Friday, January 28, 2011

The Writing's on the Wall

While reading Paul Tenpenny's wonderful 1945 season review, one detail jumped out at me.

This exerpt from the Milwaukee Journal describes Bill Veeck's return to Milwaukee after being released from a naval hospital. His first stop, after getting off the train, was the corner of 8th & Chambers:
Bill got out of the car at the park and hobbled over the icy sidewalk to the ticket sellers' corner, where the beer barrel man, Awgoost, looks down from the outside wall and cutout letters stand up from the roof's edge to tell everyone that this is the "Milwaukee Brewers." Bill leaned on his cane, standing in the snow, and looked up at the place.

"Boy oh Boy!" he said. "Boy oh Boy!"
I'd never heard that description of the ballpark before. This photo, from about that time, shows the "cutout letters" on the roof as seen from Chambers Street:

From a 1998 issue of Lead Off, the Milwaukee Brewers official magazine, comes this rare color photo of the cutout letters:

Milwaukee Brewers archive photo

I don't think I've ever seen a picture of Owgust (or, as he's styled here, "Awgoost") on the side of the ballpark. He might have looked something along the lines of this rendering, from a 1943 program:

collection of Paul Tenpenny

When Bud Selig resurrected the Brewers identity for his Major League club, he brought a similar graphic to Milwaukee County Stadium. Seen here in 1976, the stadium's facade features a sign proudly proclaiming County Stadium as (finally) "Home of the BREWERS". On either side, the club's Beer Barrel Man logo swings for the fences:

Beneath the sign, a troupe of lederhosen-clad Beer Barrel Men play all the positions:

This echos the iconography used by the Brews in the 1940s, when team publications showcased Owgust and friends playing the game, including the masthead of Brewer News, the team's newsletter.

All part of the legacy of the American Assocation Milwaukee Brewers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Not Yet Black Sox Make an Appearance at 8th and Chambers

by Dennis Pajot

The 1917 Chicago White Sox were a strong team, one of the best to play baseball in the dead ball era. In addition, its players are no doubt some of the most famous—as it was essentially the same team as the 1919 Black Sox. These White Sox would go on to win the 1917 World Series, beating John McGraw's New York Giants.

But before any of this occurred, the 1917 Sox would play at Borchert Field, of course, before it was called Borchert.

It was not uncommon for major league teams to play exhibition games during the season in various cities on off days. Due to a schedule quirk the White Sox were off four straight days toward the end of the 1917 season. With the team solidly in first place, Sox owner Charles Comiskey decided to play a few exhibition games to keep his boys sharp, and no doubt bring in a few extra bucks.

The White Sox would play in Beloit, Wisconsin, on September 10, wining 5 to 4 in a hard fought game before 3,500 fans. The Beloit squad made three errors in the first inning, allowing the major leaguers to score three runs, before settling down. The next day the ChiSox beat a Fort Wayne, Indiana, team made up of minor leaguers, by a score of 7 to 2.

Manager Clarence "Pants" Rowland then brought his White Sox to Milwaukee for a September 12 game. Owner Comiskey had arrived in Beer City the previous day.

The game had been hyped in the press for a few days, not only because the American League champs would make their appearance, but because of the Milwaukee connection of at least three players. Nemo Leibold had roamed the outfield with the Brewers in 1911 and 1912, and was said to have been one of the most popular players in a Brewers uniform. White Sox catcher Ray Schalk, known as the best catcher in the majors at that time, also did his apprentice work in Milwaukee in those same years.

But by far the main attraction was Oscar "Happy" Felsch, the White Sox center fielder. The 26-year old Milwaukee native had played with the Brewers in 1913 and 1914, before being purchased by the White Stockings. "Hap" was now a major league star, the Milwaukee Journal bragging he was hitting "the bulb at a .318 clip and it has been his clouting that has put the Sox in the race."

Nemo Liebold, Eddie Murphy, Shano Collins, Joe Jackson, Happy Felsch (from left)
Photo courtesy of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, Greenville, SC

The Milwaukee American Association Brewers were in Columbus, Ohio, on September 12, losing a doubleheader 6 to 0 and 12 to 3. That Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee 6,000 fans turned out at Athletic Park on 8th and Chambers to cheer on the Sox against a team of all-stars selected from local and state teams. The starting pitchers for the contest were announced as Claude "Lefty" Williams for the White Sox and Sheboygan spitballer Alfred "Buster" Braun for the All-Stars. Braun also had a Milwaukee connection, having pitched for the Brewers in 1913 and 1914, winning 16 and losing 12 in those two years. Braun was now a mainstay with the Sheboygan Chairs, leading them to the Lake Shore League pennant in 1916 and 1917.

Manager Rowland started his regulars, thus the Milwaukee fans got a chance to see "Shoeless Joe" Jackson, Eddie Collins, Chick Gandil and Swede Risberg, in addition to Felsch and Schalk. Leibold did not play, Eddie Murphy playing right field. Also out of the line-up was third baseman Buck Weaver, nursing a broken finger. His position was being filled by Fred McMullin.

The soon to be World Champs opened up on the All-Stars in the first inning with three runs. Eddie Murphy started the game with a walk, followed with singles by Eddie Collins and Joe Jackson. As Happy Felsch came to the plate some of his north side friends presented him with a bouquet of posies. The Milwaukee native responded by "soaking a double to the suburbs." The Sox scored three more runs in the second inning on a three run blast by Eddie Collins. Shoeless Joe followed with a triple, but was stranded on third base. The All-Stars managed a run off Lefty Williams in their half of the second inning, beginning with a walk to first baseman Henning. Future hall of fame catcher Ray Schalk then tried to pick Henning off first base, but threw wild, allowing the All-Star runner to advance to third base. Second baseman Braby singled him home a batter later to cut the Sox lead to 6 to 1. But six runs in the fourth inning by the Chicago men spelled the end for the Sheboygan star Braun.

After the fifth inning Rowland changed his entire team, either by rotating positions or taking his stars out of the game, except for keeping hometown hero Felsch in centerfield. This second string line-up still managed to score three runs off pitcher Stock.

The All-Stars gave the local turn out something to cheer about in the seventh inning when Conrad Reik hit a three run homer off the White Sox's star reliever Dave Danforth. The Milwaukee Sentinel reported:
"The wallop cleared the left field fence by several feet and boosted Mr. Reik to a position of great prominence on the south side. In fact, Jake Litz already has Connie's noble countenance painted on the mirror behind his bar."
[City directories of that year show Jac Lutze owned a saloon on the northwest corner of 6th and Arthur, and his son Jac Lutze Jr. owned a saloon at 801 West Mitchell Street.] The All-Stars managed to score two more runs in the ninth, to end the day on the wrong side of a 15 to 6 score.

The later famous (and infamous) White Sox players had a pretty good afternoon. Eddie Collins went 3 for 3, scoring three times, including the second inning home run. Fred McMullin had one ht and scored two runs. Joe Jackson had 3 hits in his 4 at bats and scored 2 runs. Hap Felsch went 3 for 5, scoring one run. Chick Gandil had only one hit in 5 at bats, but Swede Risberg went two for four and scored three times. Ray Schalk went hitless and had the Sox only error. Lefty Williams pitched well in his five innings of work, but the "demon rescuer" Dave Danforth "either did not have his fireman's clothes on or he took it easy, for the fresh young bushers took considerable liberty with his stuff," according to the Milwaukee Sentinel.

As the Milwaukee Daily News said of the afternoon:
"The luster of the Milwaukee All-Stars was considerably dimmed by the time the batfest was over, but the fans at least had the pleasure of watching the American league leaders in close-up action."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh! You Brewers!

This stunning pennant, made in 1913 to commemorate the Brewers' first pennant-winning season, comes to us from a recent MEARS auction. Those 1913 Brewers were a powerhouse club, winning 100 games in a particularly strong American Association.

They were led by skipper/third baseman Harry "Pep" Clark (right). Clark had been a fixture with the Brews as a third-sacker since 1904 (following his only major league appearance, a cup of coffee with the '03 White Sox). In 1913, team owner Agnes Havenor added "field general" to his duties, elevating him to the managerial spot vacated by her firing of skipper and local favorite Hugh Duffy.

Clark proved equally capably in both roles, hitting .286 with 159 hits, placing him at among the club's top batsmen, and guiding his club to a 100-67 mark.

The Brewers would cap off their 1913 campaign by beating the Denver Grizzlies in a post-season series to become the champions of Minor League ball.

The pennant itself has faded somewhat, as they often do. The reverse side gives us a better sense of its original navy-and-gold color scheme.

"Oh, You Brewers!" was a phrase associated with the 1913 club, as seen in this picture of the post-championship parade, which met the victorious players at the train station and wound its way across the Cream City.

Milwaukee welcomes home their champion Brewers
(Collection of Paul Tenpenny)

The sign on the far left, held aloft to the players as the parade streams by, shows us the signature phrase:

The New York Times reported on the festivities:
MILWAUKEE, Wis., Sept 30.—Milwaukee still is baseball mad, despite the fact that the American Association season closed yesterday. Several thousand "fans" crowded about the Union Station here to-day, and with brass bands and other noise-producing instruments welcomed home the Milwaukee team, winners of the association pennant, and incidentally the first pennant ever won by a Milwaukee team.

The players were escorted to automobiles which led a parade about the downtown districts. A big banquet in honor of the team will be held Thursday night, and seats for the function are selling at a premium. Theatre parties and receptions have been planned, and record-breaking crowds are expected to attend exhibition games to-morrow and Thursday with the Chicago Americans and Pittsburgh Nationals.
It's possible that this very pennant was proudly waved along the parade route, one more link between "baseball-mad" Milwaukee fans and the Brewers they loved.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


"Praise the Lord,
And Pass the ... Inspiration."

Bill Veeck returns to Milwaukee's Victory Garden.

by Paul Tenpenny
Copyright 2011 Tencentzports
Printed with permission of the Author

The snows of winter had blanketed the Victory Gardens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1944. The bounty of summer crops was harvested, consumed and what was left over canned for later use. The anticipation of Christmas and thoughts of family were on the minds of those hunkering down for the long Midwestern winter. Central to these thoughts were the husbands, sons and other loved ones, who were absent and serving their country in Europe, the Pacific and elsewhere.

Pfc. John R. Tenpenny left his wife Lucille and newborn son Peter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin while serving with the 6th Armored Division in Europe.

With the cold winds of December came the knowledge that the war was now entering its 4th year. Those at home did what they could to hasten the day of victory and prayed for the safety of their loved ones in harms way. Participating in conservation efforts and the National Defense Bond and Stamp program helped to supply the troops.

Original Sheet Music by Irving Berlin
(Author's collection)

While families pitched in where they could at home, soldiers abroad had to deal with life and death situations on a daily basis. Many of the fighting men were literally living " ... on a Wing and a Prayer."

Original Sheet Music "On a Wing and A Prayer"
(Author's collection)

For the GI, the letters from home were a most precious keepsake and were read and reread, over and over, again and again. Any reminder of home and what they were fighting for was held onto tenaciously. Letters, photos of wives, girlfriends, movie stars and entertainers were welcomed reminders of what they left behind. If not stashed in their helmets, they were found in footlockers or any other convenient places to remind them of home.

Airplanes became the canvases for artists in uniform who decorated the noses of their planes with painted ladies for good luck.

1940's Esquire Magazine Alberto Vargas Pinup
(Author's Collection)

A popular artist at the time was Alberto Vargas, whose work appeared in Esquire Magazine during the war years. His whimsical poses were very popular as were the "Petty Girls" done by artist George Petty.

Popular music and its performers were very patriotic and supportive of the soldiers. Bing Crosby, Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters were just a few of the favorites of the "Boogie Woogie Bugle" boys far from home.

Original Sheet Music by the Andrews Sisters
(Author's Collection)

Radio and movie personality Bob Hope would begin a journey to entertain the troops that would last for a half century as he and members of his radio program began visiting soldiers during World War II.

Bob Hope, Frances Langford and guitarist Tony Romano
(Author's Collection)

As for the importance of what they were doing, literally risking their lives to be with GI's and what it meant to the soldiers, Bob Hope shared this letter he received from the father of a GI.
Dear Mom and Dad,

It was not officially announced that I know of, but the word spread like wildfire, "Bob Hope is in town!" When I arrived where I was told he was coming, there was a tremendous crush. Fifteen thousand is a conservative estimate. All of a sudden Hope came in riding in a command car followed by two more. He came up on the grandstand dressed in baggy trousers, an ordinary coat , and an open-neck collar. His nose was really sunburned and caught the brunt of a lot of his own jokes. He brought out Jack Pepper and Tony Romano, and they were great. And then all of a sudden Bob said,

"Here's Frances Langford."

There was a din you would not believe. She sang and she sang from the bottom of her heart.

"You Made Me Love You."

"Embraceable You."

Every one of those thousands of men went home to their wives and sweethearts.
There was not a sound and there was not a movement ... She will never know what it did to us.

It was almost more than a man could stand ...
December 1944

Specialist 3rd Class Wes Livengood (18-4 last year pitching for Milwaukee) is pitching while in training camp in Bainbridge, Maryland.

S/Sgt. Nick Kamzic (Brewer rookie)
is "Somewhere in France"

A still, snow covered Borchert Field is a warm welcome for the President of the Milwaukee Brewers
Bill Veeck came home Wednesday afternoon, December 13, 1944. Dusk was beginning to fall as he stepped from the 5:10 train at the Milwaukee Road in his uniform as private, first class, in the Marine Corps and greeted friends with the same old Veeck grin. All of the ball park gang was on hand to welcome the president of the Brewers and he was glad to see them. As he limped across the tracks to the street with his cane, he looked at the familiar scene up N. 3rd St. and he was glad to see that too.

Persons in passing automobiles craned their necks, waved and yelled, "Hi Bill!" as they recognized him while he waited at the curb for a car to be brought around. He was going to his farm near West Bend, where Mrs. Veeck and his three children awaited him, but first he had to visit Borchert Field.

Bill got out of the car at the park and hobbled over the icy sidewalk to the ticket sellers' corner, where the beer barrel man, Awgoost, looks down from the outside wall and cutout letters stand up from the roof's edge to tell everyone that this is the "Milwaukee Brewers." Bill leaned on his cane, standing in the snow, and looked up at the place.

"Boy oh Boy!" he said. "Boy oh Boy!"

Then he walked a few steps and laid his hand on the wall. "It's real!" he said. "I've pictured this in my mind a thousand times down in the south Pacific."

The others had gone into the office and forgotten to set the spring lock. Bill had to pound on the door with his cane and yell "Hey, Lemme in!" Once inside, he walked under the stand toward the office and then turned back, saying, "I've got to talk a look at the park." He mounted the incline and stood at the entrance. The grandstand seats had a layer of snow. Bill just stood and took it in.

In the office under the stands he went around banging his cane on the desks and walls. "Some office!" he beamed. He tapped a sign at the ticket desk which read, 'Silence, Genius at Work,' and asked, "Does it do any good?" He looked at pictures of last season's Brewer players on the wall and gave an approving nod, "Great, Great!" He walked into his old private office and looked around, probably missing the junk which had accumulated in the corners, on the desk and bookcase while he used it, but gone now.

He sat down at the desk and tried the swivel chair and patted the desk with both hands. Then his eyes lit on the telephone and he exclaimed:

"Oh my gosh! I've got to call Ellen!"

He called up the West Bend farm and told his wife that he was on his way. Then he took an overcoat off a hanger, picked up his cane and said, "Well, I've got to get going. Ellen and the kids are waiting for me."

At the door he turned and took in the whole gang with a sweep of his cane.

"Lunch tomorrow, fellows," he ordered. "Lunch at the same old place and don't be in a hurry to go back to work. We have a lot of talking to do."

(R.G. Lynch - Milwaukee Journal)

A smiling Bill Veeck at his desk once again
(Author’s Collection)

Pfc. Bill Veeck's work began before his brief December visit to Milwaukee. From the Corona Naval Hospital in Corona, California where he was receiving medical care, he resumed his job as president of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Veeck was the first baseball club president to enter the armed forces, joining the United States Marines December 4, 1943. After boot camp Veeck was sent to the Pacific and was stationed at New Caledonia, Guadalcanal and Guam before being hospitalized with jungle ulcers and a recurring ankle injury. The ankle originally injured years ago in college, collapsed on him in the Pacific. Since arriving in the United States he has spent most of this time at the Naval Hospital at Corona, California where a series of operations were performed.

First on the agenda was finding a replacement for manager Casey Stengel who Veeck had tried to resign for 1945. But according to Stengel, by the time he received the offer from Bill Veeck, Casey had already committed to join the Yankees organization and manage the Kansas City Blues. Subsequently Veeck learned in early November that Bill Meyer, manager of the International League's Newark Bears, had declined his offer as manager and would prefer to remain part of the New York Yankee organization also.

Veeck would be successful in finding a replacement shortly thereafter. Milwaukee announced that Henry Nicholas (Nick) Cullop would leave the Columbus Red Birds to become the Brewers skipper for 1945. The "Hipper Dipper" had managed the St. Louis Cardinal affiliate Red Birds for the past two years and was named the American Association’s manager of the year in 1943 for leading that team to victory in the playoffs and Little World Series that year. He beat Charlie Grimm’s Milwaukee Brewers 3 games to 1, then swept the Indianapolis Indians. In the LWS he beat the International League's Syracuse Chiefs, 4 games to 1.

Nick had a solid career as a baseball player. He played 5 years as a major leaguer and spent 21 years in the minors. Before moving up to manage the Red Birds, Cullop did double duty as a player manager for the Class B Asheville Tourists in 1941 in the Piedmont League and did the same in 1942 for the Class C Pocatello Cardinals of the Pioneer League, both St. Louis Cardinals affiliates.

Having been both a pitcher and an outfielder, the power hitting Cullop had an impressive .312 batting average with 420 home runs. Nick was a favorite of Milwaukee fans at Borchert Field and was called a "home run hitter deluxe." He would bring a lot to the Milwaukee Brewers team as their manager. He was well aware that he had two tough acts to follow in Charlie Grimm and Casey Stengel.

Manager Nick Cullop at Waukesha's Frame Field
(Milwaukee Journal)

In spite of their weather woes last year in Waukesha, Wisconsin, general manager Rudy Schaffer announced November 21st that Milwaukee would again be holding spring workouts at Waukesha's Frame Field. In spite of some hardships, experienced by all baseball teams, they would not be venturing further south until we "whipped the Germans." It was still up to the Office of Defense Transportation and Commissioner Landis to give the ok for travel and that was not going to happen with the war going on. Trying to put the best spin on the situation, Schaffer kept things optimistic and did not mention Charlie Grimm’s protestations of last spring. He reminded everyone of their winning the pennant the past two years after training in Waukesha.

Draft Status: Baseball's new "vital" statistic

The Brewers had to keep an eye on the changing draft status of players when putting their team together. Several players were being reclassified. Floyd Speer, a pitcher Nick Cullop was looking to for being a starter was classified 1A (eligible for military service). The most desirable status for teams in search of players when considering trades was 4F (not acceptable for military service). The Brewers had several, some having physical disabilities but their status could change depending on the directives of the mobilization director. The Milwaukee roster also had 3 players that were classified 1C (medically discharged). A couple more players, Lew Flick and Owen Scheetz were classified 2C (working in defense plants).

The Milwaukee Brewers would begin spring training without the services of coach Red Smith who would be joining former skipper Charlie Grimm in Chicago with the Cubs. Richard Smith was a valuable part of the Brewer organization for the 8 years he spent in Milwaukee. He was an excellent judge of talent and had a close relationship with the players. He would be missed.

Even though Bill Veeck was occupied with his own serious health issues in California, he wasted no time phoning outfielder Bill "Willie Card" Norman to offer him the job to replace Smith as coach.

Change was a constant in the minor leagues and the Milwaukee Brewers were not immune from those year to year changes. Many of the players from the Brewers 1944 roster received their "promotions" to the Major Leagues, so Veeck and company were already working to strengthen the team because of these departures.

To buttress their outfield, Lew Flick was picked up from Philadelphia. He was both a speedster and a solid hitter. Slugger Bill Burgo was picked up from Toledo, hitting .324 for the Mud Hens last season. Bill Norman would remain available as player/coach and was assured of plenty of playing time by manager Cullop.

Spring training in Waukesha proved to be nothing like the nightmare of 1944. While it was cold at the outset as with years before, they trained inside at the Hartland site until it got warmer outside. The Brewers wanted to make sure that none of the pitchers got cold or had soreness to any extent due to the cold.

For the most part, the weather seemed to cooperate with Milwaukee and the Brewers got a good look at their prospect and veterans.

Cullop was pleased with the nucleus of players he had returning from the past season: Julio Acosta, Arky Biggs, Jack Farmer, Floyd Speer and Owen Scheetz. He predicted that his 1945 Brewers were going to be "a real battling, colorful club next year." Bill Burgo lived up to expectations and "spanked" out the hits in preseason play. The "little" outfielder was making quite an impression.

Their outfield was pretty much set, but they were in need of infielders and another catcher and looked to replace Dick Culler and Tommy Nelson who were traded to Boston.

April 1945

Sgt. James Daublender (Brewer rookie pitcher)
was "Somewhere in the Aleutians."

Pfc. Bill Veeck sent greetings and best wishes to all Milwaukeeans as he was still in Corona Naval Hospital recovering from surgery. Bill had one leg in a cast and that ankle would be stiff for life. The other leg was in bandages and for awhile, there was a danger that he could have lost that leg. But Bill seemed more concerned with his Milwaukee Brewers.

Flags were at half staff at Borchert Field to honor President Franklin D. Roosevelt who passed away on April 12, 1945.

With the season about to begin, Nick "Tomato Face" Cullop felt his Milwaukee Brewers were ready for 1945. Their outfield had probably some of the best players in the Association, with slugger Bill Burgo and Lew "the Flash" Flick whose speed on the base paths as well as in the outfield would be an asset for the team. Rounding it out would be steady Bill Norman and Ed Kobesky. The opening infield would be Clarence "Buck" Etchison at 1st, Joe Rullo at 2nd, Arky Biggs playing shortstop and Gene Nance at 3rd. Joe Stephenson, would share the catching duties with Tommy Padden. Handyman Otto Denning was ready to step in at catcher if needed. Denning was a versatile player who could catch, play at 1st base or in the outfield.

Newcomers to the pitching staff, Carl Lindquist, Jack McGillen and Bob Mistelle would join the veteran crew of Julio Acosta, Jack Farmer, Don Hendrickson, Owen Scheetz and Floyd Speer.

The home opener was scheduled for April 25th against the Minneapolis Millers. The Brewers would continue playing morning games as long as there was interest in them and the first one of the season was scheduled to start at 10 am April 30th. With some of the blackout restrictions being lifted, 34 more of the popular night games were scheduled for 1945, the first being May 17th against Louisville.

Fans were being asked to contribute to another war effort. A fairly easy one, instead of keeping fouls hit into the grandstand as souvenirs, they were asked to return balls hit into the grandstands to the ushers. The baseballs collected would be sent to the various Army camps for use in their recreational games.

1945 Schedule
(Author's Collection)

The April 18th opener in Minneapolis with the Millers had been postponed due to the cold weather. Bill Veeck was assuring manager Nick Cullop that he would shore up the Milwaukee Brewers roster with a couple of infielders, a catcher and another pitcher.

Predictions for 1945 were pretty grim. Prognosticators failed for the first time since 1942 to pick Milwaukee to finish first.

According to the Milwaukee Journal's Sam Levy, the Brewers were expected to do no better than 4th place behind Louisville, Toledo and Columbus. Milwaukee's outfield was considered their strong suit but the infield needed shoring up, especially at shortstop. Arky Biggs was more at home playing 2nd and 3rd base. He did play the shortstop position for part of last season too. It was felt that, at 36 years old, he did not have the range to make the plays or execute the long throws from that position.

Milwaukee Brewers 1945 Roster and Statistics
(Courtesy of Rex Hamann /American Association Almanac)

The 1945 Milwaukee Brewers team was a "typical Bill Veeck outfit" according to R.G. Lynch of the Milwaukee Journal. Heavy on hitting, he would rather have a good hitting squad, sometimes overlooking fielding and speed as long as they can "pickle the pill." The record of the past 3 years seems to have proved his case. Lynch, unlike Levy, felt the Brewers would again be favored to win the American Association and would lead the league in hitting. Only time would tell which Journal scribe would be right!

1945 Milwaukee Brewers Program
(Author's Collection)

Cold weather greeted the Milwaukee "Eskimos" for the home opener April 25th, but the Brewers should have stayed home. Shortstop Florian Zielinski gave up four of the game's 6 unearned runs in the 7-4 loss. Shortstop definitely loomed as Milwaukee's most vulnerable position as the benched Zielinski's replacement, Aldo Cavarello's bad throw gave up another unearned tally later in the game. Neither player would last long in Brewer uniforms.

The cold weather would continue to be a factor as postponement would follow postponement. In spite of traveling 1300 miles to 3 cities in the first two weeks of the season, Milwaukee only played one game during that time. The idleness of the team was preventing the Brewers from getting into playing shape, something they needed to do and soon if they were to be competitive this year. Many of the players on the Brewers starting squad came late in the spring. Manager Cullop was confident that they would "play into shape."

May 1945

Wes Livengood writes he is
"On his way over."

Sgt. Nick Kamzic is ok,
but was 'winged' in Germany.

Sgt. James Daublander, (Brewer rookie pitcher from Mosinee) is stationed in the Aleutians, he doesn't have much chance to play baseball there ... but follows it in the Sporting News.

Milwaukee's poor play led to their losing a 5-3 decision on May 5th in the opening series in Louisville against the Colonels. 2 errors in the 8th inning by the infield dropped the Brewers into 3rd place. Their hitting was still missing in action with only 4 hits and the team leaving 10 men on base.

On May 7th the Milwaukee Brewers were 6-5 and in 3rd place. Other news that day was a bit more important than baseball box scores.

Victory was declared over Germany!

New Yorkers Stop and Pray for "Victory in Europe Day" - May 7th, 1945
(Author's Collection)

America and the world were elated with the victory over Germany and they celebrated the declaration of VE Day, but there was still a job to do in the Pacific with Japan. With Europe now safe there was a growing hope that the nightmare of World War II would soon be over.

Northwest Airlines Training Poster
With Germany and Italy defeated, Japan was next!
(Author's Collection)

On May 8th, Milwaukee's bats came alive as the Brewers battled back to win a 6-3 decision against the Indianapolis Indians. After spotting them 3 runs in the first inning, pitcher Bob Mistele settled down after a shaky first inning and pitched a good ball game. He held them to just two more hits for the rest of the game.

Mistele's performance would earn him a starting spot in the Brewers rotation. Manager Cullop seemed satisfied with the current infield having Denning at first, Rullo at 2nd, Biggs at shortstop and Nance at 3rd.

May 11th's game was a rainout for the Brewers for their 10th postponement of the young season. Originally scheduled to play 24 double headers, they were now up to 34. More were expected and Nick Cullop was worried about his pitching staff. How could he keep his pitchers in shape if they didn't get work? With all the double headers coming up his pitchers would have to be "Iron men" to handle the work load.

After their 12th postponement, Pitcher Don Hendrickson suggested that the league take a two week recess to start spring training over again. He went on to say that they were in better shape 5 weeks ago.

The Brewers would be home May 17th after breaking even on the road trip. The "amphibious Brewers" were hoping for better weather and play at home. "Cullop's crustaceans" still need time to sort out the best players as after a month of play, Nick needed more time to know and set his team. The Brewers were in 4th place with a 9-7 record.

The Milwaukee Brewers would battle at home and fought their way back to first place by the end of the home stand with a 17-9 record. Nick Cullop had managed his team well and was settling in. He reminded people of Charlie Grimm, but Nick was more decisive than Charlie. Where Grimm would hesitate sometimes with pitching changes, some would say, waiting too long to pull a struggling pitcher, Cullop was quick with the hook. His strategy was anything but automatic in how he ran his game, matching his calls to the situation and making adjustments.

"Tomato Face" was proving to be a very capable field general.

June 1945

T/Sgt. Eddie Karas, Brewer rookie pitcher, writes from Brussels Belgium says he has enough points to be discharged by the end of July.

Pitcher Walter Lanfranconi is still stationed in Germany.

Lee Balser, Brewer Pitcher in 1941 has been in the South Pacific for over 35 months.

The road trip blues started with their end of May trip against the Kansas City Blues. It would continue into early June dropping the Brews from 1st place. Errors again played a starring role in the Brewer defeats but their hitting would also turn sour.

Cullop wasted no time in shaking things up, benching veteran Bill Norman and shifting his outfield around. The Brewers would exchange places from 1st to 3rd for much of the month. The entire first division was neck and neck.

The Milwaukee Brewers purchased pitcher Elmer Burkart and infielder Johnny Price from the Columbus Red Birds in mid June. The Brewers had quality in their pitching but not quantity and the 4-3 Burkart was seen as insurance for the upcoming double headers.

Price, for the same reason, would spell the Brewer regulars of Biggs, Denning, Nance and Rullo in the infield. He hit pretty well from the left side and had a .288 batting average with the Birds.

"The Johnny Price Show"
(Author's Collection)

John Price was a great addition to the team. Besides playing baseball he was a one man circus. The snake charmer, contortionist, acrobat was favorite of fans across the country because of his pre-game clowning.

Price was all business when playing a game. He was very entertaining when doing his act. He excelled in trick throws and catches while standing on his head or hanging suspended by his feet and catching batted balls.

Johnny was a perfect fit for the Borchert Field vaudeville show which was continued by acting President Rudy Schaffer and Vice President Mickey Heath during Bill Veeck's absence. On June 25th, Price joined in the festivities by charming snakes and did his throwing and catching routine. He was joined on the field by "fiddling" pitcher Jack McGillen, singing by Louisville Colonel crooner Rex Cecil and a special surprise appearance by tenor James Melton.

It was so successful that Milwaukee would schedule another special "Johnny Price Show" for August 18th at Borchert Field prior to their night game with the Toledo Mud Hens.

July 1945

By the 4th of July, it was a 5 team race with Milwaukee back in first place. Nick Cullop predicted a "hell of a race" for the pennant. He said the team that wins the championship would have to battle each and every team in the league. The team seemed to be poised to make their move. With the sale of pitcher Don Hendrickson to Boston, they picked up a good shortstop in Elmer Weingartner, catcher Mike Ulisney, Larry Rosenthal for the outfield and a boost to their pitching staff with the addition of Ewald Pyle.

The Brewers battled and played well in July and were just a game back of Indianapolis in the league with a record of 60-38 by July 26th. The race would remain tight.

August 1945

T/Sgt. Eddie Karas expected discharge did not happen. He finds himself in England helping with rehabilitation of wounded Yanks.

The welcome mat was being readied for Corporal Bill Veeck who would soon be returning to Milwaukee after 20 months in the Marines.

By August, the torrid pennant race was between 3 teams, Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Louisville. The lead switched back and forth early on between the Brews and the Indians. Manager Cullop was confident they were well positioned to recapture the lead from Indianapolis. The Brewers had performed well on the road and would be returning home August 11th to open a four game set against the Indianapolis Indians, followed by a four game series against Louisville.

Indianapolis skipper Bill Burrell felt that the "team that got the breaks would win the pennant."

Milwaukee would lose the series 3 games to 1 to the front runners from Indy, falling behind them by 3 1/2 games. But the race would continue to stay close.

Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945
(Photo Courtesy of the National Archives)

After facing intense conventional bombing and finally two devastating atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and August 9th, Japan announced its surrender on August 14, 1945. Victory over Japan or "VJ Day" was declared and celebrated worldwide. The formal surrender occurred aboard the USS Missouri in Japan harbor on September 2, 1945.

World War II was history.

Bill Veeck was released from the hospital at Corona, California and was expected to be home, in "sport shirt," by Monday August 20th.

Bill was welcomed home by 10,000 fans August 21st during a double header against Columbus. His team swept the pair from the Red Birds, 4-2 and 7-3, closing the gap to just a half game in the American Association race. Good pitching by Owen Scheetz and Ewald Pyle led the team to the twin victories for the inspired Brewers. No pre-game pep talk was needed as Manger Cullop overheard his players say that they wanted to win the two games for Bill Veeck.

On August 23rd the Brewers recaptured the lead in the American Association with a 3-2 victory over last place Columbus. The pitching of lefty Julio Acosta and timely hitting by Gene Nance to drive in what would be the winning RBI in the seventh inning secured the game for the hometown Brews. The Indianapolis Indians helped the Brewers cause by losing their 4th straight game to the Millers.

On Saturday August 25th, Bill Veeck rewarded his first place skipper Nick Cullop with a new contract and a substantial raise for 1946. Long before he left the hospital in California, Bill had decided to extend the contract of Cullop, but wanted the pleasure of being there to sign him in person.

An August 26th twin killing of Casey Stengel's Kansas city Blues vaulted Milwaukee to a 4 game lead.

September 1945

T/Sgt. Nick Kamzic and Sgt. Leon Balzer were recent visitors at Borchert Field. Both were expected to be with the Brewers next year.

Bill Veeck was back in the hospital, recovering from another surgery on his ankle at Milwaukee's St. Joseph's Hospital. He was in great spirits and expected to be in attendance during the upcoming double header September 3rd with Kansas City.
Have wheel chair, will travel.

In spite of losing 4 late season games to the Millers, the Brewers maintained their 3 1/2 game lead over Indy.

Milwaukee would clinch its 3rd consecutive American Association title on September 8th with a 5-1 victory over the Saint Paul Saints at Borchert Field.

The Brewers finished the 1945 season with a 93-61 record.

Once again a set of Milwaukee Brewers baseball cards by the Grand Photo Studio was offered for sale at Borchert Field and by mail. The 1945 set contained 16 cards but is probably the hardest of the 3 series to find. They were similar to the previous year, using identical photos for those players returning from 1944.

Julio Acosta / Arky Biggs
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Cuban left hander Julio Acosta had his best season with Milwaukee in 1945. He finished with a record of 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA in his 186 innings pitched.

"Fighting" Arky Biggs had another splendid season with a .320 batting average with 164 hits, 6 home runs and 70 RBI's. He was a steadying influence in the infield and gave everything he had in each game. He divided his time between shortstop and 2nd base, doing well at both positions in spite of his age.

Bill Burgo / Nick Cullop
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Outfielder Bill Burgo added extra punch to the league leading Milwaukee Brewers in 1945. He hit for a .277 batting average in his 147 games. He had 147 hits with 6 round trippers and drove in 86 runs.

Manager Nick Cullop made the most out of his players, taking the Brews to a record tying 3rd consecutive American Association Pennant. The pugnacious manager's style garnered respect in the league and he was a favorite of players and fans alike. Cullop was named the Sporting News Manager of the Year, his second nod in 3 years.

"Peaches" Davis/ Otto Denning
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Roy "Peaches" Davis was winless with 3 losses in Milwaukee with a 4.11 ERA in 1945.

Otto Denning was a valuable player for the Brewers in 1945, a solid anchor at 1st base all season with his .987 fielding average and with his ability to hit. He averaged a .306 BA, gathering 148 hits with 9 home runs and 92 RBI's to boot! An aggressive player, Bill Veeck was glad to finally have him on the team, having had his eye on him prior to 1945.

Lew Flick / Don Hendrickson
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Outfielder Lew "the Flash" Flick was a novelty in Milwaukee. This team was used to "muscle men" on the squad, but his speed helped the team in the field and on the base paths. The 1945 American Association batting champ led the league in hitting with 215 base hits in 575 at bats for a .374 batting average. He hit 11 out of the park with 92 runs batted in. He had 12 stolen bases and fielded a .982 average in the outfield.

Don Hendrickson was a solid pitcher for Milwaukee. Manager Nick Cullop used him as a model for the younger pitchers during spring training. The veteran had a 2.72 ERA and a 8-2 record over 106 innings pitched before deservedly moving up to the Boston Braves in July.

Ed Kobesky / Carl Lindquist
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Milwaukee had high hopes for outfielder Ed Kobesky, but he hit a disappointing .189 for the Brews, appearing in 57 games.

Pitcher Carl Lindquist went 8-5 in 186 innings for Milwaukee in 1945.

Jack McGillen / Gene Nance
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Jack McGillen went 1-1 for Milwaukee in his 32 inning stint with the Brewers.

3rd baseman Gene Nance led the league with 106 RBI, batting a solid .317. He collected 179 hits in 564 at bats. 17 of them were home runs.

Bill Norman / Joe Rullo
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

"Coach" Norman's other job in 1945 had him in the outfield as a part timer. In his 53 games with Milwaukee he hit .236 before being sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League in July.

2nd sacker Joe "the Barber" Rullo collected 133 in 475 at bats for a .280 average while with Milwaukee in 1945.

Owen Scheetz / Floyd Speer
Grand Studio Cards
(Author's Collection)

Owen Scheetz was the Milwaukee mound ace in 1945 hurling a 19-8 record with 20 complete games. He had a stingy 1.95 ERA against his American Association opponents for the year.

Floyd Speer was a major leaguer with the White Sox in 1944. He had an assortment of pitches with good speed on his fastball. He tallied a 12-8 record in 182 innings for Milwaukee in the 1945 season.

1945 Milwaukee Brewers Postcard
(Author's Collection)

An interesting patch can be seen on the left sleeve of 3 of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1945 Milwaukee Brewers team photograph. Mike Ulisney top row far right, Arky Biggs, middle row 2nd from right and Johnny Price-front row left next to Rudy Schaffer, all wear the "ruptured duck" patch on their game uniforms. The patch showed that they served their country honorably in World War II.

"Ruptured Duck" Baseball Patch
(Replica-Author's Collection)

Some returning baseball players chose to wear this "Ruptured Duck" insignia patch on their uniforms. The Golden Eagle upon a military green background was representative of the pin and patch worn by returning serviceman to indicate their honorable discharge.

"Ruptured Duck" Baseball Patch
Biggs and Ulisney

"Ruptured Duck" Baseball Patch
Johnny Price

Military Insignia Patch and Pin
(Author's Collection)

The patch and pin were issued to service personnel who were about to leave the military with an Honorable Discharge. It allowed them to continue to wear their uniform for up to thirty days after they were discharged since there was a clothing shortage at that time. Soldiers thought the eagle looked more like a duck and because it meant they were going home, the popular saying was, "They took off like a Ruptured Duck"...hence the nickname.

1945 American Association Champions
(Author's Collection)

Nick Cullop's Milwaukee Brewers were picked to barely escape the 2nd division before the start of 1945. The scrappy makeshift wartime Brewers team had something to prove and they did, finishing the season on top with a record of 93-61.

Milwaukee led the league in hitting and got an outstanding performance from batting champion Lew Flick who belted 215 hits with a .374 batting average. Veteran Arky Biggs came through with a .320 batting average while 3rd baseman Gene Nance batted .317 with 106 RBI's. "Handyman" Otto Denning contributed a solid .306 batting average.

Infielder Arky Biggs at Borchert Field
(Author’s Collection)

Milwaukee's starting pitching was solid with Owen Scheetz leading the American Association with a 19-8 record including 20 complete games out of 25 starts. Bill Davis went 15-4, Julio Acosta finished the season at 15-10 with Don Hendrickson pitching in at 8-2 and Floyd Speer 12-8.

Pitcher Owen Scheetz at Borchert Field
(Author’s Collection)

As with last year, the Milwaukee Brewers would open the first round of the playoffs against the 3rd place Louisville Colonels. Milwaukee lost the home opener 9-1 as everything went wrong for the Brews. Julio Acosta pitched well for the first 3 innings scattering a pair of hits, but he melted down in inning 4 allowing 7 runs in that frame.

Larry Rosenthal saved them from being shut out with a home run in the 6th inning. The champs were dejected after the loss, but manager Cullop reminded them it was only the first game.

Pitcher Julio Acosta at Borchert Field
(Author’s Collection)

The vanquished became the vindicated as game 2 was won in 11 innings by Julio Acosta. Milwaukee bounced back with a 4-3 victory. Acosta came in the 10th inning with the game tied at 3-3 to relieve Owen Scheetz. Acosta reached base on an error in the 11th inning and Johnny Price tripled the pitcher home to even the series at a game apiece.

Game 3 went to Louisville as the hero of game 2, Johnny Price became the goat. Four errors were committed by the shortstop. The first three were harmless for the Brews, but number 4 opened the door in 9th inning. 2 runs scored and the Brewers went down 2 games to 1 in the series.

In game 4, the "papier mache" defense and anemic hitting led to a 7-2 loss. Two errors in the 2nd inning led to their demise, Louisville scoring 4 times that inning. The champs had their backs to the wall down 3 games to 1.

Chiding his players for their lackadaisical performance before the game seemed to spark some life into the Brewers in game 5. After Hipper's dressing down, they overcame a bad start. Milwaukee, with Julio Acosta pitching, hung on for the 6-4 victory.

Pitcher Floyd Speer at Borchert Field
(Author’s Collection)

Manager Cullop shook up his lineup for game 6, replacing Johnny Price at short with Arky Biggs taking over that position. An ill Otto Denning, in spite of a sore throat came back to play at first. The Brewers were out hit 16-8 but the game was tied going into the 10th inning. Floyd Speer gave up two singles (one of them because he failed to cover first base). The next batter tried to sacrifice but it led to a force out. A single loaded the bases with only one out. The next hitter flied out to Arky Biggs for the 2nd out, but Louisville's Frank "Chick" Genovese drove in the winning run with a single.

As with Casey Stengel's 1944 squad last year, Cullop's Brews lost to Louisville 4 games to 2. Milwaukee was out of the playoffs after one round for the 3rd straight year.

After his team led the league in batting, Cullop was unable to explain the lack of hitting in the playoff series.

Unlike his predecessors, he took it hard. Bill Veeck told him not to be upset by the loss, but Cullop did NOT like to lose.

1945 Signed Team Baseball
(Author's Collection)

On October 26, 1945 the Bill Veeck era came to an end when he sold his interest in the Milwaukee Brewers to Chicago attorney Oscar Salenger. Bill Veeck was reported to have tried to sell to local investors, but his desire to join his ill wife in Arizona induced him to finalize the deal with Salenger quickly. Rudy Schaffer was quickly elected President to succeed his former boss. Immediately, Shaffer and Manager Nick Cullop moved on to the job of improving the Milwaukee Brewer squad for 1946.

Veeck Turns over Ownership of the
Brews to Oscar Salenger
(Author's Collection)

Bill Veeck would not be away from baseball for long. His story was just beginning. William Veeck Jr.'s short time in Milwaukee (1941-1945) left a lasting imprint on the city. He believed in Milwaukee as a Big League baseball town. He proved that if you fielded a quality team, the fans of this city would support them.

In September, he cautioned the fans at the end of the season that you could not expect a pennant every year. Baseball just didn't work that way, especially with the constant changes in the minor leagues.

Veeck took over a team in trouble in 1941. By 1942 he just missed coming in 1st. The Milwaukee Brewers under his leadership captured 3 consecutive pennants in 1943, 1944 and 1945. In spite of his cautioning about lofty expectations, his record speaks for itself.

After his departure at the end of the 1945 season, the Milwaukee Brewers would continue to be a very competitive and exciting team. In the next 7 seasons they would finish in the 1st division for all but two of those years. They would go on to win 2 more American Association pennants (1951, 1952) and twice win the Little World Series. (1947, 1951).

What he began would continue ...

Thanks Bill!

Stay tuned for
Vintage Brew
Volume 4
in 2011