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.

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