Friday, September 25, 2015

1952 Press Pass

This press pass, issued to longtime Brewers employee Bill Topitzes, dates from the Brewers' final season at Borchert Field, which later turned out to be the club's last year of existence.

The simple white card is worn and battered around the edges; presumably carried around in his wallet. It is signed in blue pen by general manager Red Smith.

The back was originally blank, but somebody—Topitzes?—has written an address in red pen, that of a PFC Tom Schwalbach stationed at Camp Carson in Colorado.

Topitzes fell in love with baseball, and the Brewers, when his uncles took him to a game when he was nine. The next year, he started working for the club as part of a group of boys chasing down the foul balls that flew over the left field fence onto 8th Street. He was quickly noticed by team president Bill Veeck, and soon Topitzes had worked his way up first to bat boy, then visiting club house attendant, and scoreboard operator. By 1952, he was in charge of both clubhouses.

Topitzes in uniform at Borchert Field

When the Braves came to town, he took over the visitors' clubhouse at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Ballplayers from all clubs took a shine to the young man, who was known for his cheerful disposition and encyclopedic baseball knowledge. Many of the players he met at County Stadium and Borchert Field corresponded with him in the off-season. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal, Topitzes recalled an interaction with New York Giants manager Leo Durocher on his club's last visit to Milwaukee in 1953. Before the game, Durocher saw Topitzes shagging balls in the outfield and he gave the youngster a brand-new glove. "Hey kid," he said with a smile, "break this in for me, will you? If I ever need it, I'll ask you for it."

That openness carried him throughout his life, and when Bill Topitzes passed away in 2013, he left behind a legion of friends and admirers.

I'm not entirely sure why the clubhouse manager would need a press pass, though. He was a notable baseball memorabilia collector, even as a kid; perhaps Red gave it to him as a souvenir?

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