Monday, May 14, 2018

Our Brews at the Milwaukee County Historical Society

Now we've come to the real meat of the Milwaukee County Historical Society's recently-closed exhibit "Back Yards to Big Leagues: Milwaukee’s Sports and Recreation History"; the display dedicated to our very own Milwaukee Brewers.

And there it was, on the second level of the museum, right next to the Braves who would displace them at County Stadium.

The display is headlined by a photo of the 1904 Brewers we've discussed before.

Magnificent photo.

The American Association Brewers (1902-1952 were founded after the major league Brewers became the St. Louis Browns following their inaugural 1901 season.
Under that, a posed picture of the 1913 Brews and their goat mascot Fatima, as well as another familiar face.


Agnes Malloy Havenor was named the team president after her husband died in 1912. She ran things from an office in the Majestic Building, though she left the on-the-field decisions to manager Hugh Duffy. The two did not get along and Havenor hired third-baseman Harry Clark to be player-manager of the team. The 1913 and 1914 teams won American Association championships and post-season series to claim the minor league championship. In 1914 Havenor married Al Timme who assumed the presidency for the rest of her ownership.
Of course, we can't talk about the Brews without mentioning Al Simmons, the greatest player to come out of the Milwaukee sandlots. The local boy had started his career with his hometown club:


Al Simmons (Aloysius Szymanski) was born in Milwaukee in 1902 and became known as the "Duke of Mitchell Street," the street that was the heart of Milwaukee's Polish Community. There is little argument that Al Simmons was Milwaukee's best baseball player. He played 20 seasons and is one of four Wisconsin natives in the Hall of Fame. Simmons' first Brewer game was on September 3, 1922, and he hit a home run, triple, and single. He split the 1923 season between Milwaukee and Shreveport before Connie Mack paid $35,000 for him to play for the Philadelphia Athletics of the American League. Simmons had over 100 RBI each of his first 11 major league seasons. He batted .358 in his nine years with the Athletics before being sold to the White Sox in 1933. His lifetime average is .334. Simmons died in Milwaukee in 1956.
Below the Duke, a collage of photos relating to the 1936 pennant-winning Brewers.

I love this team photo, against the wooden fence. That's longtime trainer Harry E. "Doc" Buckner> at the far right of the picture.

Below the photo, a newspaper ad from the team headlined "71 Years of Good Sportsmanship", thanking Milwaukee fans "for their patronage and encouragement". The picture of the dapper young men in floppy caps is the Cream City baseball club, Milwaukee's first post-Civil War club and the first to declare itself major league. It's interesting that the Brewers were drawing a line between that early team and themselves.

Next to it, a commemorative supplement from the Wisconsin News that chronicled the Brewers' 1936 campaign. I have one of those in my collection, and can't believe that I haven't yet reprinted in on this site.

We then jump to the next championship era in the Brews' history: the 1940s.


> Joe Hovlik, a native of Czechoslovakia, threw the first Brewers no-hitter on August 20, 1912.
> Dennis John Gearin, who was only 5'4" and 145 pounds (prompting several nicknames - Denny, Dainty Dinty, and Kewpie) threw a no-hitter at home on August 21, 1926.
> Louis Amerigo "Crip" Polli, born in Baverno, Italy and one of six Italian-born major leaguers, threw a 10-inning no hitter on the road against the St. Paul Saints on September 7, 1935.

> Bert Thiel threw the fourth no-hitter on August 16, 1951 in the customary seven inning second game of a double header with the Toledo Mud Hens.
And of course you knew Sport Shirt Bill would make an appearance.
Bill Veeck purchased the Brewers in 1941 and showed his knack for promotional gimmicks and showmanship. He hired Cubs star Charlie "Jolly Cholly" Grimm to manage the team and they won the American Association penannt in 1943. The Cubs hired Grimm to manage the Cubs in 1944, and he convinced Veeck to hire Casey Stengel - at that point a losing manager - to take over the Brewers. They won the pennant that year going wire-to-wire with a 102-51 record, resurrecting Stengel's career. After the Brewers won the pennant again in 1945, Veeck sold his interest in the team for a $275,000 profit.
That story isn't quite accurate; as Veeck himself would later say, Grimm hired Stengel without his knowledge and over his very strenuous later objections, but Veeck was deployed with the Marines at the time and unable to stop the deal.

Finally, we have two photos from that era. The first is an action shot of Grimm himself at bat, from a May 2, 1943 Milwaukee Journal photo spread of their Waukesha spring training camp, and the second is a team photo that was reproduced in the August 16, 1943 edition of Brewer News. You can barely see Veeck himself in the upper-right corner of the photo.

Hard to distill 51 years of baseball history into a single panel's display, but the curators did so admirably.

This section was a fitting tribute to our Brews, but as we'll see, it wasn't the only one in the exhibit.

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