Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Such Is the Tradition"

On August 8, 1948, the Milwaukee Sentinel ran a special section celebrating Wisconsin's centennial and promoting the Centennial Exposition at the State Fair Grounds in West Allis. Various local establishments from Gimbels to First Wisconsin Bank to Schlitz and beyond ran ads congratulating the state for reaching the century mark and proclaiming their own contributions to the Badger State's history. The Sentinel itself ran a cartoon by Robert LeRoy Ripley (of the famous "Believe It or Not!") touting its accomplishments and those of its former staff, including founder Solomon Juneau (also first mayor of the city) and editor Latham Sholes (builder of the first typewriter).

This was the Brewers' contribution (click for larger):


46 years of good baseball is a record the Milwaukee Brewers are proud of. They have brought to Milwaukee six American Association pennants and two Little World Series Championships, but that is only part of the story. It is names like Whit Wyatt, Harry Clark, Denny Gearin, Eddie Marshall, Al Simmons, Allan Sothoron, Bill Veeck, Joe Hauser, Charley Grimm and Nick Cullop that have really made the Brewers your favorites. And such big league stars as Ken Keltner, Chet Laabs, Al Dark, Rudy York, Vern Bickford, Johnny Schmitz, Dave Koslo, Eddie Stankey and many others, who took their step to the "Big Top" by way of Borchert Field, are not forgotten.

These, however, are the names of the past. Now the Milwaukee Brewers look to the future and the continued opportunity of serving the finest baseball fans in the world with more sharp singles, long homers, sparkling fielding plays and thrilling shut-outs. Such is the tradition of the Milwaukee Brewers.
It's a fascinating look at how the team valued its own history, and what accomplishments they held in high regard. Obviously the championships rank highly (the Brews would add another two pennants and one Little World Series to their trophy cabinet before being displaced by the Braves).

Let's look at the people mentioned in the ad, in order:

Whit Wyatt was a four time All-Star, a right-hander who pitched for the Brewers in 1938 in between stints with the Cleveland Indians and Brooklyn Dodgers. He would have been well-known by baseball fans in 1946, having been the Opening Day starter for the Bums in 1940 and 1941 and recording Brooklyn's only win in the 1941 World Series.

Harry Clark, better known as "Pep", was a longtime Brewer. He came to Milwaukee in 1904 after playing part of the 1903 season on the South Side of Chicago, and instantly found a home at Borchert Field's third base. He took over as player-manager after the 1912 season and performed both roles for the club through 1916, winning pennants in 1913 and 1914. He returned as the Brewers' manager in 1922. Although not quite the double-threat he was in his prime, Clark did take the field in a handful of games in 1922 and 1923 before ending his playing career. He continued to manage the Brewers through 1926.

Dennis "Dinty" Gearin had a similar tenure in a Brewer uniform, 1920 through 1931. He was a member of the National League pennant-winning 1923 New York Giants squad. In the Series, Gearing and the Giants fell in six games as Babe Ruth's Yankees claimed their first World Championship.

Eddie "Doc" Marshall also pitched for the Giants, following up his major league career with parts of two years in Milwaukee.

Al Simmons was a Milwaukee legend, a local boy who went from the Cream City's sandlots to the Major Leagues. He didn't spend much time with the Brews - 1923 and part of 1922 - before his talents were recognized and Connie Mack scooped Simmons up for his Philadelphia Athletics. Mack himself was no stranger to Milwaukee, having played and managed for an earlier incarnation of the Brewers from 1897 to 1900. Simmons had an outstanding twenty-year career in the majors, culminating with his election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1953.

Allen Sothoron was the Milwaukee manager from 1934 through 1938. He had formerly been a pitcher, who spent eleven seasons in the Bigs.

Bill Veeck needs no introduction. The "P.T. Barnum of Baseball," Sport Shirt Bill got his start in Milwaukee before going on to own the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox (twice).

Joe Hauser was another Milwaukee boy made good. He was known as "Unser Choe", ("Our Joe"), as heavily-accented German-born Brewer fans would call him . Like Al Simmons, he played two seasons for the Brews (in Joe's case, 1920 & 21) before the Philadelphia Athletics brought him up to the Show. Although his pro career never equalled Simmons', Hauser remained a popular figure in Milwaukee. After retiring from baseball in 1943, he owned a sporting goods store in Sheboygan, where he would have been found when this ad was running.

Charlie Grimm (spelled "Charley" here) is a similarly towering figure, although he had a whole lot more Brewer baseball ahead of him when this was published. He had previously been the club's manager under Veeck (as well as a part owner), but left partway through the 1944 season to take over the Chicago Cubs. Although the Brews couldn't have known it in 1946, Grimm would return to the club after it was purchased by the Boston Braves and lead it to pennants in 1951 and 1952. He was promoted to the big club just in time to guide it to Milwaukee, and managed Milwaukee's own Braves through the first half of 1956.

Nick Cullop's inclusion on this part of the list is interesting. Far from being a "name of the past," he was the club's manager at the time. He held court in the Orchard's dugout for five seasons, from 1945 through 1949. Popularly known as "Tomato Face," Cullop was named "Minor League Manager of the Year" by The Sporting News in 1947 as the skipper of the Brews.

Ken Keltner was another product of the Milwaukee sandlots. Born and raised in Bay View, he was part of the 1936 pennant-winning club before being sold to the Cleveland Indians, where he won a World Championship. Keltner is known in part for helping end Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in July of 1941, when his defensive gems robbed the Yankee Clipper of two hits. Today, the Wisconsin chapter of SABR is named after him.

Chet Laabs was another hometown kid, who first played for the Brewers in 1935, and was a breakout star of the 1936 club as they marched to the American Association pennant. Laabs spent eleven seasons in the majors, making the All-Star team once and helping the St. Louis Browns capture the 1944 AL flag.

Al Dark only played a single season at Borchert Field, 1947. After 14 games with the Boston Braves in 1946, he was sent to Milwaukee for development (his only stop in the minors). He was wildly successful with the Brews, and was called up to Boston for the 1948 season. At the time the Sentinel ran this ad, Dark was tearing up the National League on his way to earning 1948 Rookie of the Year honors. He would win a World Series with the Giants in 1954 and make the All-Star team three times. He finished his playing career in Milwaukee with the Braves in 1960.

Rudy York was another veteran of the 1936 championship club before moving to the Bigs for eleven years. He was a part of the Detroit Tigers club that won it all in 1945. He struggled in the Series, and was dealt to the Red Sox. While in Boston, York underwent a career renaissance, and two of his seven All-Star selections came after his departure from Detroit.

Vern Bickford was another familiar face in Milwaukee, having played with the Brewers in 1947. He was called up to the Braves for the 1948 season, and was one of the former Brews who would "come home" with the Braves when they moved to Milwaukee.

Johnny Schmitz, born in Wausau, was nicknamed "Bear Tracks" for the way he shuffled to the mound. Eight of his thirteen major league seasons were with the Cubs, who acquired him from the Brewers in 1941. He led the NL in strikeouts in 1942, and in 1948 was having the second of his two All-Star seasons.

Dave Koslo spent 1941 in Milwaukee on his way to twelve years in the big leagues for the New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Braves. He led the National League in ERA in 1949 as a Giant. While not local in the sense of being a Milwaukee boy, he was born and died in Menasha, Wisconsin.

Eddie Stanky spent the 1942 season in the Cream City, on his way to a long career in the Bigs, eleven as a player and eight as a manager. Leo Durocher, who managed Stanky as a New York Giant, summed him up this way: "He can't hit, can't run, can't field. He's no nice guy... all the little SOB can do is win."

One name is notable for its absence - Casey Stengel, who led the club to a pennant in 1944 and left after one season due to a dispute with Red Smith and Mickey Heath. In August of 1948, Stengel was managing for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League and was just months away from the job which would catapult him to the top of baseball's mountain. In twelve years as manager of the New York Yankees, he led the Pinstripers to nine American League pennants and seven World Championships.

So there you have it. Such is the tradition of the Milwaukee Brewers, as seen by the club in 1948.

No comments:

Post a Comment