Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Milwaukee Badgers at the Milwaukee County Historical Society

We continue our look back at the Milwaukee County Historical Society's "Back Yards to Big Leagues: Milwaukee's Sports and Recreation History" exhibit with Milwaukee's very own NFL team, the Milwaukee Badgers.

The Badgers were included in with the Marquette's now-defunct football program and the Packers' part-time home.
In 1922, two years after the National Football League was founded, two Chicago sporting promoters established the Milwaukee Badgers. The team played from 1922 to 1926 at Athletic Park (Borchert Field), but was not particularly popular. The team did have some notable players, however. Future actor and signer Paul Robeson, who played football at Rutgers and earned a law degree from Columbia, played with the Badgers in 1922. He joined Fritz Pollard, who as player-coach for the Akron Pros in 1919 was the first African American to coach white players in American professional sports. Pollard was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Other well-known players for the Badgers include Hall of Famer Jimmy Conzelman and future Packers stars Red Dunn, LaVerne Dilweg, and Johnny "Blood" McNally. Despite talented players, the Badgers did not do well in Milwaukee. In the 1920s college football was far more popular, and even high school and semi-pro leagues did better than pro leagues. Milwaukee had an amateur football program called the Milwaukee Amateur Football Association that had 34 teams in 1922, and semi-pro games would often draw 9,000 fans compared to the 4,500 the Badgers drew.
In 1925 the Badgers were involved in a scandal in which they used high school players in an out-of-season game against the Chicago Cardinals. The Badgers had trouble fielding a full team and used the four Chicago-area players to fill out the roster. The team was fined $500, which hurt their already perilous financial situation. They played the 1926 season, but folded due to lack of money.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is this architect's rendering of the proposed Milwaukee Municipal Stadium:

It looks a bit like Cleveland Municipal Stadium, opened in 1931, only without the roofed second deck.

The Milwaukee version features a WPA Project number, so we know this rendering post-dates Cleveland's stadium, as the Works Progress Administration wasn't created until 1935.

If built, this stadium would have replaced Borchert Field as the home of the Brewers. Ah, what might have been....

No comments:

Post a Comment