Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Uni Watch: Who Gives a Schnitt? We do!

At the convergence of sports and design lies Uni Watch by Paul Lukas, who founded "athletics aesthetics" journalism with a column of the same name in the Village Voice. It is one of my great honors in my professional life to have had columns published on Uni Watch in the past, and today they're running my latest.

That's right, we're taking our quest for a Milwaukee Schnitts Turn Back the Clock game in 2019 to the next level, with a column on this influential site.

Give them a click here; the article is reprinted below for archival purposes.

A Modest Proposal for the Chicks’ 75th
By Chance Michaels

Uni Watch readers with long memories may recall that way back in 2013 I collaborated with the Milwaukee Brewers on a 1913 Turn Back the Clock event, commemorating the centennial of the old American Association Brewers' first championship. I had lobbied the club for some time to recognize that chapter in the Cream City's baseball history, and was fortunate enough to see it come to pass.

Today, I'm trying to do it again.

Back in March, I called for the Brewers to recognize the Milwaukee Schnitts in 2019. And just this week, my public campaign kicked into high gear (complete with obligatory petition).

The who, you say?

Okay, howsabout the Milwaukee Chicks? Does that one ring any bells?

The Milwaukee Chicks, also known as the Milwaukee Schnitts, originally intended to be known as the Milwaukee Brewettes, was the city's entry in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

We've all seen A League of Their Own. You can't be a baseball fan if you haven't; it's in the fine print on the back of your ticket. So we all know the basic story. Major League owner is concerned that the draft will take his best players and hurt the sport, so he recruits young women to play in a small Chicago-based league. They play hard, win over fans, Dottie drops the ball, and the Racine Belles win the 1943 Championship. Right?

As it turns out, the film isn't that far off. Sure, they fictionalize elements, trading Walter Harvey and his Harvey Bars for Philip K. Wrigley and his family's eponymous gum. And it was the Kenosha Comets, not the Rockford Peaches, who lost to Racine in the championship series. But many of the elements had a basis in historical fact: the charm schools and chaperones, the former big-leagers managing, the women recruited from all over the country who came to the Midwest to play the game they loved.

There's a lot for us to love in the design history of the league. Wrigley (and his partner Branch Rickey) introduced a standard AAGPBL uniform template, designed in part by Otis Shepard. Shepard was a master of mid-century design who worked on all Wrigley's projects. He started with the gum company, and in 1937 moved over to the Cubs, bringing us some truly classic uniforms. Seems natural Wrigley would tap him again for the All-American League. Shepard worked with Phil's wife Helen Wrigley and utility player Ann Harnett of the local Chicago leagues. Taking inspiration from figure skating costumes and tennis whites, they created a one-piece, short-sleeved, belted "tunic" that ended in a flared skirt. The tunic itself was made in different colors for the various teams. They topped it off with a one-size-fits-all caps with elastic bands inside the crowns.

The first four players signed by the league show off prototype uniforms. Back, left to right: Clara Schillace, Ann Harnett (who helped design them) and Edie Perlick. Front, seated: Shirley Jameson. The letters reflect the league's original name "All-American Girls Softball League", changed midway through the first season. Photo credit: Northern Indiana Center for History Collection

Aside from the colors, the only team identifiers were a city initial on the caps and a patch on the players' chests. I find those patches fascinating, since they were all adapted from the home cities' official seals, surrounded by the name of the city and state. That's a detail that was changed for the movie, as the costume designer removed the state name and replaced it with the club nickname.

Personally, I think the filmmakers were trying to downplay the Midwest roots and universalize the story. Or maybe they just thought we're too accustomed now to seeing team names on uniforms. In any case, if you're buying "Rockford Peaches" merchandise that says "Peaches" it's from the movie, not the league.

Shepard also turned his design talents to the program. The league used one standard design for all teams, featuring his classic artwork on the cover. Simple, and simply gorgeous.

Back on the diamond, the project started well. The inaugural season featured four teams: the Rockford (Illinois) Peaches, Racine (Wisconsin) Belles, South Bend (Indiana) Blue Sox, and Kenosha (Wisconsin) Comets. For the sophomore year Wrigley and Rickey decided to expand their league. Specifically, they expanded into Minneapolis and Milwaukee, two mainstays in the American Association, which was a high-level independent minor league at the time. Two outstanding baseball markets, with good stadiums in place, not too long a bus ride from the existing the AAGPBL markets. Must have seemed like a good idea.

It was a disaster.

The Minneapolis team, originally named the "Millerettes" after the AA club, was forced out of the stadium they shared with the Millers and played the second half of the season on the road, earning the nickname "Minneapolis Orphans". Understandable, perhaps, that the Orphans finished the 1944 season 45-72, a whopping 26½ games out of first place.

The Milwaukee club, there was something better. They were also given a kid-sister name, the "Brewettes", but as far as I can tell nobody ever actually called them that. By the time the season started the two great Milwaukee newspapers had each bestowed a different moniker upon the women.

The Milwaukee Journal, the city's evening paper, dubbed them the "Schnitts". For those of you not from Milwaukee (or Munich), that is an old Bavarian term for a half-pour of beer. The bartender gives a quick burst out of the keg, and your glass ends up filled more or less equally with beer and foam. It's usually intended to tide you over at the end of your night of drinking, a sort of "one for the road" when you don't want a whole one. Trust the wags in Milwaukee to employ an obscure tavern term. Schnitts had also been the name of a short-lived low-level minor league baseball club that shared the Brewers' Borchert Field in the nineteen-teens, so maybe the Journal's sportswriters also had long memories.

Not to be outdone, the morning paper, the Milwaukee Sentinel, came up with its own nickname: the "Chicks". Although today this may seem an outdated and somewhat-sexist term (what, was "broads" taken?), there's actually a bit of cleverness behind it. The Milwaukee manager was a former outfielder named Max Carey, who would eventually be elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans' Committee in 1961. Somebody at the Sentinel remembered an RKO Radio Picture called Mother Carey's Chickens, or the 1911 novel it was based on, about a close-knit hardscrabble family at the turn of the last century. Max Carey = Mother Carey, Chickens = Chicks, and there you have it.

It's worth remembering that AAGPBL names were relatively unofficial in those days. Just as they wore city/state on their uniforms, the league used city names to identify them in all league documents. The ads they ran in the Milwaukee papers identified the team variously as "Our Milwaukee Team", or a combination of "Milwaukee's Own Team" and simply "Milwaukee".

Myself, I tend to prefer "Schnitts" as a moniker. Sure, it sounds a bit rude, but drinking slang appeals to me. And even if the half-pour could be read as a joke comparing the women to the "Brews" with whom they shared the ballpark, it still seems a lot more respectful than "Chicks". The latter is, however, the name in common use today.

It wasn't until after the 1944 season that the league really fully embraced the "Chicks" name, but by then they were gone. A good deal of the team's problem was having to take leftover dates at Borchert Field after the Brewers had their pick; both clubs made the postseason, but while Casey Stengel's Brewers were thrilling the hometown crowds at Borchert Field, the Schnitts were forced to play all seven games of their championship series on the road. That second-hand schedule also meant they played most of their games in the afternoon, while other AAGPBL clubs played the more preferable night games. And all the while, the league was asking for 95¢ for General Admission, $1.40 for Box Seats and Reserved. Exactly the same prices that the Brewers were asking and getting.

The league tried a series of promotional events to get fans out to Borchert Field—including double-headers with a Milwaukee Symphony concert(!)—but in the end the hurdle was too high to leap. The league moved the Schnitts to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they were forever the Chicks even though Mother Carey didn't move with them, leaving the club to become the AAGPBL's president. And that's another reason to prefer "Schnitts", being solely used in Milwaukee. The Minneapolis Orphans moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they became the "Daisies".

The Schnitts, never truly beloved, quickly faded into baseball obscurity. As did the league itself. Then the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum launched its "Women in Baseball" exhibit, Penny Marshall made A League of Their Own, and people started to have an interest in these oft-forgotten teams. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee interviewed a number of former Chicks players for an oral history project entitled "The Forgotten Champs". And even with the increased attention, I'd wager most baseball fans in Milwaukee itself know far less about their one-season club than I've written here so far.

Now, our current Brewers are better than most. They hosted a reunion of AAGPBL players back in 2000, and have a small tribute to their predecessors in a Miller Park concourse. The effort was there, but the final result is somewhat lacking. The uniform on display is terribly inaccurate; the patch is all the wrong colors, filled with too much detail, and insists on adding the nickname they never wore.

And that's why I'm doing this. We can do better by this club, we can do better by these players. 2019 is the 75th Anniversary of that single-season wonder, those Milwaukee women who brought home a championship. A perfect time to educate, to commemorate, to have some fun in the process.

So, now we've covered the why. Let's talk about the what. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking about the short-skirted tunics. But we have the perfect template for a male version of the Schnitts' uniform, that worn by Max Carey himself. Going back to A League of Their Own, think about the Tom Hanks character.

Managers wore a version of their clubs' uniform on a traditional baseball template. In Carey's case, it was a solid white flannel uniform, with the city seal over his heart. As with the other teams, it was a variation on Milwaukee's four-lobed city seal, rendered in gorgeous black, red, and white chain stitch.

The uniform numbers were single-color black felt. They used a style originally designed for the Cubs by Shepard back in the 1930s. Can't blame Otis for playing some of his old hits; it's a beautiful number font, simple and elegant yet distinctive.

I had this custom jersey created by the good folks at Ebbets Field Flannels, to give us an idea of what the Brew Crew could look like.

I chose "24" for the back because the AAGPBL Players Association credits 24 women as having played for the club.

It's important that the Brew Crew uses the correct uniform logo. We've already seen the inaccurate one currently on display at Miller Park. The AAGPBL Players' Association recently introduced a new version for their own merchandise. It's much closer than the other, but still not quite right. The most accurate rendition should be black and red, with thick lines to indicate chain stitching.

Original game-worn 1944 logo patch2018 modern interpretationOriginal inaccurate interpretation

The caps were a little more difficult to track down. If I could wring three totally separate full-length articles out of inconsistencies surrounding the merchandise of a Major League team as famous as the Brooklyn Dodgers, it should surprise nobody that the few Schnitts caps commercially available are all various degrees of incorrect.

Until recently, the AAGPBL Players Association (which has assumed control of league trademarks) licensed reproductions of the teams' uniforms. The cap they offered for Milwaukee was black with a red bill and squatchee, sporting a black M in red circle. The erstwhile Cooperstown Ball Cap Company also made a version for sale, but theirs had a gold circle with narrow black M. Neither of these was correct.

Looking at this picture Vivian (Anderson) Sheriffs at an AAGPBL event shortly before her death in 2012, and a picture of her from 1944, you can see how inaccurate the CBCC cap really is.

From period photographs, we know that the Chicks'/Schnitts' cap logo was a sans-serif black "M" in concentric circles of gold/black/gold.

Translated into a modern cap template from New Era, it would look something like this:

And yeah, I know. Logo creep. But we can only fight one battle at a time. At least I made it red and not gold.

So there you have it. We could have a unique and fitting Turn Back the Clock tribute to this amazing group of women.

We could have trivia and photos on the Miller Park scoreboard. Perhaps a bobblehead giveaway. Or a t-shirt. Maybe the Brewers could screen A League of Their Own after the game. They could also invite members of the WWII Girls Baseball Living History League, who keep the AAGPBL alive by playing vintage games by 1943 rules in vintage uniforms. Sadly, there are no surviving players from the Schnitts' 1944 roster, but some of them had daughters and granddaughters, nieces and grandnieces, who could throw out a first pitch (possibly even the families of third-sacker Vivian Anderson or pitcher Sylvia Wronski, the only Milwaukeeans on the team).

I know this seems like a quixotic quest. But I've been lucky enough to see it happen before. In 2013 we introduced a whole new generation of Milwaukee baseball fans to the heroics of a club that played decades before most of them were born. Given the contributions of these women to the history of baseball in our country, they deserve no less.

I hope you will help. If you're in Milwaukee, contact the Brewers and let them know what we want. If you're a season ticket holder, contact your rep. And everyone please sign the petition at Together, we can make this happen.

Spread the word, help the cause. We can do it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tribune-Star: "For Terre Haute's Max Carey, there was … No Decrying (Women) in Baseball"

The Tribune-Star of Terre Haute, Indiana recently published this fantastic article on local son Max Carey.

Of particular interest is his time with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, starting with his tenure managing the Milwaukee Schnitts.

I was honored to be interviewed for this piece.

Give 'em a click, but for archival purposes we are reproducing it here.
A teacher and a gentleman

For Terre Haute's Max Carey, there was … No Decrying (Women) in Baseball

75 years have passed, but Carey's substantial influence on All-American Girls Professional Baseball League still shines

By Mark Bennett Tribune-Star    Aug 19, 2018

Courtesy Jim Nitz/Family of Sylvia Wronksi Best: The Milwaukee Chicks won the 1944 All-American Girls Professional Baseball League championship, managed by Terre Haute-born Hall of Famer Max Carey (far right). The team’s placement in Milwaukee was part of league owner Phil Wrigley’s “big-city experiment” during the AAGPBL’s second season. Those teams in Milwaukee and Minneapolis failed to draw fans as well as small city clubs like Racine, Wisconsin. The Chicks moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, after the 1944 season.

Max Carey was not Jimmy Dugan.

Carey was indeed a famous retired big-league baseball star when he agreed to manage a team in the fledgling All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. That’s where his parallels end with Jimmy Dugan, the fictional character played by Tom Hanks in the classic 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.” Hanks portrayed an irascible, hard-drinking, carousing, washed-up slugger so disinterested in the women’s team he managed, the Rockford Peaches, that he slept through their early-season games.

Carey shared lessons from his 20-season Hall of Fame career with his AAGPBL players, and bragged about their proficiency. The Terre Haute native, who died in 1976, not only managed two of the league’s teams, but also served as its president from 1945 to ’50 — the AAGPBL’s heyday.

“He was a perfect gentleman,” the late Sylvia Wronksi, a pitcher for Carey’s 1944 Milwaukee Chicks, told baseball researcher Jim Nitz in 1993. “I have no clue who Hanks was supposed to be like, but it sure wasn’t Carey.”

Legends say Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan was loosely based on another ex-big-league star, Jimmie Foxx, who managed one season in the AAGPBL.

The once-forgotten league, revived in pop culture by the movie, was born 75 years ago this summer. It was the brainchild of Chicago chewing gum millionaire Philip Wrigley, who wanted to preserve professional baseball during World War II. Most major league players were serving in the military, and the teams’ farm clubs began drying up, too. Wrigley thought Americans needed baseball as a diversion from the war news, and figured women’s teams could fill the void if major league baseball shuttered during the conflict.

His four-team league launched in 1943 in the nation’s heartland — Rockford, Illinois; Kenosha and Racine, Wisconsin; and South Bend, Indiana. Its popularity inspired Wrigley’s “big-city experiment” the following season. He added clubs in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, serving as owner of both. Wrigley asked Carey — hero of the 1925 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates — to manage the Milwaukee team.

Pitchers: Milwaukee Chicks manager Max Carey (right) had a five-woman pitching staff in the 1944 season, but relied on two in winning the seven-game World Series of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Courtesy Jim Nitz/Family of Sylvia Wronksi
The gum icon impressed Carey. “He really did like Mr. Wrigley, because [Wrigley] had a vision and he respected people with a vision,” Clif Carey, Max’s grandson, said by phone last month from Colorado.

Since retiring as a player in 1929, Carey had managed the Brooklyn Robins (later the Dodgers) for two seasons, left pro baseball after being fired and replaced by Casey Stengel, and then he invested in Florida real estate and Minute-Rub liniment, but also kept active in the sport that made him famous. Carey shared ownership of a Florida baseball school, and toured the world, teaching baseball to young people in Japan, Cuba and Latin America, Clif said.

“Mister Wrigley knew about this,” Clif said of his grandfather’s eagerness to teach the game and serve as its ambassador.

Max’s wife, Aurelia, had a few questions before her husband agreed to manage a women’s professional team, grandson Clif explained. “She said, ‘Well, what kind of uniforms are they going to wear?’” Clif said, retelling the story his grandparents shared with him, years ago. “This was an interesting back-and-forth between my grandfather and grandmother.”

Wrigley’s short-skirt uniform design, accurately depicted in “A League of Their Own,” definitely wasn’t Mrs. Carey’s preference. Still, Aurelia and Max strongly supported Wrigley’s overarching goal of providing baseball to people on the home front during wartime, including soldiers home on leave. Wrigley wanted talented players who also would smile on the diamond, freshen makeup between innings, sign autographs and exhibit the behaviors learned in their required charm-school sessions.

“The idea was, there was nothing better than being home and watching a baseball game and being entertained,” Clif said. “And [the women] played well and looked good.”

His ‘happiest’ years

In that atmosphere, Max Carey’s demanding yet patient style, engaging personality and willingness to promote baseball fit the AAGPBL well. He accepted Wrigley’s offer in 1944, the league’s second year, and managed the Milwaukee Chicks to a championship. Wrigley elevated him to league president in 1945, and Carey remained in that job through 1950. He returned to the dugout in the middle of the 1950 season to manage the Fort Wayne Daisies, and stayed on through 1951.

Max and Aurelia raised a family in Miami Beach. He’d retired as the National League’s all-time leading base stealer (later surpassed by Lou Brock and others), with 2,665 base hits, a .285 lifetime batting average and several defensive records. The National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., inducted Carey in 1961.

Amid all his big-league heroics, Max later insisted that his years with the All-American Girls league were “his happiest” in baseball, according to the Society of Baseball Researchers. Players in the league, especially those he managed in Milwaukee, “thought the world of him,” said Nitz, a native of that Wisconsin city and a SABR member.

In the wake of the movie’s popularity, Nitz and others dug into the history of the Chicks’ 1944 season. Unfortunately, none of the former players are still living, but Nitz’s interviews with several in 1993 helped preserve a memory of that year and the groundbreaking women’s league. The Chicks alums hailed Carey as a tutor and leader of a team forgotten by Milwaukee until the nostalgia surrounding “A League of Their Own” revived its niche in history.

Milwaukee owns just three pro sports world championships — major league baseball’s Braves in 1957, the NBA’s Bucks in 1971 and the Chicks of 1944. Unlike the Braves and Bucks, the Chicks’ lasted just one season in the city. Wrigley’s “big-city experiment” flopped at the ticket gate, because residents of Milwaukee and Minneapolis had more entertainment options than smaller cities like Rockford and South Bend. The women also had to share the 10,000-seat Borchert Field with the established, male minor-league club, the Milwaukee Brewers, managed in 1944 by Casey Stengel. The Triple-A-level Brewers got the prime-time slots, night games, while the Chicks played in daytime. Schedule conflicts even forced the Chicks to play all seven of their World Series games at rival Kenosha’s ballpark.

Fans also grumbled that the Chicks tickets cost the same as the men’s.

Small-town AAGPBL teams drew far more fans than the big-city Chicks. “They were largely unloved in that city, unfortunately,” said Chance Michaels, who writes a weekly blog focused primarily on pre-1950s Milwaukee baseball history.

The club moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, the next season. For the fans that did show up for Chicks games, they saw good baseball. At least, that’s how manager Max Carey saw it. His team ended the ‘44 regular season with a 70-45 record, before beating another new AAGPBL team — the Kenosha Comets — 4 games to 3 in the league’s World Series.

Carey insisted his lefty pitcher, Viola Thompson, had a better pickoff move than any of the Brooklyn hurlers he managed in the bigs. He pondered aloud whether his fellow major-leaguers would’ve endured the “strawberry” wounds the women incurred by sliding into bases in skirts. “Show me a big-league ballplayer who’ll slide into home plate bare-kneed and bare-legged,” Carey said, as quoted in a Nitz retrospective.

To Terre Haute and beyond

His outlook extended to the entire AAGPBL, not just his Chicks, as Carey moved from a manager to league president. After the Racine Belles beat the Rockford Peaches 1-0 in a 14-inning thriller before 5,630 fans to clinch the 1946 series, Carey declared it the greatest baseball game he’d witnessed, according to the 1993 book “A Whole New Ball Game” by Sue Macy. Carey also guided the league’s pitchers in converting from underhand softball throws (the style used in the first three seasons) to sidearm and overhand pitching from 1946 on.

Carey helped share the women’s game with the country and world. Arthur Meyerhoff, the league’s ad director, bought the AAGPBL from Wrigley after the 1944 season. After the war, Meyerhoff and Carey sent the women on tours, playing exhibition games from Terre Haute to Cuba, trying to grow interest and secure the league’s future. Girls youth baseball programs formed in U.S. towns. Carey and the league established professional “rookie” teams, similar to men’s pro farm clubs. In spite of those efforts, the AAGPBL folded in 1954, hurt by Americans’ fascination with television and the resurgence of big-league baseball.

Tribune-Star/Mark Bennett Etched in granite: A monument outside Terre Haute’s Memorial Stadium lists the feats of Hall of Famer Max Carey. The shrine, featuring a Bill Wolfe bronze image of the Terre Haute-born Carey, was dedicated in 2001. Its listings include Carey’s years as a manager and league president of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
Still, interest in the AAGPBL was at a peak in the summer of ‘49, when its rookie clubs played two exhibition series at Terre Haute’s Memorial Stadium.

The Terre Haute Tribune carried an advertisement for a pair of weekend games that August between the Chicago Colleens and Springfield Sallies at the stadium. “A Return Engagement by Popular Demand! New Teams! New Girls! New Thrills! 9 Innings — Real Baseball, Not Softball,” the ad said. Rain forced a rescheduled doubleheader on a Monday, and 2,136 fans showed up, a slight decrease from a May AAGPBL exhibition that drew a combined 9,600 fans for two games.

Tribune sports writer Bill Kelley praised the caliber of play at the May games. “The distaff players delighted the fans with their display of baseball ability which, coupled with a great deal of individual color and performance, made the two-game series a success in every way,” he wrote.

Carey attended both exhibitions, and dignitaries in his hometown gave him an engraved knife.

A monument honoring Carey, with a bronze relief image by sculptor Bill Wolfe, stands outside Memorial Stadium. It was dedicated in 2001, after a fund drive led by the late Robert Fiess, a longtime member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, which Carey’s family attended.

Carey was born and raised in Terre Haute, attending Immanuel Lutheran’s school. His immigrant father and mother groomed him to become a Lutheran pastor, sending him to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Instead, he became a standout on the school’s baseball team, got a spot on a pro team from South Bend, changed his birth name “Carnarius” to “Carey” to protect his amateur college status and quickly climbed into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He developed into a masterful center fielder, reliable hitter and cunning base stealer.

His All-American Girls league players later benefited from his baseball knowledge. Carey stood out among a handful of former big-leaguers chosen to manage the women’s teams.

“Not all of these mangers could teach,” Thompson, the former Chicks pitcher, said in those 1993 interviews. “They mighta been baseball players themselves in the big leagues, but this fella [Carey] knew how to teach, and I’m so grateful for that, because that was my first year up there, and I certainly needed it. And after that, the managers I had after that weren’t nearly in his caliber. And a perfect gentleman.”

“He enjoyed [coaching in the league],” Thompson added, “and he really believed in these girls. …”

Carey conducted a pregame ritual with the Chicks, involving all 17 players, chaperone Dorothy Hunter and himself. They joined hands in a circle, Nitz reported, and Carey would utter an inspirational message. “May this chain, with its 19 golden links, its ideals and its principles, carry us through to victory in the final tests just ahead, and through the years that are to come.”

Today, baseball historians in Milwaukee are urging the major-league Brewers to honor the Chicks with a “Turn Back the Clock” game next season — the 75th anniversary of the team’s championship. Michaels, the Milwaukee sports blogger, said the Brewers could wear uniforms matching the one Carey wore, alongside his female Chicks players — a gesture no major-league club has yet tried.

“It’s a chapter in the city’s history that went untold for a long time,” Michaels said, “and I’m pleased that the 75th anniversary is causing people to look back and hear these stories, because they’re amazing and need to be told.”
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Milwaukee Chicks Bobblehead Now Available

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association is introducing new Milwaukee Chicks merchandise. The latest entry is a bobblehead, one of a series of fifteen commemorating all the clubs that played in the league.

Looks like they got the cap right, which is important given problems in the past.

We could nitpick about the AAGPBL logo on her sleeve—the Chicks didn't wear that patch—but that seems a reasonable addition. The logo on her chest, though, is something else.

This isn't the patch they wore, which was black, red, and white featuring "Wisconsin" along the bottom instead of "The Chicks". It isn't even the new "official" logo the AAGPBL introduced earlier this year, in red and blue. This appears to be the really old one, the yellow-accented logo as seen on the reproduction Chicks uniform currently on display at Miller Park.

Original game-worn 1944 logo patch2018 modern interpretationOriginal inaccurate interpretation

That's a little disappointing. But it can't seriously diminish my joy at finally seeing the Chicks honored in such a traditional "baseball" fashion.

This bobblehead is currenly available at Teambrown Apparel and directly from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee. Quantities are limited to 500, so don't delay!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Modest Proposal for the Chicks' 75th

Okay, it's time.

If we want the Brewers to host a Turn Back the Clock game next year honoring the Milwaukee Chicks/Schnitts, we all need to advocate. And now.

Why the Campaign?
This is our opportunity to celebrate Milwaukee's short-lived club in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. So much more than just the inspiration for the film A League of Their Own, the league represents an important chapter in American history, opening up the professional game to a whole new group of players.

The league started in 1943 with four franchises within driving distance of Chicago: the Rockford Peaches, South Bend Blue Sox, Kenosha Comets, and Racine Belles. For its sophomore season, the league expanded to Milwaukee and Minneapolis, borrowing names from the local American Association clubs: the Minneapolis Millerettes and Milwaukee Brewettes.

Okay, So Who Were the Chicks? And Who Were the Schnitts?
The "Brewettes" name never caught on, and by the time the season started the papers had assigned them a pair of new names. Names were less official in the AAGPBL, as in the early days of the majors. The uniforms only ever said "Milwaukee", in the form of the city seal in a patch. In league materials such as this schedule, teams were principally identified only by their home cities. They wore city seals on their tunics, and city initials on their caps.

When simply "Milwaukee" wasn't enough, such as this newspaper ad promoting Opening Day in the Milwaukee Sentinel, the Chicks were referred to as "Our Milwaukee team".

This Opening Day ad from the Milwaukee Journal covers both bases, with "Milwaukee" and "Milwaukee's Own Team." Still no evidence of any nickname to be found.

Still, the papers needed to call them something. The Milwaukee Journal called them the "Schnitts", after the Bavarian term for a small glass of beer. The Milwaukee Sentinel dubbed them the "Chicks" after their manager, future Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey. There had been a popular RKO movie several years before called "Mother Carey's Chickens", about a hardscrabble family at the turn of the century, adapted from a 1911 book of the same name. The pun must have been too tempting for the Sentinel's sportswriters to resist.

Why a Turn Back the Clock Game?
Turn Back the Clock Games are a common way to celebrate defunct clubs. The Brewers have been participating in Negro League TBTC events since 2001, and have been hosting an annual tribute to the one year Milwaukee Bears club since 2006.

This 75th Anniversary is a rare opportunity to commemorate an entirely different slice of Milwaukee baseball history.

What Would They Wear?
Ay, there's the rub!

No, we're not talking about putting our True Blue Brew Crew in the short-skirt tunics from A League of Their Own. There already exists a male version of the club's uniform, as worn by the manager. Think Tom Hanks as Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan.

In the case of the Chicks, we have a simple template to follow.

We start with solid white uniforms (or cream-colored, for that vintage feel). Add black socks and red belts. Just like the ones Carey, and the women, wore back in 1944.

The numbers on the back of the original uniforms were single-color felt in black. No outlines. The number font was the same one originally used by the Chicago Cubs in the 1930s, which should be unsurprising. The original AABPBL uniforms were designed by Otis Shepard, art director for all of William Wrigley's enterprises: first his gum company, then his National League baseball club, and finally his women's baseball league. Can't really blame Shepard for re-visiting some greatest hits, and these numbers are clean, legible, and stylish all at once.

The logo on the chest is the Seal of the City of Milwaukee, modified slightly in chain-stitch form.

The overall effect is simple but distinctive, as seen in this reproduction from Ebbets Field Flannels:

It's important to get the logo right. There have been three variations on the Milwaukee-seal chest patch. The original was black, red, and white with thick strokes to match its chain stitching. The AAGPBL recently released an "official" version in blue and red, with a too-detailed seal and modified font. Then there's the wildly inaccurate blue, red, and yellow one seen on reproduction uniforms of the 1990s (including the uniform currently on display at Miller Park).

Original game-worn 1944 logo patch2018 modern interpretation:
close but not quite
1990s interpretation: way, way off

On their heads, the Chicks wore black caps with a red brim and button. The cap logo was two-tone, a black sans-serif "M" within gold-and-black concentric circles.

Translated by New Era onto a modern cap template, it would look something like this:

And there we have it. A classic throwback look.

Who Would the Brewers Play?
Turn Back the Clock games are most fun when both teams participate.

Ideally, the Brewers could invite the Minnesota Twins to join in. If the name "Millerettes" is seen as too much, that club was later known as the "Orphans" after losing their stadium part way through the season. A Schnitts/Orphans matchup would be perfect.

If not the Twins (and the as-yet-unreleased schedule might not cooperate), either Chicago club could represent the Rockford Peaches.

What Else Would a TBTC Game Entail?
The Brewers could invite members of Wisconsin's own WWII Girls Baseball Living History League, who keep the AAGPBL alive by playing vintage games by 1943 rules in vintage uniforms.

They could screen A League of Their Own afterwards on the Miller Park scoreboard. Couple that with the standard TBTC events of trivia, vintage photos and film usually found on scoreboards at these events, it would be a good time for all.

There are no living Chicks players, but perhaps the Brewers could ask their daughters or granddaughters to throw out first pitches. Or Penny Marshall, Geena Davis, or another woman associated with A League of Their Own. Or all of the above!

For a giveaway, about a bobblehead?

How Can We Make This Happen?
Spread the word! Use social media, hashtag #ChicksTBTC, if you're a Brewers season ticket holder call your rep and let them know you want to see this next year. Follow the AAGPBL Players Association on social media and help us tell their story.

Together, we can bring this often-overlooked chapter of Milwaukee history to life once again. Even if only for one day.