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.

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