Wednesday, May 22, 2019

On This Day - "Schnits Open Play Here Saturday"

This is part of an "On This Day" series, reviewing the Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League, as it was then known, and their 1944 championship season as it happened exactly seventy-five years ago. And this one... is a bit of a cheat.

Today, we're looking at an article that was published in the Milwaukee Journal seventy-five years and one day ago, on Sunday, May 21, 1944. Yesterday we reviewed a pair of articles from the Milwaukee Sentinel, the first one a fascinating look at the players themselves and the other a peek at the upcoming Opening Day ceremonies that also happened to christen the team the "Brewerettes". Today, we see what the Journal had to say on those subjects.

Keep in mind that baseball team nicknames were much less official in those days. They were used by fans and the media, but not always by the clubs themselves. The Brewers were known as the Brewers beginning in 1902, but hadn't actually put that name on their uniforms until 1942. For the first forty years, it was always a simple "M" or "Milwaukee". The AAGPBL followed suit, with city names (and city seals) on their uniform but not official nicknames. But if Milwaukee's team did not have an official nickname, the papers would provide one. The Sentinel had volunteered its choice, and the Journal had its own offer to make.

Schnits Open Play Here Saturday in Girls' Loop

Manager Max Carey to Bring 17 Players Here Friday; Public Invited to Workout

Girls' professional ball will be introduced to Milwaukee next Saturday ay Borchert field, when the Milwaukee Schnits (Little Beers) will play the South Bend Blue Sox at 2:30 p.m. Before the game, Mayor John L. Bohn will welcome the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league to Milwaukee and will throw the first ball; military units, an American Legion color guard and the players will parade for the flag raising.

Manager Max Carey will bring the Milwaukee team into town Friday morning. The girls have been training at Peru, Ill. They will work out at the ball park Friday afternoon and the public will be admitted free. The team will have 17 players and a chaperon. Bert Niehoff manages the South Bend team, which was runnerup in the both the first and second halves of last season.

Eddie Stumpf, general manager, has invited Ken Sells, league president; Judge Ed Ruetz of the Kenosha club; Capt. R. H. Rankin and Lieut. Sally Tucker of the Marines; Lieut (jg) Betty Russell of the SPARS; Lieut (jg) Dorothy Davies of the WAVES; Capt. Mary W. Stephenson of the WAC and Dr. Royal L. Mashek, commander of the county council of the American Legion, to be guests at the opening game.

Milwaukee and South Bend will play a double header Sunday, starting at 1:30.
So there you have it.

I had wondered whether the term was in common usage in Milwaukee at the time; that the Journal felt compelled to define it indicates possibly not. And it's worth noting that they spell it with a single "t". whereas the word in German actually ends in two. And before you know it, the Journal would adopt the German spelling.

It's tempting to read "Schnitt" as "Little Beer" with the same dismissive and kid-sister approach as "Brewerette". And I suppose that's not an unreasonable interpretation. Plus it has a certain unfortunate audio echo in modern English. But it shouldn't have a sexist connotation, only that the club was somewhat lower than the mighty (and established) Brewers themselves. Thirty years earlier, Milwaukee had a team in the Wisconsin-Illinois league that aldo played at Borchert Field, a team that was known sometimes as the "Creams", for the Cream City, and sometimes as the "Schnitts" for their relationship with the Brewers.

Check out this Journal sports page from Thursday, May 1st, 1913, following the Schnitts home opener at then-Athletic Park:

They get pretty good coverage for a low-level minor league, about on par with the just-below-the-majors Brewer club.

Given that history, I'm not inclined to read "Schnitts" as dismissive or derisive. And considering how much more seriously the Journal took the AAGPBL than the Sentinel did, I think they earned the benefit of the doubt.

By the off-season, when it wasn't yet clear if the league would return to Milwaukee for a second season, the AAGPBL made it official, choosing to endorse "Chicks". And it's hard to argue with that. Certainly the modern Brewers are as well, in their 75th Anniversary celebration. But I often find myself thinking of them as the "Schnitts". Which is why I'm tickled they appeared that way on my proclamation; somebody in the Mayor's office agrees with me.

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