Tuesday, August 27, 2013

George Crowe color photo, 1951

This magnificent photo of Brewer first baseman George Crowe gives us a rare color view of Borchert Field.

George Crowe

In orgnanized baseball only three seasons, the Negro first baseman has been selected as the outstanding rookie in two different leagues in successive years. In 1950, with Hartford, Conn. (Eastern League), Crowe won the individual batting championship with .353 and led in several other departments of play. This year, his first in a tripe A league, he led the Brewers with .339.
Crowe was the third black player signed by the Brews after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the majors. He came to the club in 1951 and stayed through the first part of the 1952 season before being called up to the parent Boston Braves. When he came back to Milwaukee, it was as a big-leaguer with the rest of the Braves in 1953.

It's a fantastic uniform Crowe is wearing. The style is clearly late in the Brewers' evolution into Boston Braves-style uniforms. The classic 1942 wordmark, featured as late as 1948, is gone. It has been replaced with letters styled after the parent club's (the Greek "E"s are a dead giveaway). That was the home uniform worn by the Brews in both of Crowe's seasons with the club.

Even without checking those statistics, we can date the photo based on the patch on his jersey's left sleeve. The patch commemorated the Golden Jubilee of the American Association. A closer look, from Ebbets Field Flannels' reproduction of a 1951 Minneapolis Millers jersey, is at right.

You can also see the patch clearly on this photo of Crowe and catcher Al Unser as they received American Association honors for 1951 (Crowe as Rookie of the Year, Unser as league MVP):

Crowe and Unser receive their awards
(collection of Paul Tenpenny)

The Brewers didn't often wear sleeve patches, so when they did those details provide important touchstones for chronicling the team's history.

That looks like the same jersey in both photos - note how the script's tail doesn't line up where the zipper bisects it. Unser's jersey appears to align correctly, but Crowe's is distinctive.

This gorgeous photo is a potent reminder that the glory days, now so often experienced in sepia tones or shades of silver, were originally lived in full color.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Al Rainovic, Journal Cartoonist

This cartoon of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Heinz Becker was published in the Milwaukee Journal on April 26, 1942.

The German-born Becker, also known as "Bunions" for the problems he had with his feet, was a fan-favorite among the Borchert Field faithful. This cartoon, similar to the Milwaukee Sentinel's "Brewer Sportraits" series, tells his story in a collage of images surrounding one central portrait.

The artist is noteworthy in his own right. In 1942, West Allis native Al Rainovic was a freelance cartoonist and student at the Milwaukee Normal School (now the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). He joined the Journal staff full-time ten years later, staying through 1969. During that time, he drew an average of four cartoons a week for the paper, creating a body of over 3,700 cartoons in his eighteen years.

Rainovic was with the Journal when the Boston Braves moved to town, and found himself chronicling the day-to-day of a big league team.

He was equally at home with a lighter touch:

and a more elegant, graceful line:

Of course, the Braves left in 1965 and in 1969 Rainovic left the Journal, returning to freelancing. He worked for his alma mater and later as an artist for the American League Milwaukee Brewers:

In that capacity, he painted the covers for the Brewers' media guides from 1978 through 83:

Rainovic was frequently found in County Stadium watching the Brew Crew, often going to games with his friend (and former Milwaukeean) Ken Keltner.

He passed away in 1991, leaving behind a lasting contribution to the Cream City's sports history.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Uni Watch - "The Secret Legacy of Bill Veeck"

I wrote the lede article on Uni Watch today, and I think you'll enjoy it.

It's about the career of our own Bill Veeck, and one of the innovations he's least famous for today. As with so much of his career, this particular element of his legacy started in Milwaukee with the Brewers.

And our very own Owgust makes a featured appearance!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

1939 Sentinel Broadside Schedule

This oversized cardboard schedule advertised the upcoming 1939 baseball schedule—American Association and the two Major Leagues—as well as the Milwaukee Sentinel's team of sportswriters.

We've already discussed one of these reporters; Red Thisted had been covering the Brewers since Opening Day of 1928.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Johnny Logan's Road Grays, c. 1948

The Journal Sentinel has a great obituary for Johnny Logan today. It includes a photo gallery of his baseball career. Obviously the focus is on the Braves, but the first photo features Johnny in his Brewer uniform.

The photo is captioned "Shortstop Johnny Logan in his Milwaukee Braves uniform in 1955, the year he led National League in doubles", but that's not correct. The cap logo is all wrong for the Braves - too narrow - and unlike the Brews the Braves never wore "Milwaukee" on their road flannels.

I believe this is 1948, Logan's first season in Milwaukee, but it could be 1949. By 1950 the Brewers had adopted the wider "M" that the Braves would later borrow and make famous.

Nice to see the Brews represented here, even if unintentionally.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Good Bye, "Johnny Brewer"

It is being reported that Milwaukee Braves (and Brewers) legend Johnny Logan has passed away at 86.

Sad news. At least he got to be inducted into the Walk of Fame at Miller Park.

In recent years, Johnny has been the unofficial ambassador for both the Milwaukee Braves and the original Milwaukee Brewers. He represented the Brews at the Borchert Field historical marker ceremony, and was a co-founder of the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association.

His passing marks an especially sad day in Milwaukee baseball history, as we lose another link to our glorious past.

Rest in peace, Johnny. And thanks.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Wild Welcome for Brewers", 1951

On the morning of Monday, August 7, 1951, the Brewers returned to Milwaukee from an extended road trip.

Sentinel photo
The crowd that turned out to cheer our winning baseball team at the Milwaukee Road Depot Monday morning.
Sentinel photo
Milwaukee youngsters applaud and cheer as auto caravan loaded with winning Brewer baseball players reaches City Hall Square after short trip from the Milwaukee Road depot. With a seven game lead in the American Association, the hard hitting Brews are the toast of the town.
Wild Welcome for Brewers!

Sentinel photo
Mayor Zeidler (left) and Manager Charlie Grimm with a giant baseball bat the mayor presented to Grimm monday during "Welcome Brewers" ceremonies at City Hall.
Brilliant. I love the oversized bat. 

The Brews would go on to win the American Association pennant and the Little World Series, more than justifying the faith those Milwaukee fans displayed on that Monday morning.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brewers Uniform Concept - Brent Hatfield

Today we're looking at another concept uniform for the National League Brewers, this one by Brent Hatfield. It was featured on Uni Watch a few weeks ago.

Hatfield's proposal is similar to the one we looked at previously in its use of American Association Brewer iconography, but takes it in an entirely new direction, merging disparate eras in Milwaukee baseball history.

He describes the concept this way:
About a year ago I had sent concepts involving a Bernie the Brewer hat, well a year later I have recreated these bad boys using an updated version of the American Association Brewers Barrelman logo.
Great work. Let's take a look at the elements.

Overall, I love the color scheme. And the piping reminds me of the Brewers' early 1970s jerseys, which is never a bad thing.

The home jerseys are off-white, appropriate for the Cream City. Owgust on the sleeve? I love it.

That's the 1950s version of Owgust, a good choice.

The road jerseys are standard gray, with the same piping and city name. Really, that ought to be required for pro teams.

We also have two alternates, blue for home and gold for the road.

I've long loved gold and gray together, and athletic gold is a much more vibrant color than the mustard gold the Brewers use on their alternate now. That would look great on the road.

Now, the caps.

The "Scowling Owgust" head is based on the work of Brandon Toobin. I think it fits much better than the standard Barrelman head found on the YOUniform caps.

I wouldn't want to lose an "M" entirely, as the city name should be an essential part of any baseball uniform. But any of these would work as an alternate, especially the top two.

The real gem, however, is Hatfield's mash-up of Owgust and the ball-and-glove logo.


I'm pleased that so many find inspiration in the original club when creating concepts for the National League Brewers. So what say you, Milwaukee baseball fans? Would you like to see these at Miller Park?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

1944 Letterhead

A recent acquisition to our Borchert Field museum is this correspondence on team letterhead dated October 11, 1944.

The letter reads:
Oct. 11, 1944

Dear Bill:

Thank you for your kind letter regarding the money which was advanced to you and which we show on our books as outstanding. The amount is $13.35 which I believe represents a $10.00 advance from either Charlie or Red and $3.35 for purchases made from our trainer. Naturally we are closing our books and we, of course, are very anxious to have this amount cleaned up at the earliest possible moment.

I am surprised to hear what you say regarding the $14.00 you say Dick Hearn owes you and I assure you I know nothing about it. That apparently was a personal item between you and Dick and as he is no longer with our organization, I regret I am unable to do anything about it.

Trusting you will be kind enough to send us a check or money order for $13.35 to cover your balance in the very near future, I am, with all good wishes

Yours very truly,

R. M. Schaffer
General Manager

"R. M." is Rudie Schaffer. A public accountant by trade, he had been doing the Brewers' books for six years when Bill Veeck bought the team in 1941. Veeck recognized talent in Schaffer and promoted him to GM just months after taking over the team. That led to a lifelong association with Sport Shirt Bill, as Schaffer left the Brews in 1946 to work for Veeck with the Cleveland Indians. He later followed Veeck to the St Louis Browns in 1951 and Chicago White Sox in 1975. During a period when Veeck did not own a team, Schaffer served as GM for the International League's Toronto Maple Leafs.

"Charlie" and "Red" refer to manager Charlie Grimm and coach Red Smith. In addition to his duties in the dugout, Grimm was a part-owner of the club with Veeck. Smith had come to the Brewers as a catcher in 1936 and stayed with the organization after hanging up his chest protector, managing in the Brewers' farm system and eventually working his way up to Schaffer's old office as GM.

This letter leads us to two separate stories about the Brewers in 1944. The first deals with the recipient of the letter, Bill Husty, a semi-pro pitcher from Chicago who was invited to Spring Training with the Brewers. As far as I can tell, he didn't make the team and never pitched an inning for the club.

That $13.35 Husty owed, adjusted for inflation, is $176.10 in 2013 dollars. I can understand why Schaffer would be "very anxious" to clear it off his books.

The second story involves the man Husty said owed him money, pitcher Dick Hearn. He too had a short career with the Brewers, although, unlike Husty, he did see service at Borchert Field.

Hearn came to Milwaukee in April of 1944 on an option from the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He was a reliever, but Grimm had hopes of making him a starter. The Milwaukee Journal described the new hurler as a "right hander with the eccentricities of a left hander."

Right away, Hearn caught the eye of the Borchert Field faithful. to say nothing of the other teams in the Association; on May 31, he made relief appearances in both games of a double-header with the Kansas City Blues, getting the win in each of the games.

Minneapolis Millers owner Mike Kelley was so impressed with Hearn that he immediately started making trade overtures to the Brews. Unfortunately for the Millers, Charlie Grimm wasn't willing to part with anyone on his pitching staff.

Nonetheless, the offers persisted, from Kelley as well from other clubs, and by the end of June Schaffer had found one to his liking. Hearn packed his bag for Kansas City, who might well have been spurred by what they saw in that twin-bill.

So what happened? The Brewers went from "no trades for pitchers" to sending away a promising reliever and future starter. I don't know for sure, but I suspect Casey Stengel happened. Charlie Grimm was hired to manage the Chicago Cubs at the beginning of May, and Stengel was brought in to take over the Brewers. Perhaps the Perfessor didn't share Jolly Cholly's reluctance to deal away pitching.

One sheet of 70-year-old 8½ x 11 paper leads us down the rabbit hole. This is why I love researching the Brews.