Friday, June 22, 2018

"The Patch, Part II"

A few years ago, contributor Paul Tenpenny chronicled the story of the Brewers' 1942 jacket patch, and how at least one single exemplar survived. Today, we have a sequel of sorts, with another priceless patch from Milwaukee's baseball history.

Or, rather, with two patches.

To begin at the beginning, it's no secret that I've been a bit obsessed by the Milwaukee Chicks/Schnitts for some time. Back in 2013, I pitched the Brewers on my idea for a Turn Back the Clock event honoring the AAGPBL team on its 70th Anniversary. Now, with the 75th Anniversary in sight, I'm doing it again.

The biggest problem with throwback uniforms, however, is that we don't have great reference material on what they actually wore back in 1944. We've been able to re-create their caps, but the uniforms themselves have been trickier to nail down. In every photo I've seen, the Milwaukee city seal-inspired patch was reduced to a black blob with white outlines.

So when I heard that the Milwaukee Historical Society had amassed an exhibit of Milwaukee's complete sporting history, I hoped that we'd get a better photo of the uniforms. We didn't, but we got something much, much better.

Two patches were presented in a display case with a Schnitts program and scrapbook, along with some Brewers and Milwaukee Bears artifacts. One had been roughly removed from a uniform, the other more carefully cut out.

The patches were loaned to the exhibition by the Northern Indiana Historical Society in South Bend, the primary repository of AAGPBL artifacts.

And now so many questions have been answered. The uniform patch was black and red, so it's easy to see how these details could so easily get lost in black and white photographs.

The design is executed in beautiful chainstitch.

Look at that detail. The care they put into making these.

At the heart of the design is the seal of the City of Milwaukee.

Compare the patch with the actual city seal, and you can see that they've done a pretty good job reproducing it in chainstitch.

The iconography is straightforward, if cluttered; we have a railroad engine on top, the old City Hall on the right, and a steamboat and clipper at the bottom. The building on the left is usually identified as "a house", but it's not clear if it was ever intended to represent a specific building. But at the center, the sun rises over the lake, a lighthouse, and its keeper.

The patch manages to capture the basic essense of the four outer lobes, although the lighthouse suffers somewhat in the telling. But on the whole, a pretty faithful representation of the civic seal.

And now that we finally know what the Schnitts wore on their uniform, we can make the case to our Brewers that they should honor these women with a Turn Back the Clock event in 2019, the 75th Anniversary of the Schnitts' first and only season, and the AAGPBL championship they brought home to the Cream City.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Milwaukee Brewers 1950 Authentic Jacket at Ebbets Field Flannels

We interrupt our study of the Milwaukee Chicks to bring you a development in Brewers merchandise.

This one is a real treat. Our friends at Ebbets Field Flannels have brought back one of its great past offerings, a reproduction 1950 Milwaukee Brewers dugout jacket. Originally produced by EFF in the 1990s, this jacket has been out of production for about twenty years.

I love this jacket. I've owned one of the originals for about fifteen years, and worn it proudly.

After all this time, it is getting a little threadbare, and so I just ordered a new one.
Milwaukee Brewers 1950 Authentic Jacket


History: The American Association Brewers started play in 1903, with the colorfully-named Jiggs Donahue leading the league in hitting. The club maintained a rabid fan base for half a century, until they were supplanted by the Boston Braves, who became the first MLB franchise in modern history to relocate. The Brewers name was revived in 1970 when the bankrupt Seattle Pilots moved to the Cream City.

Product Details:
  • Made in the USA
  • American Association
  • Exact reproduction of the jacket worn by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1950
  • 100% wool body & sleeves
  • Blue shoulder inserts
  • Byron collar
  • Satin lining, leather pocket welts
  • Felt "M"
  • Item #: MIL50J
All Ebbets Field Flannels authentic jackets are made to order in the USA. Please allow 4-6 weeks for production.
One minor correction - that's not a Byron collar. It's a knit stand-up collar. But that's likely a typo, and doesn't diminish in any way from what Ebbets Field is offering us now.

Compare this with an original, worn by Brewers pitcher Virgil Jester:

(Photo credit: Collection of Paul Tenpenny)

Ebbets does fantastic work. Here are some other views:

(Photo credit: Ebbets Field Flannels)

Looks amazing as usual. Get yours today!

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Chicks at the Milwaukee County Historical Society

Today, we continue our review of the Milwaukee County Historical Society's recently-closed exhibit "Back Yards to Big Leagues: Milwaukee’s Sports and Recreation History" with a look at the display devoted to the Milwaukee Chicks.

The Chicks were Milwaukee's entry in the All-American Girls Professional Ball League. Joining the league in 1944, its second season, the Milwaukee club went unheralded at the box office but was strong on the field, winning a championship in their first season, which would turn out to be their only season in Milwaukee.

When I heard about the "Back Yards to Big Leagues" exhibit, I knew the Chicks had to be included. And frankly, the thing I was most hoping for was a clear look at the Chicks' uniform patch. I knew it was based on the official civic seal of Milwaukee—all of the early AAGPBL logos were—but I couldn't tell more than that from the few photos in circulation.

In those photos, we can see a white outline tracing the city seal's distinctive four-lobed design, but beyond those broad strokes none of the details are distinghuishable. It's just a black blob. And fair enough; the city seal is complicated enough on its own. It's not at all clear how all that detail would translate to an embroidered patch. Perhaps the Historical Society's exhibit could finally shed some light on this historical curiosity.

The display was promising, just down from those for the Brewers and Braves, right across from the equally short-lived Milwaukee Bears.

The Chicks section only consisted of most of a small wall and half of a display case facing it. But still, it contains the most information on the Chicks I've ever seen in one place.

When it comes to telling the story of the Chicks, you need to start with the name itself. Early AAGPBL names were more unofficial than anything; uniforms had city names on their patches, not team names. When the league advertised games, it was billed "Milwaukee vs. Kenosha", not "The Chicks vs. the Comets". And when it came to the Milwaukee club, the original intention was to call them the "Brewettes", a kid-sister to the club with which they shared Borchert Field. But that didn't take, mercifully, and the Milwaukee Journal came up with its own name for the team.


The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) Milwaukee Chicks were dubbed the Schnitts ("short beers", i.e. Little Brewers) by the press while the owners decided the team name. The team came up with the nickname Chicks based on their manager, Max Carey, and a popular children's book, Mother Carey's Chickens.

The Chicks are known as "the most successful, least loved team in Milwaukee history." Despite playing in front of tiny crowds at Borchert Field, the team went 40-19 in the regular season, including an 11-game winning streak, and made the league championship. However, due to the Milwaukee Brewers being in the American Association playoffs, the Chicks had to play all seven of the championship series games in Kenosha. Nonetheless, they hung on to win the series. Alas, the Chicks left Milwaukee after the season due to "red ink and anonymity in the form of a near empty ballpark." The team moved to Grand Rapids where they remained until the AAGPBL ended in 1954, winning two more league championships.
Beside that caption, the exhibit's largest photo. This one features Chicks star Connie Wisniewski conferring with her catcher.


Connie Wisniewski, pitcher and outfielder, was a four-time AAGPBL All-Star. She won all four games for the Chicks in the 1944 League Championship series, the first pitcher, male or female, to do so in professional baseball leagues. She won four of the five games she pitched and gave up only two earned runs in 35 innings in the series.

Sadly, this particular picture isn't from Wisniewski's time in Milwaukee, but from sometime after the Chicks had moved to Grand Rapids. So we don't learn anything about the Schnitts' uniform patch.

To round out the wall display, the Historical Society has assembled a photo gallery.

In the upper-left corner, a scan of the Chicks' scorecard. With a gorgeous Otis Shepard cover.

Next to the scorecard, moving left to right, a team photo of our Milwaukee heroines.

Slight gaffe there in the caption: the Chicks were obviously 1944, not '43. Still, a gorgeous photo. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell us much about the uniform logo.

On the other side of the team photo, a scan of the scorecard's central page. This one is unscored, but shows the team lineups for a game against the South Bend Blue Sox, one of only two teams to play in the same city for the league's entire history (the other being the Rockford Peaches).

On the bottom row of photos, left to right, we start with a picture of hard-hitting Schnitts catcher Dorothy "Mickey" Maguire. As with Ms. Wisniewski, this photo comes from later in her career, when Maguire was playing for the Muskegon Lassies.

Photographs of Maguire's swing are iconic, and are credited as being an inspiration for Stanley Bleifeld's 2006 sculpture "Woman at Bat". Honoring all the women who played in the AAGPBL, the statue is located in Cooperstown, right next to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Next up in our display, a picture of Mother Carey and his pitching staff.

Very nice look at the hurlers, but it still doesn't tell us much about the Chicks' uniform patch. Same white outlines, same black blobs.

Finally, we come to the last picture in this little gallery. The lower-right corner is anchored with a glamorous studio photograph of the AAGPBL's first four signings from 1943, pictured wearing uniforms emblazoned with the league's original logo.

It speaks to the scarcity of Milwaukee Chicks images that even this exhibit, perhaps the most comprehensive ever devoted to the subject, has to supplement with a generic league photo.

Opposite the wall display, a display case rounded out the Chicks' portion of the exhibit.

The women share space with a Negro League Bears reproduction jersey, and some Brewers artifacts, leaving a little over one-third of the case devoted to the Chicks.

First, a thick scrapbook, open to a large cutting from the Milwaukee Journal.

The Schnits (sic) (Little Beers), who will play for Milwaukee in the Girls' All-American Professional Ball league, are shown here. Players who had been training at Peru, Ill. were divided among the league's six teams. Manager Max Carey talks to his girls in the picture. They are (left to right): Front row—Vivian Anderson, Emily Stevenson, Josephine Kabick, Olga Grant. Second row—Thelma Eisen, Viola Thompson, Judy Dusanko, Delores Klosowski. Third row—Dorothy Maguire, Shirley Shultze, Betty Whiting, Alma Ziegler. Top row—Lafern Price, Dorothy Hunter (chaperone), Connie Wizniewski. They will work out Friday afternoon at Borchert field (admission free) and will play their first game Saturday. (Journal Staff)
What I wouldn't give for a peek at the rest of that overstuffed scrapbook.

Next to the scrapbook, we have an original scorecard. The cover graphic is even more gorgeous than the scan on the wall.

But beneath the scorecard... oh, my. The Holy Grail.

Grails, plural. That's right: not just one, but two original Chicks uniform patches. I wanted a clear photograph, and boy did I get one.

These patches are wonderful. So much so that they deserve an article all their own. Which is exactly what we're going to do. Stay tuned.

But for now, it's just amazing to see these women get their due. If they were the "least loved team in Milwaukee history" during their time at Borchert Field, the least we can do it remember their contributions now. Kudos to the Milwaukee County Historical Society for making them an important part of this exhibit.