Saturday, September 6, 2014

"Kings Again!", 1944

This is the victorious Brewer squad, kings of the American Association in 1944.

Wednesday, September 6, 1944:

BREWER CHAMPS REPEAT and hold a little celebration in the clubhouse after clinching the 1944 pennant by defeating the St. Paul Saints, 6 to 0, in the first game of a twin bill last night. The players, left to right, front row: Tommy Nelson, Arky Biggs, Dick Culler, Trainer "Doc" Feron, Jimmy Pruett, Charlie Sproull, Heinz Becker. Middle row, Lou Grasmik, George Binks, D. Lang, Floyd Speer, Jack Farmer, Roy Easterwood, Manager Casey Stengel, Charlie Gasaway, Bill Norman, Hal Peck, Julie Acosta, Earl Caldwell, Owen Scheetz. Back row, center: Gene Edwards (he's bashful), Ed Levy, Don Hendrickson.
I love the Wheaties boxes stacked up in the background.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Today in 1944 - "White Sox Buy Bill Nagel"


MILWAUKEE, WIS. - Bill Nagel, third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, who is leading the American Association in runs batted in and who has hit 23 home runs this season, has been purchased by the Chicago White Sox and will report at the close of Milwaukee's season. He formerly played with the Philadelphia Athletics.
The third-sacker is wearing a classic Brewers uniform, dating back at least to 1939. It is distinctive for its dark royal blue soutache piping on the placket, cuffs and side of the jersey, set off by a red "M" on the chest. That design had been supplanted as the primary look in early 1942 by a new Veeck-designed uniform, but wasn't discarded entirely.

The photo looks to me to have been taken at Spring Training in Waukesha. Wartime transportation restrictions had forced the Brewers to move their camp closer to home.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On This Day in 1944 - the All-Star Game in Milwaukee!

On Wednesday, July 26, 1944, the American Association stars descended upon Milwaukee for their annual All-Star Game. Unlike the setup we're accustomed to in Major League Baseball, with two teams comprised of the best (or most popular) players in the majors squaring off on a pre-determined neutral field, the Association had a different approach. The club leading the league at the break would not only host the game but field its entire squad as the home team.

Being in first place in the standings (ten games up over second-place Louisville) meant that our Brews would play against an all-star lineup pulled from the other teams in the league. And it looked to be a doozy.

Here was a bold prediction from Milwaukee Sentinel artist Lou Grant, printed on the morning of the game:

Spanking the best of the entire league? Love his moxie.

When the big day came, the Association's dignitaries took their seats at Borchert Field (this photo giving us a pretty good look at the seats themselves) and prepared to watch the game.

The honored guest of the Brewer-All-Star game at Borchert field Wednesday night, Mike Kelley (left), spent some merry moments with an old friend, Bill Guthrie, (right) retired umpire. An attentive listener was George M. Trautman (center), president of the American association. The game was dedicated to Kelley, who recently observed his fiftieth year in organized baseball. The association presented him a gold table service before the game (Journal Staff)
Mike Kelley was a former first baseman who had played one season in the majors, that with the 1899 Louisville Colonels. He came to the American Association as the manager of the St. Paul Saints in 1902, the league's first year of existence. He would become a fixture in the Association; he had three stints as skipper of the Saints, winning five pennants in eighteen years before buying their local rival Minneapolis Millers and serving first as their manager and later as club president.

So the dignitaries were in place. The programs were printed. Milwaukee was ready for a good nine innings of All-Star baseball. The game itself didn't go quite as Grant predicted.

Ouch. The final score was Brewers zero, All-Stars eighteen. That was only the second time the Brewers had been shut out all season. "Stars Fall on Brews," indeed.

The Milwaukee Journal's headline was even better:

Here's what Journal Sports Editor R. G. Lynch had to say about the game, in his regular "Maybe I'm Wrong" column published the following day:
Maybe That Licking Will Do the Brewers Good

OUR Brewers seem to pick the worst possible occasions to go haywire. They disappointed 12,000 loyal fans in the all-star game Wednesday night. It was not that they lost, either—it was the way they lost. The All-Stars, a mighty powerful aggregation, figured to win, but they did not figure to make 18 runs, and neither did the Brewers figure to wear a necklace of horse collars. The fans just wanted something to cheer about, and they were willing to cheer about almost anything right down to the finish. They demonstrated that when the seventh inning came. The score was 18-0 then, but when the loud-speakers struck up "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" the crowd got up with a roar to greet the home team's traditionally "lucky inning."

The game demonstrated one thing clearly. To be an all-star game, this annual affair must be "all-star" on both sides. The league's leading team, even when it is as strong as the Brewers, has only an outside chance of winning against the pick of the rest of the teams. The game is bound to be a travesty on its name when the home team throws second string pitchers against such an array of sluggers.

Game Wrecked

MANAGER CASEY STENGEL led with one of his regulars, Julio Acosta, and when Casey was too slow (as anyone might have been) to recognize that his pitcher could not cut the buck, the game was wrecked. What should have been done then may be open to argument. The Brewers faced a five game series in three days, starting Friday with the tough Columbus club. With six runs in and two more on base, why burn up a good pitcher? On the other hand, 12,000 people had paid to see an all-star game—the Brewers' own fans—and the team had a 10½ game lead in the league, so why not give these fans the best the Brewers had?

The club's three aces are Caldwell, Gassaway and Sproull. Caldwell had worked a game the night before. Gassaway had pitched most of a game Monday night and had turned his ankle Tuesday night chasing flies in batting practice at St. Paul. Sproull did get into the game—after Speer and Hendrickson had failed to stop the Stars.

Even the club's best might not have stopped the Stars. They had their hitting clothes on. Most of those players had taken nothing but one drubbing after another from the Brewers this season. Here was a chance to pay off, and they did. Perhaps the humiliating licking will have a salutary effect on the Brewers. Certainly it should jolt their pride and remove any delusions of grandeur. They will be the tougher for it in the rest of the pennant race.

"We'll take it out on Columbus," said Heinz Becker in the clubhouse after the game. "Wait and see!"

A Silly Triple Play

THE triple play executed by the All-Stars in the third inning was just as silly as the one made by Buffalo against Milwaukee here in the second game of the 1936 little world series. Frenchy Uhalt walked to start the game and and went to third on Wilburn's hit and run single. Gullic rolled to Meyers at third base and Uhalt broke for home. While Frenchy was being retired, Gullic had a brainstorm (as Hendrickson did Wednesday night) and went for second. He was trapped and run down. Meanwhile, Wilburn had gone to third base but rounded it too far and an alert Bison snapped the ball there before he could get back.

How It's Cut

PROCEEDS of the all-star game will be divided four ways. The bat and ball fund for the armed services will get 25%; the league, 35%; the Milwaukee Club, 25%; and the Baseball Writers' association, 15%. The home club has to pay all expenses of the game. The league provided 50 war bonds ($25 each), one for each of the All-Stars, Brewers, managers, coaches, trainers and umpires, and paid traveling expenses. The writers' association paid the expenses of one baseball writer from each newspaper in the league city to the big game. The league put on a luncheon for baseball executives before the game and threw a party afterward. The writers held their annual blowout at Ozaukee Country club, starting with luncheon and ending with a steak dinner.

ODD BITS—When the last all-star game was played in Kansas City in 1942, Joe Vosmik sent out for several cases of beer for the thirsty All-Stars and paid for them himself. Bill Veeck thought that was a disgrace for the Kansas City club and said so many times. Veeck's associates remembered that and has several cases of beer and soft drinks delivered to each clubhouse Wednesday night.... About 25,000 words were telegraphed out of Milwaukee before the game, 15,300 from the ball park before the lights failed and the rest from downtown hotels.... George Trautman, league president, had a chance to see one of his umpires' favorite mistakes—calling a play before it is complete. When Acosta threw Drews' bunt to second base in the second inning, trying to force Blackburn, Umpire Steengraffe spread his hands in the "safe" signal when Blackburn was two full steps from the base.... Acosta had a brief moment of glory in the first inning after Steengraffe's decision riled his Spanish blook. Julio just "rared back and fogged it in" and fanned three batters in a row.... Levy looked like the Eiffel tower collapsing when he found himself right smack in front of Dick Culler while trying to field Polly's roller in the eighth inning and went down quickly so Dick could throw to first.
Lou Grant, meanwhile, swallowed his pride and followed up his "They'll See Stars Tonight" boast with this heaping plate of crow:

That's our old friend Joe Brewer, feeling much the worse for wear. I love the added touch of a discarded All-Star Game program on his hospital floor.

After their drubbing, the mighty Brewers undoubtedly appreciated a return to the regular season.

Friday, July 25, 2014

1944 All-Star Game Score Card

By virtue of holding the best record in the American Association at the season's midway point, the Brewers had won the right to host the league's All-Star Game. This is the score card that was handed out at Borchert Field on that day.

Magnificent cover. The title gives us a clue as to the format of the game; the complete Brewers squad would take on a road team of All-Stars.

That is, of course, Brewer president Bill Veeck, who had enlisted in the Marines the previous November and was spending the summer on duty "somewhere in the South Pacific" while his Brews welcomed the cream of the Association to Borchert Field.

This cover, by Milwaukee Sentinel cartoonist Lou Grant, imagines PFC Veeck listening to the game on his service radio. Outstanding.

On the inside front cover, we're welcomed by Brewer announcer Mickey Heath.

In 1944, Brewer games weren't broadcast in full, but Heath hosted a 15-minute review of game reviews and highlights Mondays through Saturdays at 5:30 on WISN (courtesy of the Miller Brewing Company), and a half-hour review every night at ten thirty on WEMP (this time by Gimbels).

Next up, an introduction to the home Brews:

Most of the following pages play out the same as a regular game score card.

There's the guest of honor, Minneapolis Millers president and owner Mike Kelly, celebrating 50 years in organized baseball (nearly all in the American Association):

In the middle, our newsprint lineups.

And we start to meet the Brewers' opponents:

Next up are the two managers. Casey Stengel was the Brewers' pilot that day, and the All-Stars were managed by Nick Cullop, skipper of the Columbus Red Birds. Milwaukee faithful would have done well to watch the opposing skipper carefully; he would become very important to the club in the off-season.

Ah, the Moor Mud Baths. An important part of the Brewers' Spring Training camp in Waukesha.

And there we go. All printed up and ready for the game.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Swingin' on a Star"

On this day in 1944, the Brewers split a double-header with the St. Paul Saints. That secured the Brewers the league's best record in the first half of the season, and with it the right to host the American Association All-Star Game.

Of course, Milwaukee Sentinel artist Lou Grant celebrated this accomplishment in style, with a cartoon published two days later:

That's our old friend Joe Brewer and his best girl Polly Pennant, who has herself a glamorous new star-spangled dress.

The All-Star Game had a unique format in those days; the team with the best record would host and play against a team made up of the best players from the other Association clubs. In 1944, that team was our Milwaukee Brewers.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hal Peck "Coveted by Majors", 1944

This wire photo of Brewer outfielder Hal Peck is dated June 21, 1944.


MILWAUKEE, WIS. - Hal Peck, whose batting average with the Milwaukee Brewers is .415, is being closely watched by major league scouts who call him the greatest prize in the minor leagues.
We've seen this photo before, as part of a photo series on Peck. It's the second from left here:

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today in 1944: "Charge of the 'Light' Brigade"

Given modern baseball scheduling, it's sometimes hard to remember that night baseball games used to be something of a novelty. This cartoon from cartoonist Lou Grant, published in the Milwaukee Sentinel on May 31, 1944, announces that season's first night games at Borchert Field.

It's worth remembering that "ye olde Borchert Field" didn't even have floodlights until 1935. Most of the fans at the Orchard would have remembered a day when every single game was played under the sun. This year, of the Brewers' 55 weekday games at Miller Park, only nine are day games.

Baseball might be the most traditional of all American sports, but it's always fun to see how those traditions began.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Turning Back the Clock to 1937. Ish.

Rob Wooten #47 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning on May 18, 2014 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Yesterday in Chicago, as part of a season-long commemoration of Wrigley Field's 100th birthday, the Brewers donned "1937-inpired" uniforms, giving baseball fans another window into Milwaukee's baseball history.

We didn't know until a few minutes before the start of the game what the Brewers were going to wear; it turned out to be more 1936 than 1937, with one element from even farther back in the club's history.

Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura left, tags out Chicago Cubs' Junior Lake (21), at second base after Lake tried to steal second during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Chicago won 4-2. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
That cap might look familiar; it's the same one the Brewers wore with their 1913 throwbacks last season:

Navy cap, cream-colored block "M" logo on the front. The logo is distinctive with its "sword-tip" notch on the top, something the American Association Brewers dropped after the 1913 season.

The Brewers had intended to pair their 1913 throwback jerseys with white caps, but the caps supplied by New Era were too white and clashed with Majestic's cream-colored jerseys. The white caps were pulled at the last minute and replaced with navy caps with cream logo. That meant that New Era only had time to supply enough for the players themselves, and the navy version never made it as far as retail. Perhaps this is an attempt to finally cash in and recoup something on the design; I fully expect to see these caps for sale soon.

At bat, the Brewers kept their standard navy helmets but removed their contemporary logo. That would have been appropriate for either the 1913 or 1937 clubs, as each wore plain navy blue caps.

Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun watches his double during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Chicago won 4-2. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
The spacing of the letters across the chest is very odd - they carefully avoid the placket piping, which leaves the middle "A" sitting all alone with too much space around it:

Milwaukee Brewers starter Marco Estrada delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Sunday, May 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Look at the custom work on Estrada's jersey, with the extra material added to each sleeve (and the rough edges where the piping was cut to accomodate it). You can also see how the squared-off placket piping was made.

The kerning problem was standard for all players, though:

Milwaukee Brewers' Rickie Weeks celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a two run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Sunday, May 18, 2014. Chicago won 4-2. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
In the original uniforms I think these are supposed to be modeled after, the plaquet was slightly thinner, and the letters overlapped the piping, creating no such problem.

The photo at right is Brewer third baseman (and local Milwaukee boy) Ken Keltner, taken during Spring Training in 1937. That is, I believe, the previous season's road uniform, as it was common in this period to issue new uniforms immediately before Opening Day, having played Spring Training and exhibition games in year-old uniforms.

Compare it with this jersey worn by pitcher Rollie Stiles circa 1932-1934. Although slightly earlier, it uses the same lettering style with better spacing. They spaced the letters perfectly on the right side of the placket, only having a gap where the two halves of the jersey come together.

I suspect this gap issue was created by Ebbets Field Flannels, who have supplied lettering for these throwback jerseys in the past, and who sell a "1936" jersey with the same kerning problem.

The gap might not be as pronounced as it was yesterday, but it's there. And it's something I've only seen on reproductions from Ebbets Field.

Which raises the question: who manufactured these jerseys? We know that Majestic, the big leagues' regular supplier, has right of first refusal when throwbacks come around. Last year Majestic supplied the 1913 and 1948 jerseys for the Brewers' two Turn Back the Clock events, but not this one. While the Majestic logo graced the sleeves of the Cubs' throwbacks, the Brewers' left sleeve was completely blank.

Perhaps Ebbets Field did have a hand in these. We'll have to wait until game-used versions surface; unfortunately Majestic declining to make the on-field jerseys also means that MLB won't make them available for general sale. So we won't see a repeat of last season's retail Brew bonanza.

The backs of the jerseys featured red numbers trimmed in navy. No names, of course, but the numbers (as is so often the case) were placed in their regular position leaving space for names, which made them far too low on players' backs. In the absence of a name, the numbers should have been higher.

Take a look at this screenshot from the game; contrasting the Brewers' numbers with those on the Cubs' Majestic jersey:

The Cubs' numbers are raised between the players' shoulder blades, as they should be. The Brewers' mystery manufacturer has put theirs too low.

Logan Schafer #1 of the Milwaukee Brewers makes a catch on Junior Lake (not pictured) of the Chicago Cubs during the third inning on May 18, 2014 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
I also think it's a little odd that the Brewers wore plain gray pants with no piping. I'd be shocked if that decision had any historical basis at all. The Brewers' regular pants would have stood out, but surely a quick strip of that same navy/red/navy piping could have been sewn to the outseams. Even borrowing some Atlanta Braves pants, if not perfect with their extra belt loop trim, would have been closer to the mark.

Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers dives back safely on a pick off attempt as Anthony Rizzo takes the throw. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
I'd never seen that oven-mitt-thing Segura is wearing on his left hand; turns out other players have been experimenting with the idea since at least last season to protect their fingers on the basepaths.

No retro logos on the bases, either; just the standard Wrigley Field Centennial dress.

The Cubs, unfortunately, looked fantastic. I love their 1937 uniform, so clearly an upgrade from their regular look.

Chicago Cubs' Welington Castillo (right) celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after hitting a two-run homer.
I love the brighter blue against cream and the thick piping. Simple and elegant. Puts the Brewers' drab regular navy uniforms to shame.

Chicago Cubs closing pitcher Hector Rondon right, celebrates with catcher Welington Castillo left, after defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 during a baseball game in Chicago, Sunday, May 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
So a bit of a disappointment yesterday. Not just in the 4-2 loss, or the Brewers' continuing offensive struggles, but the throwback uniforms themselves. After such a strong 2013, the lack of pants stripes, recycled cap and odd letter placement bother me. A bit muddled.

Any opportunity to remember the American Association Brewers is a good one, but this wasn't their best effort. Since Turn Back the Clock uniforms are arranged by the home team, I'm happy to blame the Cubs for this one. Hopefully it's not the last one we see this year.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

1937 Throwbacks Revealed!

Just moments before the start of today's Brewers/Cubs game at Wrigley, we got our first good look at the throwbacks the Brewers will be using. 

Interesting - that's the "1913" cap the Brewers wore last year. It came too late to be made available for sale, perhaps that will be different this year.

The jerseys themselves look like the 1936 versions which have been commercially available for the past few years. 

More in-depth coverage tomorrow!

Friday, May 16, 2014

1937, "Their New Home Uniforms of White"

Well, we still don't know what the Brewers' throwback "1937-inspired" road uniforms will look like, but here's a good view of the home uniforms that were introduced that season. This picture was published in the Milwaukee Journal on April 15, 1937, the day of their home opener:

Brewers' Opening Day Battery Gets Acquainted

ALL dressed up in their brand new home uniforms of white, Bill Brenzel (left) and AL Milnar, new southpaw pitcher, posed for this opening day battery picture at Borchert field Thursday. Milnar, who arrived here Wednesday night, has been training with the Cleveland Indians. He will pitch against St. Paul Friday afternoon.
We've seen this jersey before, solid white with what appears to be navy piping. That was, as the caption states, new for 1937; in their pennant-winning 1936 season they wore uniforms with red and blue trim.

We'll see what Major League Baseball has to say about the 1937 Brews this weekend. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

1937 Throwbacks Confirmed! Sort Of.

The Chicago Cubs have officially announced what we've suspected for months (and which I first heard rumblings about last November): the Milwaukee Brewers will indeed be wearing 1937 throwbacks for their Turn Back the Clock game at Wrigley Field this Sunday.

This little tidbit appeared on the Cubs' site today:
Throwback Uniforms:

On Sunday, May 18, the Cubs will wear a throwback uniform from 1937, the year during which Wrigley Field's iconic scoreboard was installed and the ivy was planted on the newly-constructed bleacher wall. The 1937 jersey features a zip-up front and the uniform marks the first year the team switched from a navy blue to a royal blue color on its uniforms.

The visiting Milwaukee Brewers will wear a 1937-inspired retro uniform as well.
Okay. That's confirmation. Maybe. No pictures yet, no details.

If only we knew what "a 1937-inspired retro uniform" meant. Do they mean a modern cut, or do they mean that the uniform itself isn't really faithful to the Brewers' original 1937 togs? I laid out some possibles in my earlier post, but perhaps they're doing something entirely different, like the "1920s-ish but not actually what the Brewers wore in the 1920s" throwbacks from 1993.

We'll have to wait and see.