Wednesday, February 13, 2013

1953 Old Time Ballplayers' Banquet Program

February of 1953 was an exciting time for Milwaukee baseball fans. The Brews were coming off their eighth American Association pennant, and that success had drawn interest in the Cream City as a major league market. Former Brewer owner Bill Veeck had tried to move his St. Louis Browns back to Milwaukee, but was blocked by the Boston Braves, in a move seen as reserving the market for their own relocation. It was only a matter of time before Milwaukee was big league again.

While looking to that future, baseball fans could also remember the past. On February 12, the Old Time Ballplayers Association of Wisconsin held its 16th Annual Banquet at the Elk's Club in Milwaukee.

The Toastmaster for the event was Charlie Grimm, then the manager of the Boston Braves and two-time former skipper of the Brews.

That's Brewer manager Tommy Holmes on the cover; he and Jolly Cholly had a complicated history. Holmes had been a popular outfielder with the Boston Braves for nearly a decade who had briefly been the club's player-manager before being fired partway through the 1952 season and replaced with "Jolly Cholly", then in his second stint managing in Milwaukee. The Braves then hired Holmes to manage the Brews, taking over full-time for Grimm, at the end of the season.

There were many notable men on the dais that day, none more so than former major leaguer and Milwaukee native Al Simmons. Born Aloisius Szymanski on the South Side, Simmons came up on the city's sandlots and played for the Brewers in parts of the 1922 and 23 seasons before being signed by Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics, where he had a stellar 21-year career. Simmons had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown only two weeks earlier, and Wisconsin was flush with pride in its first Hall of Famer.

On the back of the program is a word from Fred Miller (who supplied the banquet with programs and beer) and the notation
"Good Luck to the Milwaukee Brewers during the 1953 Season"
As we know now, it was not to be. Barely a month later, on March 18th, the National League approved the Braves' move to Milwaukee and the Brewers were out.

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