Monday, February 25, 2013

"Whoever heard of playing baseball in overcoats?", 1943

Seventy years ago this month, representatives from the Milwaukee Brewers left Borchert Field and drove twenty miles west to inspect proposed new Spring Training facilities in Waukesha. Wartime travel restrictions forced the Brewers to move their Spring Training camp from Ocala, Florida, and a Milwaukee Journal photographer was there to catch the action as they toured the snowy grounds.

Good eye, Charley! Brewer officials visited Waukesha Tuesday noon and inspected the facilities for the spring training of Milwaukee's baseball squad. They are shown trying out the Frame Park diamond, with some of Waukesha's reception committee in the background.
Talk about a mighty swing! That's manager Charlie Grimm teeing off a snowball from Mickey Heath, coach and radio announcer. President Bill Veeck is behind the plate, with general manager Rudie Schaffer (in his undershirt!) acting as umpire. All the Brewers' top brass, having a little fun in the snow.

R.G. Lynch, sports editor of the Journal, reported the visit this way:
The Brewer officials went to Waukesha Tuesday to have lunch with sundry bigwigs of the town and inspect the spring training facilities. Everything was dignified enough at lunch and while the skaters' shelter house was inspected as a potential clubhouse, but that was as long as (Veeck) could stay on his dignity. As the party left the shelter house, a snowball hit Walter Dick, the city engineer, behind the ear, and another caught L.L. Bray, secretary of the Association of Commerce, in the middle of the back. And if venerable Charles Schuetze had not had to go back to his church furniture factory it might have been his ear.

     Veeck had an armful of snowballs by that time—it was swell packing snow, too—so everybody had to make snowballs in self-defense and they flew from every direction.

     When the party reached the grandstand in Frame park, the Journal photographer wanted a picture. Veeck, Grimm, Schaffer and Mickey Heath piled into the snow for an impromptu ball game. Somebody dug up a stick for a bat. Just as they got set for a shot, Veeck yelled, "Wait a minute! Whoever heard of playing baseball in overcoats?"

     Veeck, Heath and Schaffer shed their coats. "Not me! protested Grimm. "I just came up from Missouri. Do you want me to catch pneumonia?"

     Just then a snowball caught Charley in the back of the head. He stiffened, rolled his eyes and, in the best Grimm comedy style, did a dead man fall smack on his face in the snow.

     Grimm got up and let out a howl. He pointed and there was Schaffer with his shirttails out, unbuttoning. A moment later he was in his underwear, ready to umpire the snow game.
And with a click of a shutter, the moment was captured for us to marvel at today.

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