Tuesday, May 28, 2019

On This Day - the Chicks Drop Two

Today, we continue our "On This Day" review of the Milwaukee Chicks' championship year. It was exactly seventy-five years ago, in 1944, when the women had just started the AAGPBL season.

They played their games at Borchert Field, when the Brewers were on the road. They opened the season on May 27, 1944, dropping the first game to the South Bend Blue Sox 5-4 in ten innings. Afterwards, Milwaukee centerfielder referred to a double-header scheduled the next day when she said "Wait until tomorrow, we're going to take both games."

This is how the Milwaukee Journal covered that double-header. In this case, the women got pretty good coverage, with a large photo on the first page of the sports section.

And what a photo it was!

The Schnits gang up for a putout in the ninth inning of Sunday's second game at Borchert field in the All-American Girls' Professional Ball League. Three Milwaukee players are shown participating in a rundown play which caught Charlotte Armstrong, South Bend pitcher, between second and third base. Left to right: Vivian Anderson, third base; Miss Armstrong; Alma Zeigler, second base; Emily Stevenson, catcher. South Bend won both games, 9-3 and 13-0.
That's absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, we have very few first-generation photos of this club, so most of the time we'll have to make do with these microfiche reproductions of newspaper prints. Even twice-filtered, this is an amazing visual composition. The dynamic motion is matched only by the expressions of joy on the players' faces.

Vivian Anderson is notable for being one of only two Milwaukeeans to play for their hometown club, and the only one on the roster at the this point in the season. Alma "Ziggy" Zeigler was a pitcher and infielder who we'll be talking about as the season goes on; she went on to have an eleven-year career with the Chicks, starting with the first year in Milwaukee. Catcher Emily Stevenson wasn't as fortunate; she played only one season in the league, making appearances in thirty-two of the team's 117 games. She had the lucky "13" uniform, in Otis Shepard's bold sans-serif numbers.

In addition to the amazing photo, the Journal gives us box scores for the two games.

In the first game, the Chicks took a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning. They hadn't gotten a hit, but had scrambled their way to that lead thanks to a combination of walks and South Bend errors. And then it all unraveled in the top of the fourth. Pitcher Josephine Kabich got herself in trouble loading the bases with Blue Sox before hurling a wild pitch that brought two of them home. An error charged to shortstop Betty "Whitey" Whiting let two more score, and with the bases loaded again a throwing error from centerfielder Thelma “Tiby” Eisen cleared them all. Eight runs in the fourth for the visitors, all of them unearned. The Chicks would plate another in their half of the inning before surrendering a ninth run in the top of the sixth to end the game 9-3.

The second game was even more embarrassing. The Milwaukeeans managed eleven hits but couldn't bring any of them home, while the South Bend Blue Sox brought 13 runs across the plate, including a home run from their shortstop Dorothy Schroeder. Schroeder was notable for being the only woman to play all twelve years of the All-American League's existence.

Not great results for the Milwaukee women. Three games, three losses. The Chicks' 1944 campaign was getting off to a rough start.

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