Friday, February 23, 2018

"Rookies and Regulars" at Hot Springs, 1933

This interesting team photo was taken as the Brewers were in Spring Training at their Hot Springs, Arkansas camp.

THAT LANGUOROUS SUNSHINE AT HOT SPRINGS. Rookies and regulars snapped on the bench before the start of the daily workout.
This was part of a series of photos taken at the spring training camp by shutterbug Frank Scherschel and published in the Milwaukee Journal on Sunday, April 16, 1933.

The Brewers had just opened the season at Louisville with a series against the Colonels, and were nearly two weeks' away from their April 27th home opener. The Journal gave its readers one last look back on Spring Training with a full-page spread of Scherschel's photos in the back of the paper.

Let's hope some of the other photos surface - there are some great shots here, too good to be lost to bad Xeroxing.

Our photo is interesting for its casual nature. Taken from an angle, as the players are focused on another camera (a professional brought in by the club? A local Hot Springs journalist?).

There's also an interesting mix of uniforms, plain and pinstriped.

The pinstripes could be the Brewers' 1931 road uniforms. I'm reluctant to read too much into colors in these photos, as many factors from exposure to film stock can influence the sepia tones, but it looks as though the caps of those two uniforms might be different. Or it could just be the light.

I'm intrigued by the gentleman standing in the back; at first glance I thought he might be longtime Brewers trainer Harry E. "Doc" Bruckner, who had been with the Brewers since 1920. But that doesn't look like Doc.

Need to do more research.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Another Day at Athletic Park

This photograph taken by Sumner W. Matteson in the early days of the 20th Century shows patrons on their way into Athletic Park.

It could well have been taken on the same day as his 1909 photograph, later reprinted as a postcard.

The advertisements along the ballpark's outer walls appear to be the same as our photograph.

The open areas at the top of the wall are the back of the grandstand area. They were later covered with louvered shutters, as seen in this photo from 1952.

Back to the Matteson photo, the distinctive, octagonal ticket kiosk seen here would remain at Borchert Field at least through the 1930s.

25¢ for bleacher tickets? I'll take one.

And, of course, we have line after line of men and boys in hats, waiting to enter the park. And more than one woman, in the full fashion of the day.

Borchert Field hosted "Ladies' Days" back to the 19th Century. Good to see them on a regular afternoon.

Finally, this look across the street fascinates me. Truly, the Orchard was a neighborhood ballpark. And those cars!

Matteson's photo gives us a rare look at the Orchard, as it appeared around a hundred and ten years ago.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

1915 Brewers Home Schedule

This Brewers home game schedule was published in early 1915:

At first glance, it looks pretty straightforward. Opening Day at Athletic Park (still a decade away from being re-named Borchert Field) was April 15, the last regular-season home game was September 11th.

The American Association roster was fairly stable, and all the usual suspects are there: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, Kansas City, and... Cleveland?!

Yes, Cleveland. The Cleveland Spiders, to be precise. And their story leads us to the history of the Federal League.

The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs was an "outlaw" league that tried to challenge Major League Baseball. Founded in 1913, it set itself up as a third major league in 1914, with clubs in Brooklyn, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Buffalo.

The Federal League had fielded a team in Cleveland in 1913—the "Green Sox", managed by Cy Young—but Cleveland Indians owner Charley Somers was determined to keep the Feds out of his town. Somers moved the American Association's Toledo Mud Hens, which he also owned, to Cleveland starting with the 1914 season. The relocated Mud Hens were known as the "Cleveland Bearcats".

In 1915, the Federal League continued to come on strong. In January that year, it filed an antitrust suit against the American and National Leagues. The upstarts were also successful in luring major league players to their outlaw league. Somers renamed his American Association club the "Cleveland Spiders", after an old National League team.

League Park in Cleveland, circa 1911

The Bearcats/Spiders played in League Park, the home of the Indians. This took up the open dates left by Indians road games and essentially shut the Federal League out of Cleveland. That meant that, for these two years, the Brewers played a succession of road games in a major league ballpark.

The Feds were unable to crack Northern Ohio, but were fairly successful in forcing the Majors to take notice. Following the 1915 season, the majority of the owners agreed cease operations, and drop their legal action against organized baseball, in exchange for a cash settlement. The lawsuit would be carried on by the Baltimore Terrapins' owners, in a futile attempt to keep big-league ball in the Charm City, but would eventually end with the establishment of baseball's antitrust exemption.

Other Federal League owners were more successful; Charles Weeghman, owner of the erstwhile Chicago Whales, purchased the Chicago Cubs. He promptly moved them into into the Whales' Weeghman Park, which you know today as Wrigley Field. The St. Louis Terriers owner Phil Ball bought the American League's St. Louis Browns. Ball would become important to Milwaukee's story in a couple decades, when he bought a controlling interest in the Brewers.

And, of course, Somers moved his American Association club back to Toledo and the Mud Hens were reborn. Those Cleveland Spiders are now just a footnote in baseball history, an interesting curiosity buried in the home schedule for our 1915 Milwaukee Brewers.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Field of Dreams, 1962

This unusual photo shows the former site of Borchert Field as it appeared in November of 1962. The old ballpark had been demolished almost exactly a decade earlier, and within five years the very earth would be scooped away to make room for the concrete ribbons of Interstate 43.

The photo was taken looking northeast from 8th Street, with Chambers out of frame to the right. In the background, you can see North 7th Street, with Burleigh Street off to the right.

I'm intrigued by the angled park building, which seems to mimic the angled wooden grandstand of the Orchard.

I doubt that was intentional, but it's fun to think that somebody at the Milwaukee County Department of Parks might have been making a private joke.