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.

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