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.