Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thumbs Up!

Early in the 1936 season, the Brewers' two-man catching battery suffered consecutive thumb injuries, knocking them both out of action at once.
Thumbs Up! Brewer Cripples Watch Victory
The sore thumb squad (left to right), George Detore, Sal Hernandez and Bill Brenzel, watched the Brewers' 11-inning victory Monday from the dugout. Detore was hit by Pitcher McGee of Columbus. Brenzel was nicked by a foul tip off one of Pressnell's knucklers. Hernandez has a felon (infected fingertip).
George Detore was the Brews' primary catcher, with Bill Brenzel as his backup. Brenzel was the victim of "Tot" Pressnell's "dipsy-doo" knuckleball. The third injured player, Salvadore Ramos Hernandez, was a utility infielder who hailed from Cuba, where he had been a medical student.

Former Green Bay Packer Red Smith, who had a cup of coffee with the New York (Baseball) Giants in 1927, was brought in to fill the gap.

(T)wo new Brewers who joined the club Monday, Red Smith, catcher (left) and Henry (Dutch) Ulrichm pitcher. Smith, former line coach under Doc Spears at Wisconsin, came from Madison of the State league. Ulrich, a free agent, was with Portland of the Pacific Coast league last season.
Smith got off to a very rough start in Milwaukee; the cellar-dwelling St. Paul Saints stole thirteen bases off him during his first game behind the plate. The Brewers realized that Smith, who celebrated his 38th birthday in a Brewer uniform, wasn't more than a stopgap, and secured the services of George Dickey (younger brother of longtime Yankee and Hall of Famer Bill) on loan from the Red Sox. Smith has a unique position in Wisconsin sport; he had played for the Green Bay Packers in 1927 and 1929 and was a long-time assistant coach under Curly Lambeau before joining the state's most prominent baseball club.

Brenzel was back in action by May 21st, and the Red Sox recalled Dickey on May 25th, after an injury knocked future Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell out of the lineup. Detore returned the first week in June.

The day Brenzel returned to the lineup, the Milwaukee Journal had this to say about Red:
It is possible that the Brewers ought to keep Smith around (after the regular catchers return). Not only has he been the club's good luck charm but he is the first dependable pinch hitter the club has had in years. He tops the individual hitters with .526.
It appears that the Brewers were Journal readers. Although Smith was dropped from the Brewer roster following the June 4th game, he remained a part of the organization. Owner Henry Bendinger sent him to manage the Brewers' farm club at Fieldale, Virginia. Red would remain an important figure in Brewer history right up until the franchise's final days.

This incident proved to be just a bump in the road, as the Brewers went on to win the 1936 Association pennant.

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