Sunday, January 29, 2012

1914 Score Card

From the archives comes this score card, sold at Athletic Park during the 1914 season (only 5¢ — some things never change).

The Brewers didn't miss an opportunity to sell ad space, beginning with the cover.

The inside front cover features a photo of an unidentified Brewer in his team cardigan (and just look at that little glove!):

There's a great deal more of interest on these pages, from the dentist's ad offering gold crowns for three bucks to the veterinarian's horse-drawn "canine ambulance".

Next up, a photo of the 1914 Brewers in their best suits, and stats from the 1913 World Series, starting with the victorious Philadelphia Athletics.

Next up, the Fall Classic stats from the National League representative, the New York Giants, as well as a look ahead to the Brews' Sunday and Holiday games:

The following page holds the entire 1914 home schedule and a guide to calculating batting average, fielding average, standing of clubs and the base running record.

Of course, a score card needs a place to keep score, and here is the line for the visiting Indianapolis Indians.

The center of the score card holds the hometown Brewers lineup:

Harry "Pep" Clark was the Brewers' player/manager. He started in Milwaukee as a third baseman in 1904, adding the managerial duties in 1913. He led the Brewers to their first two pennants, managing the club through the 1916 season. Clark returned for two additional seasons as manager and pinch-hitter in 1922 and 1923, making him a fixture at Athletic Park.

On the other hand, we have left-fielder Happy Felsch, batting fifth. Felsch's stop in the minors was a very brief one. He came to Milwaukee already known for his home runs. Signed near the end of the 1913 season from a local semi-pro team, Felsch played for the Brews in 1914 before being sent to the White Sox. He was an integral part of the South Siders' powerful battery until he got caught up in the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal and found himself out of organized baseball for good.

The following page lists the team's road games under the rather whimsical heading "Milwaukee Abroad". This was long before radio broadcasts of games, so Brewer fans wanting to follow their team's progress on these road trips would have to rely chiefly on newspapers and that uniquely Milwaukee institution, the tavern card.

Almost every page has stats of some kind, including these top American Association batting and fielding averages from 1913.

The score card's publisher, Henry Sperber, is an important (if largely forgotten) figure in the ballpark's history. He worked at Athletic Park year-round. In the winter, the field was flooded and frozen into an ice skating rink, which he managed. During baseball and football seasons, Sperber ran the concessions.

Sperber also ran the Athletic Field bar located under the grandstand behind home plate, dispensing weiss beer and hard liquor to thirsty baseball fans. The bar had two rows of stools and a view of the field so fans could watch all the action without getting up from their whisky.

The inside back cover has a full season schedule for all eight American Association franchises.

And on the back, a pair of beer ads ("Call for Schlitz in brown bottles", "Drink Miller's High Life, sold on the grounds") and our only political ad.

William J. Cary was a longtime public servant in and for Milwaukee. He was an alderman from 1900 through 1904 before becoming Milwaukee County Sheriff for two years. He was elected to Congress in 1906, and served for six terms before losing his final re-election campaign in 1918. Returning to Milwaukee, he served as county clerk of Milwaukee County from 1921 through 1933, passing away two years after leaving that job.

And there you have it, a cover-to-cover look at the 1914 Milwaukee Brewers. They were the reigning American Association champions, having won their first pennant in 1913, and were on their way to repeating. They finished the season 98-68, a solid four games ahead of the Louisville Colonels.

I'd like to spotlight the two Brewer photos, beginning with the complete team:

Sadly, the Brewers' goat mascot Fatima didn't make the studio photo.

The second photo is our unidentified sweater-wearer from the inside front cover.

I think this is Pep Clark himself.

If so, that might explain why the publisher didn't feel the need to identify him, as Clark (then in his eleventh season wearing a Brewer uniform) was well-known to the Athletic Park faithful. Compare that photo with this 1909 photo of Clark at right, in an equally snazzy team sweater. Pity we can't see if the 1914 light-colored version also bears a Brewer logo.

When compared side-by-side, these photos seem to confirm my suspicion that our mystery player is the Brews' skipper.

Pointed chin and nose, strong cheekbones. Looks like the same guy to me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

1943 Grand Stand Ticket Stub

In August of 1943, 85¢ bought a baseball fan entry to the Borchert Field grandstand to watch the Brewers, then in their second full season under team president Bill Veeck.

There were a lot of these sold in 1943; Borchert Field saw 332,597 fans fill its wooden stands that season, breaking the single-season American Association record. This was five times the Brews' home attendance in 1940, the year before Veeck took over. Not bad at all, considering the ballpark had a capacity somewhere around 11,000.

This success had not gone unnoticed in the baseball world; just a few weeks before this ticket was presented at the Orchard's turnstile, the Sporting News had run a feature article on the innovative young owner and the spectacular job he had done turning around the once-moribund franchise.

1943 was also a great year for the Brewers in the standings, as they won the American Association pennant with a 90-61 record, 5½ games ahead of second-place Indianapolis. This was the Brewers' fourth flag, and the first since 1936. It was also the start of Veeck's dominating clubs, who would go on to win two more in a row.

Good things were brewing for Veeck's boys in Milwaukee, as the holder of this ticket could have told us.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

1942 Score Card

This beautiful 1942 scorecard was sold at Borchert Field. Because you can't tell the players apart without a scorecard! It would have set the patron back a nickel, same as they had for nearly thirty years.

The card is one long sheet of heavy stock, folded three times to create a 7 x 10.5 inch booklet.

On the cover, Owgust runs the baseline.

This might have been the first introduction of the Brews' longtime mascot. 1942 was also the year that the same "running Owgust" logo was added to the dugout jackets as part of a uniform overhaul in new owner Bill Veeck's first full season in charge. Does that mean Sport Shirt Bill was responsible for his creation? It wouldn't be surprising; Veeck was a promotional genius, and having a mascot logo gave the Brews an endless variety of visual hooks for team materials and special events.

Below Owgust, an ad for Clark's Super Gas. Clark's was a longtime supporter of the Brewers, who proudly displayed the gas station's orange and white logo on their covers through the fifties.

The scorecard is chock-a-block with local ads.

And, of course, Milwaukee baseball just wouldn't be complete without Miller.

There were also promotions for fans, including this one where you can help your favorite Brewer win a "handsome Traveling Bag", courtesy of National Trunk Store on the corner of East Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street.

And then we get to the lineups. This card was sold when the Columbus Red Birds were in town:

There's a blast from the past; not only an ad for Gimbels, but buying baseball tickets at the department store's cigar counter.

And finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Milwaukee Brewers!

Interesting - this lists Charlie Grimm as wearing #25. I've seen him more often listed as #30.

The last two pages feature a pair of ballpark "Lucky Number" promotions. The first was sponsored by the Goller-Stein Company.

During each game during the 1942 season, two guest tickets to the Grandstand, good for any regular game and a delicious lobster dinner at Eugene's Hotel Juneau will be given to the baseball fan holding the score card containing the Lucky Number, which will be posted below the T.A Chapman Co. bulletin after the seventh inning. If the above number corresponds, present this score card at the Refreshment Stand on the third base side of the grandstand and you will receive your tickets for the game through the courtesy of the Goller-Stein Co., W. North Ave at 35th St., Uptown's Popular Style Store for Men, and the order for the dinner at the delightful Jotel Juneau, Milwaukee's rendezvous for Discriminating Diners.
The Allis Auto Body Co. sponsored a similar contest in the fifth inning, but without the lobster dinner.

During each game during the 1942 season, two guest tickets to the Grandstand, good for any regular game will be given to the holder of the scorecard containing the Lucky Number, which will be posted below the Gross Coal Co.—Gross Oil Co. bulletin after the fifth inning. If the above number corresponds, present this score card at the Refreshment Stand on the third base side of the grandstand and you will receive your tickets, through the courtesy of the Allis Auto Body Co., 1326 W. Clybourn St., Wisconsin's Largest and Most Complete Auto Painting and Body Shops.
This was the last season that the Brewers published the folded-sheet scorecards. Starting with 1943, the Borchert Field vendors sold magazine-style programs, with a glossy cover and newsprint pages.

I can picture the vendors walking up and down the aisles of the Orchard in the summer of 1942, collecting nickels and passing out scorecards just like this one to eager Milwaukee fans.

UPDATE 4/16/12:   Now we know exactly what that looked like:

'Can't Tell the New Players Without a Program'

-Journal Staff
"Program! Program! The Brewers are all new and you can't tell them without a program!" "Peanuts! Peanuts!" "Red hots! Get your red hots!" "Buy the lady a seat cushion!" "Ice cold root beer" "The batt'ries for t'day's game—" And the baseball gets under way at Borchert field Thursday afternoon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Snowdrifts at the Orchard, 1943

Sixty-nine years ago today, on January 20, 1943, Milwaukee was looking forward to the baseball season. Helped, of course, by the Brewers themselves:

-Journal staff
The Brewer management chose this week, with snow drifted inside and outside the Borchert field fences, as the time to put up a sign calling attention to May 5 as the date of the "next game." A passer-by is shown getting that important news Wednesday morning, with the temperature below zero.
That's a an angle of the Orchard I've never seen. And pushing baseball in January shows us that Bill Veeck never stopped selling.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Boxers to Otto: "Stee-rike!"

by Pete Ehrmann

Editor's Note: Following up on Dennis Pajot's biography of Milwaukee Brewers owner Otto Borchert, contributor Pete Ehrmann brings us this remarkable chapter from Borchert's earlier career as one of Milwaukee's premier boxing impresarios.

"Louisville Fans Crow In Victory," headlined the Wisconsin News after the Milwaukee Brewers lost their first game of the 1925 season, 3-2 to the Louisville Colonels. But April 14 was a wunderschön day for Brewers owner Otto Borchert anyway. Also president of the Cream City Athletic Club, one of the biggest organizations promoting professional boxing in the country, Herr Otto must've done some crowing himself when the Wisconsin Athletic Commission threw out charges that he had "connived, aided and abetted trickery and deceit in the promotion of boxing contests" and exerted a "baneful influence" on the sport.

In the first half of the decade known as "The Roaring Twenties," there was no bigger story in Milwaukee sports than the knock-down, drag-out feud between the CCAC and a consortium of boxers, managers and rival promoters united in their hankering to topple Borchert as house promoter at the Milwaukee Auditorium.

It resulted in the formation of a labor union for boxers and managers. The "American Boxing League" actually went out on strike against the CCAC, after insisting that Borchert had boycotted local boxers first.

The protracted war, wrote A.J. Schinner of the Wisconsin News in 1927, "almost wrecked the boxing game here."

When Otto Borchert became president of the CCAC in February, 1919, it was already Milwaukee's premier boxing club and had been since the sport was legalized in Wisconsin six years earlier and the Queensbury Athletic Club — it changed its name to Cream City Athletic Club in 1914 — was granted a license to promote boxing at the Milwaukee Auditorium on N. 6th and W. Cedar (now Kilbourn Ave.) Sts.

The guiding force behind the CCAC was Thomas S. Andrews. Born in Canada, Andrews came to Milwaukee with his parents when he was one. He played baseball and football in his youth and at the turn of the century he was sports editor of the Evening Wisconsin.

In those days no code of ethics prevented newspapermen from having a hand in creating the news they reported on, and Andrews openly promoted boxing cards in public when local authorities allowed it (and in private when they didn't). He was also one of boxing's first historians and record-keepers, recognized globally by the early 1900s as an authority on the squared-circle. (Andrews was no slouch when it came to baseball, either, and at various times was mentioned as a candidate to run the American Association and the Federal League.)

While other clubs promoted boxing on the city's south side and elsewhere, thanks to its exclusive lease on the Auditorium, Andrews' CCAC dominated the field and made Milwaukee as renowned a fight town as New York City in an age when boxing and baseball were the deluxe entrees on the sports menu.

The Auditorium was key to its success. Back then the 12,000-seat facility was regarded with the same awe as Miller Park is today. "It is a dream," wrote C.J. Murray in the Buffalo (NY) Commercial newspaper in 1914, "the last word in construction — luxurious to the extreme, a wonderful paradise for boxing fans."

When Otto Borchert succeeded retiring Milwaukee Journal sports editor J.A. Ermatinger as president of the CCAC in 1919, he was identified as "a real estate operator" and a "100% (boxing) fan, having attended local fistic attractions for some 20 years." Years later, Milwaukee Sentinel sports editor George Downer would write, "To tell the truth, we never could quite understand why any man with Mr. Borchert's money should waste even five minutes promoting fights. Otto explains that by saying that he likes the game."

Less than a year after Borchert joined the CCAC, secretary and matchmaker Tom Andrews left for a two-year stint in Australia with a troupe of American boxers. He recommended that Borchert hire a temporary matchmaker to run the CCAC in his absence, but instead Otto took on the job himself. At the end of that year Sam Levy, the Journal's boxing writer, hailed the "proverbial self-made man" for his "colossal success."

In 1920, Borchert bought the Milwaukee Brewers, and a familiar face joined the boxing promotional wars. Cedarburg native Frank Mulkern owned the Yellow Cab Co., and had promoted fights and managed boxers in the first decade of the century. Now he was getting back into boxing with the intention of grabbing a piece of local boxing's crown jewel — the Auditorium.

Over the years the CCAC had used its political clout to keep other boxing clubs out of the Auditorium. But Mulkern had connections, too, and one of them turned out to be Otto Borchert, whose objections to letting Mulkern in were strangely muted. Breaking precedent, the Auditorium's board of directors granted Mulkern's National Athletic Club access to the building in 1922.

Andrews was not happy to come home and find Mulkern with a foothold in his once exclusive bailiwick. Suspecting collusion between Borchert and Mulkern, Andrews sold his controlling shares of the CCAC to Borchert for $3,500, and in mid-'22 Andrews opened up shop at the Castle Ice Garden at N. 35th and W. Wells Sts.

Over the next year boxing flourished in Milwaukee as the rival clubs presented popular cards featuring such local talent as Richie and Pinkey Mitchell, Joey Sangor, Joe Jawson and Johnny Mendelsohn. In terms of overall gate receipts, 1923 was the third most lucrative year for boxing in Wisconsin since 1914.

Andrews' suspicions that Mulkern and Borchert were playing footsie were confirmed in -'23 when Mulkern dissolved the National Athletic Club and became matchmaker for Otto's club, making the CCAC once more the Auditorium's exclusive boxing tenant.

Perhaps because of the glut of boxing cards, in 1924 attendance fell off dramatically. Reasoning that fans had grown tired of seeing the same old faces in local rings — and complaining that the local pugs wanted too much money to fight anyway — the CCAC began using mostly out-of-town boxers on its cards.

In June, Tom Andrews shuttered the Castle Ice Garden and said he wanted to promote again at his old downtown stomping ground.

"I can give Milwaukee the best cards in the country if I have the facilities," he declared. "I was the first promoter to hold bouts in the Auditorium, and nothing should prevent me from having a second lease on the building."

The Sentinel's George Downer agreed, writing on November 12: "Every day emphasizes the need of another club to promote boxing in Milwaukee. The existing Auditorium club has taken a high hand with boxers who have asked more for their services than the promoters in their wisdom (?) have deemed fair. There are today several boxers in Milwaukee who are practically banned from employment here because they have, by asking for what they deemed a fair payment for their services, offended the big club bosses" — i.e., Borchert and Mulkern.

"Rather than give them bouts, the local club put on a show featuring a full card of outside boxers… Cutting out the local lads, in the manner in which it has been done here, is distinctly unfair, but so long as one club holds a monopoly of the local promotion field, there is nothing to be done about it."

Less than a week later, the Sentinel reported that "Managers of practically all the professional boxers in Milwaukee met last night at the Republican Hotel to form an organization for the protection of their interests and for the advancement of boxing in Milwaukee."

Passed at the November 18 inaugural meeting of the American Boxing League was a resolution charging that Otto Borchert "has openly boasted that he can make or break any local boxer that he desires"; that boxers "have been deprived of their purses" by the CCAC; and that Borchert and Mulkern had "entered into contracts with contestants and modified them at will to satisfy their selfish demands."

Heading the new union — which filed for affiliation with the American Federation of Labor — was Billy Mitchell, loquacious manager of his boxing brothers, Richie and Pinkey. "The Fighting Mitchells," as they were known, had been butting heads with Otto since 1919, when Borchert decided that Richie — Milwaukee's most popular fighter and a top lightweight contender — was no longer welcome to fight at the Auditorium unless he agreed to take a cut in his percentage of the gate receipts from 33 1/3 to 25. (In a 1928 memoir, Richie wrote: "Otto was a splendid fellow in many ways, and he did me a lot of favors after I retired from the game. But he was stubborn as a balky mule.")

"The Fighting Mitchells"
L-r in front: Pinkey, Richie and manager Billy.
"Monopoly always leads to abuse," Billy Mitchell told the press after the first meeting of his union. "The (CCAC) promoters are high-hatting the local boxers to death and we have been forced to organize for our protection."

Two weeks later, members of the American Boxing League voted unanimously to go on strike against the Cream City Athletic Club.

Borchert took the high road, at least publicly. "We wish it understood that no matter what's said or published in contravention, the arena of the Cream City Athletic Club is open to any local boxer," he said. "We are always willing to talk terms and it is our endeavor to reach an amicable agreement with any of the local boxing fraternity."

Frank Mulkern was less diplomatic. "The yelp that local boxers are not receiving the proper terms is all applesauce," he snorted.

On December 18, Tom Andrews formally applied for a license to promote fights at the Auditorium. The boxers' union heartily endorsed his application. Every member of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce recommended its approval, as did Mayor Daniel Hoan and City Attorney John Nevin.

But on January 21, 1925, Andrews' bid was rejected. Auditorium Manager Joseph Grieb said the policy regarding boxing clubs was no different from the one that allowed just "one radio show, one auto show, and one home builders' exposition in the building each year."

Within days, Billy Mitchell appealed directly to Gov. J.J. Blaine, and that's when the three-man Wisconsin Athletic Commission, which oversaw boxing since its legalization, finally intervened in what Journal sports editor Manning Vaughan called "nothing but a mud-slinging contest."

A formal hearing was scheduled at the commission's Milwaukee office on March 10-11. Two days before, Otto returned to town from the Brewers' spring training camp in Sanford, Florida. Though he complained that the hearing had been purposely timed to inconvenience him, Borchert said, "I would have come from China had the boxing commission ordered it. If there is anything wrong with our way of doing business and if it is not legal, we want to hear of it and we want it rectified."

The hearing was run just like a trial, with Borchert and Mulkern as defendants. Heading up their legal defense team were high-powered attorneys Henry Killilea, J.V. Quarles and Raymond Cannon. They called the charges against the CCAC "trivialities and nothings."

On the witness stand, Otto flatly denied ever saying that the boxers would accede to his terms or "I will starve them out."

But when asked if Joseph Grieb, manager of the Auditorium, received stock dividends from the CCAC — a practice actually started by Tom Andrews when he ruled the Auditorium roost — Borchert refused to answer.

He was loud and clear about one thing: "I shall protect the interests of my club. No one else will get a lease in the Auditorium while I have a club in it, and while those who sold their interests to me are trying to get back in the building."

Representing the American Boxing League, Atty. Frank Fawcett urged the commission, "Let it not be said that after you have rendered your decision that the prophecy that 'Otto Borchert can do anything with the commission' be held true."

Commission chairman A.J. Schinner — also sports editor of the Wisconsin News — personally favored opening the Auditorium to a second club, but wrote, "The whole affair is as sordid on one side as on the other, with none of the principals so vitally interested in the dear, patient public that it would not harpoon the hoi-polloi to gain what it wants."

"What a splendid humanitarian organization the boxers' league would be," he added, "if it had any viewpoint in mind other than to increase the percentage of its membership through the medium of a second club at the Auditorium!"

Except for a couple technical points, the commission's April 14 decision exonerating the CCAC was a Grand Slam for Otto. Frank Fawcett called it a "triumph for trickery" and said, "The commission has a double standard — one for the promoter with wealth, one for the boxer without."

Down but not out, the boxers' union lobbied in Madison for a bill that would allow outdoor boxing in Wisconsin. On June 24, Gov. Blaine signed one into law, and with Frank Fawcett in charge the Badger State Athletic Assockiation was formed to promote boxing at State Fair Park in West Allis.

A week before the first card there on August 14, Tom Andrews left Milwaukee for Los Angeles, to become matchmaker for the new Olympic Auditorium.

"My opponents in the promotion field here think that I have thrown the towel into the ring — that I intend to give up my fight for another lease in the Auditorium," he said before departing. "But they're wrong. They'll wake up some morning before next New Year's afternoon and discover another boxing club in the downtown arena."

The two cards promoted at State Fair in August and September were financial busts, and the site was written off as a poor fight venue. But the eight Auditorium cards promoted by the CCAC since January 1 hadn't done so great, either.

When Frank Mulkern said the CCAC would use any local boxer who wanted to work, several members of the American Boxing League defected from the union to fight on Auditorium cards.

On March 31, 1926, Tom Andrews returned to Milwaukee and announced his intention to "obtain a lease on the Auditorium, with intention of running a fight club."

Otto Borchert had a better idea. He granted the Badger State Athletic Association a lease to promote fights at Athletic Field, home of the Brewers, that summer, and didn't even object when Tom Andrews was made matchmaker.

But the three cards held at the ballpark were not moneymakers, and in November Andrews bought an existing boxing franchise operating out of the Empress Theater in downtown Milwaukee. He made it clear, though, that he would keep pressing for a lease at the Auditorium.

"I'll fight them to the end," he said, "and if there is any word like 'justice' left in the dictionary, I'll beat them."

A few weeks earlier, Journal sports editor Manning Vaughn had reported that Otto Borchert wanted out of the whole mess because "the trickery, the petty bickering, the double-crossing and the politics of the sport give him a large pain in the neck."

The bickering continued into 1927. Two years earlier, Andrews and the boxers' union were up in arms because the CCAC didn't use enough local ring talent; now Andrews was upset because the CCAC wouldn't keep its mitts off Milwaukee fighters.

"If the larger club would adopt a hands-off policy and not use small-time windups," Andrews said, "I think I would be able to produce some new fistic talent. The Auditorium club, one of the largest in America, ought to devote its attention to promoting important bouts and leave the 'home-grown naturals' for me and my Empress theater club."

So it went until April 27, when Otto Borchert dropped dead while giving a speech at the local Elks club.

Calling him a "square-shooter all the way," boxing commission secretary Walter Liginger recalled that Borchert "had many tiffs with the boxing commission, but his arguments were always fair and never other than sincere. He did much to increase the interest in boxing as president of the Cream City boxing club, and helped put the game on its present high plain."

Two days later, at Tom Andrews' card at the Empress Theater, the lights were dimmed as the timekeeper rang the ringside bell 10 times in tribute to the late boxing and baseball magnate.

On August 24, Andrews bought controlling interest in the CCAC from Ruby Borchert, Otto's widow (his attorney in the Wisconsin Athletic Commission hearing, Henry Killilea, had purchased the Milwaukee Brewers from her at the end of the 1927 season).

"Followers of boxing in Milwaukee are hoping that the new arrangement in the Auditorium club means the end of the promoters' feud that has held back the sport (here) for nearly a decade," wrote Jim Delaney in the Wisconsin News.

Not for long. In January of 1929, Billy Mitchell, having run out of boxing brothers to manage and his boxers' union having faded away, started promoting fights in the Antlers hotel ballroom. A few months later, Mitchell applied for a lease at the Auditorium. With Tom Andrews egging them on, the Auditorium directors said nothing doing. "Within the desired portals again, Andrews was as interested in protecting his rights as Borchert ever was," said the News.

Boxing's popularity waned throughout the 1930s. Tom Andrews got out of the promoting business and in 1941 he died. In the midst of a resurgence in local boxing, in late -'43 a new owner of the Milwaukee Brewers decided that the sport offered another opportunity to exercise his fertile imagination and "have some fun." He applied for a promoter's license.

By then, three different clubs promoted fights at the Auditorium. The owner of the ball club demanded an exclusive lease there like the ones Andrews and Borchert had in their day. When the boxing commission vetoed that, Bill Veeck said "Applesauce!" — or probably a scatological variation thereof — and stuck with baseball.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1951 Pocket Schedule

This tri-fold pocket schedule laid out the season for the 1951 Milwaukee Brewers.

On the cover, Owgust squats behind the plate. Back your Brewers!

The interior flap features an ad for sponsor Miller High Life, the Champagne of Bottle Beer.

The interior shows the entire 1951 game schedule. Home games at Borchert Field are in red, road contests are blue. The Pittsburgh Pirates came to town on May 24 for a special exhibition game (a game the Buccos won, 9-4).

The back cover introduces us to Earl Gillespie, in his first season as the Brewers' radio announcer.

And what a season Gillespie got to call; the Brewers cruised to a 94-57 record, nine games clear of the St. Paul Saints to claim Milwaukee's seventh American Association pennant. The Brews then went on to best the Montreal Royals, four games to two, in the 1951 Little World Series.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Produced Before Steroids: Happy Felsch's Great Clouts in 1914

by Dennis Pajot

Oscar "Happy" Felsch was a Milwaukee boy who came to the American Association Brewers in August 1913, after playing with the Milwaukee/Fond du Lac Mollys of the Wisconsin-Illinois League. In the W-I League Felsch had hit .337, including 10 home runs, in 49 games—mostly as a shortstop. He only managed to hit .183 in for the Brewers in 26 games—with only two home runs.

The Brewers held spring training in 1914 at Owensboro, Kentucky. Wet grounds forced the Brewers to train at a local golf course that was next to a river. Felsch was showing some of his explosive power, which caused some concern for the Brewers' bottom line, as the Milwaukee Sentinel informed its readers:
Teutonin Felch [sic], the slugging north sider, caught a couple in the groove and shot them a mile into the small river which bounds one side of the course. As balls cost $1.25 per, Clark requested him to shoot them in the direction of Milwaukee, in which direction there is no river.
On a little more serious note the Sentinel's Manning Vaughan wrote: "Felch [sic], it seems, is getting wise to himself and if he cuts out the monkey work there is no reason why he should not be the sensation of the league this season. He is smacking the ball on the nose and while the pitchers are not using any hooks on him he is whaling the ball so hard that the leather almost peels off when he kisses one on the trademark."

Brewer manager Harry Clark believed Felsch was one of the most natural hitters he had ever seen, his only weakness being his inability to hit curve balls. As the spring went on Felsch was hitting a lot of balls out of the park. Sentinel writer A.J. Schinner scribbled down this quick poem:
Count that day lost whose low descending sun,
Does not witness Felsch uncork a home run.
But Happy was striking out far too much. Schinner also commented: "Happy is a great, very great, batter when he hits the ball."

On April 6 the Detroit Tigers played the Brewers' regular squad in Owensboro. The Tigers won 4 to 2, the Brewer highlight being a home run by Felsch over the center field fence—said to be the longest clout ever seen at Owensboro's south side park.

We must remember that home runs were a much rarer breed in this era than later eras of baseball. For example, the 1913 Brewers were second in home runs in the American Association, with 31 in 170 games. Of course, a number of these were inside-the-park home runs, so the news of Happy Felsch hitting long shots out of the park is much more newsworthy than it would be today.

As spring training progressed, Clark worked with Felsch's style of hitting. As the Milwaukee Journal put it: "Before Happy's one aim was to tear the cover off the ball, but under instructions he has been cutting away at the ball in a manner which has brought forth line drive after line drive and at the same time not robbed him of his healthy swing when the long ones are needed."

In the early part of the 1914 regular season, Felsch put on a long ball display that became legendary at the time. On April 28 the Brewers entertained the Cleveland Spiders at Athletic Park. With darkness setting in, Happy hit a titanic home run in the 10th inning to win the game 3 to 2. The Sentinel humorously reported the clout "cleared the fence by forty feet, traveled clear across Eighth Street, hitting the front porch of one of our best known German citizens. It then bounded through a perfectly good plate of glass and landed in the lap of Mrs. Herman Hassenfeffer, who was sitting near the window sewing a new button on her husband's Sunday pants. Incidentally it cost [Brewer President] Al Timme three bucks for a new pane of glass, but he should worry. Didn't it win us the game?" From the newspaper report it was obvious the hometown Felsch had a big following:
As soon as Happy hit the ball over the wall the bugs flocked out of the bleachers, and there was a reception committee of over a hundred fans at the plate by the time he had completed the circuit. They nearly shook his hand off, while a flock of kids followed him all the way to the clubhouse, patting him on the back and acting as only baseball bugs can act.
A direct result of Felsch's homer was that the Brewer management decided the 56 foot high flag pole in deep left centerfield, which was to fly the 1913 pennant, had to be raised to 75 feet, as not to obstruct Hap's long hits.

On the first of May Felsch hit another home run against the Spiders, in a 12 to 6 route.

Two days later, before a large Sunday crowd of 11,171, Happy hit another titanic home run. Usually his home runs were high, long shots, but this was a rifle shot that hit near the corner of 8th and Burleigh, then bounded on the sidewalk on the west side of the street, and continued over the vacant lot. The ball was picked up from the gutter on the north side of Burleigh by a kid who took off for parts unknown. The Sentinel's Manning Vaughan wrote it was the longest lick he had seen at Athletic Park. The Journal's Brownie agreed.

As with most legendary occurrences, stories varied and got bigger. The Milwaukee Journal said that the motorman and conductor on a passing streetcar heard something hit the side of the car and rock it from side to side. They got out to investigate and found a baseball flattened on one side. The passengers were dismissed and a crew was called to pry the ball from the side of the car.

A week later, on May 9, Felsch uncorked another home run, longer than that just talked of. This monumental smash sailed over the batter's screen—erected in front of the two-bit seats in center field to help the batter see the ball—into the stands, landing about ten rows up. The centerfield bleachers were exactly 485 feet from home plate. The screen over which the drive sailed was twelve feet high, and the ball topped this by ten feet. The Journal commented: "Happy's clout rose a mile in the air, and the ball did not start to descend until it was almost in the bleachers, It certainly was some smash."

The Sentinel was quick to point out: "His recent demonstration of batting a baseball over an unusually long city block will be a part of local baseball history so long as the present generation of fans exists."

Milwaukee Journal baseball writer Speck gave his readers this insight at the blast. With John Beall on base Hap came up to face Louisville pitcher Fred Toney.
The fielders moved back a bit. The crowd wanted a hit. There was a flash of white from the pitcher's box and a sound that resembled the swatting of an empty barrel with a bed slat. Away out in the center field bleachers there was a young man just about to open a bottle of brown soda pop. The neck of the bottle was pointed towards the diamond. Bang! The ball hit the bottle right on the nose, pushed in the plunger and the brown beverage flowed out. It was a home run and Beall counted ahead of him, the longest that has ever been made at the Eighth-st pasture. Some drive! It was.
That long drive certainly set an Athletic Park record. Sentinel sports columnist J.J. Delany said it went 497 feet and some inches. "How many inches no one will ever know, for some enterprising bleacherite grabbed the ball as it landed and now gives it the place of honor on his parlor mantle."

Oscar Felsch was not exactly a household name at this time, as in its game summary Sporting Life wrote: "French's home run in the second went into the centre-field bleachers, 485 feet away, and was the longest drive ever made at Athletic Park."

Felsch's long homers continued, as on June 4 he blasted a ball over the left field scoreboard in Minneapolis' Nicollet Park, said to be one of the longest hits ever made there.

In September Happy again put on a long ball display for the Milwaukee fans—this after he had been sold to the Chicago White Sox, although he finished the 1914 season with the Brewers. On September 15 he clouted a mammoth home run at Athletic Park against the St. Paul pitcher Harry Gardner. "The drive was a whale, for the ball sailed clear over Eighth street, and hit the top of Mrs. Herman Hassenfeffer's mansion. A couple of carpenters, who were on the roof laying shingles, were nearly hit by the ball, and every time Happy came to bat after that they made ready to duck." It was reported the ball cleared the screen on the left field fence—erected earlier in the season to stop 'cheap' home runs—by 50 feet.

Four days later, in Kansas City, Felsch hit a two run homer with two out in the tenth inning to propel the Brewers to a 6 to 4 win. The blast, Milwaukee's favorite son's 18th of the season, was one of the longest seen in the K.C. ballpark. Not to be outdone, the next day Blues' first baseman Bunny Brief hit a two run home run in the same location as Felsch's the day before, but only a little further.

Oscar "Happy" Felsch hit 19 home runs for the American Association Brewers in 1914, with a .304 batting average in 151 games. As we know he would go on to play with the Chicago White Sox, and gain a sort of ever lasting fame.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Milwaukee Tavern Scorecard - July 23, 1932

Today we continue our look at Milwaukee tavern cards with this exemplar from 1932.

This scorecard was distributed to Milwaukee taverns on Saturday, July 23, 1932. While the Brewers were on the road in Kansas City, these tavern cards were keeping the folks at home up-to-date on the scores. Most notably that the Brewers had defeated the Blues 8-6 the previous evening.

This particular card, like the 1927 card we looked at earlier, was published by the B.F. Steinel Publishing Company. 1934 marked their 26th year of publishing these tavern cards.

This card has additional notations on several of the major league games (half of which were double-headers). In the second game of their double-header against the Red Sox, Lou Gehrig hit one out of the Big Ballpark in the Bronx.

Meanwhile, the Giants and Braves were playing their own pair of games at Braves Field in Boston. Their second game was called in the 8th inning on account of darkness.

Pretty good day for baseball fans in the Big Apple, unless you were from Brooklyn; the Yanks and Giants won a combined four games but the Dodgers dropped two in Philly.

The ads aren't quite as visually interesting as the previous card, but there are some worth pointing out:

I love the Whitefish Bay Inn. John Pandl, the propritor, died in a fall just three months after this tavern card was printed. The restaurant is still in the same place, now owned by his grandson.