Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Holidays from Borchert Field!

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Thank you again for reading, and for bearing with us in this rather trying 2017. Now that the Journal Sentinel archive is back online, we're looking forward to a very productive New Year.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Archives are Back!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel archives on Google News, pulled from the Internet over a year ago, are back!

I haven't seen an announcement, but happened to click on an old saved Favorite and this popped up:

Christmas has come early this year!

The original plan announced by the Journal Sentinel last August was to put these archives behind a Newsbank paywall, but instead they have released them back to the public. The search function doesn't seem to be active, but even that can't diminish my mood. The loss of these archives has really stymied our research, and with their return there are so many articles I want to write.

Next year is going to be a big one. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go chortle in my joy.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Jack Hallett, 1935's Cup of Coffee

This fellow with the slighly uneasy grin is Jack Hallett. He was a right-handed fastball pitcher who was just twenty-one when this picture was taken.

Hallett grew up in Toledo, Ohio. He got his start in the city's amateur leagues. He got a tryout with the Toledo Mud Hens immediately after graduating high school, and then-manager (and future Brewers skipper) Casey Stengel told him "You will be a real pitcher, some day. But forget about becoming a professional pitcher for four or five years." Hallet refined his craft in the low minors before jumping to the Brews for the shortest of careers with the club - coming to Milwaukee partway through the 1935 season, he pitched one inning as a Brewer, giving up one hit, one run, and one walk.

Hallet got picked up by the Cleveland Indians organization, and bopped around the Cleveland and Chicago Cub farm systems before making his major league debut for the Chicago White Sox in 1940. He never had a long tenure on any big-league roster, but kept fighting his way back to the majors. He doggedly carved out a twelve-year career with twenty different clubs, including stints with the White Sox, Pirates, and New York Giants. Not bad for a guy who spent two of his prime years serving in the Navy in the Pacific theater.

As short as his Brewers career was, Hallett is pictured here wearing a similarly short-lived version of the Brewers' uniform, with a fancy "M" on the chest. This was introduced right before the 1935 home opener and lasted just one year.

This uniform represents a transitional stage in baseball uniform evolution; it brings back the cadet collar common in the early decades of the twentieth century, set off with thick soutache piping. We might think that throwback touches are a recent invention, but here we can see a baseball club re-introducing a design element from past decades.

This version of the M, with its fancy geegaws, never caught on in Milwaukee. By 1936, it had been replaced with a block M.

I've wondered if the design might not have been too close to that worn by the Minneapolis Millers, an American Association rival. But whatever the reason, sometimes things just don't last in baseball, and a story doesn't have to be long to be good.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Book Talk: Borchert Field

For those lucky enough to be in Milwaukee, historial Bob Buege will be giving a talk about his book Borchert Field: Stories from Milwaukee’s Legendary Ballpark.

The talk will be held on Wednesday, November 15, from 6:00-7:00pm at Historic Milwaukee, Inc., 235 East Michigan Street (between Water and Broadway). Historic Milwaukee is a non-profit founded in 1974, "dedicated to increasing awareness of and commitment to Milwaukee's history, architecture, and the preservation of our built environment through education and advocacy".

You can check out the event's Facebook page here. It's always a privilege to hear Buege speak.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Milwaukee Magazine: "The Story Behind This 1953 Brewers Ticket"

Milwaukee Magazine has a great look at an artifact from a Brewers game that was never played.

A ticket to what would have been the first game ever played at Milwaukee County Stadium, had the Braves not moved west from Boston. (Private collection); Photo by Tyler Yomantas

NOVEMBER 1, 2017


County Stadium helped to make Milwaukee Big League in 1953, but it nearly opened with a minor league tenant.

The Brewers had been Milwaukee’s home team for over a half-century when the Boston Braves relocated to the city, bringing Major League Baseball to Wisconsin for the first time since 1901. Those Brewers were minor leaguers, members of the American Association, and played their home games at Borchert Field on the city’s north side.

By 1950, with a number of east coast Major League clubs struggling, Milwaukee – which always gave the Brewers ample support – was seen as a potential destination for a team in need of a new hometown. That fall, ground was broken on Milwaukee County Stadium, a publicly-financed modern ballpark that, it was hoped, would lure a Major League baseball team and (just maybe) the NFL’s Packers out of Green Bay.

In the meantime, the new stadium secured a tenant in the minor league Brewers. After a number of construction delays, an opening date of July 24, 1952 was announced. The Brewers would have the privilege of playing in the minor’s most luxurious park until a Major League tenant was secured. Unfortunately, more delays pushed the opener back to April, 1953 and it now seemed that a big league team could be secured for the ballpark’s debut.

While the city chased the St. Louis Browns, who were in dire need of a new hometown, the Brewers prepared for an opener at the new stadium. Printed materials from the end of the 1952 season boasted of the new park even though the stadium’s backers were aghast at the idea of the park opening as the home of the Brewers. Over the winter, the Boston Braves, who owned the Brewers, opposed a Browns move to Milwaukee on the grounds that Milwaukee was too valuable a territory to surrender without a comparable market to which his Brewers could move.

Of course, no city could offer a brand new stadium for a minor league team, and the Braves’ objections were mostly to delay any action until they could orchestrate their own shift to Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Brewers were forced to act as if they would actually open the season at County Stadium. Arrangements were made and tickets were printed but, just weeks before the season was set to open, the Braves move was approved and the Brewers were sent packing, relocated to Toledo to operate as the Mudhens.

This ticket, one of a few known of its kind, could have been exchanged for a ticket to the Braves opener at County Stadium (with an extra 75 cents to make up the difference in price) and would have allowed the bearer to see a great game in which the brand-new Milwaukee Braves topped the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on a walk-off homer by Bill Bruton.

I'd love to learn more about how this exemplar came to be framed, with its typewritten caption:

Monday, October 9, 2017

"Come On, You Brewers!", 1932

This photo was published in the Milwaukee Sentinel in early 1932.

Left to right—Frank O'Rourke, Cuckoo Christensen, Tony Kubek, Biff Hoffman, Jack Knott, Bud Connolly, Alex Metzler, Jackie Tavener, Buck Stanton.(Sentinel Photo)
This looks like it's from the season opener against the Indianapolis Indians. That subhead is somewhat regrettable, but it's a marvelous action photo of our boys taking the field.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"The Forgotten Champs: The 1944 Milwaukee Chicks Oral History Project"

In 1995, students taking an oral history course at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee embarked on a momentous venture: to tell the story of the Milwaukee Schnitts by preserving the voices of women who played for the team.

The resulting project was known as "The Forgotten Champs: The 1944 Milwaukee Chicks Oral History Project", and it is available online as part of the MINDS@UW Digital Library Services.

This is an incredible opportunity to learn about the team from first-hand sources. Now, twenty-two years later, these five women have passed away but their stories remain for all to hear.

There are five interviews, each with audio recordings and a PDF transcript.

  1. Third-baseman Vivian Anderson [Sheriffs]
  2. Center fielder Thelma "Tiby" Eisen
  3. Left-handed pitcher Viola Thompson [Griffin]
  4. Right-handed pitcher Sylvia Wronski [Straka]
  5. Second baseman/pitcher Alma Ziegler
Anderson and Wronski are particularly interesting, as they were the only two Milwaukeeans on the team.

Head over to MINDS@UW and take a listen; the women are now gone but thanks to UWM their voices are preserved forever.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bendiger Buys Tickets to See His Own Club Play

Here's a heartwarming story from July 18, 1940; the owner of the Brewers buying tickets to see his own club play a game.

It's a fine state of affairs when the president of the baseball club has to buy a ticket to see his own club play, but Henry Bendiger of the Brewers does it with a smile as he buys two tickets from Staney and Robert of St. Charles' home. St. Charles' home has taken over the Brewers' game Monday night with Toledo as a benefit. —Journal Staff
St. Charles' home is still in existence today. It was founded in 1920 as a home for teenage boys who were under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. I wonder how much they raised at that July game?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

1947 Score Card

Today we're taking a look at a Brewers scorecard. Someone, perhaps the original owner, has helpfully stamped it with the date August 23, 1947. Seventy years ago today.

1947 was an interesting year for the Brewers, the first full year with Lou Perini as owner, meaning the first season that the formerly-independent Brews were part of a baseball chain in the service of a major league club. While that is the standard for baseball today, that was a radical shift for our Brews of the time.

On the cover, Owgust swings for the fences.

I believe this is the first rendering of the logo that would become the first logo of the major league Brewers. Owgust himself dates back to 1942, but this is the version of him at bat that would be picked up by Bud Selig for his big-league club.

On the inside, a full-page ad for Gimbels, at one time Milwaukee's largest department store. The store sponsored radio broadcasts of the Brewer games with Mickey Heath, the team's former first baseman/manager.

On the next page, we get into the real meat of the program.

Milwaukeeans of a certain age will see that Ruby Chevrolet ad and hear the jingle "Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby Chevrolet!" They were in business at least through the late 1980s.

Under a masthead of ballplaying Owgusts (the same as the team's "Brewer News" newsletters) we meet D'Arcy R. "Jake" Flowers, the team's President and General Manager. Flowers had been a coach for the Boston Braves, but was promoted in January of 1947 to run the Brews by new owner Lou Pirini.

The "Lucky Number" contest is a constant in Milwaukee Brewer programs.

We also get a glimpse of ticket prices.

Box seat$1.50
*Child's box seat.90
* Under 12 years

Adjusting for inflation, that's $4.41 for children under twelve and $16.54 for box seats. Pretty good deal.

You could buy them at the Gimbel's Smoke Shop, or at all three Schuster's stores. You could also pick them up at one of the neighborhood watering holes by Borchert Field, Hugo Walters or Steve's Baseball Tavern.

The next page covers the '47 schedule, and our incredible potted history graphic.

Alvin Dark, pictured on the next page in his Boston Braves cap, was a superstar in the making. He skipped the minors and went straight to the big league club in 1946. He only saw action in fifteen games that season, so when the Braves acquired a farm team in Milwaukee, Perini had Dark sent down for a little seasoning. It was a smart choice; Dark thrived when given a regular position at Borchert Field, hitting .303 with 10 home runs and 66 RBI. The following spring, Dark joined the big club in Boston and never saw the minors again. He won the second-ever Rookie of the Year award (at the time awarded for both leagues combined) in 1948 and played thirteen more seasons before transitioning seamlessly into management.

I love the Borchert Field ground rules:
The ball is in play when—
  1. It is overthrown off mound.
  2. It is pitched off the mound and hits backstop.
The Baserunner advances one base when—
  1. Pitched ball bounds on top of screen.
  2. Ball is thrown into stands.
  3. Ball bounds into stands.
It is a 2 Base Hit when—
  1. Ball bounces into bleachers.
  2. Ball bounces over fence.
  3. Ball rolls under fence.
  4. Ball is hit into left or right field corner out of sight of Umpire-in-Chief.
It is a Home Run when—
  1. Ball hits a light pole above white mark.
It is a foul when—
  1. Ball hits a light pole back of 1st or 3rd base on the fly.
Borchert Field's unusual setup, with light poles on the field of play, necessitated some interesting ground rules.

"If you can't be thre in person... listen to the Brewers' games with this Powerful New Philco Portable." I love it.

The next two pages cover the game; looks like the Brewers had a rough day.

And now we're back to the ads.

There's a pitch for the Brewers' radio broadcasts, featuring play-by-play man (and former Brewer himself) Mickey Heath. It also provides a quick lesson in how to score the game, or how to read our scorer's notes.

This one gives us a good look at the uniforms the Brewers introduced this season. They continued to wear this style through 1948, including an exemplar we've looked at before. Those jerseys are the same style as the parent club, with the distinctive blue/red/blue piping.

This resemblance may or may not have been intentional; when the club's new uniforms arrived the day before their first game, the Brewers discovered that they had mistakenly been sent a shipment of Boston Braves jerseys, complete with Indian-head patch on the sleeve. The Brewers had to take the whole load to a local sporting goods shop to be fixed. That was probably Burghardt, which had been supplying the Brewers with uniforms since at least the early 1930s and would have had their chest script on file.

From a technical standpoint, you can see that we've moved from one-color blue printing back to two-color blue and red. Seems strange they don't use more red in these later pages, but perhaps that was intentional so as not to call attention to the cheaper one-color pages in the middle of the score card.

Steve's Baseball Tavern and Sluggy Walters both have ads in the back pages. Equal size too, presumably a most-favored-nations approach for the Brewers' two partners.

On the inside back cover, an opportunity for fans to vote on their favorite player. This ballot wasn't submitted, but others would have cut down on the number of intact score cards floating around today.

There was a ballot box at the Borchert Field exits for fans to make their voices heard, and at the end of each month the player with the most votes was given a $25 gift certificate for Shuster's department store. In a sign of the post-war times, Shuster's proudly advertises their "free storeside parking station is yours to use without time limit, purchase, ticket or red tape of any kind." That increasing focus on automobile culture would soon be reflected in Milwaukee's new ball park, as Borchert Field (surrounded by homes and neighborhood taverns) was replaced by County Stadium (surrounded by parking lots).

The back cover, of course, featured a full-page ad for Miller High Life. Two cartoon ballplayers look forward to a bottle of the Champagne of Beers once they've finished their job on the diamond. And P.S., says the brewer, it's a "Grand idea for you fans too!"

I love these score cards, providing a unique look into a world long since departed.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

1897 Brewers Cabinet Photo

This stunning cabinet photo, showing the 1897 Milwaukee Brewers club, is currently up for auction over at Heritage.

1897 Milwaukee Brewers Base Ball Club Cabinet Photo SGC 20 Fair 1.5 with Connie Mack.

The professional career of Cornelius Alexander McGillicuddy or "Connie" Mack as we all know him by started in 1886 with the Washington Nationals. Who could have guessed this was a lifetime commitment that did not end until 1950 with Mack reigning as manager of the Phil. Athletics for a full half-century. The Milwaukee Brewers were owned by Ban Johnson (who Mack would work for in the future) of the Western League's signed Mack as manager in in 1897. It was his until the turn-of-the century when Philadelphia came calling. Offered is a scarce composite team cabinet photo of Mack and his squad. The 15 wonderful images are surrounded by detailed ribbon and design elements, the caption proudly reads "Milwaukee Base Ball Club." The studio credit reads "H. Hercher." It was in 1901 that Mack accepted an offer to manage the Philadelphia Athletics of the newly formed American League. Tenure usually reserved for Supreme Court judges and professors, Connie Mack ruled the Athletics for 50 years. The image quality is excellent. Obvious creases account for the grade. Graded SGC 20 Fair 1.5 Extremely rare in any condition, there are large lithographed prints of this composite known but this is the first example we have encountered as a cabinet card.
Fascinating, though I'm not sure about their facts there. I've never seen it reported that Ban Johnson owned any piece of the Brewers; he was the enormously powerful president of the Western League, which would eventually re-organize itself into the American League and be the first to successfully compete with the established National League. The club was owned by a group of investors, most notably Milwaukee attorneys Matthew and Henry Killilea. Matthew was the president of the club, and the one most responsible for its operations.

Milwaukee was a stalwart in the Western League, and became the birthplace of the American League when it hosted the series organizational meetings that saw the minor league join the majors. For his part, Matthew Killilea became known as "the godfather of the American League". The club would be less successful in their new major league, moving to St. Louis after only one year. It would first dominate and then be dominated in that city and move to Baltimore in 1954 where it plays today as the Orioles. They would be replaced in the Cream City by a new Brewer team in a new league, the American Association.

This card would be the centerpiece of any collection. Good luck to the bidders.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Young and Polli in Spring Training

This Spring Training wire photo, dated April 2, 1933, shows catcher Russ Young conferring with right-handed pitcher Lou Polli.

Let's look first at the two men.

Russell Charles Young was an institution behind the plate at Borchert Field, with over 800 appearances in a Milwaukee uniform over the course of eleven seasons. He made his professional debut with the 1923 Brewers at the ripe old age of twenty. A two-sport athlete, Young left baseball in 1925 to play one season with his hometown Dayton Triangles of the NFL. He must have decided he had a better future in baseball, because he was back with the Brewers in 1926. In 1931, he had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Browns, during the brief time the Brewers were owned in part by Philip De Catesby Ball, who also owned the Browns. Young saw action in sixteen games during his time in the majors, but managed only a .118 batting average, and was back with the Brewers the following spring. He flourished in Milwaukee, and bounced back with an excellent season as the Brews' starting backstop. As the picture was taken he was about to have his best season overall; in 1933 he played 113 games as catcher with a .302 batting average and 72 RBI.

Louis Americo Polli has been called "one of the greatest pitchers in minor league history". He was born in Baveno, Italy in 1901, immigrating to America with his family when he was just seven months old. After coming up through the Yankees organization, he came to the Brewers in 1931. Like Young, Polli also spent a short stint with the Browns; his was in 1932, making him the first Italian-born player in Major League Baseball history. He pitched 623 innings over five games in St. Louis, earning an ERA of 5.40. He had more luck that year as a starter in Milwaukee, making appearances in 26 games and earning a record of 14-6. Polli threw a no-hitter against the St. Paul Saints on September 7, 1935, before moving to the International League's Montreal Royals at the end of the season. His career would eventually span twenty-three seasons, all of it in the minors except that one stint with the Browns and a slightly longer nineteen-game run with the New York Giants in 1944. When he died in 2000, he was the oldest living former major league pitcher.

This is one of my favorite Brewer uniforms; about eight years ago I had Ebbets Field Flannels make a reproduction. Very classic; navy details on gray flannel. Pinstripes and piping, rare to see these two elements paired these days but not uncommon in its era.

The photo itself is also interesting for the retouching. Click to enlarge, and you can see the details exaggerated and rough edges smoothed out in those very pre-Photoshop days.

Young's face has been pulled away from the background by a liberal application of white, and dark streaks accentuate the detailing on Polli's uniform.

There are more interesting details in the lower half of the photo:

Look at the suit of armor Young is wearing on his legs. Looks like rivets.

We can also see that Polli's socks have a Northwestern stripe pattern, one thick stripe surrounded by two thinner stripes. It's dangerous to extrapolate colors from old sepia-toned photographs. I presume those are the same socks our Brewers were wearing in 1931: red stripes on a navy background.

All in all, another wonderful look at our Brewers from the early 1930s.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

1940 Negro League Pass

This amazing Negro League season pass recently came up for auction on eBay.

Good for all American Negro League baseball games at Borchert Field. Outstanding.

At first glance, you may be wondering what this is about. Milwaukee is not today known for its Negro League legacy; we all know about the 1923 Milwaukee Bears, but they were so short-lived that the Brewers may have played more games in Bear throwback uniforms by now than the original Bears ever played.

Milwaukee's history with the Negro Leagues runs deeper than just the one team, though. After the Bears folded, the Chicago American Giants used it as a second home in the 1930s and 1940s, even hosting playoff games in 1939.

Milwaukee also saw many traveling teams come to Borchert Field. It was one of those teams, the Kansas City Monarchs, who brought their $30,000 portable light system to the Orchard in 1930, giving the Cream City its first-ever taste of night baseball. That game was arranged by local promoter Eddie Stumpf, one of the names listed on this pass.

Stumpf was a native Milwaukeean who broke into baseball in 1916 as a catcher for the Brewers. He played briefly for the Brews and the Columbus Senators before going into sports promotion. He brought the best baseball shows to Borchert Field, including exhibition teams led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

At the age of 47 he returned to the diamond as a player/manager for the Janesville Cubs of the Wisconsin State League. It was there he heard about Cubs' president Philip K. Wrigley's plan for a girls' softball league, which would eventually be known as the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Stumpf was hired as the Wisconsin organizer of the league, overseeing tryouts at Borchert Field.

In 1946, team president Bill Veeck hired Stumpf to oversee the Brewers' farm system, which at the time included four lower-level clubs.

in 1954, as general manager of the Indianapolis Indians, Stumpf was selected "Outstanding Minor League Official" by the Sporting News. His last job in baseball was as a consultant to Bud Selig's American League Brewers from 1970 through 1972.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Veeck Calling, 1943

From the Chicago Tribune archives comes this lovely staged photo of our very own Sport Shirt Bill.

William Veeck Jr., president of the Milwaukee Brewers and former Chicago Cubs official, finds the telephone useful in helping dispose of the association's war time problems in 1943. (Chicago Tribune)
Mugging for the cameras a bit, our Bill. He knew promotions better than anyone, and he also knew that he was part of the product.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Milwaukee Brewers Grounds Crew Jacket (New and Improved!)

Ebbets Field Flannels is introducing a new line of Grounds Crew Jackets, replacing the versions they've had in production since 2009.

Their Borchert Field version includes a special treat for Milwaukee Brewer fans: an Owgust patch!


$125.00 $99.00

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.


  • Lightweight cotton blend water resistant fabric
  • Heavy duty brass zipper
  • Slash pockets in front
  • Felt chest emblem & felt letters on back
  • Pencil pocket on left sleeve
  • Cellphone pocket inner-left chest
  • Made in the USA
Please allow 3 - 4 weeks for production
Can't wait to see this.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Sports Parade: May 4, 1941

Published seventy-six years ago today, a fantastic full page of Brewer coverage from the Milwaukee Sentinel. Click to enlarge and savor every detail:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Sunny Yellow Flag for a Great Place, 1975

I recently came across this photo of local artist Leland (Lee) Tishler, who won a 1975 contest to redesign Milwaukee's city flag. As you might remember from my lengthy article last year, this was one of a series of Milwaukee flag design contests held during the 20th Century.

–Journal Photo
Artist L.G. Tishler displayed his winning design for a new city flag.
Tishler's entry was a notched yellow banner featuring symbols of Milwaukee's people, parks, industry and lakefront.

His original design, seen in the wire photo above, included three male figures across the top. In the inclusive spirit of the time, these were revised to an adult male and female flanking a female child.

It is very 70s in its bold iconography, isn't it?

In recognition of his work, Tishler was awarded a $100 savings bond at a ceremony at City Hall, and then his design was quietly shelved. The common council considered borrowing bits and pieces of it for another composite design, but ultimately abandoned it.

This is a fantastic find - I'm going to update the original post to include this and the 1950 design winner.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Bold Civic Banner, 1950

I recently came across this wire photo, which gives us a look at what Milwaukee's flag might have been.

The contest for a Milwaukee flag was won by this entry at the city hall Tuesday. It was designed by Alfred P. Dannenmann (not shown), 17, of 2859 N. 4th st. Shown are Carl P. Dietz, chairman of the city art commission, and Francesco Spicuzza, an artist and a member of the commission. The first prize was a $100 savings bond.
As discussed in a series of lengthy posts last year, the 1950 contest was one of many over the past century-plus to create a timeless flag for the Cream City. This is the first time I was aware of the name of the winning entry's designer. He was just seventeen years old at the time.

We previously saw this design in a Milwaukee Journal photo of some of the designs entered into the competition.

With this wire photo and a little Photoshop magic, we get a pretty good look at the design.

I find that I don't dislike the design. There's a real draftsman quality to it. Of course, it's way too wordy, which is a huge pitfall in vexillological design. Do "HOMES", "INDUSTRY", and "SHIPPING" really need to be labeled? That aside, the central image of gears and lightning bolt, stripped of the other elements, might have made for a fine municipal design. It seems very much of its time; very industrial-optimistic, very Reddy Kilowatt. And unfortunately, we can only imagine what Mr. Dannenmann's color scheme was. I'd like to think he chose a light blue for his background, as the eventual city banner featured.