the 1929 Milwaukee Brewer squad was taken on March 15th of that year at the Brews' spring training home in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

They're wearing their wonderful pinstripe uniforms, although without the striped socks they would adopt by 1931.

The future might have looked sunny on that bright March day in Hot Springs, but 1929 would not be kind to the boys from Milwaukee or to their fans. The Brews would stumble to a 69-98 record, good for seventh place in the American Association, a full 42 games behind the pennant-winning Kansas City Blues.

I'd love to know more about the boy (mascot?) front and center.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Milwaukee's Original Athletic Park, Part I (1888 – 1891)

By Dennis Pajot


Editor's Note: This is the first of a three part series detailing the early history surrounding Athletic Park at North 7th and West Chambers on Milwaukee's northside. The second part may be found here. Of course, later the second park at this location would be known as Borchert Field.

Milwaukee's minor league baseball clubs had played at Wright Street Park on 11th and Wright Street since 1884. The team had been in Northwestern League for the 1886 and 1887 seasons, but Wright Street Park almost was not the playing field used in 1887. As early as October of the previous year it was rumored the club would move to more accessible grounds. In addition to being inconveniently situated, the field was considered too small for outfielders. Suggested sites were the State Agricultural Society grounds or Cold Spring Driving Park. However, new manager James A. Hart soon signed a contract with the Kipp brothers for Wright Street Park. As the Milwaukee Sentinel stated: "The Wright Street Park, though by no means a perfect baseball ground, is better than the average and at present is undoubtedly the best park that can be secured in Milwaukee."

James A. Hart
Sporting Life May 11, 1901

The Northwestern League disbanded after the 1887 season, and in 1888 the Milwaukee club was in a new league—the Western Association. It was felt Wright Street Park was not acceptable anymore. The grounds were inadequate both for ball playing and comfort of spectators. A January report in the Milwaukee Journal claimed Charles Kipp disliked James Hart and would not rent the park to him for the coming season, while later reports stated the proprietors of the grounds on Wright Street were demanding a higher rental. The Sentinel put forth another reason: "The grounds just north of Wright Street Park will be broken shortly for the erection of a Catholic Church [St. Bonifactus—on 11th Street between Clarke and Center]. This is the principal reason why the directors of the Milwaukee Baseball Club did not want to lease the old grounds, as this will eventually prevent the playing of Sunday games."

It was thought the new grounds had to be more accessible, of more ample size, and better arranged for larger crowds. The baseball directors also wanted the new park to be suitable to any sport, such as lacrosse and football in the fall. A circular track of 1/5 of a mile was wanted inside the park. A shooting gallery and bowling alley were also proposed.

Four sites were proposed for the new park. John A. Hinsey, a cable car man, had two in mind. The first, between 20th and 21st, Cedar (Kilbourn) and State Streets, was a 600 x 300 foot plot of land. Of course, Hinsey’s lines would run there. Another was between 16th and 18th at Lloyd Street running north. This site depended upon the city council passing an ordinance enabling Hinsey to run his West Side Cable Company lines past there. On October 24 the council passed the Hinsey cable ordinance, seeming to assure the park there, as Hinsey promised to defray some of the cost of the proposed 7,000 seat double deck grandstand stadium, on the 800 x 465 foot tract of land. Peter McGeoch, of the Milwaukee Line, quickly offered to equal Hinsey’s cost. A third site was in Whitefish Bay, where the Whitefish Bay Railroad Company offered a 600 foot square tract of land rent free for five years. It was accessible by rail over the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western and the Chicago & Northwestern Roads. Plans for a streetcar to take 2,000 people to the site were also proposed. This site was looked upon favorably, as other improvements—including a planed hotel by the Blatz Brewing Company—gave promise this area would be the great summer resort by the next season.

On January 10, 1888, the Milwaukee Journal reported Harry D. Quin, secretary of the Milwaukee Baseball club, indicated new grounds for the park at 16th and Lloyd were "almost a certainty." However, Ephraim Mariner, the owner of the Lloyd Street grounds, didn't wish to sell, but would give a five year lease on the grounds. The club, however, wanted to buy the new site outright, so they favored the fourth site, between West Chambers and Burleigh and North 7th and 8th Streets. The Chambers Street grounds were 588 x 366, smaller than those at Lloyd Street, but larger than Wright Street Park’s dimensions. The Broadway, 3rd and 8th Street branches of the McGeoch lines, all ran to Chambers Street; Becker's 12th Street line was only five blocks away, and the Cream City Road was to build an extension. In February 1888 the club purchased the land on Chambers Street for $25,000 from A. L. Carey and Somers & Meagan. [Other sources reported the cost for the land was $21,000 or $26,000.] In accessibility it was no better than Wright Street Park, but centrally located grounds were impossible to find. The Chicago Times claimed the park was too far from the central city. The Milwaukee Sentinel disagreed, writing it took only 35 minutes from the center of town, while Wright Street Park took 30 minutes to reach. The Sentinel further reported that "there are but very few cities where the Baseball grounds are reached in less than a half hour street car ride." The horse car companies guaranteed it would only take 25 minutes to go from the corner of Grand Avenue and West Water Street [today's West Wisconsin and North Plankinton Avenues] to the park. In March Secretary Quin took a "bob-tail car" at West Water Street and Grand Avenue, and reached the new park in exactly 27 minutes, walking the last few blocks. In late May it was reported the 8th Street line was running to the park and the 3rd Street line went that far in June.

The architect of the new park was Edward V. Koch & Co. (later to be chief building inspector for the City of Milwaukee, at this time having offices in the Colby & Abbott Building at North Milwaukee and East Mason Streets). In March the contract for building the grandstand and fences was awarded to the local carpenter contractors Ferge & Keipper. [Henry Ferge and Philip Keipper, 889 2nd Street, later address 2429 North 2nd Street.] Their bid was $4,800, and it was reported around 400,000 feet of lumber would be used for construction. Work began on the new baseball park in late March, which was to cost $7,800. The grounds were above the level of the street and fairly level, but still 8,600 yards of dirt were needed for fill. Total cost for the field was $2,600. The Sentinel wrote of the grandstand, "…now that it has been topped off with a pavilion and cupola looms up majestically. From the top of the cupola there reaches heavenward a symmetrical pennant pole where the strip of bunting signalizing victory in the Western Association in its first year, is expected to fling itself to the breeze—perhaps." In July the grandstand and other portions of the park were painted "two shades of drab, which will be relieved by trimmings of dark maroon", at a cost of $941. Under the grandstand were buffet and smoking parlors, "where 500 people could witness the game while taking a lunch." Of course, the reporters and telegraph operators were not forgotten, "as they will have excellent quarters." Although the spring weather was very wet, the contractors worked hard, "resting not even on Sunday", to have the grounds ready for opening day. Shortly after this a scoreboard was erected, giving the inning by inning score of the game in progress, and scores of all the other Western Association games. Getting the score of the game in progress at Athletic Park out to interested parties had a few twists, as the Milwaukee Journal reported in May:
A year ago the Western Union Telegraph company succeeded in gaining an exclusive franchise to enter every park in the city, the right to hold good for two years. The franchise holds good in Athletic park, and the result is the [rival telegraph] Postal company, or rather the company's operator, is frozen out of the grounds and has been compelled to take up quarters on a friendly tree stump across the road. Of course the operator cannot see the games, but as necessity is the mother of invention, a scheme has been arranged whereby the Postal not only gets the news as rapidly as its rival, but even hustles out the scores ahead. A small boy with bushy red hair is stationed on the top of the grand stand. When the Milwaukees make a run he raises his right hand and jerks his right ear. When their opponents score up goes his left, and instantly the operator sends the news to all parts of the country.

Edward V. Koch’s drawing of Athletic Park
Milwaukee Sentinel February 15, 1888

The exact dimensions of this Athletic Park are not known, but an article in the February 27, 1895, Milwaukee Sentinel stated there was little more than 400 feet from the grandstand behind home plate to center field fence. The Milwaukee Sporting News correspondent wrote the park was 588 x 377 feet, enclosed by a double board fence 12 feet high, and "inferior to none in the country." This double fence—12 feet high on the outside and 10 feet inside—had the duo effect of strengthening the structure and to "prevent the wholesale amount of peeping through the cracks that was indulged in by economical persons at the old grounds."

Seating capacity at Athletic Park was only 4,800: grandstand 1,000, two covered pavilions 1,300, and bleaching boards 2,500. With 20 inches of seating room for each spectator, larger crowds on holidays and such could be accommodated without much inconvenience. The ticket scale was 50 cents in the grandstand, 35 cents in the pavilions and 25 cents on the bleachers. Also 16 private boxes on top of the grandstand were erected. These private boxes were to be let to clubs and parties of eight "thus extending the fashion of theatrical parties in full dress at base ball." These seats were sold "at the star prices, seventy-five cents." Manager Hart extended an invitation to "all ministers of the gospel" to secure complimentary tickets to the ball grounds. Women were also admitted to Athletic Park free everyday, except Sunday, "a privilege which is extended to their sex at no other ball park in the country," according to the Milwaukee Sentinel. The financial wisdom of this policy was called into question when only 200 people paid to attend the July 10 game. Pointing out the small crowds at the last three games, the Sentinel wrote: "The grand stand has been given up almost entirely to the fair sex who, while they are quite ornamental and very becoming to the wooden benches, do not add anything to the gate receipts." The same newspaper reported on another group who gained an advantage from the new ball grounds: "the real estate holders about the neighborhood of the new park, whose property had increased almost 50 per cent in value, as they now have street car lines running past their doors, while heretofore they were removed several blocks from the railways; in short, the new park has created quite a boom in its vicinity."

This new Athletic Park, which the total cost would be $35,000, was said to be the second largest baseball park in the United States; the Polo Grounds of New York taking that honor. But "in point of elegance of equipment will excel anything in the west, being far in advance of either Chicago or St. Louis."

The scheduled opening game at Athletic Park on May 19 was rained out. The first game played at the 7th and Chambers grounds was on Sunday, May 20, 1888, against St. Paul, in a Western Association contest. Between 7,000 and 8,000 saw the Milwaukees beat St. Paul 9 to 5. Promotions at the park started early, as it was advertised at the third home game of the year "each person (ladies included) occupying seats in the grand stand will be presented with a Souvenir Group Picture of the Milwaukee team." A scorecard could also be purchased at the park for a nickel. In addition to the score, the card contained playing rules, averages of the home players from week to week, the latest baseball news and various features.

As stated earlier, bad weather that spring had slowed progress on the finishing of Athletic Park, and it was reported this had cost Milwaukee a berth in the American Association in 1888. In July the Milwaukee Journal gave this report:
It has been a source of wonder to Milwaukeeans why the management of the home team should pay out a sum aggregating nearly $40,000 for baseball grounds when the old Wright-street park was plenty large enough for the attendance that would be given any of the association series of games, but the matter is now fully explained. The Milwaukees would have entered the American association this season, and in fact negotiations were pending for the attainment of that end, but as the new grounds would not be in condition for playing before the latter part of May, and the American schedule being made up would bring the locals at home three weeks earlier, it was decided to be impracticable to join at that time.
During this inaugural season at Athletic Park events other than Western Association baseball games took place. Amateur baseball games were played at the park, one such team, the powerful Maple Leafs, renting the park on the 4th of July and all Sundays on which the Milwaukees did not play at home. On August 2 a team representing the married men of Prospect Avenue lost to a nine of married men from Farwell Avenue by the score of 28 to 18. About 500 attended the game, mostly ladies, with the $200 in proceeds donated to the Emergency Hospital. It was reported the use of Athletic Park was free for this occasion. On July 22 a Greco-Roman wrestling match was put on at the park. A platform six feet high and thirty-four feet square had been erected in front of the grandstand, ornamented with bright ribbons and gay flowers. 1,128 people witnessed D.A. McMillan throw Otto Wagner three straight falls.

At the end of the 1888 season James Hart sold all his interest in the Milwaukee Baseball Association to the directors, giving Harry D. Quin and Robert W. Maguire the controlling interest in the club. Quin was the son of the owner of the Quin Blank Book & Stationery Co., located in the Broadhead Block Building at North Water and East Mason, and would inherit the business upon his father's death in 1891. Maguire was the cashier and paymaster of the Wisconsin Central Railroad.

Harry D. Quin
Milwaukee Daily News February 10, 1900

Going into the 1889 season it was reported the directors put the grounds "in splendid shape." Improvements included filling in the runways with clay except around the bases, "where a soft, spongy dirt has been laid so a base runner will not hurt himself in sliding." A water pipe was also installed running under the grandstand from the street so the grounds keeper could sprinkle the diamond after all games. Free admission Ladies' Days were abolished at Milwaukee Park this season. Women were charged 25 cents to the grounds, which included grandstand privileges, except on Sundays and holidays, when they also had to pay the full grandstand price of 50 cents. In May 1889 the Milwaukee Common Council granted Rudolph Giljohan a license "for the sale of vinous, spirituous, malt, ardent or intoxicating liquors or drinks in quantities less than one gallon, to be drank on the premises...Said Athletic park being a resort where the sale of such liquors is merely incidental or auxiliary to the business carried on in said park." Giljohan had formed the Cream City baseball club, "made up of well-known and able players," which would play strong teams from Wisconsin and other states at Athletic Park when the Western Association club was on the road. This club charged 25-cent admission and another dime for a grandstand seat, but ladies were admitted free. The biggest non-baseball event to take place at Athletic Park this year was the July 21 wrestling match between Evan Lewis, "The Strangler"—the American wrestling champion—and Charles Green, the Champion of England. "It was a contest between two giants and the gigantic American won."

For the 1890 season the pavilion was done away with and one grandstand was erected, seating capacity now being 6,500. The box office was also moved from 7th Street to 8th Street. Ladies were admitted free to Milwaukee Park this season, except on Saturday and Sunday. However, the admission policy was changed so that boys, even if accompanied by their parents, had to purchase a ticket—25 cents in the bleachers, 50 cents for seats in any other part of the park. Boys had ways of seeing the games free, however with some hazards on occasion, as we learn from this excerpt from the Milwaukee Sentinel's report of opening day the following year: "The big trees which have stood like sentries at the west side of the park, were more heavily weighted with urchins than usual, but even some of these incorrigibles who are, as a rule, impervious to all the vicissitudes of weather, were forced to desert their perches by the keen blasts from the west before the game was over."

Milwaukee Sentinel May 15, 1892

In a serious incident, in the spring of 1890, a 10-year old boy fell from a picket fence outside the park while trying to see a game, cutting a deep, long gash in his left thigh.

To the delight of the Sentinel "the wretched custom of peddling beer and other liquors through the grounds and grand stand which has been in vogue heretofore has been stopped and the beer boys will no longer run rampant among the spectators." However, other concessions were sold. Yenowine’s New—a Milwaukee weekly—in June had complained about the "obnoxious practice indulged in by peddlers of scorecards, cigars, lemonade, peanuts and gum, of shrieking out their wares in the grand stand during the play". The paper then printed a further complaint in July:
The peanut peddlers at Athletic Park are more vociferous than ever. At Wednesday’s game the Denvers had the bases full, two men out and two strikes called, and the entire audience waiting in breathless suspense for the next decision, when five of these noisy fiends trotted down into the front of the grand stand and began hawking their wares with deafening energies. During the actual progress of an inning, all gum peddlers and other necessary interruptions should be kept out of sight and sound.
The problem was not addressed, and beer was back at Athletic Park, as in August of the following year the Journal complained "these fellows yell singly and in groups; and in duos, trios and quartettes; howl peanuts, cigars and beer to the detriment and discomfiture of all …" The paper further commented: "Former appeals have seemingly slid from the directorate think-tank like water from a duck's back."

Early in the season one of the most conspicuous fixtures at Athletic Park was an immense sign advertising that the National Tailoring Company would give a pair of trousers to the Milwaukee player who hit the first home run at the park. On April 22 Brewer catcher E. C. Jantzen won the trousers with an eighth inning home run, in a 7 to 5 loss to Minneapolis.

Milwaukee Sentinel September 21, 1890

Late in the 1890 season major league baseball teams appeared at Athletic Park. Players' League (Brotherhood) baseball came to Milwaukee on September 23. The Chicago White Stockings beat the Boston Beacons 8 to 3 in an exhibition game at the grounds before two thousand spectators. The game had originally been billed as a championship game, but when it was found the teams had played each other the required number of times, the game was changed to an exhibition. Still, "the price of admission was elevated for this occasion to an eminence in keeping with the dignity and importance of the 'stars', and fifty cents was paid for the privilege of sitting in the bleachers, while it cost seventy-five cents to get into one of the grand stand seats." Adrian Anson brought his Chicago National Leaguers to Milwaukee in early October, and Milwaukee’s Western Association nine took three of four games from the Colts.

Amateur games, of course, were still played at Athletic Park in 1890. The most publicized of these took place on August 2, when about 4,000 "howling enthusiasts" paid 50 cents (reserved seats extra) to enter Athletic Park to see the Milwaukee Fire Department's team beat its counterparts in the Police Department, 27 to 20. Several members of the Chicago Fire Department traveled to Milwaukee to witness the contest. It was reported about $5,000 was brought in for the benefit of the two department's relief funds.

In September of 1890 the Sentinel printed a report the Wisconsin Central Railroad was seeking to purchase Athletic Park for $50,000, and build maintenance shops there. The report was quickly denied, and land was later purchased slightly north of the park for this and yard purposes by the railroad. After the 1890 season the Milwaukee Baseball Club was reorganized. Two offers were made to the new company for the use of Athletic Park. The Brewers could rent the park for $2,500 a year or obtain use of the park free provided the owners of Athletic Park retained all the privileges. The ball club took the first option, with an option to increase the lease to three years.

The Brewers of 1891 played in the Western Association. Prior to the season opening it was reported that Wyler Bros., the Grand Avenue cigar dealers, secured "bar privileges" in the park by paying $1,200. Western Union also received the telegraph rights at the park, which had been the Postal company’s rights the year before, paying $250. Once the season opened some thought more entrances were needed at the park to facilitate large crowds:

TO THE EDITOR OF THE JOURNAL:

Kindly permit the use of your valuable paper to call attention to injustice done the many patrons of Sunday games (at Athletic park) who go there early for the purpose of avoiding a rush. Last Sunday the gate was opened at just 2:45 p.m. [for a 3:45 game], about 2,000 men had gathered up to that time, and the consequence was a tremendous jam, which lasted about three-quarters of an hour, as the only entrance at the turnstile would admit them only at a very slow rate. Of course the average baseball enthusiast will not stay away from a game on account of receiving a severe squeezing or getting his corns crushed, but a little consideration the part of the managers by having several entrances and places to purchase tickets, or by opening the grounds an hour earlier, will be greatly appreciated by many who contribute their mite to the success of the club.

PATRON, May 18, 1891
For the 1891 season the Milwaukee Baseball Club offered a coupon book of 70 grandstand tickets to their Athletic Park games for $20. The coupons were transferable and could be used any way the holder wished, including as many at one game as desired. It was advertised the offer was limited to 200 books, and had to be ordered and paid for by April 1—$5 more if purchased after this date. On occasion deals could be found outside the park. At Harry Quin’s blank book house on Water Street, 50 cents would get one a grandstand ticket and two street car tickets. The auctioneers Kaufter & Smithing in May sold grandstand tickets for two upcoming games for 30 cents a game. Ladies were also charged the same admission as men at Athletic Park this year. This did not seem to keep the fairer sex away, as it was said "the baseball men say that when a woman wants to see a game she wants to see it bad, and does not hesitate to pay for the best seats to be had."

Word was about in late May that the Milwaukee Common Council was considering passing an ordinance that would prohibit Sunday ball in the city. The Journal commented on this proposal: "Soon we fear, like our grave and potent ancestors, matters will come to such a pass, the physicians will be prohibited from administering physic on Sundays, for reasons too obvious to need an explanation." In a letter to the editor of the Sentinel, "A Subscriber since 1857" asked: "Has the Salvation Army converted them [the council] already?" The Sentinel reported Brewer officials were not worried about such a resolution, adding "if such a law should pass there would be no more baseball here, as the week-day attendance in Milwaukee is notoriously bad, and the expenses of the club could not begin to be paid without Sunday games." Sunday ball continued in Milwaukee.

The Brewers forfeited out of this minor league in August (the Western Association folded in September) and the Milwaukee club joined the major league American Association on August 17, 1891, taking over the record of the Cincinnati ball club. Admission price to the park remained at 25 cents for general admission and 50 cents for grandstand seating; season tickets from Western Association games were honored for American Association games. Crowds were good for these American Association games. The Milwaukee Sentinel reported of the September 13 game: "There were a reported 10,000 persons in the crowd [officially 6,753 by "actual count of receipts"] and if the seating capacity of the park had been half as large again many of them would have had to stand up. The bleachers were crowded to suffocation long before the time to call game, and for the first time since the park was opened the game began with both wings of the grand stand packed with spectators. After all the seating room had been taken up the people began to file on the field and find seats on the turf. A number of policemen looked after the alignment and made them range themselves in a line extending along the sides of the park". The next Sunday attendance was 7,500, with 1,000 or more fans inside a stretched rope "pen" between the diamond and the bleachers. The scene at the park must have been chaotic and dangerous, as the Sentinel described the next day:
Owing to the miserable management of the park the people trooped into the boxes upstairs, grabbed the chairs out and put them about where they pleased, so that there was an accumulation of chairs in some boxes, while the occupants of others had to stand up. In the press box, where chairs are mostly needed, there were two old chairs without backs and half their bottoms gone. Seats were improvised by means of a few dirty boards and some ginger ale cases. This condition of things led many to remark that the policy of the baseball men was to get everybody into the park that they possibly could, and then let them hustle for themselves. Many of the spectators climbed up on the roof of the grand stand, and sat with their legs dangling over the edges, in a manner that made the more timid ones nervous for fear somebody would tumble off and go plunging into eternity.
The club soon found trouble with city officials. The building inspector gave notice such large crowds would not be allowed in the grandstand, more particularly on the roof, unless the structure was strengthened. The next weekend it was reported streetcars were also "taxed to their utmost" to handle the crowd at Athletic Park, not only before the game but after, as the "cars were quickly filled, and hundreds of persons who could not get accommodations had to walk to the city." It was estimated 30,000 spectators attended American Association games at Athletic Park during this 1891 late season run. After this season four teams from the American Association merged into the National League and the others, including Milwaukee, were bought out.

In addition to Western Association and American Association professional baseball, numerous amateur clubs played ball at Athletic Park during the 1891 baseball season. After the baseball season football took over the field at Athletic Park, with goals placed in the outfield and ropes placed around the playing ground. In addition to the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee High School played games at the park.

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good-Bye, Bingo

Sad news - former Milwaukee Brewer George "Bingo" Binks passed away yesterday.

Bingo was a scrappy player with a deep love of the game, qualities which made him a fan favorite on the 1944 pennant-winning Brewer club before he moved up to the majors, as Paul Tenpenny wrote in his excellent profile of Bingo earlier this year.

George Binks 1944 Original Snapshot and Autograph
(Collection of Paul Tenpenny)

Bingo's daughter-in-law and grandson-in-law were gracious enough to leave comments on the post after his passing; we thank them for their kind words and wish to express our condolences for their family's loss.

Monday, November 8, 2010

On the Road Again


Ebbets Field Flannels has just added a sharp new jersey to their lineup - a Milwaukee Brewers script road flannel. It's gorgeous, and it's currenly on sale to boot.

One minor point - they have it listed as a 1942 jersey, but as we've seen, the 1942 one-year-wonder road uniforms were rather unique. This particular jersey dates to 1947-1952, when the Brewers was owned by the Boston Braves and adopted their parent club's æsthetic.

I have a special attachment to this offering from Ebbets Field, because I commissioned it myself as a special order. I love this jersey - it looks to me like something the Braves would have worn, had they ever been inclined to put the city name on their roads. Obviously EFF likes it as well, because it's now available as a standard order.

To facilitate my order, I sent them this scan is from a 1951 program, featuring pitchers Ernie Johnson, Charlie Gorin and Paul Burris.

For my number on the back, I chose #21 in this distinctive block, as seen in a 1947 photo:

So let's step up, Milwaukee baseball fans. If we buy Brews merchanandise, they'll make more.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

"1937"

Before "Jolting" a certain New York Yankee back to reality on July 17, 1941... the hometown fans already knew that Kenny Keltner was destined for stardom...


"1937"
From Bay View, to Borchert Field & Beyond ...
Ken Keltner

by Paul Tenpenny
(Tencentz@aol.com)
Copyright 2010 Tencentzports
Printed with permission of the Author


Kenneth Frederick Keltner was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 31, 1916. He spent most of his young life with beautiful Lake Michigan as his backyard, in the quiet neighborhood of Bay View.

Lake Michigan at South Shore Park

Young Kenny Keltner attended grade school in his neighborhood at nearby Trowbridge Elementary School and later, Boys Technical High School.

In the days before television and other modern day distractions, baseball was a very popular activity occupying a young boy's time, all across America.

Bay View's Trowbridge School

Ken Keltner was no exception, in fact, he learned early on that he was pretty darned good at it. Soon, playing ball was all he wanted to do, as a result, he gave up on high school to pursue his love of baseball.

1932 Gerber Morticians-Ken Keltner Front Row 3rd from left
(Sand Lot Baseball - George Reimann)

Ken Keltner began his sand lot baseball career in 1932 while playing shortstop for the Gerber Morticians in the Midget League (under 18 years of age). 1933 found the young right hander playing with the Hebein Drugs team. In 1934 his Justright team won the Major A championship, thanks in part to his .413 batting average. In 1935 Keltner advanced to Major AA ball with the Sanders Clothiers, hitting .402 for them. An energized Kenny Keltner could not get enough of baseball and found some spare time to enjoy playing softball on the side.

Like another Milwaukean, Chet Laabs, who played sand lot ball 3 years prior to Keltner, his hitting ability caught the eye of the ever present Milwaukee Brewers scouts. The American Association Brewers were always prospecting for hidden treasures at the neighborhood diamonds in those days.

In 1935, Keltner was brought to Borchert field by umpire, Hal O'Brien (Schiefelbein) to meet his friend, Milwaukee Brewers manager Al Sothoron. After watching Kenny play, "Old Fidge" was sold on the youngster. It didn't take too long for Sothoron to convince the youngster to give up softball and to concentrate on his hardball skills, with Milwaukee of course.

A rare glimpse into this world of scouting can be viewed in correspondence dated August 15th, 1935. Milwaukee Brewers President Harry (Heine) Bendinger wrote a letter to the Detroit Tigers' Frank Navin, which included this very interesting post script comment on their latest discovery, Ken Keltner.
"These alleged baseball experts of ours here in Milwaukee are running around like wild for the past week. Reason: They say they have another local sand lot boy that is a find. Al says he hits them as hard as Laabs."
1935 Milwaukee Brewers Correspondence
(Author's Collection)

The 6 foot Keltner was signed to a contract by the Milwaukee Brewers and was assigned to play for the Fieldale Towlers of Virginia in 1936, a class D team in the Bi-State League. Fieldale was managed by Joseph Guyon and Richard (Red) Smith. The 19 year old from Bay View, Wisconsin did not disappoint his handlers. He had a spectacular year with the Towlers.

He gathered 175 hits in his 486 at bats while playing in 118 games for the Fieldale team. Keltner's average was .360 with 118 runs batted in. His power as a hitter was evident as he stroked 37 doubles, 17 triples and 32 round trippers for a slugging percentage of .683. He played 3rd base and shortstop and compiled a .943 fielding average. The Milwaukee Brewers wanted a closer look at him for 1937.

Spring Training Begins

Ken Keltner set out for spring training in 1937 to begin workouts in Fieldale. After two weeks there, he was expected to report with the other infielders and outfielders to the Milwaukee Brewers spring training camp in Biloxi Mississippi by March 21st.

Keltner and Brewers Teammates Amid the Wysteria
Spring Training in Biloxi (Author's Collection)

An eager Ken Keltner surprised everyone by showing up a week early. Brewers Manager Al Sothoron had intended to try out the youngster at 1st base, but after talking with Red Smith, Sothoron soon changed his mind and would use him elsewhere. Besides being a capable 3rd baseman at Fieldale, Smith advised Sothoron:
"Keltner is destined to develop into a greater hitter than Laabs."
Smith was in camp to assist Sothoron during spring training. He managed Fieldale for the Brewers last year and would be managing Hopkinsville of the Kitty League for 1937. Hopkinsville picked up the remnants of the Fieldale team after dissolution of the Bi-State League according to the Sporting News. Smith had an extensive baseball career and was considered a "keen judge of young players."

In opening drills, the "Bay View Larruper" was tried out in center field. A bright sun seemed to challenge Keltner that day, but he did well enough for Sothoron to continue the experiment in the outfield. Milwaukee's outfield was questionable this spring for the Brewers, with an injured Jack Kloza hoping to make a comeback. Sothoron planned on giving the 20 year old a lot of attention and wanted to try him out in several positions while he was in camp. When working out at 3rd base, he moved and fielded the grounders like he had been there all his life.

Spring Training - Keltner Leaps
(Author's Collection)

It didn't take long for him to be noticed. The "promising youngster" was showing "class" at bat and in the field and talk was that he would be challenging holdout veteran Lin Storti for his position at 3rd base.

In his first game of the spring season, Keltner had a good day. At bat he went 1 for 4 with 2 put outs in a 4-3 victory over the 1936 National League title holders, the New York Giants. He had one error due on a bad hop.

Spring Training - Keltner Digs One Out
(Author's Collection)

Keltner was a very hot prospect and several teams expressed interest in him. Milwaukee considered the offers, but the Brewers needed more than the cash offered, they needed players. They knew Ken Keltner would be worth a lot more if they waited. His being a home grown boy was also a big plus and they expected him to boost attendance at Borchert Field.

Manager Sothoron was also practical. He felt that as good as Keltner was, he wasn't going to rush him. If he needed more seasoning, he was ready to send him to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 1937 season. As it turned out, Pelican manager Larry Gilbert was satisfied with his team and he didn't need him.

The Bay View boy would be returning home with the Milwaukee Brewers ball club. Opening day was set for April 16, against the Saint Paul Saints. With outfielder Jack Kloza's rehab not working out and the loss of outfield prospect Tom Henrich to the Yankees (by virtue of Baseball Commissioner Landis' decision), Ken Keltner would greet his Milwaukee fans as their starting left fielder.

Spring Training - Keltner Fires to First
(Author's Collection)

The Season Begins

Even though the Milwaukee Brewers were the reigning American Association champions, most doubted that they would finish in the 1st division. Milwaukee had lost too many of their key players from the 1936 team.

The Brewers' hitting was weakened by the loss of both Chet Laabs and slugger Rudy York, both of them graduating to the major leagues. "Big and Little Dynamite" had produced most of the Brewers power last year. The Brews suffered heavy losses to their pitching staff too. Gone were Luke Hamlin, Joe Heving and Clyde Hatter, who won a combined 54 games for the AA champions last year. Only Forest "Tot" Pressnell (19-9) remained from last year's starters. The catching corps seemed to be in good hands with veteran Bill Brenzel and Hank Helf who had replaced George Detore.

1937 Milwaukee Brewers Schedule
(Author's Collection)

8,700 Borchert Field fans greeted Ken Keltner and the Milwaukee Brewers on April 16th.

1937 Milwaukee Brewers Scorecards
(Author's Collection)

It proved to be a good opening game for both the Brewers and for Keltner, as the left fielder went 2 for 5 with 2 put outs in a 10-5 blow out of the "Apostles."

1937 Milwaukee Brewers Scorecard-vs Saint Paul
Milwaukee lineup April 1937
(Author's Collection)

Milwaukee would go on a early season tear, and leave the rest of the league behind. Ken Keltner would be a big factor for Milwaukee's breakout success in 1937.

Keltner Watches One Soar
(Author's Collection)

Keltner's continued his hard hitting, with 3 base hits on Monday April 19th giving him 6 for 14 at bats in the first 4 games of the young season. He hit a triple to start off the scoring against the Minneapolis Millers, driving in teammate Frenchy Uhalt. The Brewers went on to win 8-7 against the early season favorites.

On May 7th, Gullic and Keltner, the "Home Run Twins" helped Tot Pressnell win against the Indianapolis Indians 5-4. Ted Gullic hit one out of the park and Keltner did him one better by blasting 2 home runs over the left field wall.

Sunday May 9, Milwaukee played a double header against Toledo, winning both ends for their 7th straight league win and the 11th straight home victory (The streak was at 19 games in a row counting last years playoffs). Keltner hit a triple, double and two singles, just the home run shy of the cycle in game one. The Brewers were 15-4 and solidly on top of the American Association.

On May 12th the Brews defeated the Red Birds 6-5 for their 9th in a row, their 13th consecutive at Borchert Field.

The streak finally ran aground at 12 games, with Milwaukee losing the 2nd game of a double header to Indianapolis May 17th.

The Milwaukee Brewers' fans were ecstatic. After the first month of the 1937 campaign, visions of 1936 were dancing in their heads. Hometown hero Ken Keltner was batting at a lofty .360 average. In spite of the preseason doomsayers, the 1937 Brewers seemed to be unstoppable. As of May 21 the first place Milwaukee Brewers had a record of 22-6.

Hello? Was that a noise I heard? Something scraping, a ping, no a rattle, maybe a squeak, a disturbing vibration. Did you hear it?

Yes, Milwaukee, the wheels were about to fall off the Brewers victory train and Ken Keltner was about to stumble along with them.

Just as fast as they rose, the Milwaukee Brewers went into a sickening nose dive, a losing streak of 11 straight games. By June 10th, the Milwaukee Brewers had fallen out of first place, a position they had held on to since August 4th, 1936.
But the precipitous drop didn't stop there.

While Ken Keltner saw his batting average fall below the .300 level, the losses kept coming for the Brewers. By the time June 21st rolled around, the Brews were down to 4th place with a record of 29-28.

Where would it end?

The Milwaukee Journal's June 26th Box score pleaded:
"SAND THE RAILS!"
While the Nation was focused on the disappearance of aviator Amelia Earhart, lost somewhere in the Pacific, Milwaukee fans were concerned with their Brewers, who were now lost in the American Association's 2nd division.

Milwaukee crashed into 6th place by the 4th of July, and Keltner's batting average went thump, as it fell below .270!

Falling out of the first division was extremely traumatic for the fans after their Championship year in 1936. The great start this year convinced them that 1937 was going to be more of the same. The upset fans began criticizing the team, knowing that if something wasn't done soon...the season would be over. Management agreed. Having tried many adjustments during the slump, resulting in little success, it was time for a change.

In a major shake up, Friday July 9th, the Brewers gave up on Jim Shilling and Eddie Hope at 2nd base and returned Lin Storti to the keystone sack, where he played part of last season. Ken Keltner was moved to 3rd base. Ted Gullic took over in left field.

Teammates: Eddie Hope, Ted Gullic , Ken Keltner
(Author's Collection)

The "Sanded Rails" seemed to be working for the Milwaukee Brewers, slowing their descent. The Brews swept Minneapolis Millers in a double header victory at Borchert Field Sunday the July 11th. 8-7 in game one and a 12-2 trouncing in game 2. 3rd baseman Keltner was held 0-4 in game one but came back to hit 3-4 in the second with 3 RBIs.

The Brewers repeated their double header magic against the St. Louis Blues July 18th. Winning a marathon 15 inning game 9-8 on Lin Storti's double. Keltner batting 8 times in game one with a homer and 2 singles.

The 43-44 Brewers had moved up into 5th place.

The Milwaukee Sentinel's Red Thisted opined that the season was pretty much lost for the Brewers with 4th place being the highest they could achieve. He advised the Brewers to start looking toward rebuilding their squad for the 1938 season. The Brewers had some cash to spend and needed to bolster the "weak spots." Both Keltner and Pressnell were mentioned as being of interest to the major leagues, but he didn't feel they would garner the Brewers much in cash or players.

After the Saint Paul Saints hammered the Brewers 14-4 in the opener of a 5 game series July 23rd, Milwaukee's double header mastery helped them bounce back again, as the Brews double teamed the "Apostles" 11-7 in the opener and nipping them in the night cap, 6-5. Keltner enjoyed a 6-8 evening in the twin bill.

By August, Milwaukee was turning it around with a maturing Ken Keltner returning to his early season form at the plate. Another double duty victory was had at the expense of the Indianapolis Indians Sunday August 1st at Borchert Field. Ken Keltner belting out 6 hits in 11 at bats, moving his batting average from .306 to .314. Game one was a 19-5 crusher, followed by a 9-1 trouncing. The Brewers were back in the first division again.

Kenny Keltner's play was getting noticed around the league.

By April 5th, the young 3rd sacker's batting average was at a .526 pace for his last 14 games. He had raised his 1937 average by 40 points to .315 during his 15 game hitting streak. Sam Levy of the Milwaukee Journal touted the "moxey" of young Ken Keltner. In spite of the swarm of major league scouts who were on him constantly, all the attention failed to upset him. Instead of freezing up from the scrutiny he was getting from the "Ivory Hunters," he gave them more "food for thought," by playing a spectacular game on Saturday August 7th.

He joined 3 of his Milwaukee teammates to set an American Association record. He led off with the first of what would be 4 home runs in a row. Then teammates Ted Gullic, Hank Helf and Al Milnar followed him with round trippers. Not finished by any means, Keltner took another one out of the park in the eighth inning, defeating the Toledo Mud Hens, 10-8. Milwaukee was now solidly in 4th position with a 57-50 record.

1937 Radio Appreciation Night Team Photo
(Author's Collection)

Everyone expected the news.

On Saturday August 28, it was officially announced by Milwaukee Brewers president Harry Bendinger and Secretary Lou Nahin, that 3rd baseman Ken Keltner was sold to the Cleveland Indians for 6 players and an unannounced amount of cash. The deal between the two teams solidified the close relationship between the two teams for another year.

There were other teams who wanted him. The New York Yankees had told Milwaukee to "write their own price tag." The bottom line for Milwaukee was that cash was not what they needed. The New York Yankees were unable to offer as much as the Indians did with needed players.

Fans would be sad to see him go but all would agree that Ken Keltner had earned his trip to the major leagues. After a fine first season with Fieldale, he proved his mettle and importance to the Milwaukee Brewers team by playing wherever he was needed. Not only was he able to fill the bill in left field and replace his Milwaukee sand lot predecessor Chet Laabs, he took over at 3rd base when he was needed to take on that role for his team.

In spite of his early season slump, due in part to a sinus problem, Keltner did not lose heart. After falling off from his meteoric start, he raised his mid season batting average of .278 back into the .300s in short order. He showed great ability to hit against both right and left handed pitching, a necessary skill if one was to last in the bigs.

Not even "Ken Keltner night" activities on September 8th at Borchert Field deterred the Bay View native from business as usual. The Milwaukee Brews took another double H from the Millers that Wednesday night as the Bay View Brewers star collected 2 home runs, a Chrysler and a golf bag for his "Night" of work.

Extra Innings - The Playoffs

The Milwaukee Brewers finished the season with an 80-73 record, a solid 4th place finish, and by virtue of that finish, they made it to the post season playoffs.

Their first opponent would be the tough Toledo Mud Hens opening Tuesday September 14th, in Ohio. The Hens (89-65) were the runner ups in 1937 and throughout the season they handled the Milwaukee 9 pretty easily. Toledo won 14 of the 22 matchups.

The Mud Hens were heavy favorites to defeat the Brews. The Milwaukee Journal's R.G. Lynch, while aware of Milwaukee's strengths and weaknesses, was cautiously optimistic:
"The Brewers ... may prove unexpectedly tough in the playoff series."
This proved to be prophetic.

Ken Keltner Personal Model Bat
(Author's Collection)

Behind Tot Pressnell's "Dizzy Liz" (knuckleball), and a timely home run in the 7th inning by Bernard Bartholomew "Frenchy" Uhalt, the Brewers took game one 5-4.

Toledo evened up the series, one apiece, with a 6-5 squeaker in 10 innings in game two. Milwaukee took a one run lead into the bottom of the inning, but Toledo's Babe Herman ended it with a 2 run shot off of pitcher George Blaeholder. Ken Keltner, who was held hitless in game one, stroked a Texas League double in the first frame and scored on a Lin Storti single. In the top of the 10th, Keltner reached on an error. He later scored on Mickey Heath's second triple of the game. But the tide turned quickly in the bottom half. Keltner's low throw allowed a runner on base and up stepped the "Babe" to end it in victory for the Mud Hens.

Game 3 was all Brewers, as manager Al Sothoron's surprise start of rookie pitcher Allan Johnson worked like a charm. Milwaukee defeated the Mud Hens 11-4. Ken Keltner contributed with a 2 for 5 day with two RBI's. Next stop, Borchert field.

In Game 4, Bill Zuber and Ralph Winegarner combined to pitch a 6 hitter as Milwaukee defeated Toledo 15-6, taking a commanding lead in the playoff series 3 game to 1. Keltner chipped in with 3 put outs on a single and an RBI.

Game 5 was a slugfest with Toledo coming out on top 11-10. The two teams combined for 35 hits in the 11 inning game. The Brewers sealed the Mudhens' fate in Game six with a 12-3 blowout. Jeff Heath and Ken Keltner were major contributors in the clincher with 3 hits apiece.

In round one of the playoffs against Toledo, Keltner performed well. His combined statistics showed that he hit safely 8 times out of 28 at bats for a .286 batting average. He had 2 doubles, 1 home run and drove in 7 runs. In the field he had one error and 8 put outs for a fielding average of .947.

The Brewers next opponent would be the American Association champions, the Columbus Red Birds (90-64) who defeated the Minneapolis Millers in the other semi-final.

Monday September 20th was a rest day for Milwaukee. Like in the previous round, the Brewers would be on the road to open the series in Ohio.

Game 1 went to the Red Birds by a score of 7-3. The Brewers bats were virtually silent with only 3 hits for the loss. A double by Jeff Heath, followed by home runs by Lin Storti and Ted Gullic put the otherwise anemic Brews on the board. Only one batter got on base the last 6 innings off of Columbus pitcher Mort Cooper.

Game 2 wasn't much better for the Brewers as they got shut down again in a 5 hitter 3-2.

With their backs against the wall and trying to salvage a win in Columbus, Game 3 was all Milwaukee pitcher Ralph Winegarner. The Brewers right hander had a no hitter going into the final inning. He finished the game with a 2 hit 3-0 shutout.
Ralph even broke the deadlocked game open in the 8th inning by launching a lead off home run himself. They scored two more insurance runs in the inning. One of them was a line drive home run by Ken Keltner, a 375 foot line drive over the left field bleachers. Keltner who was hitless in the series, went 2-4 for the day.

The series mercifully moved to Milwaukee Saturday, September 24th, but lack of hitting again was the curse for the Borchert Brewers who lost the game 2-0. The Red Birds pitcher, Max Macon scattered the 6 Milwaukee hits in the shut out. The Brewers were facing elimination as they were down 3 games to 1 in the series.

Expecting an easy kill in Game 5, the Columbus team heckled the Brewers before the contest with "We've got our railroad tickets for Newark," boasts, a reference to the upcoming Little World Series which would go to the victor.

As always, It is NOT a good thing for a team to publicly belittle an opponent. Milwaukee was no exception, as the angry Brewers won the game.

Mickey Heath knocked the wind out of the Columbus sails with an 8th inning blast over the right field fence. The "dissed" Brewers plucked the Birds, 6-5, tightening the race, 2 games to 3.

The better team won according to Brewers skipper Al Sothoron, and the Columbus "flock" flew off victoriously after beating the Brewers 10-4 in game 6. The triumphant and "cocky" Red Birds went on to lose the Little World Series to Newark, 4 games to 3.

Rare Tin 1937 Team Photo
(Author's Collection)

The Milwaukee Brewers seemed to have run out of steam in their series with the Columbus Red Birds. As a team, their hitting failed to materialize. A paltry .213 batting average clearly showed the reason for failure. The Red Birds by comparison hit .283.

By contrast, the Brewers team hit for a .319 average against the Toledo Mud Hens.

While the Brewers could not repeat their success of 1936, they showed guts and a fighting spirit. They could have panicked and lost it all when the wheels were threatening to fall off after a great start. The team showed its character by hanging in there and finishing well.

Young Ken Keltner exemplified this hanging tough. After an explosive start, he had to deal with a slump, partially caused by a sinus problem and probably just part of his maturing into a ball player. He did not quit. He was poised and unflappable and he would soon show his ability and "Moxie" at the major league level in 1938.

Ken Keltner finished 1937 with a batting average of .310, with 170 hits in 549 at bats in the 142 games he played. He had 26 doubles, 5 triples and 27 home runs and 96 RBI's.

He did lead the American Association with 92 strike outs in 1937. Not too bad for the 20 year old when one compares him to 2002 All Star Jose Hernandez of the "major league" Milwaukee Brewers.

Jose benched himself rather than risking embarrassment, as he was near setting an all time record for whiffs that year. In spite of his "benching" Jose still had 188 fans in 525 at bats for his 152 games played for the Major League Milwaukee Brewers.

Ken Keltner Signed Baseball
(Author's Collection)

Ken Keltner spent 13* years in the major leagues from 1937-1950. All but 1950 was spent with the Cleveland Indians. (*He had a single at bat with Cleveland in 1937)

From the beginning, any worries that the 21 year old Keltner would not be ready for prime time in the majors was quickly put to rest. The rookie put together a stellar first season as one of the best of the league's new faces in the game. He hit .276 with 26 homers and 113 runs batted in for his first year with the team.

Rookie Keltner 1938 Press Photo
(Author's Collection)

Ken Keltner became one of the best 3rd basemen in baseball. He was an exceptional fielder as well as being a dangerous hitter. Many still argue that the 7-time All Star belongs in the baseball Hall of Fame. He was an important part of the Cleveland Indians team throughout the 1940s. His contributions were crucial in Cleveland's drive to the World Series in 1948.

Ken Keltner Signed Exhibit Card
(Author's Collection)

In his 13 seasons in the majors, Ken Keltner had a batting average of .276. He had 1570 base hits, 308 doubles, 69 triples, 163 home runs and 853 runs batted in. Defensively he had a career fielding average of .947.

Ken Keltner At the Plate
(Author's Collection)

The Cleveland Indians released Ken Keltner on April 18, 1950 and he was signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox. Keltner's play was limited to just 13 games while with the Sox. Boston released him June 6th the same year.

He wrapped up his baseball career with the Pacific Coast League's Sacramento Solons in 1951.

Ken Keltner Boston Red Sox
(Author's Collection)

"July 17, 1941"

Much has been written about the day "The Streak" ended and Ken Keltner's role in ending it. Instead of adding my version to the many already out there, I think it is sufficient to let those who were there speak about it. Suffice it to say, the streak ended with the New York Yankees outfielder failing to get a hit in his 4 times at bat that day. Two of the outs were handled by the Cleveland Indians' 3rd baseman, Ken Keltner.

Goudey R 303 Premiums & Signed Joe DiMaggio Photo
(Author's Collection)

Hall of Famer and Cleveland Indians 2nd baseman, Lou Boudreau also accounted for one of DiMaggio's outs that day:

"In the first inning, DiMaggio pulled a low inside curve down the line at 3rd that Keltner backhanded and, with his strong arm, nipped Joe at first by half a step.

"Then in the seventh, when the Yankees went ahead 2-1, DiMaggio did it again and so did Keltner. Joe hit another shot down the line. Keltner backhanded the ball behind the bag, just as he did in the first inning, and again his throw to first was on the mark and in time.

"He was a real professional, one of the best third basemen, I've ever seen and, in my opinion, one who also belongs in the Hall of Fame."
One of baseball's finest pitchers, Hall of Famer "Rapid" Robert Feller has high praise for his teammate:
"Keltner was simply the best in the American League. He could go to his right better than anyone and had a great great arm.

"Ken Keltner ... stopped Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak at 56 consecutive games with two of the greatest stops anyone ever saw. But Kenny did a lot more in 13 years as one of the best players in the American League, and one of the best teammates a guy could ask for."
John Sturm played first base for the 1941 New York Yankees:
"I knew Keltner when he was with Milwaukee.
He had a terrific arm and he was a helluva good fielder.
He was a great big league ball player, that Keltner."
Joe DiMaggio - New York Yankees:
"One of the best in the business at protecting the foul line is Ken Keltner.

He can backhand a ball hit down the line as skillfully as any third baseman I have ever seen.

In fact, I have a particular reason to remember Ken because when my hitting streak of fifty-six straight games was broken in a night game in Cleveland in 1941, he made two stops on balls I hit over the bag which I thought were sure two-baggers when they left the bat."
In his book Streak, Michael Seidel relates to us Keltner's point of view.

When asking Keltner about why he positioned himself the way he did against DiMaggio, Seidel explains:
"...he figured that to get an extra step's worth of time because of the damp field; he also wanted to hold any hit that got past him to a single. He wasn't thinking about DiMaggio's streak but about the Indians attempt ... to challenge the Yankees ... in the pennant race.
After the game, Keltner was not happy about losing and snapped at the reporters "that DiMaggio hit 'em and he caught 'em."

When asked about which ball was the toughest to handle, Keltner told Seidel:
"They were pretty much in the same place, the throws were more difficult than the stops, and the throws were identical. I had to put something on them, and the plays at first were both very close."
Ken Keltner Pennant
American Nut & Chocolate Company
(Author's Collection)

On the 50 anniversary of the hitting streak, a bronze statue was unveiled at National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Ken Keltner was brought in from a convalescent home in Wisconsin for the ceremony.
Spotting Keltner, DiMaggio asked:
"What the hell is he doing here?"
Keltner, with cane in hand, approached Joe and shook hands.
"You know, Kenny, you were lucky it rained that morning, you never would have stopped those balls."
Keltner had to be smiling as he hobbled away...

Ken Keltner Signed Photo
(Author's Collection)

In a SABR Chapter meeting on March 6, 2002, Ken Keltner's eldest son Randy was asked if his dad was tired of hearing about the DiMaggio streak? Randy said:
"He loved it!"
On December 12, 1991, Milwaukee's 7 time All Star Kenneth Frederick Keltner passed away.

Humboldt Park, Facing South Pine Ave.
(Near Keltner's Residence in Bay View)

In 1999 the baseball diamond in Humboldt Park where Keltner had played as a youth, was renamed Ken Keltner Field, according to author James Nitz in his Society for American Baseball Research biography on Ken Keltner.

Like Jim Nitz, I am very proud to be a member of the Ken Keltner Badger Chapter of SABR that bears his name.

Ken Keltner Field
Humboldt Park - Milwaukee Wisconsin