Monday, August 29, 2016

Journal-Sentinel Pulls Archives From Google


I've written extensively about my love for Google's newspaper archives. You can peruse my old posts and see how many stories were inspired by browsing through old articles. It's an invaluable research tool, putting well over a century's worth of history at our fingers.

And now, it's gone. At least where Milwaukee is concerned.

As chronicled by Michail Takach at Urban Milwaukee, the paper's parent company has had its entire archive pulled down.
“Have you ever borrowed a book, thousands of miles away?” asked those visionary AT&T ads of the 1990s. “Have you ever learned special things, from far away places? You will.”

In 1993, this was mind-blowing science fiction. By 2008, we were already there. Google News Archive launched that year with ambitious plans to scan, archive and release the world’s newspapers in a single public access database. Anyone, anywhere, would now be able to read any edition of any newspaper ever printed. It was the closest thing to time travel in human history. Historians, librarians and educators rejoiced: the future was now!

When the project abruptly ended three years later, the project had scanned over a million pages of news from over 2,000 newspapers. Although nobody is entirely sure why the project ended, Google News Archive delivered an incredible gift to Milwaukee: free digital access to more than a century’s worth of local newspapers.

This wasn’t just a revelation; it was a revolution. Aligning perfectly with the rise of social media, Google News Archive content inspired Facebook groups, Twitter feeds, Pinterest boards, and more. By removing barriers to historical content, Google didn’t just trigger a passing interest in local history. Google triggered a groundswell of historical discovery, engagement and pride.

That was then. This is now: on Tuesday, August 16, the Milwaukee Journal, Milwaukee Sentinel, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel listings vanished from the Google News Archive home page. This change came without any advance warning and still has no official explanation.

As a researcher and author, I relied heavily on Google News Archive to uncover the hidden history of LGBTQ Milwaukee for my recent book on that subject. For years, I’ve bookmarked thousands of articles and images for further exploration at a later date. In one lightning bolt moment, all of my Google News Archive bookmarks went from treasure to trash. There will be no later date. There will be no further exploration.

Google’s response to inquiries was chilling: “Google News Archive no longer has permission to display this content.” The response from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel employee was even more chilling: “We have contracted with a new vendor (Newsbank.) It is unclear when or if the public will have access to the full inventory that was formerly available on Google News Archive.”

That’s right. If.

Google spent considerable time and money to digitize our history as a cultural contribution. As a for-profit company, Newsbank will essentially privatize these public resources through a paid subscription service. Unfortunately, our community champions for historical preservation – libraries, universities, museums, historical societies – are unlikely to pay the steep ransom price that would restore free public access. Will anyone?

Until someone pays up, local history might just be held hostage.
This is sobering development for all of us. It will severely hurt my own research, as it will anyone who loves Milwaukee and her history.

I'm interested to see what Newsbank has in mind for the archives, and sick at heart thinking how many stories may be lost because of a desire to lock those pages away.

Friday, August 26, 2016

1940s T-shirt Now Available at Ebbets Field Flannels

I was so excited to see that Ebbets Field Flannels had unveiled its 1938 cap with distinctive red piping, that I missed their introduction of another treasure celebrating Milwaukee's baseball past.

Check out this gorgeous t-shirt:

MILWAUKEE BREWERS (AA) 1944 T-SHIRT

$30.00 $24.00

American Association

History: The American Association Brewers started play in 1903, with the colorfully-named Jiggs Donahue leading the league in hitting. The club maintained a rabid fan base for half a century, until they were supplanted by the Boston Braves, who became the first MLB franchise in modern history to relocate. The Brewers name was revived in 1970 when the bankrupt Seattle Pilots moved to the Cream City.

ITEM: MIL44T

Product details
  • 100% Cotton
  • Pre-Shrunk
  • Reactive Dye Blue Shirt
  • Enzyme Wash for Softness
  • Discharge Waterbased Printing
  • Made in the USA
If the graphic looks familiar, it should. It comes from the club's 1942 score card. An early incarnation of team mascot "Owgust" sprints towards home:


It's a gorgeous image, and I'm so glad that Ebbets Field Flannels is using this version of Owgust (maybe they're readers?).

I'm very pleased to see the amount of Brewer merchandise currently available at EFF. Speaks well to interest in the team's legacy. Help them continue to expand their offerings: buy one or twelve t-shirts today!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Uni Watching in Brooklyn


I wrote an article for Uni Watch, posted to the site this morning. Although largely about the Brooklyn Dodgers, and modern attempts to get their logo right on contemporary merchandise, the Brewers do make a cameo appearance.

Check out the piece here—and thanks to editor Phil Hecken for giving me the opportunity!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

1938 Cap Now Available at Ebbets Field Flannels

Once again, our friends at Ebbets Field Flannels, purveyors of classic baseball clothing, have brought us a forgotten treasure from Milwaukee's baseball past.

This intriguing cap was worn by the Brewers in the late 1930s.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS (AA) 1938 VINTAGE BALLCAP

$45.00 $36.00

American Association

History: The Brewers name was first used for a Milwaukee ball club back in 1878. The American Association team began play in 1902. The Brewers played in the AA until 1952, winning the pennant in their final season. They were replaced in 1953 when the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in the first franchise shift in Major League Baseball in 50 years.

ITEM: MIL38C

Product details
  • Authentic reproduction of 1938 ballcap
  • Current Rotation
  • Navy wool broadcloth crown
  • Soft visor
  • Horse hair buckram crown
  • Satin taping
  • Felt lettering
  • Cotton sweatband
  • Green satin under visor
All Ebbets Field Flannels authentic ballcaps are made in the USA.
This is a great piece. I had the opportunity to talk with the folks over at EFF while the cap was in production, and am so very pleased to finally see it available. Order yours today!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Milwaukee Tavern Scorecard - Spring 1942

Today we're looking at another edition of that peculiar Milwaukee institution, the tavern score card. Distributed to watering holes all over the city, they were a combination stat sheet and sports page. This one, printed before the season began, also doubled as a schedule.


The content in black ink changed over the course of the season; compare it with this card from April 27 of that year and you can see how the red template stayed the same.

The Brewers obviously have place of pride on this tavern card, with their home and road contests listed, but as the nearest big league clubs the two Chicago teams have their home schedules included.


Note the three major league teams scheduled to play exhibition games at Borchert Field: the New York Yankees on May 19, Chicago Cubs on June 8th and Brooklyn Dodgers on July 8th.

In the absence of any up-to-date news, publisher Al Cissa gives us a quick list of all the managers all around the American Association:


Charlie Grimm gets a shout-out; this was his first full year in charge with his co-owner Bill Veeck.

We also get a quick breakdown of the opening days for each club:


I love these cards as a window into the past. I wonder how they were used; extant samples indicate that many of them were folded and carried around, but I wonder if the taverns themselves ever used them as placemats? Were they hung on walls? Or were they as ephemeral as newspapers, read a couple times and casually tossed aside?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Seeing Yellow, Part II

Today's Uni Watch includes this wonderful 1938 photo from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, colorized by Baseball by Bsmile:


Readers may remember that we've talked about this before, although although we didn't have this particular picture; there have been many attempts to improve visibility by coloring the baseball, the first of which was held at our very own Borchert Field. On August 29, 1928, the New York Times reported on an event which took place the previous day:

American Association Tries Yellow Baseball in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE, Aug. 28 (AP)–For what is believed to be the first time in a professional game, a yellow baseball was experimented with here today in the second game of a double-header between Milwaukee and Louisville. President T. J. Hickey of the American Association was here to see the result. The new balls are said to have greater visibility than white ones, particularly with a bleacher background of white shirts. They are not easily discolored. Further experiments will be made and if successful the ball will be officially adopted for 1929.
Those experiments never went anywhere, and a decade later the Brooklyn Dodgers tried again with no greater success.

Thanks to Bsmile, we have a little better idea of what that ball might have looked like in action.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Brewers Play the Blues? 1936

This Milwaukee Journal photo was filed in May of 1936, and shows a home game at Borchert Field.


There's a lot to take in here.

The photographer is unidentified, although Journal library stamps adorn the reverse of the photo. It has been assigned negative number 521241.

The ballpark is identified both as "Borchert field" and as "Athletic park", its moniker before being renamed upon team owner Otto Borchert's death.

Every time I see them, I'm struck by the huge light standards placed on the edge of the field, between the fans and the action. When this photo was taken, they were less than a year old, installed in early June of 1935. Night baseball was the fashion of the day, and the Brewers were eager to bring it to their fans. So eager that they were willing to impact the Orchard's sightlines, which were already challenging at best. Shame they weren't able to mount the lights on top of the roof, although that might have resulted in tragedy in 1944 when a storm took off part of the roof on the first base side of the park.

Taking a closer look, you can see that the center line of the photo has been touched up in the classical style. I don't know what had happened to the picture, but somebody felt it necessary to enhance and define the image. The end result is something out of a Pointillistic painting.


This editing wouldn't have been so visible when reproduced in the paper, but on the original it's ethereal and otherworldly.


The uniforms are somewhat obscured by the retouching, but the men in the first base dugout, and the man at bat, seem to be wearing gray or similarly light-colored caps. The Brewers wore navy blue in 1936, indicating that was the visitors' dugout at the time, as we know it was in other seasons.

The artist has also outlined the pitcher's mound and baselines, to pull them out from the background.


I also like the peek at the concession vendor in the lower-left corner.

This photo, which doesn't appear to have been published by the Journal, was stamped "filed" on May 18, 1936. On the day, the Brewers were beginning a road trip in St. Paul. The series before had involved three games against Kansas City at the Orchard, it's possible that this photo was taken then.

The Brewers took the first game 1-0 on Friday, May 15, behind the solid pitching of knuckleballer "Tot" Pressnell. The Blues came back to win the second, 6-5, before drubbing the Brews in the rubber game, 12-2. This was a rare blemish on Milwaukee's record, the first series the Brewers had dropped in a month. Even counting those two losses, the Brewers had a record of 11-5 within the wooden walls of Borchert Field.

It's also possible that the photo comes from the Opening Day game a few weeks earlier. The visiting team's uniforms look like the Louisville Colonels, who were the Brewers' opponents for that home opener.

In the absence of a clear identification, we can't tell for sure. We'll just have to appreciate the photo as a glimpse of Borchert Field in its prime.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Special Afternoon at Borchert Field

This amazing picture was recently posted to Facebook by Old-Time Baseball Photos.

By request - Borchert Field, Milwaukee - this photo is believed to be taken in the 1940's, while it never did host a MLB team it was the home of many professional baseball teams including the Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Baseball League, famed by the movie "A League of Their Own" starring Tom Hanks
This picture, taken from the first base line, gives us a unique perspective of the ballpark.

We don't have any context for this photo, but we do know that it was a special day; the Brewers have put bunting up below the line of American flags along the Orchard's roof.


The opposing team's pitcher warms up in one of Borchert Field's foul-area bullpens:


I wish we could get a better look at that sign. It appears to read "REST ROOMS" but that's as much as I can make out.

Adding to the occasion, both teams are lined up along the basepaths, and a brass band stands waiting atop the pitcher's mound.


Notice also the massive light standards in front of the crowd. They were installed in 1935 as Borchert Field was updated to accommodate night games.

Behind home plate, we can see a large floral arrangement and photographers crouching to snap a picture.


With the band and flowers, this event bears a distinct resemblance to this photo, taken during a pre-game ceremony at the 1950 season opener.


It's not the same game—the visiting team's jackets don't match—but seems to be the same kind of ceremony. Odds are our mystery photo shows Opening Day at the Orchard. But which one?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

MoonlightWraps - 1945 Opening Day Ticket

We've talked before about the Etsy shop MoonlightWraps, which recreates historical baseball print materials on canvas. They've added a new Brewers item to their offerings, a reproduction of the club's 1945 Opening Day ticket.


This is based on the ticket stub we looked at a few years ago:


This wrap is ten inches by twenty, stretched over a 1.25" wood frame.


This brings the total number of MoonlightWraps' Brewer offerings to six:


Fantastic. Be sure to check them out. And remember, the more Brewers merchandise we buy, the more vendors like MoonlightWraps will produce.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

1952 Team Photo


This photo was published in the Milwaukee Journal on Sunday, September 7, 1952. The Brewers had just claimed their eighth American Association title, which nobody knew at the time would also be their last.

The Brewer champions of 1952, the last to play at Borchert field, will open the postseason play-offs Tuesday afternoon at 1 o'clock against third place St. Paul. Members of the club are: Front row (left to right) Wallie Post, outfielder; Murray Wall, pitcher; Hank Ertman, first baseman; Billy Allen, pitcher; George Crowe, first baseman; John Rieter, mascot; Luis Marquez, outfielder, and Gene Mauch, infielder. Center row: Red Smith, general manager; Al Unser, catcher; Dick Hoover, pitcher; Billy Klaus, infielder; Bucky Waters, manager; Joe Just, coach; Billy Bruton, outfielder; George Estock, pitcher, Dick Donovan, pitcher; Bob (Doc) Feron, trainer. Back row: Pete Whisenant, outfielder; Jim Clarkson, infielder; Billy Reed, infielder; Don Liddle, pitcher; Eddie Blake, pitcher; Bert Thiel, pitcher; Bob Montag, outfielder; Dewey Williams, catcher, and Gene Conley, pitcher.  —Journal Staff
The 1952 Brewers finished the season with a 101-53 record, twelve games ahead of the second-place Kansas City Blues. They beat the St. Paul Saints in the first round of the playoffs (to determine the American Association representative to the Junior World Series), but fell to the Blues in the second. The Blues went on to lose to the International League's Rochester Red Wings in the Little Fall Classic.

Today, this Brewer club is regarded as one of the top 100 minor league baseball teams of the 20th century.

They would have been looking forward to their move to the brand-new Milwaukee County Stadium in 1953, but were bumped during Spring Training in favor of the relocating Boston Braves. This Brewer team would not only be "the last to play at Borchert field", but also the last to play in Milwaukee until Bud Selig adopted their name for his new American League club in the spring of 1970.

Friday, June 24, 2016

1948 Home Jersey Now Available at Ebbets Field Flannels

We have another gem from our friends at Ebbets Field Flannels, purveyors of classic baseball clothing.

Their newest offering is a reproduction of the Milwaukee Brewers' 1948 home jersey. And it's on sale right now at a special introductory price.

Milwaukee Brewers 1948 Home

$195.00 $156.00

American Association

History: OOne of the most interesting things about the original minor league Brewers was their ballpark. The oddly-configured Borchert Field was built in 1887 and featured left and right field corners of only 266 feet. But the rectangular shape of the outfield made center field home runs nearly impossible. When the legendary Bill Veeck owned the team he installed a motor on the right field fence to move it back when the visiting team was up to bat. A rule was quickly passed outlawing this stunt.

ITEM: MIL48H

Product details
  • Authentic reproduction of the jersey worn in 1948 by the Milwaukee Brewers
  • Authentic cream wool flannel
  • Zipper front
  • Felt lettering
  • Number 3 on back
All Ebbets Field Flannels are made-to-order and handcrafted in the USA. Please allow 4 - 6 weeks for production. We can make any authentic flannel from the Negro Leagues, Minor Leagues, Latin America and many more. Contact us for details.
This is a gorgeous jersey, and Ebbets Field has done a pretty good job of recreating the original 1948 home jersey.


I especially love how they've placed the placket stripes close together. That's a detail often overlooked in reproductions such as this one.

The wordmark is a little big, though, and it suffers from a bad break in the middle of the "w" that the originals didn't always see. Still, a minor quibble. And it's great to see Ebbets Field bring back zippers after replacing it with buttons on their 1943 Milwaukee road jersey.

Check it out on the Ebbets Field site, along with the rest of their Milwaukee Brewers products.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The New People's Flag of Milwaukee

The People's Flag of Milwaukee has chosen a winner in their contest, and here it is:


The design, known as "Sunrise Over the Lake", was designed by Robert Lenz. He explains it this way:
The sun rising over Lake Michigan symbolizes a new day. The blue bars in its reflections represent the city’s three rivers and founders.
I'm working on some updated renderings of the 1897 contest winners, and hope to shortly combine my past posts into one comprehensive history of Milwaukee's flag. Until then, congratulations to Mr. Lenz!

Monday, June 13, 2016

1955 - "New City of Milwaukee Flag Presented to the Common Council"

I promised that we would put the long, strange saga of Milwaukee's flag to rest soon, and we will. But before we do, I would like to share these photos of the flag's unveiling, taken by a Milwaukee Sentinel photographer on January 25, 1955.

The new City of Milwaukee flag was presented to the Common Council Tuesday. The 5x3 foot flag, which will hang on the Council Dias behind the council president's chair, was designed by former Ald. Fred W. Steffan. City activities are illustrated by designs of the City Hall, a giant ship, the County Stadium and Arena, a church, a spike of whear and smoke stacks and a huge gear. Ald. Fred P. Meyers introduced the Council resolution which led to the designing of the flag.    Sentinel photo.
We don't know the men on either side, but the gentleman in the middle is Fred Steffan himself, who designed the flag from pieces submitted as part of a design competition.

When the photo was published on the first page of the second section of the Sentinel on January 26, 1955, it had been cropped to remove everything except the flag itself. Mr. Steffan, for his part, was retained as a small inset.


I'm not sure that I'd call this particular version a "flag". With the pole along the top and gold fringe along the other three sides, I think "banner" might be more appropriate.

That same photo session resulted in a larger group shot.


The additional men in the background are unidentified; the caption on the back reads "In case this larger group is used, Ferris is to supply names." Ferris him- or herself is similarly unidentified, and presumably known to the Sentinel staff.

Looking at this second photo, I'm struck by how white and male the assemblage is. This symbol of the city, meant to unite and inspire all her citizens, seems to have been determined entirely by an extremely homogeneous group. Certainly shows how far we've come.

Tomorrow, the winner of the People's Flag of Milwaukee contest will be announced, and the city may take a significant step towards replacing its current flag. Today, we can learn a little bit more about its adoption sixty-one years ago.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Vintage Brew: Jack Weisenburger


"Sunday May 14, 1950" Revisited
By Paul F. Tenpenny
(Tencentz@aol.com)
Copyright 2008/2016 Tencentzports
Printed with Permission of the Author


Jack Weisenburger's career in baseball was a brief one. He never made it to the "Bigs," but he did play for the American Association Milwaukee Brewers from 1949-1951. In 1950 while playing for Milwaukee, Jack wore uniform #14, significant to me as it was part of my collection. I was curious to learn who he was and at least spell his name correctly.

1950 Program photo of Jack "Weissenburger" (sic)
Baseball Reference sums up his baseball career:
John Weisenburger played part or all of three seasons in AAA.
Weisenburger played for a University of Michigan football team that was ranked first in the nation by the Associated Press by in 1947. He hit .313 and slugged .476 in his pro debut for the 1948 Pawtucket Slaters. He tied for 8th in the New England League with eight triples. In '49, he was with the Denver Bears (.294/?/.475 in 93 G) and Milwaukee Brewers (0 for 2). He was Milwaukee's main third baseman for the 1950 season, hitting .241/.322/.404 with 13 home runs in his only full AAA campaign. Weisenburger split 1951 between Milwaukee (0 for 3) and the Evansville Braves (.277/?/.404 in 60 G). With the '52 Tulsa Oilers, he batted .230/.326/.343 to end his baseball career.
According to the 1950 edition of Who's who in the American Association:

John Edward Weisenburger-Infielder Born at Muskegon, Michigan. Aug.2, 1927. Height 6 feet, 1 inch; weight, 180 pounds. Bats, right; throws, right-handed. Nickname "Jack." Married, Feb.11, 1950, to Sally Carnahan of Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Nationality, German-English descent. Was all-around athlete at Muskegon Heights High School and played four seasons of football and baseball at University of Michigan. Graduated of University of Michigan,1948. Teaches and coaches at Muskegon during the off season. Signed to first professional contract with Pawtucket, R. I., Club of New England League by Marty Purtell, Boston Braves Scout, in 1948. Hobby, all athletics. Calls football favorite spectator sport.
Autographed University of Michigan card
(Author's Collection)
Autographed University of Michigan
1947 National Champions card
(Author's Collection)
Here is a 1950 Scorecard showing Jack at 3rd base wearing home #14 for the Brews.


1950 Milwaukee Brewers Scorecard "Weiss" (sic) 3b #14
(Author's Collection)
I recently came upon a batch of original, albeit yellowed copies of bound Milwaukee Journal newspapers from the 1950's. One of them included an article by sports reporter, Sam Levy, for his "On the First Bounce" column. This is an insightful look at a young player's view of his upcoming season with the Brews.

"On the First Bounce by Sam Levy"
May 14, 1950
Stage Fright Ends

Columbus Ohio-The train carrying the Brewers was streaking along at a high speed.. Most of the boys were playing cards. Sitting alone and reading was Jack Weisenburger, former Michigan Fullback. "Are you over your stage fright?" The reporter asked Weisenburger. "I guess so," He answered with a smile. "I don't feel nervous anymore at bat or in the field. A few base hits can give you some confidence. And I feel at ease at 3rd base. I don't care where I play, but I don't like to be shifted around. Ever since I got into pro ball, I've shuttled between second, short or third, with an occasional start in the outfield. When I was in college I used to tell my coach, Ray Fisher, that I preferred the outfield. He used me in the infield. I guess he knew best. Fisher is a great coach. He's a former big league pitcher; with the Cincy Reds when they won the pennant in 1919."

A few years ago, while a junior at Michigan, Weisenburger played summer ball in the Northern League, a semi pro circuit in Vermont under Fisher's management. "I played under the name of Burger" said Weisenburger, his face beaming. I didn't fool anyone though. Everywhere I played people asked 'when are you going back to play football at Michigan?' I didn't know what they meant. Did I get paid? Well I got expenses, I guess. A fellow has to eat you know."

Faced Robin Roberts
The best pitcher he ever faced in his college days, said Weisenburger was Robin Roberts, currently rated one of the top hurlers in the National League. Roberts who received a $26,000 bonus to sign with the Philly Nationals attended Michigan State while Weisenburger was at Michigan. "Every time he got the chance, Roberts used to spend as much time as he could with Fisher." Weisenburger explained. "Fisher liked Roberts as much as any of his own players and told him quite a lot about pitching. And in the spring, Roberts would beat us without any trouble. Recently I read a magazine story in which Roberts gave Fisher credit for his success as a big league pitcher."

A Lot of Injuries
Three years of college football were less harmful to Weisenburger than his first two seasons in baseball he declared. Last year he missed 50 games with the Denver Western league club because of injuries. In June, 1949, he suffered a fractured ankle and was out for a month. Two weeks after e got back into the line-up he was hit by a pitch and his right thumb was fractured. "I was never hurt much in high school and college football, "added Weisenburger. "Now I would like to get a full season in at 3rd base in Milwaukee.
1951 Brewers: Bert Thiel, Jack Weisenburger, Bill Klaus
23 year old John "Jack" Weisenburger played in 121 games in 1950 for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 386 at bats he had 93 hits for a .241 batting average. He tallied 13 home runs and 43 RBIs.

1950 Jack Weisenburger Brewer Jersey (Front View)
(Author's Collection)
1950 Jack Weisenburger Brewer Jersey (Back View)
(Author's Collection)
Jack Weisenburger and his 1951 Milwaukee Brewer Teammates (3rd from right)