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.

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