Thursday, March 28, 2019

"Brewers Show 'Zip, Zing' in Home Opener", 1949

This afternoon, the Brewers will open the 2019 season in Milwaukee, taking on the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park.

Seventy years ago next month, on Thursday, April 28, 1949, the original Brewers had their own Opening Day. A week into the American Association season, they came home from a road trip to kick off their forty-eighth season at Borchert Field with a game against the Toledo Mud Hens.

Let's take a look at the Milwaukee Sentinel's coverage of that game, starting with the front page:

Mayor Zeidler, displaying the form of a veteran baseballer, gets ready to fire the first ball of the season just before the start of the Milwaukee-Toledo game at Borchert Field yesterday afternoon. An overflow crowd of 13,666 fans saw the Brewers pound the bases for a 9 to 1 victory. Page of pictures and game details in the Sports Section.
—Sentinel photo
That's pretty good form from Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler. Interesting not only that he's throwing off the mound instead of from the stands, but also that he appears to have taken a full wind-up. Hizzoner certainly gives the appearance of a man who really didn't want to bounce it to the catcher, but that's exactly what he did, one-hopping it to Wisconsin Governor Oscar Rennebohm behind the plate.

I love the cap with suit. In the days before sports merchandising was a thing, even the caps were hard to come by and rare to see off the diamond.

The front page is good, but it also promises us more inside. Let's turn now to the photo series, on page 3 of the sports section:
Brewers Show 'Zip, Zing' in Home Opener
Well, that headline gets us off to a good start.

Sadly, the reproduction of the page leaves our photo quality wanting. But even in this corrupted state, we get an excellent glimpse of our Brewers of 1949.

This is an excellent shot of the Brewers' Paul Burris connecting for one of his four singles at Borchert Field yesterday against the Hens. He had a perfect day at bat and continued to lead the club at hitting. The receiver is Joe Ginsberg, a highly touted Detroit Tiger catching hopeful.
Can't disagree; that is an excellent shot. A gorgeous Brewers' uniform, all navy and red, but not quite the Braves clone it would later become.

There was a great roar from the crowd of 13,666 when brawny Nick Cullop, Brewer manager, moved to the microphone in the pre-game ceremonies.
Brewer skipper Nick Cullop was a real character, beloved by the fans and inspiring many adjectives from newspaper writers. The most common one was "tomato-faced", describing his jolly, ruddy complexion, so often applied that I would expect to see it printed on his contracts. The former utility player was entering his fifth season at the helm of the Brews.

The first Brewer batter, Second Baseman Roy Hartsfield, held down a safe bunt as the Cullopmen opened their home season against the Toledo Mudhens yesterday at Borchert Field. Hartsfield is shown tossing his bat aside and dashing for first base. To the right Toledo Catcher Ginsberg jerks his mask and starts for the ball (arrow).
This is one where I really wish we had a better reproduction of the picture. Sentinel shutterbug Frank Stanfield set up off to the side of the plate, and captured this amazing action photo.

Hartsfield taking off down the line, the catcher leaping up, even the ball and arrow, highlighted against the backdrop of packed, bunting-bedecked stands.

Jim Gleeson made a fine try but his aging props just couldn't get him from first to third on Paul Burris' single to left in the eighth. Outfielder Bill Barnacle made a good throw to the hot corner, where Bruce Blanchard is shown straightening up after making the tag. Gleeson had started the inning with a single, his third hit.
Another marvelous shot that can't be ruined even by the poor reproduction. That's the large Borchert Field wall of ads in the right field corner behind them.

Damon Phillips received a big hand from fans and teammates alike when he stroked the game winning homer for the Brewers in the third inning. The third sacker is greeted at the dugout.

All pictures by Sentinel Photographer Frank Stanfield.
Ah, an appearance by the Brewers' fantastic wool dugout jackets. ALways good to see those.

The rest of the coverage is every bit as fun as the photo series.

The box score tells the basic details - the game was scoreless through two, then Toledo took a temporary one-run lead in the top of the third before the Brewers stormed back with five in their half of the inning. Four more in the bottom of the sixth and the Brewers absolutely cruised to a 9-1 victory.

Those dry numbers are only part of the story, of course. Sentinel columnist Lloyd Larson brought the game to life with his own colorful (and lengthy) recap, under the headline "'Twas a Perfect Day—The Brewers Won". I reprint it here in its entirety, because no excerpt could do it justice.
It was a perfect opening day for 13,666 customers, some of whom helped open the gates at 11:30 ... Though the air was nippy, the sun was bright and reasonably warm. Pre-game ceremonies, including the speeches, were short and snappy ... And, best of all, the Brewers, old and new, looked good in winning just about as they please. Nine to one was the score ... That means the winning streak is boosted to four ... and the home club moved over the .500 hump for the first time.

He's Milwaukee's outstanding mayor, but Frank Zeidler looked more like a Toledo pitcher in throwing the traditional first ball in the direction of his equally well known battery mate, Gov. Oscar Rennebohm ... There was too much to the mayor's "downer" ... Result: The ball reached the governor on the first hop ... "We made a mistake in our preliminary warmup, "chorused the chief executives of city and state ... "We practiced at 30 feet for a 60 foot pitch," they added by way of explanation.

It was all in good fun ... So everybody got a chuckle out of the act that signalized the official start of the 1949 season ... One guy who didn't get much of a whallop out of what followed was Eddie Mayo, new Toledo manager.

Some nightmarish base running, which snuffed out a possible big inning in the third, was the toughest to take ... George Corona stumbled rounding second one Rip Russell's single to right and was promptly snuffed out on Jim Gleeson's throw to Johnny Logan ... A moment later Russell was cut down by the same combination after Bruce Blanchard singled ... Russell didn't stumble ... He simply dozed momentarily.

It All Adds Up to Trouble

Add the error which would have retired the side and cut off three Brewer runs in the third, a pop fly almost hitting a couple of outfielders on the toes, a couple of prospective outs skidding through shortstop territory for hits and lack of pitching, and it's to understand why Mayo is on his way to becoming old before his time ... The tipoff on the pitching situation was Rufe Gentry's entry as a reliever in the sixth ... Rufe is supposed to be one of the very few starters ... He gave up four hits and a walk before Mayo gave up on him ... If it wasn't a relief, it was at least a change.

Art Moher, a 1948 Ya;e graduate, obviously isn't ready for this league ... His only professional experience came late last season at Flint ... But the entire Detroit organization, including Manager Red Rolfe, sees a bright future for young Art.

The one sure-fire Toledo operator is Bruce Blanchard, 23 year old former Michigan sprinter ... Boss Mayo planned to play third base himself until Blanchard took over ... Blanchard hit .328 at Williamsport to lead the Eastern League last year ... This is his third season.

Roy Hartsfield lived up to advance notices, both afield and at bat ... This little guy started the big third with a single on Lefty Perme's first pitch ... The next offering may be going yet ... It was hit high and far over the left field fence by that popular and reliable favorite, Dee Phillips ... As things turned out, that was the ball game.

Couldn't Happen to a Better Guy

Gleeson, like Phillips, is in the it-couldn't-happen-to-a-better-guy class ... And, like Phillips, he peeled off one of those big blows ... It was a drive into the bleachers with two mates aboard in the sixth ... Philips did nothing his other four times at bat, but Gleason finished with three for five.

It was a complete hit day for Paul Burris ... Four times he peeled off base knocks and the other time the ball hit him on the arm ... Hartsfield and Howie Moss missed getting into the home run act bu inches ... Both showed power in belting those loud fouls over the left field wall.

Nick Etten and Hank Perry drew up the only goose eggs in the hit column, but they more than made up for it ... Perry was a pitcher out there—definitely not a thrower ... And etten gave the folks a treat a couple of times around first ... He knocked down Creel's sizzler along the line in the seventh and completed the out with a backhand flip to Petty, who came over to cover ... In the eighth Nick started and finished a double play on Blanchard's hopper, with Johnny Logan as the middle man ... Strictly pro stuff ... After the second effort, one fan yelled: "Can you imagine Heinz Becker doing that?" ... Hardly ... The first-to-short-to-first play was a bit too tough for Heinz.

*      *      *

Thirty-sixth Consecutive Opener

Logan and Homer Moore were off to encouraging starts ... Both fielded their positions perfectly ... Moore, whose ability to hit is in doubt, connected safely twice in four tries.

George Boggs, 2953 N. 7th Street, saw his thirty-sixth consecutive opener ... And yesterday marked the start of Charlie Fichtner's thirty-sixth season as a ball club employee ... In the days before public address systems, Charlie did the announcing.

Schoolboys and schoolgirls were out in force to boost the crowd total to overflow proportions ... As usual, the big majority were well-behaved ... But the inevitable handful of post-game bottle breakers, chair tippers and cushion throwers spoiled an otherwise perfect day.
Magnificent, every paragraph. If Larson loses points for employing "snuffed" twice in the third paragraph, he more than makes up for it with the rhyme on "Rufe Gentry's entry" and describing Toledo's unsuccessful relief pitcher as "If it wasn't a relief, it was at least a change."

I'd love to learn more about Charlie Fichtner. He's only come up once before in our studies, appearing on the field during a pregame promotion in 1934. Dressed in a suit and tie, he was identified then by the Milwaukee Journal as "Silver Lips Charlie Fichtner". If he was Borchert Field's announce before the PA was installed, I'm picturing him behind a large megaphone. Definitely need to do more research there.

And with that, the Brewers' 1949 home campaign was underway. There's nothing more perfect than Opening Day. Especially when the Brewers win.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

"One of These Days the Sun Will Come Out to Stay", 1944

This beautiful exemplar of Milwaukee Brewers letterhead was sent to a fan in Florida exactly seventy-five years ago, on March 27, 1944.

March 27, 1944

Dear Mr. Esch:

Enclosed please find copy of our roster for your information.

Our team is coming along real well, except that we have been having a miserable time with the weather in spring time training. I am sure, however, one of these days the sun will come out to stay, and we will really bear down and get all lined up.

Looking forward to seeing you real soon and with all good wishes, I am

Yours very truly,

R. M. Schaffer
General Manager

If it looks familiar, it should. Nearly six years ago, we took a look at another example of this letterhead, also from 1944. There's so much to like about it; the Owgust figure in the upper left, the formal name "Milwaukee Baseball Club" across the top and a jaunty "The Brewers" beneath Owgust's feet. Not to mention the old-fashioned addresses: "MILWAUKEE 6" and "TELEPHONE CONCORD 3180", as exotic and foreign to our eyes as a web address would have appeared to Mr. R. M.Schaffer.

That is, of course, Brewers GM Rudie Schaffer. A public accountant by trade, he started doing the Brewers' books as a consultant before being hired full-time in 1935. After Bill Veeck bought the team in 1941, Veeck recognized talent in Schaffer and promoted him to GM just months after taking over the team. That led to a lifelong association with Sport Shirt Bill, as Schaffer left the Brews in 1946 to work for Veeck with the Cleveland Indians. He later followed Veeck to the St Louis Browns in 1951 and Chicago White Sox in 1975. During a period when Veeck did not own a team, Schaffer served as GM for the International League's Toronto Maple Leafs.

The "BV" who typed Rudie's letter refers to Betty Voss. She would go on to be Assistant Secretary for the Brewers, even sometimes signing her own letters.

The weather at Spring Training was "miserable" because for the second year in a row wartime travel restrictions had forced the Brews to relocate their training camp from Ocala, Florida to Waukesha. Anyone who has ever faced March and April in Wisconsin knows what Rudie was talking about; there's a reason they put a roof on Miller Park.

The recipient of the letter is another notable figure. Harold L. Esch was born in Milwaukee in 1922 to a notable local family. His grandfather, Hiram F. Esch, served the city as Foreman for the First Ward and as a Deputy Sheriff in the early 1900s. Before that, Hiram had patented a "fifth wheel" for stabilizing wagons. Harold's other grandfather, John M. Nash, was a businessman and inventor who developed wordworking machinery, which he sold under the company that bore his name.

Harold carried on the family tradition of innovation as one of the pioneers of baseball collecting. He started by collecting autographs at Borchert Field in the 1920s, and when he moved with his parents to Florida in the 30s he started haunting spring training sites. He was famous in the hobby for asking players to add a date to their signature, be it on a photo or a 3x5 card.

Hank Greenberg signed photo "to Harold Esch", March 31, 1942
(photo credit: Goldin Auctions)

Harold was a sportsman himself; he started lawn bowling as a boy in Milwaukee and continued after the move to Florida. He went on to be named "1960's Bowler of the Decade" by the U.S. Lawn Bowling Association. He married the former Vivian Clark, herself a championship lawn bowler.

Harold L. Esch (center) in 1967
(photo credit: Bowls USA)

Esch also served as President of the American Lawn Bowls Association, the manager of the US World Bowls Team, and upon his retirement was named Honorary Life President of the ALBA. For those accomplishments, Esch was a charter member of the USLBA Lawn Bowls Hall of Fame, where he was later joined by his wife. I wonder if they were ever asked to sign and date a 3x5 card?

Harold died in 2010, and his carefully dated autographs have been dispersed throughout the hobby. The roster enclosed to him by Schaffer, sadly, has not survived with this letterhead.

Monday, March 25, 2019

On This Day - "City to Have a Team"

As you all know by now, 2019 is the 75th Anniversary of Milwaukee's one-year entry in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. And seriously, if you haven't already purchased your tickets to the commemoration event game, stop what you're doing and buy them now!

We will be spending the summer reviewing that fateful season. Starting with the announcement that Milwaukee would be fielding a team in the league's season season. Seventy-five years ago today, on Saturday, March 25, 1944. The Milwaukee Journal reported it this way:

City to Have a Team
in Girls' Ball League

Franchise to Be Operated by the League; Home Games Billed at Borchert Field

Milwaukee was admitted Saturday to the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league, which plays soft ball under hard ball rules. Other cities now in the league are Racine, Kenosha and Rockford, Ill. Racine won the championship last year. South Bend, Ind., and Toledo, Ohio, also may join.

"The league will operate the Milwaukee team," said Ken Sells, president of the league. "We will also provide players, manager and coach."

The season will start May 27, with home games at Borchert field when the Brewers are out of town.

Idea Was Wrigley's

The league is a nonprofit organization. The idea of a girls' professional baseball league originated with P. K. Wrigley, wealthy owner of the Chicago Cubs of the National league. The trustees of the league are Wrigley, Branch Rickey, president-general manager of the Brooklyn National league Dodgers, and Paul V. Harper, Chicago attorney, who is a trustee of the University of Chicago.

The uniforms worn by the girls are in pastel shades with short flaring skirts and knee length stockings. The uniforms were designed by P. K. Wrigley.

"Only the highest type of girls play on our teams," said Kells here. "The girls are properly chaperoned."

In its first season last year, the league drew more than 200,000 fans from May 30 to Sept. 1.

Promises Good Team

"We will see to it that Milwaukee has a good team," said Kells. "We will decide on our personnel after our spring training is finished at Peru, Ill., in May. All of our teams will train there.

Veterans of major and minor league baseball managed the clubs last year. Eddie Stumpf, Milwaukee, who was in charge of the Rockford team, will be back there again this season. The Milwaukee manager has not been selected.
The article is mistaken about the state of the league in 1943; South Bend, Indiana didn't need to secure an expansion club, as their Blue Sox were a charter member of the league.

Interesting; at this point, not only did the proposed Milwaukee team still not have a name, but they didn't yet have an expansion partner either. Toledo was baseball town with a club in the American Association, same as Milwaukee. So did Minneapolis, which would eventually be the second city welcomed into the All-American League for 1944.

The article was accompanied by this photograph of Irene Ruhnke, wearing her Rockford Peaches uniform.

Can't help but notice that Mrs. Wrigley is given all the credit for the design. In actuality, they were a collaborative effort between Helen Wrigley, local Chicago ballplayer Ann Harnett and graphic designer Otis Shepard, who had worked for many of Wrigley's endeavors, from the Chicago Cubs to his eponymous chewing gum company.

The Milwaukee Sentinel had a shorter piece, wedged on the second page of the sports section, in between a review of the previous year's duck season and a feature on a five-year-old billiards prodigy.

Girls' Franchise

Milwaukee Enters Loop

Granting of a franchise in the All=American Girls Professional Ball league to Milwaukee makes this the first large city to be assured on a team in a sport that attracted nationwide attention last year by providing a new type of colorful entertainment. The girls pro teams will play at Borchert field when the Milwaukee Brewers are out of town.

Started as an experiment in wartime morale building, girls' professional ball, as played by the original four test teams in Racine, Kenosha, Rockford and South Bend last summer, drew such large crowds that these cities took immediate steps to raise sufficient money locally to obtain 1944 franchises,

Vice Pres. Charles J. Grimm, of the Brewers, completed arrangements Saturday with Ken Sells, league president, for a league team to use Borchert field for all home games. With the addition of Milwaukee, the league is assured of at least four teams again this season, and it expects to have six.
The inclusion of "Jolly Cholly" Grimm makes me wonder what he and Bill Veeck could have done with a team, had they been given the chance to buy in. The club and league would definitely have benefitted from their sense of showmanship, and maybe the Chicks would have remained in Milwaukee

But I'm getting ahead of myself. We're talking about the beginning, not the tend. And this is how it started, with these two articles in the major local papers.

Milwaukee was officially part of the league, and the story of the Chicks had begun.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Buy your Chicks Celebration tickets today!

We finally got the Brewers to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Chicks' championship (and only) season, now it's time to buy tickets!

Everyone who buys the special-event tickets will also receive a free Chicks cap. I was proud to consult with the Brewers on the design; this will be the most accurate re-creation of what the women wore that's ever been made available.

And check out the special 75th Anniversary logo on the side; that was created by the Brewers' in-house design team, and it's very worthy of the women it honors. The anniversary logo is based upon the uniform patch worn by the club, which was itself based on the city's seal.

The ONLY way you will get this cap is by buying the special-event package.

And the best part of the event? A portion of all Milwaukee Chicks 75th Anniversary ticket package proceeds will be donated to the AAGPBL Players Association.

So get 'em now, and I'll see you at Miller Park on June 29th!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Vintage Brew: "Spring Fever 1947"

Ok, I am officially tired of winter and since I can’t just sit here and complain, here’s a warm blast from the past to keep you focused on the warmer spring weather, which someone tells me is right around the corner.

"Spring Fever 1947"
by Paul Tenpenny
Copyright 2019 Tencentzports
Printed with permission of the Author

Our 2018 Central Division winning Milwaukee Brewers are in Arizona as I write this and are getting ready for the MLB season home opener on March 28, 2019 against the St. Louis Cardinals. I am looking forward to being there for many games this season, as well as listening to them with Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker at the mic on WTMJ radio.

WEMP Listener Magazine from 1947 (Author’s Collection)

The cold winter season always makes the fan’s hearts long for the green grass of home and by that, I mean … the green grass of the home ballpark. It was no different in Milwaukee as the 1947 Borchert Field Brewers were looking forward to the new season after finishing with a 70-78 record in the past year.

The games would be broadcast on WEMP radio. Like today, a popular former player did the play by play, Mickey Heath. “Minor” Heath played 1st base for the Brews from 1937-1940.

Schedule from WEMP magazine

Brewer fans could enjoy the game either from the popular Orchard or listen in on the broadcasts. WEMP was also planning on sharing updates on away games via telegraph.

Skipper Nick Cullup (Author’s Collection)

1947 would be a better year under the new ownership of the Boston Braves. The team improved their record to 79-75, finishing 3rd in the American Association under Nick Cullop. Good enough to gain a spot in the playoffs, they took advantage of the opportunity and went on to win it all. After besting the Kansas City Blue 4 games to 2, they beat the Louisville Colonels in the finals 4-3. The Brewers defeated the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League in the Junior World Series 4 games to 3.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

1897 Milwaukee Brewers Team Cabinet Card with Connie Mack

Another 1897 Milwaukee Brewers cabinet photo has surfaced at auction, this time in Robert Edwards Auctions' Spring 2019 offerings.

1897 Milwaukee Brewers Team Cabinet Card with Connie Mack

Composite team cabinet card featuring portrait images of 15 members of the 1897 Milwaukee Brewers, including player/manager Connie Mack, who is pictured in the center. The players surrounding Mack, all of whom are identified in print their respective images, are Nicol, Weaver, Terry, Reidy, Blake, Speer, Meyers, Jones, Taylor, Stafford, Daly, Lewee, Barnes and Smith. The text reads "Milwaukee Base Ball Club/Season 1897." The photographer's credit, "H. Hercher - Milwaukee, Wis.," appears both on the composite photo and base of the mount. Mack, whose eleven-year Major League career ended in 1896, was lured to Milwaukee of the Western Association with the promise of a 25% ownership stake in the club and no interference from any of the club's directors. Mack remained manager of Milwaukee for four seasons, but when Western League president Ban Johnson changed the league's name to the American League in 1900, and then declared the league a "Major League" the following season, he installed Mack as the manager of newly established Philadelphia Athletics. With ownership stake in the Athletics, Mack remained the club's manager for a record 50 years. This is the first example of this 1897 Milwaukee team cabinet we have ever offered and we have seen only a few others at auction. The cabinet (4.25 x 6.5 inches) displays light edge wear and a few minor surface blemishes, none of which detract n the least from its overall Excellent appearance. Reserve $500. Estimate (open).
Even better than the one we saw a few years ago. I don't think they'll have any problem getting that reserve.