Monday, October 24, 2011

Jolly Cholly as a Beer Barrel Man, 1951

I have several 1951 progams in my collection, all with this unusual Beer Barrel Man on the cover:

It wasn't until very recently that I realized that the picture was actually of manager Charlie Grimm. The original image comes from this 1941 wire photo:


Milwaukee, Wis.: Charley Grimm, former manager of the Chicago Cubs, coaching back of first-base in night game between Minneapolis and Milwaukee Brewers, after he had taken over job as manager of the Brewers. The Brewers lost the game, 8-4, the first since William Veeck and Grimm joined the Brewers with several of the Cub players.
(collection of Paul Tenpenny)

The two uses of this image, wire photo and program cover, reflect Jolly Cholly's two periods at the helm of the Brewers.

His first managerial stint, started in 1941, lasted through the beginning of the 1944 season, when he was hired away by the Chicago Cubs. While Grimm was in Chicago, the Brewers were sold and resold, ending up in the hands of the Boston Braves in late 1946 (a move which spelled the end of the Brewers' long run as an independent ballclub).

Grimm was fired by the Cubbies in 1949, and the Braves hired Grimm to manage the top rung of their farm system ladder... the Milwaukee Brewers. To celebrate his return to Borchert Field, the Brewers dug out an old wire photo of the skipper from his previous stay in town, dressed him up in Owgust's beer barrel, and put him on the program cover.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Packers and the Badgers, 1924

(cross-posted with The Wearing of the Green (and Gold))

Eighty-seven years ago today, on October 19, 1924, the Packers welcomed their intrastate rivals the Milwaukee Badgers to City Stadium.

This program from that game comes from the current Heritage Auction:

Heritage Auctions
1924 Green Bay Packers vs. Milwaukee Badgers Program - Only Known Example! Up until only a few years ago, no Green Bay Packers 1924 one-sheet program was known in the hobby. However, on a typical day at a popular "Titletown" antique shop, that day turned into an important collectible discovery when a small handful of of early 1920's programs walked through the door, and that missing piece of Packers history made an unprecedented appearance. Offered here is an original 8.75x11.5" program, issued by the "Green Bay Football Corporation" for the October 19, 1924 meeting between the Packers and Milwaukee Badgers. The game ended in a 17-0 victory for the home team Green Bay squad at Bellevue Park, in front of a typical crowd of approximately 4,000-5,000. This amazing gridiron treasure exhibits EX quality, with minor folds throughout. Its front displays both teams' rosters, including important names such as Lambeau, Buck and Lewellen, while the program also displays an advertisement for the Packers' Northwest Championship future meeting versus the Minneapolis Marines. A remarkable piece, which we are sure even the most discerning Packers collectors have yet to see. Guide Value or Estimate: $2,000 - $3,000.
An outstanding piece.

I'm intrigued not only because it's a rare look at the 1920s Packers, but also because of the glimpse it offers of the Badgers, the Cream City's short-lived entry in the young National Football League, who made their home at Borchert Field.

There's also the added interest of the "Championship of Northwest". What other teams might have been involved in that race? There were several teams representing "northwestern" states by the 1924 NFL's standards. Minnesota had the Marines and the Duluth Kellys. Wisconsin had four teams in the league at the time; the Packers, Badgers, Racine Legion and Kenosha Maroons. Then there were the two Chicago teams, the Rock Island (Illinois) Independents, the Hammond Pros in Chicago's Indiana suburbs and any number of local semi-pro or independent teams that could have wanted in on the action.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Raise the Roof, Part 2

I have come across a great new series of photos of the storm which tore part of Borchert Field's roof off during a game in 1944. The original post has been updated.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Brewer News" 1945, Vol 3, No. 5

Today 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 5, from September 1945, covering the last seven games of the season. The Brewers were "roaring down the home stretch toward their third straight pennant", and team president Bill Veeck was recovering from a fourth operation on his right foot, injured while he was in the Marines.

Veeck's return gets top billing, with a plug for the remaining home games. The team was also gearing up for the American Association's playoffs and looking ahead to the Little World Series.

The middle of this particular issue of Brewer News features a gorgeous two-page photo spread of the club:

This photo was prized, as evidenced by the tape marks around the edge. I picture this hanging on the wall of some kid's bedroom in Milwaukee in the early Autumn days of 1945.

This beautiful uniform style was first introduced to the Brews by Veeck in 1942. The elegant script helps visually define his era at the helm.

The photo itself must have been taken just before publication; Veeck sits right in the center, cane in hand. Other notable figures pictured are team skipper Nick Cullop (immediately to Veeck's right), general manager Rudy Schaffer and vice president/radio voice Mickey Heath.

I also love the two batboys. On the right is Nick Cullop, Jr., who would be instantly recognizable as the skipper's son even if he didn't share a name. The batboy on the left is identified as "McGee" Liedtke. I don't know what the nickname means—his real name was Clyde E. Liedtke—but I bet it's a very good story.

The real meat comes on the back page; lots of good stuff here including a fine photo of the Brewers' slugging left-fielder laying down "a perfect bunt."

"FLICK HEADED FOR BATTING CROWN"Lew Flick was about to wrap up a spectacular offensive season. At the time this issue went to press, Flick's average was .372 and well above his Association competition.

I think it's interesting that Veeck's Brewers made a specialty of slugging, taking home batting titles every year of his ownership to date. In 1941 it was Leo Novikoff, 1942 Heinz Becker, 1943 Grey Clarke and George Binks in 1944.

"ANNUAL PLAY-OFFS COME NEXT" – As the pennant winner, the Brewers were scheduled to face the third-place club in the playoffs. The second- and fourth-place finishers would square off, and then the winners of those two series would face each other in the second round to determine which team would represent the American Association in the Little World Series. This arrangement, known as a "Shaughnessy playoff", was one of the banes of Veeck's tenure in Milwaukee. No matter how strong his clubs, even the pennant-winning ones couldn't get out of the playoffs, and he lobbied unsuccessfully to change the postseason format every year.

"NICK CULLOP NIGHT SEPTEMBER 5TH" – The Brewers had a special fondness for honoring players and managers with nights of their own. I wonder how Nick Cullop felt about being referred to as "tomato faced." For that matter, I wonder how Nick Cullop, Jr. felt about it.

Brewer News continues to give us a great look at the way the club presented itself to its fans at the time. The hindsight of history lets us fill in the blanks; Lew Flick continued his slugging prowess in those last seven games, ending the season with a batting average of .374 and the Association crown.

The end of the year wasn't so happy for the Brewer organization. They did indeed claim the 1945 American Association pennant, but were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Louisville Cardinals. Veeck's playoff struggles continued; the Brewers wouldn't win a Little World Series until 1947, after he had sold his interest in the team.

Veeck's operation was ultimately unsuccessful, and after a series of additional operations, his right foot was amputated in 1946. Three months after that, in true Sport Shirt Bill fashion, Veeck threw a party to celebrate the delivery of his first prosthesis. A dance, of course.

And so, mere weeks after this issue of Brewer News was distributed, the 1945 season came to an end. Perhaps this copy remained taped to that bedroom wall throughout the winter, as thousands of Milwaukee fans looked forward to 1946.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal: Eddie and Lin, c.1937

Today's photo features half of the Brewers' infield in the mid- to late-1930s.

Lin Storti, on the right, was a reliable infielder for the Brewers from 1934 through 1938, starting out at second before finding a regular home at third base. He also played for the St. Louis Browns, who owned by the Brewers at the time he came to Milwaukee.

His partner in the infield, Eddie Hope, was primarily a second baseman. Hope was of Polish descent (his family name had been changed a few generations back from "Nadzieja", Polish for "hope") and as such was popular among the Poles on Milwaukee's South Side.

Hope came to the Brewers with a reputation for a strong bat and soft glove. Within his first few seasons, the Brews found that inverted; his fielding improved dramatically—Hope was instrumental in the Brewers turning three triple plays during the 1934 season—but his work at the plate struggled, and for years he was widely known as the weakest hitter in the Brews' lineup. He was called a "banjo hitter," as the balls he did hit were mostly looping flies just out of the infield.

The club went to some unorthodox lengths to improve Hope's hitting—including trying to convert him from a right-handed batter into a lefty—with little success.

By the spring of 1939 those attempts had become almost comical, as this March 23, 1939 Milwaukee Journal photo illustrates:

Eddie Hope Practices Swing Nightly Before Mirror

—Journal Staff Photo
On orders from Manager Mickey Heath, Eddie Hope, second baseman, practices a new swing for 15 minutes every night in front of a mirror. Joe Just, catcher, who rooms with Hope at Oscala, Fla., has been instructed by Heath to keep time on Hope's mirror drill, as he is doing in the picture.
This "mirror drill" didn't work, the Brewers' patience finally ran out, and Hope was released just weeks later. He signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers' farm in Elmira, New York. After a couple years kicking around the lower minor leagues, Hope retired from baseball in 1942 and returned to Milwaukee, where he joined the police force.

Although this photo is undated, I believe it to have been taken in 1937 or 1938. Lin Storti's presence puts it no later that that, but no earlier than 1934. The uniform style allows us to narrow it down. The 1935 uniforms had a fancier "M". In 1936, the Brewers' uniforms had red and blue piping, not the single-color soutache shown here.

Those caps are nice - hard to make it out exactly, but looks like a red serifed block "M" on a navy cap.

The back of the photograph has a beautiful purple stamp bearing the copy's origin:


Check out the serif-heavy typeface on "MILWAUKEE". Very cool.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hats off to the Beer Barrel Man

The Beer Barrel Man gets another issue, this time on an unstructured cap by '47 Brand (which used to be known as Twins Enterprise and Twins 47, and is still the best cap manufacturer out there).

A version of this cap was released last year, but without the white keyline around the logo, causing the bat's speed lines to be lost against the background; this embroidery is a clear improvement.

Even the little logo tag on the back is period-appropriate, in this case a gold 1970s block "M".

This is now my absolute favorite cap: perfect headwear for a run through the postseason.

So far as I know, this cap is currently available only at Miller Park. Hopefully it will be available online soon for those of us not fortunate enough to visit the ballpark on a regular basis.