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.


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 wheat 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
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)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Journal Sentinel: "Milwaukee looks to redo its 1954 flag mashup"

We had a nice little shout-out this weekend from Milwaukee historian John Gurda writing in the Journal Sentinel about the People's Flag of Milwaukee project. In his review of the 1954 Frankenflag project, he mentions my research into Milwaukee's vexillological history:


Milwaukee looks to redo its 1954 flag mashup

John Gurda
In My Opinion

What's in a flag? It depends on who's doing the saluting. For some of us, a flag — whether a nation's, a state's or a city's — is one of the accouterments of civilized society, something you're supposed to have, like libraries, stop signs and postage stamps. For the most ardent patriots among us, a flag is nothing less than an outward symbol of their innermost identity. Flags are tattooed onto biceps, carried into battle and draped over caskets. People die for flags.

It's hard to imagine anyone dying — or even tearing a cuticle — for Milwaukee's current city flag. Adopted in 1954, our official banner is, well, clunky. Although it has a certain retro charm, in the same way that orange shag carpeting and Formica countertops appeal to some baby boomers, the flag reads as a visual checklist of items that represented Milwaukee to our grandparents. A gear for industry? Check. A barley stalk for beer? Got it. City Hall for good government? Front and center. Down the list it goes: a church, smokestacks, a boat, County Stadium, the Arena, an Indian chief, a military service flag (yes, a flag on a flag), an oil lamp, and waves on Lake Michigan. If it were any busier, Milwaukee's flag would die of sheer exhaustion.

Small wonder that the campaign for a new Milwaukee flag has generated such enthusiasm. Nearly two years ago, a young graphic designer named Steve Kodis heard a podcast on flags presented by cultural pundit Roman Mars. His interest quickened, Kodis started to investigate. He discovered that Milwaukee's flag was a visual antique and resolved to try, if he could, to bring the city's banner into the 21st century. (How many people knew Milwaukee even had a flag is open to question.) Kodis' motivation was simplicity itself. "I'm proud to be a Milwaukeean," he said. "A great city deserves a great flag."

The young man soon became Milwaukee's own Betsy Ross in blue jeans, but he wasn't toiling alone. Greater Together, a nonprofit group that promotes diversity in Milwaukee's creative community, joined the cause, and word of a design contest began to spread by word-of-mouth and social media. The result was a powerful example of civic engagement. Hundreds of Milwaukeeans, many of them young adults, spent hours crafting what are basically expressions of love for their city. The contest generated more than a thousand flag designs submitted by well over 500 individuals vying for nothing more tangible than bragging rights.

I was one of the volunteer judges charged with choosing five finalists from that mountain of submissions. Our group included three young designers (including Kodis, now 29) and two older history types: myself and our leader, Ted Kaye of Portland, Ore. Kaye was there as a specialist whose title is hard to spell and even harder to pronounce: a vexillologist, or flag expert.

The five of us spent seven hours on a sunny spring Saturday inside the Hanson Dodge ad agency on Buffalo St. The process was orderly and interesting. We began by spreading printouts of the submissions in rows of two across the hardwood floors — a lineup that was ultimately longer than two football fields. The entries had a remarkably consistent color palette — lots of blue for water, plenty of cream for brick — and a strong emphasis on threes, for Milwaukee's three rivers, three pioneer settlements and three founders.

Each judge then picked the designs he or she found most appealing, which narrowed the field to about 120. The next step was to group those choices thematically — gears, waves, stripes, maps, stars, etc. — and pare them down to 50 semifinalists. From that pool, after plenty of spirited but respectful discussion, we picked five designs to be submitted to the public in an online poll. By the time we finished, all of us were convinced that any one of the finalists could creditably represent our city.

(The contest is now closed, but everyone's welcome to the announcement of the winner on June 14 — Flag Day, of course. Details are on the milwaukeeflag.com website.)

I left the Third Ward that Saturday evening with a new respect for the various Milwaukeeans who had tackled the same task in earlier years. Picking a flag design is not easy. The city lacked an official banner for the first 108 years of its existence, and it was not for lack of trying. As documented by Chance Michaels, there were attempts to pick a flag as early as 1897. That effort came to nothing but, generation after generation, the campaign was renewed.

In 1927, for instance, Milwaukee considered a design submitted by "public-spirited citizens" that featured "a field of Alice blue on a double silk background, with the city seal in the center, imprinted in golden orange." Although it was described in the press as "Milwaukee's new civic flag," the design was shunted over to the Police Department and ultimately abandoned.

In 1942, not long after Pearl Harbor, Ald. Fred Meyers declared that Milwaukee needed a banner by the time of its 1946 centennial. "As a great convention city," Meyers opined, "as a city whose factories are making parts for every type of weapon and other materials used by our armed forces, as a city with an outstanding enlistment record in the armed forces....Milwaukee should have an official city flag."

Other concerns took precedence, notably World War II, and it was not until 1950 that Milwaukee looked up and noticed that its flagpole was still empty. Meyers renewed his push, launching a contest that drew more than 150 entries. None proved completely satisfactory. Four years later, Fred Steffan, another alderman, took the odds and ends from the 1950 finalists and created a composite design. That's our current flag, and the Common Council made it official on Sept. 21, 1954.

The decision was greeted with a collective yawn. The Milwaukee Sentinel ignored the story completely, and the Journal gave it all of two sentences in the local section. The afternoon paper did donate copies of the flag to every Milwaukee junior and senior high school, hoping they would "hang in a prominent place and be used as a basis for study of Milwaukee's civic and cultural history."

As the 1954 flag slipped steadily out of date — smokestacks went cold, the Braves left, breweries closed and lake traffic diminished — there were periodic attempts to breathe new life into our civic banner. A 1975 contest almost yielded another study in composites. According to the Milwaukee Journal, that year's entries leaned heavily to "beer steins and beer bottles, the Summerfest smile, the Harbor Bridge, the Mitchell Park Conservatory and the lakefront." The judges recommended that the various elements "be incorporated into a single flag," but cooler heads prevailed. The issue lay dormant until 1991, when yet another attempt proved abortive. A 2001 contest that drew 105 entries ended with a unanimous verdict of "none of the above."

Fifteen years later, the current campaign already has generated more discussion, more publicity and more ideas than all the preceding contests combined. Not surprisingly, it also has prompted a new surge of interest in our old flag. Even though the 1954 banner was largely unknown and unflown, the retro look is cool these days, and the existing flag, I freely acknowledge, is endearingly tacky. In some quarters, the current contest is a hipster plot to strip Milwaukee of a valued icon.

I have no such concerns. The process has been transparent and the spirit of the organizers openhearted throughout. The contest yielded five strong finalists: an "M" star, a lake sunrise, three rivers, a chevron and a six-pointed star. They may seem simple, even generic, at first, but that was the intention. A good flag, all five judges agreed, should in fact be simple — as well as memorable, colorful and specific to its setting. Milwaukee's 1954 banner is essentially a time capsule of artifacts from a dead generation. Led by our younger residents, the city is ripe for a new design that evokes our place rather than describes it, that provides us with inspiration rather than an inventory.

What's in a flag? More than meets the eye. A new banner won't bring back Allis-Chalmers or turn the north side into River Hills, but it can give Milwaukee something valuable nonetheless: a touchstone of identity that all of us can salute.

John Gurda, a Milwaukee historian, writes for the Crossroads section on the first Sunday of each month (www.johngurda.com).
Thanks for the mention, Mr. Gurda (although I hate to sound churlish, but could you include a link next time?). Drop me a line sometime - I'd love to talk Milwaukee history, vexillological, baseball or otherwise.

And thank you, everyone, for indulging me this little detour away from Milwaukee's wonderful diamond past. I promise one more digression, when they announce the winner of the People's Flag contest on the 14th. Until then, there'll be baseball starting on Tuesday, when contributor Paul Tenpenny will bring us a story of former Brewer Jack Weisenburger.