Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Cowboys Swarm Where Brewers Used To Frolic", 1945

We've seen how Borchert Field hosted many events besides baseball games. The Orchard was home to boxing, NFL football, cycling, soccer, ice skating and even balloon racing.

In late July and early August of 1945, Borchert Field was scheduled to lay vacant for thirty days while the Brewers took a forty-game road trip across the American Association. To fill some of that time, a brand-new event was booked into Milwaukee's baseball park: a rodeo.

Among the attractions, the Circle A Rodeo promised to feature two and a half hours of "Cowboy and Cowgirl Champions Riding Outlaw Broncs, Wild Brahma Steers, Bull-dogging and Other Hair Raising Rodeo Events". They brought circus acts and a car jump, "dive bomb crashing a stock automobile over a transcontinental bus into five parked cars." Something for everyone.

By the time the show closed, it had featured all that plus a little extra drama that the promoters hadn't planned on.

THEY'LL BE THERE—Here are some of the prairie flowers you'll see in action when the Circle A rodeo appears at Borchert Field Aug. 2 through Aug. 7. Proceeds of the Friday evening performance will go to the Sentinel's Fun Fund for Hospitalized Veterans. The cowgirls, from left (top), Doris Huskey, Wichita Falls, Tex.; Mary Parker, Cheyanne, Who.; Avis Camble, Pendleton, Ore.; (bottom), Alma Williams, Pocatello, Ida.; Dora Rogers, Butte, Mont.; Jean Albright, Panama City, Fla.
Sentinel photo

The Circle A Rodeo rode into Milwaukee on Wednesday, August 1. The rodeo opened a six-day run at Borchert Field starting the next day, with nine performances; one each evening and an extra matinee on Saturday and Sunday.

The ballpark had been prepared for the buckaroos; the Milwaukee Journal reported that
the baseball field was converted into the traditional rodeo arena. Chutes to hold the broncs for the rough riding event were built along the base line. Bulldogging and calf roping areas were laid out. The stock was pastured near the city limits, waiting to be moved in just before show time.
When that show time came, an estimated 5,000 spectators were there to watch the action. The opening night event started well, with all the Wild West pageantry the Milwaukee fans could hope for.

Cowboy Bob Barton entertained the rodeo crowd with rope twirling tricks in the best Will Rogers manner. He made loops big enough to drive a fire truck through and small enough to catch a cigaret. Barton was later tossed by a steer but escaped injury.
Sentinel photo

This pyramid of performers produced some of the skillful entertainment in the rodeo.
Sentinel photo

There was some added excitement when a Brahma bull kicked its way out of a pen and chased the rodeo hands around the outfield for about ten minutes, during which time "nearly 500 youngsters left their seats and swarmed to the north-west end of the stands to get a better view of the action".

There were other unplanned incidents, including at least two separate ambulance rides to the hospital as riders were thrown from their horses. One of those broncos, freed of its rider, charged over an infield fence and into the seats behind first base.

A rangy cayuse got out of hand during the Circle A rodeo last night at Borchert Field when the saddle came loose. The horse kicked and struggled for a time before its rider subdued it.
Sentinel photo

The Friday night show was a benefit for the Milwaukee Sentinel's "Fun Fund", which provided entertainment for patients at the Wood Veterans' Hospital on National Avenue. The rodeo agreed to donate the evening's box office to the Fun Fund, and the Brewers agreed to do the same with their rent proceeds. All in all, 5,128 patrons turned out and nearly $2,000 was raised for the hospitalized veterans.

That crowd of 5,128 saw the same wild show as the previous night, complete with spills and runaway horses.

All sorts of unscheduled events are apt to happen at a rodeo. One of the unexpected incidents of the Circle A Rodeo performance last night at Borchert Field is shown here. A bronco got loose and didn't stop until it crashed into the fence. The animal was not badly hurt.
Sentinel photo

Another rodeo performer who fell victim to the surging and swaying back of a rambunctious steer was Cowboy Robert Barton of Texas. But those cowboys don't expect to stay on the steer's back for very long.
Sentinel photo

As might be expected, kids made up a large percentage of the rodeo's audience. I love this photo of three Milwaukee boys, in what I hope are Brewer caps, getting a close-up view of the action:

Clowns got a lot of laughs from the audience at last night's Circle A Rodeo show at Borchert Field. Clown "Smiley" is talking through the fence to a group of youthful admirers. Left to right, they are, Dennis Yunk, 3776 N. 11th St.; Tom Morrissey, 3822 N. 9th St., and Jerome Tuszklewicz, 3011 N. 1st St.
Sentinel photo

The third performance featured the most exciting event of all: a police raid.

A rider in the show named Gale Lee had secured a judgment against John T. Daros, the rodeo's owner, claiming an unpaid debt of $7,500. On that Saturday night, four deputy sheriffs arrived at Borchert Field to serve it.

They arrived at the box office in a squad car, three men in plainclothes and one in uniform, and seized the night's receipts, $2,305 in all.

Among the outraged parties was Harry Zaidins, the Brewers' attorney. Fifteen percent of those box office receipts belonged to the ball club, not to mention $500 still owed as a deposit against damages to the facilities. Uncle Sam hadn't been paid taxes on those ticket sales, meaning that the government had a claim on $401 of those seized dollars, money which would have to be made up somewhere.

Zaidins immediately filed an order to show cause, on the grounds that Daros had sold his interest in the rodeo that past August (right around the time Ms. Lee had loaned him the money). He was joined in this by the men who had purchased the rodeo from Daros, George Nicholson and Alma Williams of Chicago.

By Tuesday, Zaidins had convinced Circuit Judge August E. Brown that the original injunction was invalid, and he left the courthouse carrying the box office receipts in a money bag.

That night, the Circle A Rodeo ended its run at Borchert Field and moved on, taking their cut of the box office with them.

Zaidins told reporters that it would cost at least $1,200 to restore the infield before the Brewers returned home the following week. "Those horses ruined the place," he told them.

Regardless of the damage done to the field, and despite the high drama of an evening raid (or perhaps in part because of it), rodeos would become a regular summertime feature at the Orchard for the next several years.

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