Friday, May 31, 2013

Turning Back the Clock to... 1948

Rickie Weeks jumps clear of Minnesota's Jamey Carroll as he throws to first base to complete a double play. - Image credit: Associated Press
Last night, in Minneapolis, the Brewers participated in their second Turn Back the Clock game of the season honoring our American Association Brewers. The first, a game at Miller Park commemorating the centennial of the Brews' first pennant, was an event I had been involved with for nearly a year. I first suggested the game to's Doug Russell in May of 2012, and worked with the Brewers on and off throughout the late summer and fall with research on the uniforms. By the time the event was officially unveiled, I had lived with it long enough that it seemed almost an afterthought.

The Twins' announcement earlier this month that they and the Brewers would hold a 1948 TBTC event, by contrast, came right out of the blue. I hadn't heard anything about that one, a very welcome surprise.

These events are coordinated (and paid for) by the home team, and like the Brewers earlier this year the Twins hit a home run.

Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt and catcher Jonathan Lucroy model the throwback uniforms before the game
The uniforms were based on a surviving 1948 jersey worn by catcher Walt Linden that surfaced at auction last year. Majestic made one significant revision in their reproduction, replacing the original zipper with a button-up front, but other than that captured the spirit precisely.

The Twins played the game as the 1948 Saint Paul Saints. Each of the Twin Cities had their own representative in the American Association; the Millers from Minneapolis and the Saints of Saint Paul.
For this game, the Twins not only elected to play as the Saints but to wear Saint Paul's road uniforms: gray with blue piping and lettering.

The official reason for this decision was to give Saint Paul-born Joe Mauer the opportunity to wear his hometown's name across his chest, but I also wonder if the existence of the new independent St. Paul Saints club might not have had something to do with that as well. Regardless of the reason, the Twins took the field in road grays and the Brewers in their home creams.

That field was itself festooned with references to the Saints. Every digital reference around the ballpark was changed to reflect the Twins' temporary name, and the bases were emblazoned with 1948 logos:

The Twins' ground crew got into the act with "Lexington Park" jackets, reflecting the Saints' old ballpark.

Although clearly a modern jacket in cut and fit, the style of the lettering reminds me of the Grounds Crew jackets sold by Ebbets Field Flannels in Seattle. Interestingly, Ebbets currently offers a Borchert Field version, and one for the Millers' Nicollet Park, but Saint Paul is currently not represented in their catalog.

In the early innings, Brewer starter Kyle Lohse looked pretty good on the mound in both senses of the word. He retired the first six batters in order, and the evening sunlight showed off the beautiful uniforms to their best advantage:

Kyle Lohse started for the Brewers. Image credit: Associated Press
The "Saints" also looked great. A relatively simple uniform, but very well executed and with enough detail to keep it interesting. The Twins had custom royal-blue helmets with the Saints' "STP" logo on them:

Justin Morneau, right, congratulates Joe Mauer after Mauer's home run off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse in the fourth inning. Image credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
The Brewers had to make do with their regular helmets, stripped of the contemporary "barley-M" logo, as we can see from this shot later in the game:

Aramis Ramirez and Yuniesky Betancourt celebrate after scoring on Logan Schafer's triple. - Image credit: Getty Images
Surely they could have at least worked up a block "M" decal; a rare oversight in an otherwise excellent event. Note also the modern style decals on the back of Ramirez's helmet: the Times New Roman "16" and navy/gold batterman.

The wheels started to fall off in the third. Lohse give up four home runs to stake the Minnesotans to a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning.

Minnesota's Joe Mauer connects for a home run off Kyle Lohse in the fourth inning. - Image credit: MCT
That means today most of the widely-disseminated photos we have of the game involve a very unhappy-looking Lohse.

Kyle Lohse reacts after allowing a home run to Minnesota's Chris Parmelee in the third inning. - Image credit: Getty Images
Kyle Lohse waits for a new baseball as Minnesota's Joe Mauer rounds the bases after hitting a home run. - Image credit: Associated Press
Not to mention this picture of a mound visit.

Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz visits the mound to talk with Kyle Lohse and Jonathan Lucroy after Lohse allowed his fourth home run of the game and third in the fourth inning, to Minnesota's Ryan Doumit. - Image credit: Getty Images
Minnesota's Chris Parmelee is tagged out at the plate Jonathan Lucroy in the eighth inning. - Image credit: Associated Press
The Brewers were able to come back in later innings, even making a game of it, but in the end fall to the "Saints", 6-8.

Aramis Ramirez reacts to a called strike. - Image credit: Getty Images
The game was a frustrating one for Brewer fans (something we're used to this season), but could hardly have been better for fans of Milwaukee's baseball legacy.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Our First Look at 1948

Today, we got our first look at what tonight's 1948 throwback uniforms will look like on actual Brewers (as opposed to a Twins intern). The ever-indispensible John & Cait... Plus Nine blog on posted these photos of Yuniesky Betancourt and Jonathan Lucroy taken at Target Field.

Thanks to MLB's At Bat app, I have our first look at the Brewers' 1948 Turn Back the Clock uniforms in action. 

Unfortunately, the only clip up so far involves Kyle Lohse giving up a home run. Solo, at least. 

Looks good so far. The uniforms, at any rate. 

(Update) And, in the time it took me to post those pics, Lohse has given up three more home runs.  5-0, Minnesota. 

This is shades of the 1913 game all over again. 

I think that'll be all for tonight - I'll post a more comprehensive review tomorrow. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Walt Linden's 1948 jersey

As we continue to look ahead to the Brewers' Turn Back the Clock to 1948 game this week in Minneapolis, let's look at the artifact that made it possible.

This beautiful Brewers jersey was sold at auction about a year ago. It illustrates a team in transition from longtime independent operator to the top level of the Boston Braves' farm system.

Heritage Auctions

Heritage Auctions
The auction catalogue states:
1948 Walt Linden Game Worn Milwaukee Brewers Jersey.   Home white flannel was worn by catcher Linden as a member of the Boston Braves affiliate Milwaukee Brewers (Triple-A, American Association). Functional zipper front bisects "Brewers" in red and black felt on chest. Number "28" on verso has some seam separation but remains firmly affixed. "Linden" embroidered swatch appears beneath "Wilson [size] 42" tagging at interior collar. Solid wear throughout.
It's a gorgeous jersey, in amazing shape for being sixty-five years old. The catalog description captures it well, even if the trim is actually midnight navy, not black.

Although this particular jersey is from 1948, the design dates to the previous season and represents a stepping stone between eras in the team history. The "Brewers" script itself was introduced in 1942, part of a re-branding from new owners Bill Veeck and Charlie Grimm. That design lasted until 1946. Veeck had sold the club to Chicago attorney Oscar Salenger in October of 1945, but Salenger was unable to fund the transactions needed for the club to stay independent. After fielding interest from the White Sox, among others, Salenger sold the team to Lou Perini, owner of the Boston Braves, near the end of the 1946 season.

Beginning with the following Opening Day, in April of 1947, the Brews started looking a little more like the Braves. The Brewers' dark royal blue was replaced by Braves navy, the single-color thick blue soutache with the Braves' thin and distinctive navy/red/navy piping. The Brewers did keep their elegant 1942 script, if in the new color scheme, for the first several seasons they were in Boston's chain.

It's unclear as to how much a resemblance to the Braves was really intended in 1947; when the club's new uniforms arrived the day before their first game, the Brewers discovered that they had mistakenly been sent a shipment of Boston Braves jerseys, complete with Indian-head patch on the sleeve. The Milwaukee Sentinel's Lloyd Larson reported it this way in his column:

Fortunately for the Brewers, a snowstorm pushed the opening back one day, giving them time to correct the mistake. They made "a hurry call to a local sporting goods house"—possibly Burghardt, which had been supplying the Brewers at least since the early 1930s and would have been familiar with their chest script—and the new jerseys were stripped of their Boston iconography and repurposed for the Brews.

This jersey needed no such alteration; this style, intentional or otherwise, was retained for a second season and arrived from the manufacturer with the Brewers name laid over the Braves-style piping. The design would continue to evolve, culminating in the near-clone of the Braves' uniforms they would adopt by 1952.

As for the man who wore our exemplar in 1948, Walt Linden was a catcher who spent eight years in the minors, most of it in the Braves' farm system, playing at Borchert Field for parts of the 1947, '48 and '50 seasons. In 1948, he started with the Brewers but only played in five games before being shipped to the Braves' lower-level club in Hartford, Connecticut. He persisted with the organization and finally broke into the big club's roster with a three-game cup of coffee in 1950.

Linden's entry in the 1948 edition of Who's Who in the American Association mentions that he was signed to his first pro contract by Red Smith, who was a longtime Brewer coach and personnel man but in 1948 was coaching for the Cubs.

That entry also highlights a uniform development that was new for '48: a white block "M" on the caps to match the parent club's "B". In 1947, the Brewers were wearing navy caps with red bills and "M"s.

I doubt that we would see our National League Brewers in 1948 uniforms had this particular example not recently come to light. I also can't help but notice that the two jerseys available for sale on MLB's online shop utilize digits from the distinctive number set on the back of this jersey.

This jersey is an important piece of Milwaukee's baseball history, preserved through the years and now passed down, via the Minnesota Twins, to an entirely new generation of Brewer fans.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And Now, the 1948 Merchandise

We're still a week away from the the Brewers/St. Paul Saints throwback game in Minnesota, but retro merchandise from that game is now available on Major League Baseball's online store.

Of course, jerseys are a popular item, and they're now available.

The piping on these renderings is wrong—it should be navy/red/navy, not solid red—but I'm willing to chalk that up to a Photoshop error. Hopefully the retail authentics will look more like the ones at the unveiling:

As with the 1913 throwback jerseys, you can't customize a specific number (shame, as I'd love that "48" above). And again, you can order one with Ryan Braun's #8:

Unlike the 1913 throwback, however, a second number is available:

I really don't understand MLB's pricing. Putting Braun's #8 on the back adds $20 to the price, but Jonathan Lucroy's double-digit number increases that by only a buck.

If the retail jerseys are a bit out of your price range, you could always look at picking up one of these jersey t-shirts.

That really captures the spirit of the Brews' elegant script. Again, this is a Photoshop rendering, but I really hope the wordmark looks like that.

The blank version retails for $21.99, and for five dollars more you can get a name and number on the back, the same choice of Braun or Lucroy.

Then we have the caps, the most ubiquitous retail item:

This is the first throwback cap available this season. The Brewers had intended to sell white 1913 throwback caps, but New Era's inability to match Majestic's cream jerseys necessitated a last-minute change to blue caps, preventing MLB's merchandise machine from taking full advantage of the opportunity.

These 1948 Brewer caps appear to be the same as the Milwaukee Braves caps New Era has been selling for several years.

There are no additional pictures of the cap on MLB's site, but from the unveiling we know that the caps will have Jerry Dior's "batterman" logo on the back of the cap, as all modern game caps do.

As for the Brewers' opponents in the game, the shop only has two items, or rather one item in two forms; the 1948 throwback jersey, with or without Joe Mauer's number on the back.

...and that's it. No caps, no t-shirts. Based on the initial unveiling, I was expecting a whole line of t-shirts, jackets and more.

Perhaps those will be added soon, or perhaps they will be Target Field exclusives. I can't imagine they'd let the visiting Brewers outshine them in the marketplace.

So go check 'em out, and be sure to pick something up. I've already ordered a t-shirt. Support your Brews!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Voters Have Spoken - Barrelman Wins!

The votes are in! Just moments ago the Brewers issued a press release declaring the winner of their online "New Brew" vote:

The new Leinenkugel's beer, available only at Miller Park, will be named for our own Owgust's little brother.

"Bernie's Barrelman Ale" to be Served Exclusively at Miller Park Beginning Next Week; Name Selected in Online Vote

MILWAUKEE – By an overwhelming margin, "Bernie's Barrelman Ale" was selected as the name for a new beer created in a partnership between the Milwaukee Brewers and Leinie's. The beer will be available exclusively at Miller Park beginning this Monday, May 27. Over 10,000 votes were received and 55% voted for the winning name.

"With Milwaukee's heritage of brewing beer, an ale made exclusively for the Brewers was a great opportunity to pursue," said Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger. "We appreciate the work that Leinie's and our partners at MillerCoors put into this initiative, and were thrilled with the response of the fans in naming the new beer."

The newly-created beer is an ale, brewed with pale and roasted caramel malts along with cascade, nugget and willamette hops. It will be available exclusively at Miller Park and fans will be able to purchase the "New Brew" at locations on the Field Level behind sections 103, 118 and 125; on the Loge Level behind home plate and sections 206 and 213; and on the Terrace Level outside sections 413, 420 and 432.

In addition, Bernie’s Barrelman Ale will be available for tasting by credentialed media in the Media Dining Room prior to Monday’s game against the Dodgers.

The other names up for a vote included "Brew Crew Brew" (which netted 35% of the vote) and "Brewers All-Star Ale" (10%).

For more information, please visit
Outstanding. I never had a doubt.

I love the logo, but wonder how much it will actually get used. Possibly on plastic cups, maybe some signage around the stands? I'm presuming from the locations that the beer will only be available on tap, so no labels. I hope it gets good play; I would gladly buy a set of pint glasses with that logo.

And, of course, it's always nice to see the Beer Barrel Man in action, although we might have to accept this new name for him. When the Brewers first brought him back as a bobblehead in 2008 (using my re-design in the modern colors) they used the two-word name "Barrel Man":

Now the name is one long word. We'll see if that sticks. Unlike "Owgust" in the 1940s, this mascot logo has never had an official name. "Beer Barrel Man" was bestowed on him by fans, and has never had great currency.

In recent years, he's seen something of a resurgence, around the park and on merchandise. Once upon a time I advocated adopting him as a new Bernie Brewer, with mascot costume and all, but that seems unlikely.

This is the second popular win for the mascot this season; earlier this year he featured prominently on the winning "YOUniform" design this year, and the club continues to sell authentic caps with his face on them.

All of this helps us recognize and celebrate the entirety of Milwaukee's baseball history. This mascot logo is a very real link between the current Milwaukee Brewers and the club that not only gave them their name but paved the way for Major League Baseball in the Cream City.

So the next time you head out to Miller Park, stop by one of the Leinie's beer stands and pick up a Barrelman Ale. Raise your plastic glass to Owgust and the Brews, and let me know how it tastes.

(h/t: Jeff Ash)