Thursday, December 27, 2012

Milwaukee Tavern Scorecard - July 22, 1940

Today we present another in our series of Milwaukee tavern cards. This example, dating from July 22, 1940, is different than the others we've seen, conspicuous by the lack of a publisher's credit.

The phone number - Marquette 6857 - is in the same exchange as our Steinel Publishing card from 1932, and the notation "34th Year" lines up with their date, but I can't find the name anywhere.

The graphics aren't as much fun as some of the cards we've looked at, but there's a world of information in this beauty.

We can start by looking at the American Association standings. This late in July, the Brewers were languishing in fifth place, ahead of only Indianapolis.

The Brewers were playing a night game against Toledo, so that day's game missed the print deadline. The space its score would be displayed is filled instead with some intriguing Brewer news from the days before:
Ray Schalk's debut as the new manager of the Brewers yesterday wasn't exactly a howling success neither was it a complete washout thanks to a seventh inning second game homer by Charlie English with two mates aboard to give the Schalkmen an even break for the day in their twin bill with the Columbus Red Birds. The visitors easily won the first game, 11 to 4. The score of the second was 6 to 3.
It is follwed up below by this note:
Schalk, who saw the Brewers lose to the Birds Saturday, assumed management of the club immediately after that game following the resignation of Mickey Heath who will spend his time between Milwaukee and the farm clubs operated by the Brewers.
Ray Schalk was a popular former Brewer of thirty years previous, one of many big-league players who found his entry to the majors via Milwaukee. He came to the Orchard in 1911 and the following season was sold to the White Sox, where he became famous as one of the honest players on the "Black Sox" squad). Thirty years later, he was brought in as a skipper to take over from player/manager Minor "Mickey" Heath, who was about to transition to coaching and broadcasting with the club.

This particular tavern card chronicles an important moment in Milwaukee Brewer history, more than earning it a spot in our Archives.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays from Borchert Field

"Owgust and the entire Borchert Field force wish you and yours a merry, merry Christmas and the best for the new year."
The original festive Owgust is here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

1976 Borchert Field Postcard

The demolition of Borchert Field was completed on June 11, 1953, but the ballpark lingered longer in the memories of fans.

This "short run color" postcard of a very quiet Borchert Field was printed in 1976. That makes it something of an oddity, produced during the fallow period after the Brewers were dead and buried—indeed, anyone at that time interested in past Milwaukee clubs would probably have stopped at the Braves—but before the retro craze revived mass commercial interest in old clubs and their ballparks.

The photo itself, credited to Harold Esch, is undated, but perhaps we can narrow down the timeframe.

We can start with the light standards. The infield lights are casting a shadow from behind the camera, but are not visible. That helps, because those poles were originally placed on the field in front of the grandstand, and were moved outside the park in early 1942. So we know if it can't be any earlier than that.

The outfield ads along that right field fence might be a better bet. They don't match the ads we know were in place in 1952. So 1952 is too late.

We can go one year earlier; this photo of first baseman George Crowe was taken in 1951.

The three outfield ads right behind him match perfectly. (click for larger)

They are, from left, Hooligan's Super Bar at the corner of Farwell and North Avenues, Burghardt Athletic Goods (which had a long relationship with the Brews, even supplying their uniforms) and finally the Milwaukee Wood Fuel Co..

On the other hand, the billboard to the left doesn't match.

And there's a large billboard over his shoulder that doesn't seem appear on the postcard.

So that would seem to set the last date it could have been taken. Let's see if we can narrow down the earliest.

In 1947, April snow forced the postponement of Opening Day. From the Milwaukee Journal coverage, we get a good look at the right field wall, as team secretary Fredric (Shorty) Mendelson gazes forlornly across the infield.

It's an almost perfect match for the angle of Mr. Esch's postcard photo, allowing us to compare the ads plastered across the right field wall.

Although we can't make out all the ads in our 1947 photo, we can see clearly enough to establish that four visible billboards match our postcard:

Those are the same three from our George Crowe photo, plus Checker Cab Company on the extreme left.

There are, however, two billboards which just as obviously don't match.

I can't quite make out the left one on the postcard but the right is for WTMJ TV. The newspaper photo shows something different. So not 1947.

I don't know how often the ads changed over; I'd expect some minor turnover every winter, but not within the baseball season. It seems reasonable to expect at least some ads to remain the same from year to year. There may be one other clue on that wall, though. Look at the foul line: it runs right over the Milwaukee Wood Fuel Company's ad.

Very unusual; you'd expect the ads to be placed so that the foul line ran between them rather than through one. The original foul line was, in fact, along the right edge of that last billboard. It was moved as part of a general overhaul of the ballpark after the 1946 season, when the Boston Braves bought the team. One of the changes they made was moving home plate, shrinking the outfield but also improving the park's notorious sightlines. Moving the plate also required moving the foul poles, in this case thirteen feet to the north, resulting in the bisected ad.

The trees appear to be in full leaf, indicating that it was taken during the spring or summer. We know that the spring of 1947 was unseasonably cold, and it seems unlikely that the outfield walls would have been repainted so soon after the park was overhauled, so I'll say we're now talking about early 1948 as the earliest possible date.

Our window is now between 1948 and 1950. That's pretty good, but I'll keep looking and see if I can't get it any closer than that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"The Enemy is Defeated", 1914

This cartoon was printed on the sporting page of the Milwaukee Sentinel on Monday, September 28, 1914:

The Brewers are depicted as a longhaired character in a spiked pickelhaube scaling the wall of "Fort Pennant". Smoke drifts from the barrel of his baseball-bat cannon behind him as he raises his saber in victory and cries in a thick accent:
Two days before, the Brewers had defeated the St. Paul Saints 11-3 (relying on their "heavy artillery") to clinch their second consecutive American Association pennant over the second-place Louisville Colonels. That's their manager "Scrappy Jack" Hayden playing the corpse above.

The cartoon was by Clarence "Cad" Brand, who had been scribbling for the Sentinel since 1900. Brand created this long-haired character, who was more commonly seen in a baseball uniform and old-fashioned cap, to represent the Brews.

I'm intrigued by the imagery Brand has chosen for this victory cartoon. The World War was only two months old. The cartoon was published exactly three months after the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28th, and two months to the day after war was declared. I imagine that, at the time, nobody fully appreciated that the conflict was eventually going to spread across the ocean, but even so the military imagery is curious given the war headlines racing across the facing pages of the paper.

Of course, the war would not be contained to Europe, and less than three years later the United States declared war on Germany and began sending her boys "Over There".

To drum up and maintain support for the war, the U.S. government launched an anti-German campaign, using imagery stunningly similar to Brand's. This poster by artist Fred Strothman depicts almost exactly the same scene as Brand's cartoon, but from the other side of the hill. Our lovable "Py Golly!" character is now the bloody Hun, saber, pickelhaube and all.

What a difference a few years can make.

Friday, December 7, 2012

1951 Junior World's Series Ticket

This ticket stub, rescued from a scrapbook, gives us a look into the penultimate day of the Brewers' penultimate season in Milwaukee.

This ticket was good for one Borchert Field grandstand entry to the Junior World's Series game against the Montreal Royals.

The Junior World's Series, also known as the Little World Series (the possessive forms of both names seem to have been used interchangeably), was a best-of-seven played between representatives of two of the largest minor leagues, the American Association and the International League.

Unlike the leagues involved in that other World Series, the American Association didn't automatically send its pennant winner. The champion instead joined the next three teams in a two-round "Shaughnessy playoff" to determine who would go on to the Little Series. In the 1940s, it was a source of great consternation for team president Bill Veeck that his mighty clubs, which took home three pennants in a row, couldn't ever make it to the Series. In 1951, however, the Brewers were both the Association champs and the playoff kings for just the second time in their history.

The Series had opened in Montreal, and by the time the Brewers came back to the Orchard they found themselves down 2-1. A little home cooking was just what the Brews needed, though, and they came back to take the fourth game and tie the series. That's where it stood when this ticket was carried through the turnstyle.

Game 5 was played on October 3rd at Borchert Field. The Brewers rewarded the home fans from the start, scoring on a hard single from first baseman and Rookie of the Year George Crowe in the bottom of the first. They scored another in the third and four in the seventh to put the game away, all while pitcher Ernie Johnson held the Royals scoreless.

It was never close, and when the out was recorded the score was six to nothing in Milwaukee's favor. This game broke the series tie and put the Brewers just one game away from clinching.

The following day, the two clubs returned to Eighth and Chambers to play again. That sixth game didn't start off well for the home team, as the Royals jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the top of the third inning. The Brews wouldn't be stopped, though; they battled back with five runs in the sixth, one in the seventh and three in the eighth. When the dust settled, it was Brewers 13, Royals 10. Game over, series over and Milwaukee was on top of the minor league baseball world.

This was the club's eighth AA pennant, third Little Series championship and fifth overall minor league crown.

The ticket stub itself is a fascinating artifact from the last days of the American Association Brewers. I love that moiré pattern, not to mention any opportunity to see Owgust in action. And compare this ticket with the box set ticket; $2.50 got you into the box seats, but you only needed $1.50 for the grandstand.

Regardless of where you were sitting, grandstand or box, if you were one of the 9,188 people with a ticket like this, it must have been one hell of a game to watch.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

1932 Score Card

This score card was sold at Borchert Field during the 1932 season. Like the 1933 card we've already looked at, this one is printed on heavy cardstock, bi-folded to create four pages, 7 inches tall by 9½ inches wide.

The cover is striking for its large ad for mineral water, "on sale at the ball park."

I'm also intrigued by the decorative detailing. In each corner of the cover, the border is marked by a small swastika.

The swastika, which dates back as far as ten thousand years, was a common good luck symbol in the early part of the 20th century. As such, it was not uncommon to find it in a sporting context, although that would soon come to an end. The Nazis were on the rise in Germany in 1932, winning a plurality of seats in the Reichstag that July. In January of 1933 the Third Reich was formed with the swastika as its emblem, and the ancient symbol would forever be tied to tyranny and horror.

But that was still in the future. On the inside of the program, your Milwaukee Brewers:

Wearing lucky number 7 is player/manager Frank O'Rourke. Note that he's listed as sharing hot corner duties with "Pip" Koehler. Other Brewers of note include diamond clown "Cuckoo" Christensen, pitchers Garland Braxton, Earl "Teach" Caldwell and Rollie Stiles (you may remember we examined his jersey earlier), catcher Russ Young, and Ted Gullic, who was in his first full season at Borchert Field. Gullic would go on to become one of the most popular Brewers ever, playing eleven seasons in Milwaukee.

And what a sign of the times that was, with two different cigarette ads proudly proclaiming their product is gentle on the throat.

The Indianapolis Indians were visiting the Orchard that day.

So the Brewers sourced their hot dog buns from a local bakery. Interesting. Between that and the mineral water, we're getting a better sense of Borchert Field's concessions.

The Milwaukee Herold, in the bottom right corner, was a German-language newspaper that had been publishing since 1861. At one time Milwaukee had several German papers, with circulation exceeding that of their English competitors. Those days were past, and the Herold closed its doors at the end of September 1932.

The back cover brings us another "lucky number" contests, and an ad buying tickets from a local vendor. Hugo "Sluggy" Walters' tavern was a longtime fixture around the corner from the Orchard. Walters opened his doors in 1902, the same year the Brewers took up residence in his neighborhood's ballpark, and Sluggy never missed a home opener.

The scorecard is probably most notable for what it doesn't include.

No beer ads.

Although today it seems impossible to separate baseball from beer, Milwaukee's most famous product, and the inspiration for the club's nickname, was not legal at the time this card was sold to fans. 1933 saw Prohibition in its dying throes; President Roosevelt signed the Cullen–Harrison Act, allowing the manufacture of low-alcohol beer, in March, and Prohibition was repealed by the end of the year. The Brewers' score cards in 1933 would prominently carry ads for Miller High Life on its back cover.