Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year from Owgust and All of Us!

Happy New Year from BorchertField.com!

We have big things coming in 2019, including celebrating our 10th Anniversary this February! Thanks for being part of our story so far.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Happy Holidays from Borchert Field

Here at Borchert Field, we have an annual tradition of re-publishing some of our favorite holiday-themed posts. Or, if you prefer, we drag out some old chestnuts.

This year, it's the wonderful Brewer News: Volume 3, Number 1, the December '44 issue.

It features a Santa-themed version of the Brews' mascot Owgust, the forerunner of the modern-day Barrelman, hawking Gift Certificates, Box Seats and Ticket Books. "Brewer fandom's most popular gift", after all.


Delightful. This is why mascot logos are the best.

The rest of that issue of Brewer News can be found here, originally published on BorchertField.com in December of 2010.

As Owgust himself might exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:

"Happy Christmas to all,
and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"The Stroboscope Light Stops Hal Peck", 1940

This gorgeous nighttime photo was published in the Milwaukee Journal on June 28, 1940.

The stroboscope light stops Hal Peck in midswing and shows the arm pull which gives the young Brewer outfielder all his power. After a miserable start in Class AA baseball, Peck has found himself and pushed his average up to .280. Manager Mike Heath predicts that the youngster will be in the .300 class before the season ends. —Journal Staff
We have a review of Peck's career as "Bill Veeck's Good Luck Charm", originally published way back in February of 2010, when this blog was just over a year old.

Although this particular photo is credited to "Journal Staff", I can't help but wonder if it was taken by their pioneering staff photographer Frank J. Scherschel. In the early 1940s, Scherschel was experimenting with stroboscopic equipment, "making possible exposures at 1/100,000 of a second". It allowed him to freeze the action at a nighttime game, although all the photos I've seen have been like this one, staged for the camera.

The paper published a series of Scherschel's results, and we've looked at his stroboscopic photos of second baseman Barney Walczak (aka "Barney Walls") at the plate and right-handed fastballer Robert George Kline, Jr caught in mid-pitch.


Could this have been another in the series? The uniforms certainly match. That's the late 1930s look that would eventually be replaced by new president Bill Veeck before the 1942 season. Classic red "M", thick blue piping. And all three were taken about the same time, in 1940, during the period when the three men were on the Brewers roster.

If Scherschel didn't take this third photo, he must have worked with the person who did.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Milwaukee Schnitts Jersey from Ebbets Field Flannels

I recently had this jersey made by our friends at Ebbets Field Flannels. It's a reproduction of the jersey worn by Hall of Famer Max Carey as manager of the Milwaukee Chicks/Schnitts.


I chose "24" for the back not for Carey himself (I do not believe AAGPBL managers wore numbers, at least not in 1944) but because the All-American Girls professional Baseball League Players Association lists twenty-four members on the Schnitts' all-time roster. That seemed a fitting tribute to those pioneering women.


They re-created the jersey patch based on photos I took at the Milwaukee County Historical Society's recent exhibit "Back Yards to Big Leagues: Milwaukee’s Sports and Recreation History".


Ebbets Field did a marvelous job, very true to the original.


I'll be proud to wear this to Miller Park next year: maybe even for a Schnitts "Turn Back the Clock" game?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"An Impromptu Game of Base Ball", 1859

The Wisconsin Historical Society posted this on Twitter today, featuring the site of what is believed to be the first baseball game in Milwaukee, one hundred and fifty-nine years ago today:


At the time, the Wisconsin State Fair was still located at the old Brockway Fair Grounds; it wouldn't move to its current site in West Allis until 1892. The grounds were at Twelfth Street and what was then Grand Avenue, renamed Wisconsin Avenue in 1926. Now part of Marquette University's campus, in 1859 it was the very edge of the city. Perfect spot for a large agricultural fair, or for a pickup game of "Base Ball".

It's nice to be reminded that not only does Milwaukee's baseball history extend past 1953, but it also goes deep into the 19th Century, to the earliest days of the game.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"A New Career - That of a Leatherneck", 1943

As we celebrate Veterans Day today, we look at this photo of the most famous veteran in the Brewers' organization: team owner Bill Veeck.

Marine Private William L. Veeck, 29, who started out selling pop in baseball parks and now owns the profitable Milwaukee Brewers ball club, starts a new career - that of a leatherneck. Veeck is reporting to his recruit tent at San Diego, following his initial equipment issue on Dec. 24, 1943. (Marine Corps photo)
Veeck came home from the war with an injury that would plague him for the rest of his life, but at least he came home. Many were not so fortunate.

You can read the full story of "Sport Shirt Bill's" time in the Marine Corps here.

Friday, November 2, 2018

"BASE BALL TO-DAY", c. 1915

Today, The Hop celebrates its "Grand Hop-ening", and Milwaukee has a streetcar again for the first time since 1958.

In honor of this momentous day, we present to you this postcard, circa 1915, showing two conductors posing on their streetcar.


On the streetcar's side, the letters "T. M. E. R. & L. CO." stands for The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company. Yes, that's right, the streetcars and electric power company were under one umbrella.

This particular style of car was introduced around 1906, and they remained in service until the 1940s. The conductors look very proud in their uniforms with heavy wool coats and brass buttons.

What's really interesting to us, though, is the sign on the front of the car.

BASE
BALL

TO-DAY
8th & Chambers Sts.
This, of course, refers to our own beloved wooden ballpark, then known as "Athletic Park" and still over a decade away from being renamed for Otto Borchert.

The streetcar was a reliable mode of transit to the ballpark for the rest of its existence, as seen in this Milwaukee Journal ad from May, 1936:


Who knows? In future expansions, we could be able to jump The Hop on our way to a game at Miller Park, just as baseball "bugs" did back in 1915.

(Photo credit: Chuck Quirmbach)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Uni Watch: "It's A Nice Day For A ... White Webbing"

To celebrate the Brewers' playoff run, I have a new piece up on Uni Watch this morning.

It's the story of one very small mistake a quarter-century ago, and how that mistake has influenced our vision of the Brewers ever since.


Check it out!

Friday, October 12, 2018

12 in a Row!


Well, the Brewers have done it. Twelve straight wins, meaning George Webb will make good on its 70-year old promise to hand out free hamburgers.

This is only the second time the local baseball nine has been able to come through; you can read about the first time in a piece I wrote back in 2013.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Old Brews Get a Shout-Out

The Washington Post has an article about our current Brewers and how they might make George Webb's famous prediction come true this week.


I was delighted to see they didn't just trace the prediction back to the Braves, but all the way back to the beginning:
The Milwaukee Brewers are four wins away from their first trip to the World Series since 1982. But they’re only one win away from securing free hamburgers for all of Wisconsin for the first time since 1987.

Local restaurant chain George Webb has promised patrons a free hamburger if the Brewers win 12 games in a row. Headed into Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, the team’s winning streak stands at 11, dating to a Sept. 23 win against Pittsburgh. Milwaukee has yet to lose in the postseason, including Game 163 against Chicago, played to decide the winner of the NL Central.

But the chain’s free burger promotion dates back to the 1940s and the minor league Milwaukee Brewers. Chain founder George Webb predicted that ballclub would win 12 straight games and hinted he’d reward customers if it did.
Always good to see people remember that Milwaukee's baseball history goes farther back than 1953.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

2018 NL Central Champs!


Not having anything specific to do with Borchert Field, but it's a good day for baseball in Milwaukee.

Congrats, Brewers. Can't wait to see what else you've got in store for us. And good to see you rocking the classic logo.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Delivering Family-Friendly Baseball to Your Door

We take a break from our exploration of the past to bring you some more current baseball news.


As we all know, Milwaukee was home to American Association minor-league baseball from 1902 through 1952 before being called up to the Majors, first with the Braves and then the Brewers. Now there's a new baseball team in metropolitan Milwaukee, bringing that legacy back. After a fashion.

Let's take a step backwards. The new American Association (officially the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball) is a brand-new league that was formed in 2005. It borrows its name from our own Brewers' league, which had ceased operations in 1997.


As the name states, the new AA is independent from what used to be called "organized baseball". It operates in cities from Winnipeg to Cleburne, Texas. Including the former American Association towns of St. Paul and Kansas City (though on the Kansas side of the border).


And now, there's a new team in town.

A new team with a limited color palette but an unlimited sense of humor, scheduled to play at a new ballpark under construction called "Ballpark Commons" in Franklin: the Milwaukee Milkmen.

The Milkmen are already making a splash on social media (and regular old media), with an enthusiastic series of puns.



Got to hand it to them, this is a fantastic campaign.


We'll see how Franklin (and the rest of Milwaukee) support this new independent club. I do kind of wish they had a "Milwaukee" road jersey.


The baseball itself isn't the best at this level, so clubs rely on low prices, a family-friendly atmosphere, and merchandise sales. That's where this is going to get interesting. The color palette is stark, black and white, and the logos are relatively simple.

They're already >selling a promo merchandise pack for $75, with two t-shirts and a cap.


I like the tossing-cartons logo much better than the regular version.

The actual on-field logos leave a little something to be desired, lacking a true cap logo.


Ballpark Commons is part of a $120 million development in Franklin, including retail space, restaurants, and "hundred of apartments." Anchored, as so many of these developments are nowadays, by a stadium.


Okay, so it's southwest Milwaukee County, and not 8th & Chambers. And it's low-level independent ball rather than the top of the minors, competing with Major League clubs for talent. But still, it's nice to see Milwaukee back in the American Association again. Any American Association.


Monday, September 3, 2018

1945 AAGPBL Player of the Year - Connie Wisniewski

Starting in 1937, the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine published an annual paperback guide to the national pastime under the informative-if-slightly-cumbersome name Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures and Official Rules.

It contained a review of the past season, stats and numbers going back to the earliest days of the twentieth century, and articles on the sport. By 1941, this was all published under a striking cover showing a league MVP from the previous season.

Starting with the 1945 edition, Whitman branched out to cover the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. And when the All-American League introduced its own MVP award that same season, the winner's photo graced the back cover of Whitman's guide.


That inaugural MVP, winner of the AAGPBL's "Player of the Year Award" for 1945, year was pitcher Connie Wisniewski of the Grand Rapids Chicks. The photo chosen by Whitman had been taken a year earlier, during her rookie season with the 1944 Milwaukee Schnitts.


It's a good photo of Wisniewski, and a rare look at the Schnitts' uniform, with its bold circle-M on the cap and seal of Milwaukee on the tunic.

The Whitman Publishing Company was uniquely well=positioned to cover the AAGPBL; their hometown Racine Belles were a charter member of the league. Still, it's a measure of the league's success that they were included in a prominent baseball publication.

Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures and Official Rules was taken over in 1947 by Dell Publishing, who shortened the title to Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures. Shifting the publication from Racine to New York City didn't mean they stopped covering the league, though, with the AAGPBL Player of the Year remaining on the back cover for the next few years.

Major League Baseball: Facts and Figures was discontinued after the 1953 edition, meaning that it couldn't cover the AAGPBL's final season that year. Still, it remains an invaluable resource for researchers, one I expect to use in our ongoing exploration of the Milwaukee Schnitts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Uni Watch: Who Gives a Schnitt? We do!

At the convergence of sports and design lies Uni Watch by Paul Lukas, who founded "athletics aesthetics" journalism with a column of the same name in the Village Voice. It is one of my great honors in my professional life to have had columns published on Uni Watch in the past, and today they're running my latest.


That's right, we're taking our quest for a Milwaukee Schnitts Turn Back the Clock game in 2019 to the next level, with a column on this influential site.

Give them a click here; the article is reprinted below for archival purposes.





A Modest Proposal for the Chicks’ 75th
By Chance Michaels

Uni Watch readers with long memories may recall that way back in 2013 I collaborated with the Milwaukee Brewers on a 1913 Turn Back the Clock event, commemorating the centennial of the old American Association Brewers' first championship. I had lobbied the club for some time to recognize that chapter in the Cream City's baseball history, and was fortunate enough to see it come to pass.

Today, I'm trying to do it again.

Back in March, I called for the Brewers to recognize the Milwaukee Schnitts in 2019. And just this week, my public campaign kicked into high gear (complete with obligatory Change.org petition).

The who, you say?

Okay, howsabout the Milwaukee Chicks? Does that one ring any bells?



The Milwaukee Chicks, also known as the Milwaukee Schnitts, originally intended to be known as the Milwaukee Brewettes, was the city's entry in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

We've all seen A League of Their Own. You can't be a baseball fan if you haven't; it's in the fine print on the back of your ticket. So we all know the basic story. Major League owner is concerned that the draft will take his best players and hurt the sport, so he recruits young women to play in a small Chicago-based league. They play hard, win over fans, Dottie drops the ball, and the Racine Belles win the 1943 Championship. Right?

As it turns out, the film isn't that far off. Sure, they fictionalize elements, trading Walter Harvey and his Harvey Bars for Philip K. Wrigley and his family's eponymous gum. And it was the Kenosha Comets, not the Rockford Peaches, who lost to Racine in the championship series. But many of the elements had a basis in historical fact: the charm schools and chaperones, the former big-leagers managing, the women recruited from all over the country who came to the Midwest to play the game they loved.

There's a lot for us to love in the design history of the league. Wrigley (and his partner Branch Rickey) introduced a standard AAGPBL uniform template, designed in part by Otis Shepard. Shepard was a master of mid-century design who worked on all Wrigley's projects. He started with the gum company, and in 1937 moved over to the Cubs, bringing us some truly classic uniforms. Seems natural Wrigley would tap him again for the All-American League. Shepard worked with Phil's wife Helen Wrigley and utility player Ann Harnett of the local Chicago leagues. Taking inspiration from figure skating costumes and tennis whites, they created a one-piece, short-sleeved, belted "tunic" that ended in a flared skirt. The tunic itself was made in different colors for the various teams. They topped it off with a one-size-fits-all caps with elastic bands inside the crowns.

The first four players signed by the league show off prototype uniforms. Back, left to right: Clara Schillace, Ann Harnett (who helped design them) and Edie Perlick. Front, seated: Shirley Jameson. The letters reflect the league's original name "All-American Girls Softball League", changed midway through the first season. Photo credit: Northern Indiana Center for History Collection

Aside from the colors, the only team identifiers were a city initial on the caps and a patch on the players' chests. I find those patches fascinating, since they were all adapted from the home cities' official seals, surrounded by the name of the city and state. That's a detail that was changed for the movie, as the costume designer removed the state name and replaced it with the club nickname.



Personally, I think the filmmakers were trying to downplay the Midwest roots and universalize the story. Or maybe they just thought we're too accustomed now to seeing team names on uniforms. In any case, if you're buying "Rockford Peaches" merchandise that says "Peaches" it's from the movie, not the league.

Shepard also turned his design talents to the program. The league used one standard design for all teams, featuring his classic artwork on the cover. Simple, and simply gorgeous.

Back on the diamond, the project started well. The inaugural season featured four teams: the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches, Racine (Wisconsin) Belles, South Bend (Indiana) Blue Sox, and Kenosha (Wisconsin) Comets. For the sophomore year Wrigley and Rickey decided to expand their league. Specifically, they expanded into Minneapolis and Milwaukee, two mainstays in the American Association, which was a high-level independent minor league at the time. Two outstanding baseball markets, with good stadiums in place, not too long a bus ride from the existing the AAGPBL markets. Must have seemed like a good idea.

It was a disaster.

The Minneapolis team, originally named the "Millerettes" after the AA club, was forced out of the stadium they shared with the Millers and played the second half of the season on the road, earning the nickname "Minneapolis Orphans". Understandable, perhaps, that the Orphans finished the 1944 season 45-72, a whopping 26½ games out of first place.

The Milwaukee club, there was something better. They were also given a kid-sister name, the "Brewettes", but as far as I can tell nobody ever actually called them that. By the time the season started the two great Milwaukee newspapers had each bestowed a different moniker upon the women.

The Milwaukee Journal, the city's evening paper, dubbed them the "Schnitts". For those of you not from Milwaukee (or Munich), that is an old Bavarian term for a half-pour of beer. The bartender gives a quick burst out of the keg, and your glass ends up filled more or less equally with beer and foam. It's usually intended to tide you over at the end of your night of drinking, a sort of "one for the road" when you don't want a whole one. Trust the wags in Milwaukee to employ an obscure tavern term. Schnitts had also been the name of a short-lived low-level minor league baseball club that shared the Brewers' Borchert Field in the nineteen-teens, so maybe the Journal's sportswriters also had long memories.



Not to be outdone, the morning paper, the Milwaukee Sentinel, came up with its own nickname: the "Chicks". Although today this may seem an outdated and somewhat-sexist term (what, was "broads" taken?), there's actually a bit of cleverness behind it. The Milwaukee manager was a former outfielder named Max Carey, who would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans' Committee in 1961. Somebody at the Sentinel remembered an RKO Radio Picture called Mother Carey's Chickens, or the 1911 novel it was based on, about a close-knit hardscrabble family at the turn of the last century. Max Carey = Mother Carey, Chickens = Chicks, and there you have it.

It's worth remembering that AAGPBL names were relatively unofficial in those days. Just as they wore city/state on their uniforms, the league used city names to identify them in all league documents. The ads they ran in the Milwaukee papers identified the team variously as "Our Milwaukee Team", or a combination of "Milwaukee's Own Team" and simply "Milwaukee".

Myself, I tend to prefer "Schnitts" as a moniker. Sure, it sounds a bit rude, but drinking slang appeals to me. And even if the half-pour could be read as a joke comparing the women to the "Brews" with whom they shared the ballpark, it still seems a lot more respectful than "Chicks". The latter is, however, the name in common use today.

It wasn't until after the 1944 season that the league really fully embraced the "Chicks" name, but by then they were gone. A good deal of the team's problem was having to take leftover dates at Borchert Field after the Brewers had their pick; both clubs made the postseason, but while Casey Stengel's Brewers were thrilling the hometown crowds at Borchert Field, the Schnitts were forced to play all seven games of their championship series on the road. That second-hand schedule also meant they played most of their games in the afternoon, while other AAGPBL clubs played the more preferable night games. And all the while, the league was asking for 95¢ for General Admission, $1.40 for Box Seats and Reserved. Exactly the same prices that the Brewers were asking and getting.

The league tried a series of promotional events to get fans out to Borchert Field—including double-headers with a Milwaukee Symphony concert(!)—but in the end the hurdle was too high to leap. The league moved the Schnitts to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they were forever the Chicks even though Mother Carey didn't move with them, leaving the club to become the AAGPBL's president. And that's another reason to prefer "Schnitts", being solely used in Milwaukee. The Minneapolis Orphans moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they became the "Daisies".

The Schnitts, never truly beloved, quickly faded into baseball obscurity. As did the league itself. Then the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum launched its "Women in Baseball" exhibit, Penny Marshall made A League of Their Own, and people started to have an interest in these oft-forgotten teams. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee interviewed a number of former Chicks players for an oral history project entitled "The Forgotten Champs". And even with the increased attention, I'd wager most baseball fans in Milwaukee itself know far less about their one-season club than I've written here so far.

Now, our current Brewers are better than most. They hosted a reunion of AAGPBL players back in 2000, and have a small tribute to their predecessors in a Miller Park concourse. The effort was there, but the final result is somewhat lacking. The uniform on display is terribly inaccurate; the patch is all the wrong colors, filled with too much detail, and insists on adding the nickname they never wore.

And that's why I'm doing this. We can do better by this club, we can do better by these players. 2019 is the 75th Anniversary of that single-season wonder, those Milwaukee women who brought home a championship. A perfect time to educate, to commemorate, to have some fun in the process.

So, now we've covered the why. Let's talk about the what. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking about the short-skirted tunics. But we have the perfect template for a male version of the Schnitts' uniform, that worn by Max Carey himself. Going back to A League of Their Own, think about the Tom Hanks character.



Managers wore a version of their clubs' uniform on a traditional baseball template. In Carey's case, it was a solid white flannel uniform, with the city seal over his heart. As with the other teams, it was a variation on Milwaukee's four-lobed city seal, rendered in gorgeous black, red, and white chain stitch.



The uniform numbers were single-color black felt. They used a style originally designed for the Cubs by Shepard back in the 1930s. Can't blame Otis for playing some of his old hits; it's a beautiful number font, simple and elegant yet distinctive.

I had this custom jersey created by the good folks at Ebbets Field Flannels, to give us an idea of what the Brew Crew could look like.


I chose "24" for the back because the AAGPBL Players Association credits 24 women as having played for the club.

It's important that the Brew Crew uses the correct uniform logo. We've already seen the inaccurate one currently on display at Miller Park. The AAGPBL Players' Association recently introduced a new version for their own merchandise. It's much closer than the other, but still not quite right. The most accurate rendition should be black and red, with thick lines to indicate chain stitching.

Original game-worn 1944 logo patch2018 modern interpretationOriginal inaccurate interpretation

The caps were a little more difficult to track down. If I could wring three totally separate full-length articles out of inconsistencies surrounding the merchandise of a Major League team as famous as the Brooklyn Dodgers, it should surprise nobody that the few Schnitts caps commercially available are all various degrees of incorrect.

Until recently, the AAGPBL Players Association (which has assumed control of league trademarks) licensed reproductions of the teams' uniforms. The cap they offered for Milwaukee was black with a red bill and squatchee, sporting a black M in red circle. The erstwhile Cooperstown Ball Cap Company also made a version for sale, but theirs had a gold circle with narrow black M. Neither of these was correct.

Looking at this picture Vivian (Anderson) Sheriffs at an AAGPBL event shortly before her death in 2012, and a picture of her from 1944, you can see how inaccurate the CBCC cap really is.



From period photographs, we know that the Chicks'/Schnitts' cap logo was a sans-serif black "M" in concentric circles of gold/black/gold.

Translated into a modern cap template from New Era, it would look something like this:



And yeah, I know. Logo creep. But we can only fight one battle at a time. At least I made it red and not gold.

So there you have it. We could have a unique and fitting Turn Back the Clock tribute to this amazing group of women.



We could have trivia and photos on the Miller Park scoreboard. Perhaps a bobblehead giveaway. Or a t-shirt. Maybe the Brewers could screen A League of Their Own after the game. They could also invite members of the WWII Girls Baseball Living History League, who keep the AAGPBL alive by playing vintage games by 1943 rules in vintage uniforms. Sadly, there are no surviving players from the Schnitts' 1944 roster, but some of them had daughters and granddaughters, nieces and grandnieces, who could throw out a first pitch (possibly even the families of third-sacker Vivian Anderson or pitcher Sylvia Wronski, the only Milwaukeeans on the team).


I know this seems like a quixotic quest. But I've been lucky enough to see it happen before. In 2013 we introduced a whole new generation of Milwaukee baseball fans to the heroics of a club that played decades before most of them were born. Given the contributions of these women to the history of baseball in our country, they deserve no less.

I hope you will help. If you're in Milwaukee, contact the Brewers and let them know what we want. If you're a season ticket holder, contact your rep. And everyone please sign the petition at Change.org. Together, we can make this happen.




Spread the word, help the cause. We can do it!