Wednesday, January 30, 2013

County Stadium is Almost Ready for the Brewers, 1953

Sixty years ago today, the Milwaukee Sentinel ran this nearly-full-page photo essay of Milwaukee's new County Stadium, which was almost ready for the Brewers to move in.

A replacement for Borchert Field had been in the works for decades, but at last the Brewers could see their new stadium. They had been busily promoting it for a couple years, including this postcard:

and this 1952 Spring Training roster card.

Within months, they would finally be out of their old wooden ballpark crammed into the city block at 8th and Chambers an in a modern, concrete-and-steel ballpark with acres of parking and room to stretch out.

Let's look at each of the photos individually.

America's Finest Stadium (Ours) Almost Ready for 'Play Ball!'

Although winter is scheduled to be with us for another couple of months, the picture at the new Milwaukee County Stadium is encouraging enough to lead us to believe Jack Frost will get an early boot. This photo of the new stadium's grandstand shows the progress being made to have everything shipshape for the opening day's festivities April 15. The stadium will seat close to 30,000. There will be 16,865 lower grandstand seats, including 4,263 box seats, while the upper deck will handle 10,321 customers. Another 675 will be accommodated in the press box, while plans now call for about 2,000 bleacher seats. Yessir, Milwaukee's anxious to hear "Play Ball!"
Outstanding. Of all the expansions to County Stadium over the years, the main stands were the least affected. Aside from the ends, which saw additions in the subsequent years, this photo could have been taken when I started going to games in the 1970s, or in the 1990s as the stadium saw its final years.

Sentinel writer "Red Thisted (left), who has covered the Milwaukee Brewers for the last 27 years, tours the new baseball layout with Earl Levy, Brewers' ticket sales director. Note how well installation of lower grandstand seats is coming along. Baseball experts the country over are marveling at the new layout and labeled the park America's finest. "Red" is in the press section.
It wasn't just "baseball experts" marveling over the new park; other teams were taking notice. In St. Louis, Browns president Bill Veeck was trying to move his club back to Milwaukee (where they had played through the American League's founding in 1901), and of course Boston Braves boss Lou Perini was preparing to take over his top farm club's new home for himself.

County Stadium was the culmination of plans, begun in the late 1930s, to lure a Major League club back to the Cream City. I doubt anyone involved suspected how successful those plans would eventually be.

All this scene (under the new grandstand) needs to make it complete is a surge of baseball fans milling to get into the park to match the nation's favorite pastime. But it won't be long before King Baseball is back and Milwaukeeans will be flocking to heir new sports palace.
I remember this concourse well, although in my mind I see it crammed with the food vendors and merchandise stands of the 1970s and 1980s.

These turnstyles will be humming when those crowds start pouring into the stadium. For Brewer fans who remember the antiquated gate at Borchert Field this scene looks like paradise. No more waiting in line before a couple of ticket offices as of old.
Interesting to get a perspective of the Borchert Field experience, but "fans who remember" the old stadium? It hadn't even been one off-season since the Brewers played their last game. Talk about forward-looking.

Everything's big league in Milwaukee's new ball park, including the dugouts. Here is a view of one of the team quarters—a bit more spacious than the old ball park afforded. It's on a par with those in major league parks.
This is the first look we have at what the new park was going to offer the players. Note again the emphasis on how ready the new stadium was to host a big-league club.

Those long, open dugouts were a far cry from the angled dugouts crammed into Borchert Field's corners.

The rush in on. Folks are making certain they'll see the opener. Here is a view of the ball club's office at the stadium as Walter Ludy of South Milwaukee (at right of counter) buys 60 tickets for the big event. Next to him is Jack Schwid, while across the counter is Earl Levy. The girl in foreground is Shirley Mack, 1505 N. Franklin Pl, a secretary.
Sixty tickets? A true fan.

I've no doubt that Mr. Ludy was first in line to trade those in for Braves' opening day tickets on the day the move was announced.

Many of us no doubt remember County Stadium in its later years: a little run-down, in need of a coat of paint. This newspaper page is a reminder of a time when the stadium was new and the Brews' future was wide open.

No comments:

Post a Comment