Monday, November 21, 2011

Casey Takes the Helm, 1944

The Milwaukee Journal had this look at the Brews' new skipper on Sunday, May 7th, 1944:

—Journal Staff
The Brewers' new manager, Casey Stengel (left), tries on a Milwaukee cap Saturday in the clubhouse at Borchert field as Coach Red Smith holds a mirror and Charley Grimm looks on. Grimm, who resigned Friday, will take over his new post as manager of the Chicago Cubs Sunday, the same day Stengel becomes boss of the Brewers.
I love the composition of this photo, especially the twinkle in Casey's eye as he dons the Brewers' classic dark blue cap with red "M", looking directly into the lens via the mirror.

Not even the dulling effect of newspaper reproduction — and cheap computer scanning decades after that — can dim the twinkle in the Perfessor's eye. His famous sense of humor shines through.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Brewer News" 1945, Vol. 3, No. 1

Once again, 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 1, from April 1945 , covering the last seven games of the season. We've previously seen the September issue from that year, covering the last seven games of the season. This issue was printed as the season began, offering Milwaukee fans their first look at the 1945 Brewer team, coming off back-to-back American Association pennants.

Among the changes for 1945 was new Brewer manager Nick Cullop, who took over for the departed Casey Stengel. The "tomato-faced" Cullop, as the newspapers often styled him, had a long career in baseball. He had often bedeviled the Brewers as manager of the Columbus Red Birds, where he had been named "Manager of the Year" in 1943 by the Sporting News. The Columbus Dispatch wrote this upon Cullop's leaving for Borchert Field:
Can you imagine those Brewers muscling in our Hipper Dipper? Of course we can't blame Nick. Money speaks and when they lay a $10,000 offer in front of you, you just grab the pen and scratch, that's all. Nick will be drawing down the same pay Casey Stengel got last year as Milwaukee's field chief.
Cullop was stepping to some big shoes as the Brewers' third manager in two years, following Stengel and before him Charlie Grimm in the Orchard's dugout.

As always, Brewers radio man Mickey Heath hosted game-day recaps of the action, hosted by Gimbels, for fans who couldn't make it out to the ballpark. The Brewers spent 1944 and 1945 without a radio home for their game broadcasts, and Heath's daily summaries (along with Brewer scores announced on WEMP every fifteen minutes during games) helped keep fans in touch. Full games returned to WEMP in 1946. There's also a note that "As a convenience to the Brewer fans, Gimbels will again have a fine collection of seats for all Brewer home games on sale at their cigar counter on the main floor."

Note also that morning games for night shift war production workers, a staple of Bill Veeck's ownership, were scheduled to return starting April 30th.

I also like the notation of the Brewers' part for the war effort:

Baseballs to Army Camps
Baseballs hit into the grandstand and returned by fans will be sent to the various Army Camps for their service teams. Requests for baseballs are received daily by the Brewers, so kindly co-operate by giving the ball to your nearst usher for deposit in the service basket.
On the third page, we check in with Veeck himself, who was then recovering in California from injuries suffered while he was in the Marines and who had "hopes of returning to Milwaukee sometime this summer".

There's also an introduction to the new Brewer outfield corps, Bill Burgo, Lew Flick, Eddie Kobesky and Bill Norman. Norman was also named to the Brewers' coaching staff, taking over the responsibilities of Red Smith, who left the Brews to join Charlie Grimm's Cubs coaching staff.

The back page contains a roster for the club, and some noteworthy odds and ends "hosted" by Owgust, the original Beer Barrel Man. I particularly like this sign of the times:

Physicians and other persons expecting calls during the ball game are requested to leave their name and the location of seats they are occupying at the office under the grandstand. Please co-operate with us to keep paging over the Borchert Field loud speaker system to an absolute minimum.
And with that, the 1945 season was underway!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Green Bay's *Other* Team, Part 2

This beautiful gray flannel road jersey was worn by the Green Bay Bluejays in the 1940s, when they were a Milwaukee Brewers farm club.

The detailing is exquisite, with an interlocking "GB" monogram on the chest and namesake patch on the left sleeve.

These are set off with a thick blue soutache on the sleeves, placket and up the side seam under the sleeves.

The distinctive thick soutache is our first clue that this jersey first saw service at Borchert Field. It was customary in those days for uniforms and equipment to be passed down the ladder from major league teams to their farm clubs. It was the same for independent minor clubs like the Brewers, with their own farm systems. In this case, the Brews sent their old flannels up to Joannes Stadium in Green Bay.

Compare this Bluejays with this Brewers exemplar (which has had its sleeve piping removed) from about the same period. The chest logos have been swapped, but the flannel's Milwaukee origins are easy to see.

Similarly, the distinctive backs are identical, down to the large pleat in the middle.

The Brewers' flannels featured this type of pleat at least as far back as 1938, as seen in this photo from Spring Training:

Also note the same number style as our two jerseys, and the resulting large gap between the two-digit numbers:

The pleat is secured near the bottom by a length of elastic sewn into the interior of the jersey.

The jersey is double-tagged, with a Wilson tag from the manufacturer and a tag from the supplier, Burghardt Athletic Goods of Milwaukee.

Again, we see the same pair of tags in our Milwaukee Brewers flannel (with a green Burghardt tag in place of the blue).

Few of the Green Bay Bluejays would make it to the parent club in Milwaukee, but thanks to the hand-me-downs they could at least dress like the Brewers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Time Was... 1948"

For the 1998 season, Major League Baseball expanded by two clubs, adding the Arizona Diamondbacks to the National League and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the American League. This resulted in two leagues of 15 teams apiece, and in order to avoid everyday interleague play one team had to move from the AL to the NL.

The Kansas City Royals were offered first crack at the Senior Circuit, but preferred to stay in the American League, and the choice then fell to the second team. On November 6, 1997, the Milwaukee Brewers chose to jump to the National League.

I clearly remember the moment I learned about the switch. We knew the decision was forthcoming, and were pretty sure that what it would be, but it wasn't until I picked up a copy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel from a box on the northeast corner of Kilbourn and Water that I knew for sure. The Brewers made the most of the event with their 1998 ad campaign, "We're Taking This Thing National."

In Milwaukee, this news was greeted with a mixture of sadness and enthusiasm. Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin baseball fans had grown up with an American League team, fed on rivalries with the Yankees, Royals and Twins. But the generation before theirs was raised on the Milwaukee Braves, and the Cream City's glorious National League past. Few seemed to remember anything farther back than 1953.

That was going to change, though. These pages are from Volume 7, Number 1 of Lead Off, the official magazine of the Milwaukee Brewers (then a relatively new name which could never live up to its predecessor What's Brewing). Lead Off ran a five-part look at Milwaukee's baseball history entitled "Time Was", with a look at the Brewers in 1988 and 1978, the White Sox in 1968, the Braves in 1958... and our Brewers in 1948.

The article is © 1998 Milwaukee Brewers. I reprint it here for its historical value. Keep in mind that in 1998, this may have been many fans' first introduction to the American Association club.
Time Was...1948
A Genuine Kinship

by Mario Ziino

One has to admire the kinship that existed between eight cities during the first half of this century.

A genuine bloodline of mid-American values, they withstood European migration, the Great Depression, Prohibition, two World Ward and the nation's industrial boom.

Their bond was baseball.

For 50 years, they grew with the country but refused to leave the family. Their family. They were known as the Millers of Minneapolis, the Saints of St. Paul, the Blues of Kansas City, the Mud Hens of Toledo, the Colonels of Louisville, the Red Birds of Columbus, the Indians of Indianapolis and the Brewers of Milwaukee.

For 50 years, they resided in the American Association which held the distinction as the only minor league baseball circuit that numbered all its charter members.

And the communities they called home embraced them like a child in a parent's arms.

In Milwaukee, this love affair played out in the heart of the city. The team even rooted itself in a quaint neighborhood.

Old Atletic Park, which opened in 1887 at the corner of Eighth and Chambers, melded into the daily life of its surroundings. Baseball became part of the city's social and economic fabric. Progress came when cobblestone lanes and streetcars replaced dusty roads and horse drawn buggies.

By 1927, Brewers owner Otto Borchert gave the ballpark an identity. To bond with the public, live pigs, beer, cases of food and wartime ration stamps were given away to patrons. Fireworks displays and wedding ceremonies at home plate were the norm. Even morning games were played to accomodate wartime swing shift workers. Fans watched games for free through knotholes in the Burleigh Street fence and from second story porches on homes located on Seventh Street. During the winter, the manicured outfield turned into an ice skating rink. This was baseball in Milwaukee.

It was successful. The Brewers made the playoffs nine times, winning the American Association championship in 1913, 1914, 1936, 1947 and 1951.

Milwaukee had plenty of record setters including George Stone, who batted .405 in 1904 and Eddie Marshall, who hit safely in 43 straight games in 1935.

Milwaukee also cheered for the other guy, especially when he was homegrown. Joe Hauser played for the Millers and hit a league record 69 home runs in 1933. Fabian Gaffke played for the Millers in '35 before graduating to the big leagues. Each winter, he returned to his childhood home on Lincoln Avenue.

Future Hall of Famers strolled through Borchert Field, too. Perhaps the greatest legend was the Millers' Ted Williams, who terrorized the league in 1938 before becoming an American League menace for 21 years.

By 1948, the defending American Association champions were setting attendance records and drawing the attention of the major leagues. The Boston Braves purchased the club the previous season and its owners Lou Perini, Joseph Maney and Guido Rugo were so impressed with Milwaukee's accomplishments on and off the field that they envisioned moving their club to the Midwest.

Even though the Brewers finished a distant second in the standings with an 89-65 record (behind Indianapolis' 100-54 showing), they still out-drew six clubs at the 61-year-old ballpark.

The Brewers had solid pitching which included Glenn Elliott, who led the league with a 14-7 record and 3.76 ERA; Al Epperly, who completed 14 and won 14 games to go along with a .319 batting average; Jim Pendergast, who won eight of 10 decisions with a .310 ERA; and Ray Martin, who added 10 wins.

Among the league leaders in run production were Heinz Becker, who batted .321 with 91 runs scored; Nanny Fernandez, who hit .318 with 96 runs, 23 homers and 124 RBI; and Marvin Rickert, who hit .302 with 99 runs, 27 homers and 117 RBI.

Gene Markand was the league's top fielding third baseman. Future league star Carden Gillenwater made an impact with a .357 batting average in 24 games.

And a rookie named Johnny Logan showed Perini and company a flash of his potential at shortstop. In 40 games, Logan hit a modest .252 but his reputation as a clutch performer would follow him to the big leagues.

"I was a young kid trying to break in," Logan recently recalled. "We had major league players on that team but unfortunately they didn't have enough room for them in the big leagues."

Logan, like so many of his teammates, felt right at home in Milwaukee.

"We were happy in Milwaukee," he said. "Milwaukee had good fans. They knew the game. Borchert Field was right in the midst of everyday life in this city. It was a tough place to play, especially for visiting teams. But it was a good old ballpark."

Logan never forgot his christening. "I loved playing for those fans. They were hungry for baseball. They were very loyal. I spent three years playing for the Brewers before I called called up by the Boston Braves. I hated to leave. I was probably the happiest person in the world when the Braves left Boston for Milwaukee. When I came back with the Braves, I made Milwaukee my home."

Logan is still here. And so is baseball.
I have a couple immediate reactions to the article:
  • The Brews actually won nine American Association pennants, not five. They took home the flag in 1913, 1914, 1936, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1951 and 1952. His list of "1913, 1914, 1936, 1947 and 1951" refers to the times the Brewers won the Little World Series, not the American Association. After the season, the top four AA clubs met in a two-round playoff to decide who would go to the Little World Series. It's a little confusing to us today, since at the time it was possible to win the American Association flag and then get swept out of the playoffs.

  • By 1998, Johnny Logan had already become the face of the American Association Brewers in Milwaukee. He continues to represent the Brews at events today, such as the dedication of the Borchert Field historical marker in 2008.

  • Ziino details many of the innovations Bill Veeck brought to the Brewers — the giveaways, the morning games, the carnival atmosphere — without actually mentioning the man by name.

  • Always love a reference to the Orchard's winter moonlighting gig as an ice skating park.
The art accompanying the article is magnificent; I don't think I've seen any of these photos before.

This team photo showcases the team's road uniforms, styled to resemble those of the parent Boston Braves. Note the navy cap with red bill and white block "M", which would soon be instantly recognizable to baseball fans all across the country.

Courtesy of Mike Rodell

We also get three outstanding pictures of the Orchard.

Color photos of the ballpark are extremely rare. Let's look at them individually, beginning with these great outfield ads:

Brewers archive photo

Lots of great Milwaukee companies represented here. The Milwaukee Sentinel, "First in Sports." Gimbels. Rank & Son Buick. Herman Kupper Jewelers, which went out of business in 1982. Clark's Super Gas sponsored the Brewers' game programs for over a decade, not to mention a minor league hockey team in Milwaukee from 1948-50. And, of course, Miller High Life.

In the left field corner (far left of the above photo), this great ad for WEMP.

Brewers archive photo

The legendary Earl Gillespie was the voice of the minor league Brewers.

The Gillespie ad helps us narrow down the date the photo, He was the voice of the Brewers for the team's (and ballpark's) final two years, 1951 and 1952. We can conclusively date it by the ad for an upcoming game — according to our 1951 pocket schedule tells us that on May 10, 1951 the Brewers hosted the Toledo Mud Hens. The 1952 schedule is more helpful. The Louisville game was May 10, 1952, so the photo must have been taken sometime just before that date. We might even be able to narrow it down further; May 10 was a homecoming game following a 15-game road trip. The previous home game was a doubleheader against the St. Paul Saints on April 20th, so the sign was presumably erected on that day.

Finally, a shot of the ballpark's exterior:

Brewers archive photo

Borchert Field was a neighborhood icon.

There are the cutout letters bearing the team name over the entrance at 8th & Chambers.

All in all, a fantastic look at the Brewers of the 1940s, seen through the perspective of the Brewers of the 1990s. The club used the occasion of a great step forward to take a look back into Milwaukee's long and colorful baseball history.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Brewers' Goat Had a Name

by Dennis Pajot

In a previous post I gave some history of the Brewer mascot goat, owned by Ralph Cutting and Larry Chappell.

The pennant-winning 1913 Milwaukee Brewers

In at least two recent books the goat was given the name "Woozy". In my research I did not run across this name, or any name for the goat in 1913. But in 1914 the goat had a name — Fatima.

Close-up: pitcher Joe Hovlik and Fatima

I first ran across this name in the Milwaukee Sentinel of April 19, 1914, during the newspaper's description of the previous day's game against the Minneapolis Millers. The article reads:
In spite of the weather it was also a good afternoon for goats. Fatima, Ralph Cutting's nanny, jumped out on the field in the sixth inning, and stopped the game while half the Brewer team chased it around the lot. Fatima has all the sly habits of her sex, and she led the athletes a merry chase. A handsome youth finally inveigled her into the grandstand with a bag of peanuts and the pastime proceeded after the bugs had been given a big laugh. Last night the club physician reported that Fatima was suffering from a stomach ache, the many peanuts having been stuffed into said stomach. She was put on a diet of tin cans and old baseball shirts and was resting easily, and is expected to be back on the job this afternoon.
Milwaukee Sentinel columnist A.J. Schinner even wrote a poem about Fatima this day:
Every ball player must obey
And listen to what he doth say.
For the umpire doth rule the play,
But not Fatima.

Most carefully she browsed and fed,
As if it were a clover bed.
And did she list' to what was said?
Nay, not Fatima.

When, advent'rous, she slipped her anchor,
Her soul was not filled with rancor
Until they tried to catch and spank 'er,
Our own Fatima.

Then she kicked up one great big fuss,
Evading every spurt and rush
For she was a real clever cuse,
Was our Fatima.

Around she flew like a to a bug
Until she spied Cantillon's nug.
And then beneath the stands she dug.
Wise Fatima.
Shinner said the only trouble with Fatima was that she had a New England education and was unable to comprehend the Milwaukee north side diction.

The Sentinel referred to Cutting's goat as Fatima again on numerous occasions. (See May 4, May 8, May 14, June 8, June 9, August 19, 1914.)

In the May 3, 1914, we learn the goat could communicate, although the Milwaukee Journal did not give the goat a name. The goat was meandering around second base after a Brewer win, explaining "Mah-ah-ah-ah". Luckily there was a goatologist at the park and translated what the mascot had said. The mascot had said it tickled his chin whiskers to see the Clarkmen win, but he was sorry that they were not hitting home runs as they used to. [It appears the goatologist was not very good with determining the sex of the mascot!]

In the Milwaukee Journal of June 25, 1914 , we learn the entire life history of the goat, written by none other than herself.
Written by A. Goat

I have been a goat all my life and I want the fans to know it. My father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Goat, always objected to my earning a livelihood in a sporting capacity, but through the poverty of my parents, I was forced into my present position. As a lad playing about the city dumps with my goat chums, I created an appetite for an outdoor life. My father had a hard time supplying tin cans for our large family, so one day, packing a few nails and some scrap in a sack, I started out to seek my fortune in the world.

I was quietly nibbling a barbed wire fence at a farmer's house on the outskirts of Milwaukee, when one of the farm hands sneaked up and made me a prisoner. My main work here was to keep the yard clear of rubbish and as a reward for my work, I was given every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon off. During my rounds of the yard one day I came upon a mess of fresh beer bottle corks, and, feeling extremely hungry, downed about twelve. For weeks I lay at death's door and every goat specialist in that part of the country had given me up. I lived on nothing but shingle nails for weeks and finally when my strength returned, I was sold to Ralph Cutting, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Larry Chappell, now with the Chicago White Sox.

They bought me on a fifty-fifty basis, the front half belonging to Cutting and the rear to Mr. Chappell. I have always been very thankful that they never decided to break up the partnership and each take their share. I was then moved into the Milwaukee ball park, where I have since made my home.

The flood of Monday completely upset me and with my nerves in a shattered condition, I was forced to witness the brawl of Tuesday. I have been given quite an amount of publicity and my parents have learned of my whereabouts and are pleased with my success. My mother's birthday was last week and I sent her a little remembrance in the way of a two pound box of rusty washers.

I am very happy in my present position but some days I find it rather hard picking for food at the ball yard. The fans seem to take a real interest in me and I would appreciate it very much if they would throw the soda and beer bottle corks out on the field so that I can gobble them up.

In conclusion I will say that I have but one worry; no matter what I do or where I go, I simply can't get away from it, I'm always the goat.
The next morning A.J. Schinner published another poem dedicated to Fatima. This one regarding the goat's behavior during of the speech of Mayor Gerhard A. Bading on the occasion of the Brewers' raising the 1913 American Association pennant flag in the outfield of Athletic Park.
Thoughtful she looked across the Timme field with titled head.
She alone did not smile or heed what G.A. Bading said.
What cared she for pennants, plaudits or blare of the brass band?
For Fatima was a goat, and goats do not understand.

And as I watched the Saints rake ye Brewer from stern to stern
And witnessed that old batting eye to Happy Felch return,
I laughed and roared, but she, complacent, never showed her hand,
For Fatima was a goat, and goats do not understand.

Once only did I envy her—that was early in the day—
She did not have to strain to hear what Bading had to say;
She did not have to fidget or sit silent in the stand,
For Fatima was a goat, and goats do not understand.
In the September 28, 1914, edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel a team photo was published. Sitting on the lap of Cy Slapnicka is the goat, named Fatima in the accompanying caption.

Top Row—Griesel, Braun, Smith, Powell, Jim Jones, Lewis, Tom Jones, McGraw, Skechan, Shakelford.
Middle Row—Randell, Dougherty, Felch, Beall, Hovlik, Young, Cutting, Miller.
Bottom Row—Bausch, Hughes, Clark, Barbeau, Berg, Slapnicka and Fatima, Carlson.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1937 Radio Appreciation Day

This sharp team photo shows us the 1937 Brewers. It was a premium for "Radio Appreciation Day" at the Orchard.

The smiling fellow in the lower-left corner is Alan Hale, the WISN's "Wheaties-Mobilgas Sports Announcer". He was known for his home run call:
"Hang on to your rocking chair, Grandma! There it goes!"
Hale was the Brewers' announcer through 1941. He was succeeded behind the Borchert Field microphone by former Brewers manager Mickey Heath and then Earl Gillespie, who was later known for calling Milwaukee Braves and Green Bay Packers games. Hale moved on to San Diego, where he called games for the Pacific Coast League's Padres.