Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Swing, Batter!

From the July 16, 1944 Milwaukee Journal comes this snazzy photo series:

Here is the swing which has put Bill Nagel, Brewer third baseman, ahead of all other American association batsmen in home runs and runs batted in. Not including Sunday night's game, he had hit 19 homers and batted in 100 runs.
Nagel was brought to the Brewers from the Chicago White Sox farm system after the 1943 season, in one of Bill Veeck's last deals before entering the Marine Corps.

There were high expectations for Nagel when he arrived in Milwaukee. He had spent the 1943 season with the Albany (New York) Senators, where he led the Eastern League in both hits and home runs. Nagel's bat seemed perfectly tailored to American Association parks, and he delivered, ending the 1944 season with 23 home runs and a .308 batting average.

In August of 1944, before his first year in Milwaukee was complete, Nagel was sold back to the White Sox for an undisclosed sum (reportedly $10,000). Buying low and selling high was a hallmark of Veeck's era, but in this case he negotiated an even better deal; the White Sox agreed to let the Brewers hold on to Nagel through the end of the 1944 season, as he was an important component of their march to the American Association pennant.

The following spring, with the AA pennant raised high above Borchert Field, Nagel reported to White Sox training camp in Terre Haute, Indiana. He made the big league roster, but his stay on the South Side was short and not particularly sweet; after hitting only .209 with three home runs, he was released outright at the end of the 1945 season.

His old spot in the hot corner now occupied, the Brewers offered Nagel a shot at the first base job for 1946. Perhaps Nagel had aquired a taste for the bright lights of the Bigs, or perhaps he wasn't excited about playing first, but he entered Spring Training as a holdout before finally being coming to terms with new owner Oscar Salenger. Nagel's contract for 1946 included a clause guaranteeing him a hefty bonus if he hit 30 home runs.

Bill Nagel never got a chance to exercise that clause; his second stint with the Brewers was very brief, and he was quietly optioned to the Oklahoma City Indians in the second week of May. He played five more years across the minors, playing parts of those seasons with nine different clubs.

Nagel's early promise was short-lived, but for one glorious summer, the Milwaukee Journal cameras caught Bill Nagel swinging for the fences at old Borchert Field.

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