Seventy years ago, if not quite to the day, our Brewers were kicking off their 1943 home campaign with a game against the Minneapolis Millers. Nearly 12,000 loyal baseball fans packed into Borchert Field to watch the action, and they themselves were captured by the Milwaukee Sentinel's camera:
THEY'RE OFF AT BORCHERT FIELD—Here is a picture of the humanity packed stands at the ball park Wednesday afternoon for the Brewers' home opener with the Millers. The visitors scored an unearned run in the ninth to win, 2-1, before an unofficial attendance of 11,954 persons.Those 11,954 fans watched a patriotic pregame ceremony featuring the American Legion, the Miller High Life band, the Junior Legion baseball champs and representatives of the Army, Navy, Marines, WAVES and WAACs. Milwaukee acting mayor John Bohn threw out the first pitch to Brewer backstop Hank Helf, and the ball was then auctioned off for $10,000.
The Orchard was ready for the season; team president Bill Veeck had installed a "spite fence", constructed of chicken wire 40 feet high, along the right field wall in hopes of containing the Millers' southpaw-heavy lineup.
The fence did its job, but as the Sentinel's photo caption notes, the Brewers lost that game in a heartbreaker. Right-handed Brewer starter "Jittery Joe" Berry pitched a brilliant game, at one point retiring nineteen batters in a row, but was let down by an offense that scored only one run and by a defensive blunder that came at the worst possible moment: the ninth inning.
The Millers' bats, having been silent since the opening pitches of the game, started to find some life in the top of the ninth. Berry retired the first batter but walked the second, Minneapolis left fielder Frank Danneker, who moved to third on a hit-and-run by Joe Vosmik. The next Miller up was pitch hitter Roy Fontaine, who tapped an easy grounder up the first base line. First-sacker Merv Connors sailed the throw home, which let Danneker score and put Millers on first and third. Jittery Joe got out of the inning by striking out catcher Frank Trechock and throwing out third-baseman "Flea" Clifton himself, but that one unearned run was the difference.
Opening Day ticket (printer's proof)
The 12,000 Brewer faithful went home "feeling like a jilted bridegroom", according to Sentinel writer Stoney McGlynn. Let's hope the 45,000 fans watching our Brew Crew this afternoon leave with a better start to the season, but even if they don't, keep in mind that the Brews still went on to claim the 1943 Association pennant, their second in a row.