Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Otto Borchert at the Milwaukee County Historical Society

Today, we finish 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 old Otto Borchert himself.

It's a small display, but nice to see that he at least got some recognition.

The text reads:
Otto Borchert (1874-1927) was the son of brewery owner Frederick Borchert and got his introduction to baseball selling peanuts at the Wright Street ballpark. He worked several jobs in Milwaukee as a young man, but made his fortune as a traveling salesman, first for the Wisconsin Telephone Co., then Julius Andrae & Sons (electronic equipment and bicycles). In 1919 he bought 2/7 of he Milwaukee Brewers and Athletic Park, eventually taking full control. He proved to be a shrewd baseball businessman frequently selling his players to big league teams for huge profits. He enjoyed the game, too, often sunning himself in the stands and interacting with the fans as they jeered him. On April 27, 1927 Borchert was speaking in front of 600 people at an Elks Club banquet in honor of the upcoming Brewers season when he collapsed. The 52-year old died that night, leaving the team and ballpark to his wife Idabel. She nominally ran the team until she sold it to Henry Killilea who allowed her to retain the ballpark and collect rent on it.
A relic of Idabel's ballpark is in the collection of the Historical Society.

In the center, a wonderful portrait of old Otto beaming broadly.

On the left, a photo of Otto with his first baseman Bunny Brief in January of 1925.

When this photo was taken, Borchert had just traded for the veteran first baseman from the Kansas City Blues. Brief had fifteen years of pro ball under his belt but wasn't done yet; Bunny led the league that year in home runs (37) and slugging (.652), and spent the next four years at Borchert Field.

Finally, a clipping from the Milwaukee Sentinel, April 28, 1927, announcing his death.


Brewer Magnate Slumps Before Microphone When Gripped by Stroke; Elks Sing Ritual at Death.

Death called three strikes last night on Otto Borchert.

The picturesque owner and president of the Milwaukee ball club died on his feet, talking to 700 baseball fans who were attending a banquet in honor of him and his team.

Borchert's last inning in the game of life ended in the banquet hall at the Elks' club, of which he was a life member, and whose donation financed the memorial altar in the new clubhouse, a tribute to brother Elks who are dead.

A microphone stood before Mr. Borchert, on the speakers' table carrying his words out into space to an unseen radio audience.

At his home, 590 Hi-Mount boulevard, his wife, Mrs. Ruby Borchert, listened at the receiving set.
Awfully poetic, that newspaper column. You can read more about his story here.

And with that, we conclude our review of the exhibit. Special thanks again to the Milwaukee County Historical Society for putting so much of the city's sporting history in one place. Can't wait to see what's next.

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