Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Blink, Part II

In the 1940s, Milwaukee Journal photographer Frank J. Scherschel took a series of high-speed photographs of the Brews in action. We have previously seen Scherschel's view of the pitcher's art, but now we see what happened when he trained his camera on the plate.


Stroboscopic light, which makes possible exposures at 1/100,000 of a second, gives the statuesque quality of this picture, taken by Frank J. Scherschel of the Milwaukee Journal during a recent night game in Milwaukee. The picture shows Barney Walls, Milwaukee second baseman, about to hit the ball. Though you can see the stitches on it. It was just a white streak to him. The catcher is Rush Hankins.
(collection of Paul Tenpenny)

Although Scherschel's photos are undated, this would seem to have been taken during the 1940 season (at or around the same time as the other one), based on the presence of both Walls and Hankins. They shared only that one season in Milwaukee - Hankins was a Brewer in 1938 and 1940, while Walls was on the team for 1939 through the first half of 1941 and again in 1946.

Putting Hankins, himself a Brewer, behind the plate also tells us that the caption is incorrect and this photo was not actually taken during a game. Seems logical—somehow, I doubt that the "stroboscopic light" system was inobtrusive enough to set up just outside of the batter's box in an actual game. Batting practice also seems unlikely given the darkness, so perhaps the photo shoot was conducted after a game.

William Rush Hankins had a very short tenure with the Brews. He came to Milwaukee from The Kentucky-Illinois-Tennessee League in 1938. He played 92 games in a Brewer uniform that season, putting in service all around the diamond with 65 games as an outfielder, 22 as a catcher, and 5 as a pinch hitter. The Milwaukee Journal noted that, in the off-season, he "kept in shape during the winter by officiating in basketball games down in Henderson, Tenn."

Hankins was sent to the Brewers' farm club in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With the Grays in 1939, he hit .329 and earned himself another stint in Milwaukee for 1940.

The 1940 season was a disappointing one for Hankins. Although originally billed as a "scrappy understudy" by the Journal, he spent most of 1940 "in a terrific slump" and after the season he was sold outright to the Eastern League's Wilkes-Barre Barons.

Barney Walczak, who adopted the nom de baseball "Barney Walls" partway through his rookie season in 1939, was a local Milwaukee boy. Like Hankins, Walls had a similarly disappointing 1940, although in August he was still reportedly drawing interest from the Chicago White Sox. And like Hankins, he would soon trade in his Brewer uniform, but in Barney's case it was for olive drab. In July of 1941, he left the club to enlist in the Army. He would find himself and was stationed at Aberdeen, Maryland where he played with the camp's baseball team.

When Walls returned to the Brewers in 1946, his prime years were behind him, and he spent the season struggling for a place in the lineup, losing regaining and losing again his regular position at second base. At the end of the 1946 season, the Boston Braves bought the Brewers for their top farm club, and Walls was shipped down the Braves' ladder, first to Hartford (Eastern League) for 1947, then to Topeka in the Western League.

After his baseball career ended, Barney moved to California. He went to work for the city of Long Beach in 1949. In 1956, he became the the city's Personnel Director, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1979.

Ironic that Scherschel would choose these men as subjects for his high-speed photos. Their careers with the Brewers, which started with such promise, flashed by like the flare of his stroboscopic light.


  1. Barney was my grandfather, it is really cool to read about this part of his life!! Thanks for researching and writing this article!!

    1. Glad you liked it! We love telling these stories, and it's wonderful when family members can read them.

      Let us know if you have any stories of his career we can share.