Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have a Jolly Cholly Christmas

Happy Holidays from everyone at Borchert Field!

The story behind our seasonal photo is here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

1946 Opening Day Ticket Stub

This commemorative ticket stub would have admitted one patron to Borchert Field on Opening Day in 1946.

The ticket has faded somewhat, and has suffered significant paper loss on the reverse, but the graphic design is strong and clear. I love the bold graphic of Owgust, the Brews' mascot, going up for a fly ball.

The brush-stroke wordmark and leaping Owgust were also used on the cover of the 1944 programs and pocket schedules:

The large graphic on the 1946 ticket is unlike those used on the Opening Day commemorative tickets from the three previous seasons, which featured a full-body Owgust:

I love the big, bold graphics of this 1946 stub. It was obviously well-loved, pasted into a scrapbook as a souvenir of the Brews' 1946 opener.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Dear Chet"

From the archives comes this piece of correspondence, written on Milwaukee Brewers letterhead and dated September 5, 1950.

Dear Chet,

Enclosed please find your check from the Boston Club to cover salary due you through August 31st, together with your recall notice. I am also enclosing a couple of letters which arrived after you left.

Chet, the Boston Club will handle your entire contract from September 1st on. I have already informed them that we paid you through August 31st at $450.00 per month and they'll take it up from there.

Sorry Kitty and I didn't get a chance to see you once more before you took off in that big DC-6. Hope your trip to Boston was a nice one and not too rough. We all missed you the very first thing Saturday and I guess Dave missed having someone to pound around on every morning.

Played a couple of games of cribbage with Kitty this afternoon - skunked her the first and won the second also. Will certainly miss those card games we used to have and sincerely hope you can make it back to these parts sometime this fall or winter. We can all have a ride in your new high-powered job at that same time. You forgot to take your cards with you, so we have sent them on to you, along with some photographs that were sent to you from Columbus. By the way, you owe us $4.42 on the pictures, so maybe you can send us a money order for them.

Kitty, Joe and I took Dave out for a spaghetti dinner last night and then on to the depot. We had a fine time, but hated to see him go as we did you.

Lots of luck to you and Dave, now. We'll be watching for news from Boston and we promised Dave we'd drop down to Chicago next year when the Braves play the Cubs. Hope your arm is coming along real well.

Regards from all,
The letter has unfortunately become separated from its enclosures over the intervening years, but we can still piece together much of its story.

"Betty" is Miss Betty Voss. She is listed on the letterhead as "Ass't Secretary" but was usually described in the papers as secretary to team president D'Arcy R. "Jake" Flowers.

"Chet" appears to be Chet Nichols, left-handed starter who was bought by the Braves as a free agent and sent to Milwaukee in 1949. The timing fits; he was called up to Boston right around that time.

Chester Raymond Nichols, Jr. was the son of a Major Leaguer. The senior Chet pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies from 1926-1932, and his son followed in the family business.

Nichols was a valuable addition to the Brewer rotation. In June, the then-19 year old threw a 1-hit game against the Minneapolis Millers. Although he finished the season with a very modest 7-14 record, he was pitching for a very bad Brewers team that finished sixth in the American Association standings. The Braves recognized that they had something special in their system, and brought him up to the parent club without even a full season in Milwaukee.

Nichols flourished at Braves Field. In 1951, his first full season, Nicholds hurled his way to a 11-8 record, with an ERA of 2.88. He was twenty years old at the time. That year, he finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting to an obscure outfielder named Willie Mays.

Nichols continued to pitch well, returning to Milwaukee with the rest of the Braves in the spring of 1953.

This letterhead itself is stunning. Not only does it feature Borchert Field's address and telephone number—3000 North Eighth Street, Milwaukee 6, COncord 4-8227—but I particularly like the typeface treatment for the corporate name.

At the heart of the design is of course "Owgust", the Brewers' beer-barreled mascot. Owgust was the public symbol of the club, appearing everywhere from pocket schedules to the team's dugout jackets to the wall of Borchert Field itself.

Owgust would, of course, evolve into the Beer Barrel Man, making his own jump to the major leagues in 1970.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Milwaukee Tavern Scorecard - April 14, 1927

This 11x14 two-color cardboard scoresheet is a little slice of Milwaukee baseball history.

Cards like these were published by the B.F. Steinel Publishing Company and circulated around Milwaukee taverns to keep baseball fans up-to-date on the previous day's scores.

This particular card was printed on Thursday, April 14, 1927. The previous afternoon, the Brewers had defeated the Mud Hens in Toledo 6-4 behing the pitching/catching battery of Joseph Eddleman and Robert McMenemy.

The card shows the scores for the rest of the American Assocation, as well as the two major leagues. At the bottom, the standings:

As interesting as the standings are, the ads are the real prize , displaying 1927 Cream City culture at its finest:

If you have a bit too much fun and need a ride home, our tavern card can help with that as well:

Five can ride for the price of one! I have a fair number of these in my collection, but chose to begin our review with this one solely for this picture of the taxicab.

I've never seen these tavern cards published anywhere but Milwaukee. It appears to have been unique to the Cream City's baseball (and tavern) culture, combining two of the things Milwaukeeans love so much.

Friday, December 9, 2011

1952 Pocket Schedule

This tri-fold pocket schedule laid out the season for the 1952 Milwaukee Brewers.

On the cover we have Owgust chasing down a ground ball, backed by the club's twin pennants from '51; the American Association crown and the Little World Series.

On the interior flap, an ad for the Champagne of Bottle Beer.

The interior lays out the entire 1952 schedule. A double header every Sunday!

In addition to a full compliment of American Association contests, the Brewers played four exhibition games against major league competition; May 12 against the St. Louis Browns, June 9 against the Chicago Cubs, July 31 against the Chicago White Sox and a TBA date against the Boston Braves.

Such exhibition games were commonplace but took on an additional meaning in Milwaukee in the early 1950s. The city was looking for a major league representative, and at least two of those clubs were looking towards Milwaukee.

The back cover features Earl Gillespie, the Brewers' sophomore radio announcer.

Also interesting is the notation at the bottom:
Watch for Brewer Opening in Milwaukee County's New Stadium!
1952 was the final year of pro baseball in Borchert Field. Beginning with the 1953 season, the Brewers would move into their new home at the former Story Quarry.

As we all know, it was not to be. County Stadium was built to draw a big league club to Milwaukee. It was a smashing success, drawing the Braves from Boston and closing the final chapter of the original Brewers' history in Milwaukee.

But all of that was in the future. There was baseball to be played at the Orchard in 1952, and the Brewers played it well. They finished the season 101-53, twelve games clear for the American Association pennant, ending their era in Milwaukee in style with back-to-back titles.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Veeck's Brewer Lure"

In August of 1943, the Sporting News ran a feature on Milwaukee Brewers president Bill Veeck, then wrapping up his second season in charge at Borchert Field.

The article chronicles some of the innovations that made Veeck the "PT Barnum of Baseball" and the Brewers one of the hottest tickets around.
'Give 'Em a Gag as Well as a Game' – That's Veeck's Brewer Lure

Prexy Bill's Side-Splitting Sideshows Putting Merry Click in Milwaukee Gate

Of Milwaukee Journal

MILWAUKEE, Wis.—There is never a dull moment at Borchert Field, historic home of the Milwaukee American Association Brewers. Bill Veeck has kept his patrons interested with his original gags and corny presentations. It is Sport Shirt Bill's proud boast that the customer must receive more than a ball game. Everything he does seems to be appreciated by the good burghers of the town, who may ring the turnstyles to the tune of 300,000 admissions this season.

One year ago, Beeck offered the "old country store" routine as an added attraction. It was a surprise party for the customers, who received special awards in the form of a cake of ice, poultry, fruit and sundry other articles. A month or so ago, he decided to stage a Dr. I.Q. program at a Sunday double-header. Sport Shirt Bill was one of the interrogators. His general manager, Rudy Schaffer, filled a similar role, and Mickey Heath, the former Brewer manager-first baseman and at present broadcaster of Brewer games, was the "doctor."
Mickey, Veeck and Schaffer wore cap and gown. On the field, seated on a dias, were three newspapermen, who acted as judges. Prizes included cases of beer, poultry, love birds, guinea pigs, fish, cases of fruit, watermelons. "I'll come up with something else in a few weeks," Veeck promised. About a month later he decided to incorporate a bit of vaudeville. He called in a booking agent.

"Get me the best wire-walking act around these parts," Veeck told the agent.

"I've got just the man you want," said the booker.

Came the afternoon of the show. High above the advertisements, atop the right field scoreboard, the wire walker started to rig up his apparatus. He had strung a row of electric lights above the wire when along came Veeck.

"What's the idea of that short wire?" roared the man in the sport shirt.

"It's about 40 feet long," answered the performer, a man of 60.

"Forty feet! Is that all?" shouted Veeck. "Why, my little boy, 3 years old, could walk that blindfolded. I want you to string your wire from the right field fence over to the light poles (near center field, a distance of about 500 feet). That'll make a high-class act."

The performer won out, but his booking agent got a severe tongue-lashing from Sport Shirt Bill.
Claims made game too commerical

"Baseball people made the game too commercial," chirps Veeck. "They followed an old routine and gave the customer the silent treatment once he came through the gate. I believe the fan is entitled to more consideration and that's why I like to offer added entertainment occassionally.

"Earlier in the year, you'll remember, we formed a quartette among our players and they offered a musical program at home plate. The fans liked it. They learned that Herschel Martin could tickle the keys of a piano with the same dexterity he swings a bat."
Veeck believes in being distinctly original. He created the morning game which, he will tell you without blushing the least bit, was appropriated by a few big-league clubs. Sport Shirt Bill has staged three games for Rosie the Riveter and her boy friends on the swing shifts in Milwaukee war plants. Play started at 10 o'clock. On entering Borchert Field, the fans received breakfast food and a bottle of milk.
Veeck marches through the wooden stands, visits his early patrons and gets their reactions to his ideas. They all seem to like him. They like Bill because he and Jolly Cholly Grimm, the affable Brewer manager, removed the crepe from Borchert Field in June, 1941, and since then the old town has been a humming baseball center.
One of the funniest incidents of the current season took place at a morning game in June. Back of third base was an old WPA outhouse. Down in left field alongside the wooden fence was an old-fashioned iron bed. Before the umpires called play Red Smith, first aide to Grimm, was paged over the public address system. Smith finally was "awakened" from his slumbers and he left the old bed and headed for the infield, dressed in a nightgown. When he reached third base he discovered the Chick Sale mansion and entered. Then he reappeared on the field, removing his nightgown, under which was his baseball uniform.

Brewer players find pleasure working for the Veeck-Grimm combination. No Brewer club in the long history of the league has had such liberal allowances in the way of hotels, meals and taxicab travel on trips. Recently the club played two exhibition games in one day—in two different towns. The players didn't grumble a bit. The next day, an off day, each was notified that he could buy a hat—on the house.

That's the Veeck-Grimm way.
Fantastic, to see how Veeck's sideshow was viewed at the time.

And now we know what Red Smith was doing in this photo:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Our Team's Leading the Hit Parade", 1936

This little ditty, "Our Team's Leading the Hit Parade", serenaded the Milwaukee Brewers on their way to their third American Association championship.

It's no "Go! You Packers Go!", but with music by Oscar Baker and lyrics by Michael Neyses, it's a jaunty tune and appropriate for the team which would take home the American Association pennant for the first time since 1914.

Our team is passing on review,
"Boy oh boy" how they came thru,
That's why we're all here today,
With a hip, hip hip "Hoo-ray"
The flag that we are craving
Now is proudly waving.

Our team's leading the "Hit" parade.
And "oh boy" what a "Hit" they've made.
See them how they're plugging
When they start in slugging.
All the others are in the shade,
When they meet us they're all afraid.
They go out swinging, can't touch our flinging,
Our team leads them all.
On the back, a series of ads from political candidates of all stripes. We have good wishes from Democratic candidates and Republican candidates, some for the same office. There's even a note from Wisconsin's Progressive governor Phil La Follette (son of "Fighting Bob").

Stormy Thompson lost the Democratic nomination for sheriff on September 13 of that year, so that might help us date this copy of the sheet music. Perhaps we could go a little earlier; the Brewers won the American Association pennant on the 7th of that month. If the team had already claimed the pennant, I would expect to see that noted somewhere on the cover, but perhaps that's an unfair presumption.

There is a copy in the Margaret and Franklin Steele Sheet Music Collection in Cooperstown's Baseball Hall of Fame and the Music Division at the Library of Congress.

I can read music a bit, but would love to hear this piece, if we can work up a little five-piece band. Any takers?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Casey Takes the Helm, 1944

The Milwaukee Journal had this look at the Brews' new skipper on Sunday, May 7th, 1944:

—Journal Staff
The Brewers' new manager, Casey Stengel (left), tries on a Milwaukee cap Saturday in the clubhouse at Borchert field as Coach Red Smith holds a mirror and Charley Grimm looks on. Grimm, who resigned Friday, will take over his new post as manager of the Chicago Cubs Sunday, the same day Stengel becomes boss of the Brewers.
I love the composition of this photo, especially the twinkle in Casey's eye as he dons the Brewers' classic dark blue cap with red "M", looking directly into the lens via the mirror.

Not even the dulling effect of newspaper reproduction — and cheap computer scanning decades after that — can dim the twinkle in the Perfessor's eye. His famous sense of humor shines through.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Brewer News" 1945, Vol. 3, No. 1

Once again, we continue our ongoing look at Brewer News, the club newsletter published throughout the year to keep fans appraised of the latest news and upcoming events.

This is Volume 3 Number 1, from April 1945 , covering the last seven games of the season. We've previously seen the September issue from that year, covering the last seven games of the season. This issue was printed as the season began, offering Milwaukee fans their first look at the 1945 Brewer team, coming off back-to-back American Association pennants.

Among the changes for 1945 was new Brewer manager Nick Cullop, who took over for the departed Casey Stengel. The "tomato-faced" Cullop, as the newspapers often styled him, had a long career in baseball. He had often bedeviled the Brewers as manager of the Columbus Red Birds, where he had been named "Manager of the Year" in 1943 by the Sporting News. The Columbus Dispatch wrote this upon Cullop's leaving for Borchert Field:
Can you imagine those Brewers muscling in our Hipper Dipper? Of course we can't blame Nick. Money speaks and when they lay a $10,000 offer in front of you, you just grab the pen and scratch, that's all. Nick will be drawing down the same pay Casey Stengel got last year as Milwaukee's field chief.
Cullop was stepping to some big shoes as the Brewers' third manager in two years, following Stengel and before him Charlie Grimm in the Orchard's dugout.

As always, Brewers radio man Mickey Heath hosted game-day recaps of the action, hosted by Gimbels, for fans who couldn't make it out to the ballpark. The Brewers spent 1944 and 1945 without a radio home for their game broadcasts, and Heath's daily summaries (along with Brewer scores announced on WEMP every fifteen minutes during games) helped keep fans in touch. Full games returned to WEMP in 1946. There's also a note that "As a convenience to the Brewer fans, Gimbels will again have a fine collection of seats for all Brewer home games on sale at their cigar counter on the main floor."

Note also that morning games for night shift war production workers, a staple of Bill Veeck's ownership, were scheduled to return starting April 30th.

I also like the notation of the Brewers' part for the war effort:

Baseballs to Army Camps
Baseballs hit into the grandstand and returned by fans will be sent to the various Army Camps for their service teams. Requests for baseballs are received daily by the Brewers, so kindly co-operate by giving the ball to your nearst usher for deposit in the service basket.
On the third page, we check in with Veeck himself, who was then recovering in California from injuries suffered while he was in the Marines and who had "hopes of returning to Milwaukee sometime this summer".

There's also an introduction to the new Brewer outfield corps, Bill Burgo, Lew Flick, Eddie Kobesky and Bill Norman. Norman was also named to the Brewers' coaching staff, taking over the responsibilities of Red Smith, who left the Brews to join Charlie Grimm's Cubs coaching staff.

The back page contains a roster for the club, and some noteworthy odds and ends "hosted" by Owgust, the original Beer Barrel Man. I particularly like this sign of the times:

Physicians and other persons expecting calls during the ball game are requested to leave their name and the location of seats they are occupying at the office under the grandstand. Please co-operate with us to keep paging over the Borchert Field loud speaker system to an absolute minimum.
And with that, the 1945 season was underway!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Green Bay's *Other* Team, Part 2

This beautiful gray flannel road jersey was worn by the Green Bay Bluejays in the 1940s, when they were a Milwaukee Brewers farm club.

The detailing is exquisite, with an interlocking "GB" monogram on the chest and namesake patch on the left sleeve.

These are set off with a thick blue soutache on the sleeves, placket and up the side seam under the sleeves.

The distinctive thick soutache is our first clue that this jersey first saw service at Borchert Field. It was customary in those days for uniforms and equipment to be passed down the ladder from major league teams to their farm clubs. It was the same for independent minor clubs like the Brewers, with their own farm systems. In this case, the Brews sent their old flannels up to Joannes Stadium in Green Bay.

Compare this Bluejays with this Brewers exemplar (which has had its sleeve piping removed) from about the same period. The chest logos have been swapped, but the flannel's Milwaukee origins are easy to see.

Similarly, the distinctive backs are identical, down to the large pleat in the middle.

The Brewers' flannels featured this type of pleat at least as far back as 1938, as seen in this photo from Spring Training:

Also note the same number style as our two jerseys, and the resulting large gap between the two-digit numbers:

The pleat is secured near the bottom by a length of elastic sewn into the interior of the jersey.

The jersey is double-tagged, with a Wilson tag from the manufacturer and a tag from the supplier, Burghardt Athletic Goods of Milwaukee.

Again, we see the same pair of tags in our Milwaukee Brewers flannel (with a green Burghardt tag in place of the blue).

Few of the Green Bay Bluejays would make it to the parent club in Milwaukee, but thanks to the hand-me-downs they could at least dress like the Brewers.