Friday, February 14, 2014

1915 Postcard?

This gorgeous postcard just sold on eBay. Postmarked April 2, 1915, it is listed as featuring our Milwaukee Brewers.

The front picture is amazing - never seen those sweaters with the white bands across the front.

The back of the postcard, however, casts some doubt.

It is labeled "The Kodak Shop, Owensboro, KY", although that seems to be a stamp more than publisher's mark (look at the way it overlaps "CORRESPONDENCE HERE"). Still, an odd notation for a Milwaukee Brewers postcard. The postmark is also Owensboro. Owensboro is about ninety miles west of Louisville, whose Colonels were stalwarts in the American Association. Is it possible that the photo was taken on a road trip?

Of course, it's also possible that the photo isn't of our Brewers at all. Let's take a closer look, see if we can make a determination.

We can start with the uniforms. I don't have a ready picture of the 1915 Brews in their uniforms, but there's no particular reason to believe it would be the 1915 club. The postmark, early in the year, suggests that the photo would have been 1914 or earlier. So let's look at the 1914 club. I do have a photo of that team, from the Milwaukee Sentinel and published in the paper when the Brews secured their second straight pennant.

The uniforms do seem to match, right down to the odd mismatch of wide stripes- and Northwestern-striped (thin/thick/thin) socks.

Also, some of the players appear to be wearing the thicker "M" from 1913, with its distinctive sword-notch down the middle. It had been replaced, at least on the home jerseys, by 1914.

When we compare our postcard to this team photo of the 1913 American Association pennant-winning Brews, we can see the earlier "M" in both photos.

The two monograms are a good match:

Of course, the 1913 home jerseys had simple piping while the postcard uniforms feature pinstipes. I've seen photos of road pinstriped uniforms from 1914, so that would seem to comport.

It's not unheard of to see these uniforms together, as seen in this photo:

1914 Photo courtesy of Rex Hamann
(Hand written names of Berg and Barbeau are reversed)

Home pinstripes and slender "M" (not unlike the one the Braves would adopt forty years later, road pinstripes with squat 1913-style "sword M".

So far so good. Of course, we could nail this down if only we could identify players in the postcard photo. And so we can.

Back row, seventh from the left in the postcard photo and middle row, fourth from the left in our 1913 photo - that's the unmistakeable visage of veteran first baseman Tom Jones.

Jones, who was 36 years old during the 1913 campaign, had been a major leaguer from 1904 through 1910, first for the St. Louis Browns and then the Detroit Tigers, where Brewer owner Charles Havenor had noticed him. Jones came to Milwaukee in 1911 and spent the last five seasons of his career in Brewer blue.

And that man next to him in the 1913 photo? Front row, third from right in the postcard? That looks like manager/third baseman Pep Clark.

So I think we can say at this point that yes, it is a photo of the Milwaukee Brewers. Likely of the 1914 team. And what a beauty it is. We also have an amazing new dugout item to add to our list of team gear, that blue sweater with bold white horizontal stripes.

The Kentucky connection, however, remains a mystery.

If you're the lucky new owner of this postcard, drop me a line. I'd love to talk to you about it.

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