Monday, August 27, 2012

"Brewers Score", 1944

On the morning of April 22, 1944, Brewer fans not fortunate enough to have seen the previous day's home opener at Borchert Field were treated to this highlight in the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Sentinel photo

The first of two runs which were scored in the fourth inning to give the Brews an opening day victory over the Saints here Wednesday is shown above.
These graphic re-creations were the Sportscenter highlights of their day, allowing us to review the play closely:

Quick aside - look at all the fans sitting on the warning track in fair territory! In the past, I thought that might have been limited to special events, but here we have conclusive evidence that it occurred during some actual games.

As the play starts, shortstop Dick Culler comes up to bat with the bases loaded and second baseman Tommy Nelson on third, catcher Jim Pruett on second and right-handed pitcher Earl Caldwell on first.

Culler lines a bouncer through the infield, with the runners going. The St. Paul left fielder tosses to second, forcing out Caldwell. As the dust settles, Culler is safe at first, Pruett is standing on third and Nelson in the dugout with the Brewers on the board.

As a bonus, that's manager and part-owner Charlie Grimm standing in the third base coach's box, and coach (not to mention team fixture) Red Smith coaching at first.

1944 was a tumultuous year for the Brewers. Less than two weeks after that Opening Day win, Grimm was hired to manage the Chicago Cubs and Casey Stengel was brought in to take over for the rest of the season.

Casey guided his new team to the 1944 Association pennant and several of his players to the majors. All four of the men involved in that Opening Day play found themselves in the big leagues before the 1945 opener. In November, Pruett was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics, while Nelson and Culler were shipped as a package deal to the Boston Braves. Earl Caldwell was sold to the White Sox the following February.

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