Friday, January 5, 2018

Newcomer on the Mound, 1936

This picture was published in the Milwaukee Journal on Sunday, March 8, 1936. The Brewers had just opened their Spring Training camp at Lake Wales, Florida, and this man was among those hoping to make the club.

A NEWCOMER to the Milwaukee pitching staff is Joe Heving, who's shown here all wound up and ready to let fly. The former big leaguer is expected to bolster the Brewer staff considerably. Other pitching regulars probably will be Garland Braxton, if he signs; Presnell, Hamlin and Clyde Hatter.
It's an unusual photo, taken from above as the pitcher begins his windup. The ground fills the frame, forming a rough backdrop that works very well with the intricate texture and deep folds of his flannel uniform. A closer look reveals some of the crude airbrushing of the day, exaggerating the lines around his eyes and giving him a somewhat-kabuki appearance up close.

There's only one problem; that's not Joe Heving.

The caption on the reverse of the photo crosses out Heving's name entirely. Along the top, a handwritten notation: "Luke Hamlin".

So who is it? Heving, Hamlin, or someone else entirely?

Joe Heving was, as the original caption indicated, "former big leaguer" who was new to the Brewers. At thirty-five years of age, had already pitched for fifteen seasons. Most recently he had spent 1933 and 1934 hurling for the White Sox at Comiskey Park. That second season was a rough one, and he was sent to the Louisville Colonels. Heving, perhaps not willing to accept the "former" part of that title, refused to accept his assignment and sat out the 1935 season rather than play for Louisville. Now, a year later, he had a lot on the line when he reported to the Brewers' spring training camp.

On the other hand, Luke Hamlin was well-known to the fans at Borchert Field. Like Heving, he was in his thirties (thirty-one year as the season started). He was also a former big leaguer, who had spent part of 1933 and all of 1934 in the Show. In Hamlin's case it was Detroit, where he earned an ERA of 5.38 in 1934, his only full season. Hamlin was about to start his second season with the Brewers, after going 8-14 in thirty appearances with the Brews in 1935.

Both men pitched well as the Brewers cruised to the 1936 American Association pennant. Heving went 19-12 with an ERA of 3.48, and Hamlin was just behind him with 19-14 and an 3.82 ERA. Similarly, both found used their time in Milwaukee to vault themselves back in the bigs in '36; when the next season opened, Hamlin was with Brooklyn and Heving was hurling in Cleveland.

So which one is shown in our photo? Google makes this one easy. Let's take a look at the two men in the years immediately following this one, when Heving had been traded to the Boston Red Sox and Hamlin was in Dodger blue.

Joe Heving in 1938
(Getty Images)
Luke Hamlin in 1937

Two clean-shaven men of approximate age; I guess it's possible to see where an editor might have misattributed the photo. But looking at the two men side by side, there's no question. Between the deep vertical lines on his cheeks and the thin lips, that's obviously Hamlin in our photo.

Whoever corrected the attribution was dead-on.

No comments:

Post a Comment