Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Heroes and Their Goat

by Dennis Pajot

As with most legends, the truth is hard to track down, and there are varying stories. Thus I present what I know of the "Borchert Field Goat". Of course, when this took place the baseball park at 8th and Chambers was still known as Athletic Park.

The Milwaukee Journal of September 14, 1913, gave the goat's story an origin. At the start of that season, on an off-day, pitcher Ralph Cutting (right) and outfielder Larry Chappell went out and found someone who was looking to get rid of a goat. The two found such a person and bought a goat to bring to the ballpark as a mascot.

According to the newspaper the next day was a Sunday with Columbus in town, and "Mr. Goat" made its first appearance at Athletic Park. The Journal tells us: "Cutting was doing the pitching that day and was going along like a house afire until the ninth inning when with two strikes on Mr. Jones, one of the Senators, he sent one right across the dish and Jones gave it a healthy lout that sent it over the left field wall for a homer and Cutting was forced to suffer a defeat".

My research on the 1913 Brewers shows this game was played on Sunday, May 25. The only off days in Milwaukee previous to this game were May 13 and 14, then May 20 and 21, due to rain outs. Immediately prior to the May 25 game the Brewers played a doubleheader against the Indianapolis Hoosiers on Thursday, May 22, and single games against the Columbus Senators on May 23 and 24. Thus the goat was probably bought by Cutting and Chappell on Tuesday, May 20 or Wednesday, May 21.

The Sunday 2 to 1 loss almost cost "Mr. Goat" his life. The Journal reported
That night an indignation meeting was held and "Sluggie" Walter [a tavern keeper near the ball park] and a number of players wanted to go to the yard and give the goat the proper treatment that a jinx is supposed to get, but some one told them to lay off. The goat came near seeing some of his brothers in the other world so he settled down to be a real mascot and he has been ever since.
In the goat's defense the home run might have been a little tainted. Bill Jones' home run was hit over the fence in the left field corner. James Murray, no doubt the least favorite umpire for Milwaukee fans in the American Association, called it fair and fans attempted to mob the arbiter. Manager Harry "Pep" Clark kept the fans back until Murray got under the stands and out of harm's way. The fans still wanted a piece of the umpire and a squad of police was called to break up the crowd. Manning Vaughan, the Milwaukee Sentinel beat writer, thought Jones' hit a fair ball, but said "it was so close that Murray could have called it either way without hurting his conscience any, presuming, of course, that he has one, which we doubt."

Ralph Cutting later told the Journal: "It's an educated goat. Look at him follow the ground keeper around and help him to take up the bases. That goat knows what they are for, and he is getting so that he knows when Cutting makes a hit, but then that does not keep him worrying much."

The goat roaming in the outfield did cause problems here and there. During a Wisconsin-Illinois League game in June, Cutting's mascot furnished the fans with amusement when several of the Milwaukee Mollys' and Oshkosh Indians' players had a hard time trying to chase the goat off the field. They did not succeed until the eighth inning, when he took up his stand near the top of the centerfield bleachers.

On July 14, 1913, Larry Chappell was traded to the Chicago White Sox. Tongue in cheek (perhaps) the Journal claimed it did not know if Larry sold his interest in the goat. But as he was not hitting well in the American League, he probably wished he had the goat with him.

The Brewers were in contention all year and finished the season with a four game stand in Louisville. Thirty or so fans took a special train to Louisville, even taking the mascot goat with them. A split of the series was enough to give the Brewers their first American Association championship.

The pennant-winning 1913 Milwaukee Brewers

Close-up: pitcher Joe Hovlik and the Brewers' "educated" mascot

Although I have not begun my research on the 1914 season, I can say the goat was still at the ballpark. The following description of a game between the local Schlitz and Traffic Club teams at Athletic Park in July gives us some humor on the mascot situation:
In the last half of the fourth inning, Jensch, pitcher for the Schlitz team, decried what he termed "a goat-like angel," trotting along the roof of the grandstand, perfectly silhouetted against a clear sky. He says he intended to throw an inshoot but the sudden appearance of the Cutting goat jarred him so that he cannot tell what he threw.

At any rate the ball fouled and bounced against the screen in front of the aforesaid Cutting goat, which uttered a loud, belligerent "Ba-Ha-ha-ha." This was followed by a vicious attempt on the part of the goat to butt a hole in the wire screen.

"Get the goat!" was the cry which found hearty response from the spectators, and a general stampede was made for the stairs leading to the roof, and the poor goat was dragged down by the horns.

Billy was put into the grandstand where he was content to consume paper bags, pasteboard boxes and other delectables [sic] left about by the unappreciative.

His next stunt was to saunter across the field and once more change the course of Mr. Dietrich's enthusiasm. [Nick Dietrich was a very vocal fan, apparently well known to Borchert Field baseball fans.] Mr. Dietrich grabbed a bat and, followed by pitcher, catcher and umpire, started after the poor goat and drove him far into center field.

When in the last inning the Traffics put in a sub-pitcher Bill was seen entertaining the left fielder, who had opened the door leading through the back fence and stood with his glove ready for any emergency.
The goat stayed at Athletic Park throughout the 1914 season. On October 3, 1914, the Sentinel wrote of an exhibition game between the Brewers and Detroit Tigers, "while (Detroit manager Hughie) Jennings was busy tearing grass, some fan in the stand yelled for him to leave some of it for Cutting's goat".

The Brewers took the pennant again in 1914, finishing with a record of 98-68. After the end of the season, Ralph Cutting retired to tend to his business affairs. As for the Borchert Field Goat, we don't know. He drops out of the newspapers, and may have retired as well. If so, he earned it; two pennants in two years as the Brewers' mascot and assistant groundskeeper.

Editor's Note: Dennis has continued to research the Brewers' grass-chewing mascot, and has learned that "Mr. Goat" was actually a Ms., and she had a name: Fatima.

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