Sunday, June 30, 2019

"Milwaukee Chicks Night" at Miller Park!

After years of waiting, the day finally arrived.

Last night was Milwaukee Chicks night at Miller Park, honoring the team's 75th Anniversary.

The Crew had a signing with two former players, Eileen Gascon and Sister Toni Palermo, PhD (although neither played for the Chicks, unfortunately, as there are no surviving players). As fans were funneling into the ballpark, the team was hosting trivia games on the scoreboard and piped onto the televisions throughout the concourse.

Before the game, the club hosted a ceremony on the field, in which AAGPBL President Rick Chapman, son of Milwaukee Chicks catcher Dorothy Maguire, displayed the "Milwaukee Chicks Day" proclamation for the crowd.

That was part of a full ceremony, where Chapman, Gascon, and Palermo were joined by Claudia Key (daughter of Viola Griffin) and Marie Wronski, Terri Czeslowski and Christine Weimann (sister and daughters of Sylvia Wronski, respectively). The audio quality of this video isn't the best, but you can see what they had on the jumbotron:

Throughout the game, they had photos of the Chicks on the main scoreboard:

UW-Milwaukee sponsored a trivia contest in which fans were encouraged to guess the final record of the Chicks in 1944:

Representation matters. It matters to see these women so honored. It matters to see the Chicks incorporated into the gameday experience, even in the more trivial or silly moments. This is how our history is preserved.

Chapman and the others from the AAGPBL were gracious enough to invite me to their suite during the game, where I snapped this selfie with Chris Wiemann and Rick:

And yes, I was wearing my reproduction jersey from Ebbets Field Flannels.

And of course, no visit to Miller Park would be complete without a visit to the Chicks' display, tucked away behind the Hot Corner:

Thanks to the Brewers for everything they did to recognize these heroes on their 75th Anniversary! I hope this can become a regular feature at Brewer games.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Happy "The Milwaukee Chicks Day"!

Tonight's the night, Milwaukee Chicks day at Miiler Park!

You can still get your tickets for the game, but the festivities have already started, thanks to City Hall. Mayor Tom Barrett has declared today "The Milwaukee Chicks Day" throughout the City of Milwaukee.

This is the text of the proclamation:
Whereas: The City of Milwaukee proudly joins the Milwaukee Brewers, baseball fans and community members in recognizing the accomplishments of the Milwaukee Chicks on Saturday, June 29, 2019; and,

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Chicks were founded in 1944 to represent our city in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) during World War II, providing both entertainment for its citizens and opportunities for its deserving ballplayers; and

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Chicks made an instant impact on the city's cultural heritage, by bringing a brand-new level of baseball to Milwaukee's Borchert Field, partnering with local institutions like the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for "double headers" of combination baseball game and classical music concerts; and

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Chicks were also dedicated members of our community, promoting blood drives and charity events for war production workers; and

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Chicks finished the 1944 season with a league-best record of 70 wins and 45 losses before beating the Kenosha Comets in seven games to claim the 1944 AAGPBL championship in their sole year of existence; and

WHEREAS, The City of Milwaukee commends the Milwaukee Chicks for their dedicated service and leadership, recognizes their outstanding contributions to the community and joins the Milwaukee Brewers in celebrating their 75th Anniversary;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, TOM BARRETT, Mayor of the City of Milwaukee, do hereby proclaim Saturday, June 29, 2019 to be


throughout the City of Milwaukee.
Amazing. It means so much to have the team recognized, remembered, and honored, after so many years of being forgotten.

See you at the ballpark tonight to celebrate!


Friday, June 28, 2019

The Gang's All Here, 1944

From the digital collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown comes this beautiful team photo of your 1944 Milwaukee Chicks, taken at Borchert Field.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
A black-and-white photograph of 1944 Milwaukee Chicks team including the manager and chaperone. Lineup is as follows: Back, L-R: Max Carey (Manager), Thelma Eisen, Merle Keagle, Emily Stevenson, Gladys Davis, Clara Cook. Middle, L-R: Dorothy "Dottie" Hunter (Chaperone), Dorothy Maguire, Vivian Anderson, Sylvia Wronski, Alma Ziegler, Dolores Klosowski. Front, L-R: Josephine "Jo" Kabick, Betty Whiting, Viola Thompson. Olga Grant is absent from the photo.
The photo isn't perfect, a bit out of focus, but is still marvelous. And worlds better than the scanned copies we usually pull off of microfiche archives.

Let's take a look at some of the details:

You can see the difference between Max Carey's cream-colored uniform and the gray tunics worn by the players.

I love utility infielder Gladys Davis in her sunglasses. Looking like a boss.

Continuing around the picture, I don't know what's more delightful, the gloves casually tossed on the dugout roof or the little kid caught watching at the edge of the frame.

Just below our pint-sized photobomber, we have first baseman Dolores Klosowski, who had broken her leg during a game in June. She's wearing street clothes, her crutches leaning to the side.

Chaperone Dottie Hunter is also wearing street clothes, a casual change from her official military-like chaperone's uniform. The way she drapes her arm over the shoulder of pitcher Josephine Kabick gives the photo an air of casual familiarity.

This particular angle of the Orchard, looking past the dugout into the covered grandstands, was a favorite backdrop of photographers. The Brewers took a team photo on the very same spot that year and repeated it in 1948. The women had also previously posed for a photo in front of the same backdrop (with Dolores in uniform, before her injury), which was published in the June 25, 1944 Sunday edition of the Milwaukee Journal.

In each of the photos, you can see the wooden stanchion marked "B". The angle of the 1948 Brewers team photo gives us a great look at the rest room sign:


Not necessarily something I'd be eager to put in the background of my photo, unless they were going for that added touch of gritty realism. Today, it's a valuable artifact, telling us more about the layout of the long-lost wooden ballpark.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Happy #NationalSunglassesDay, Gladys!

In honor of #NationalSunglassesDay, which is apparently a thing, I present to you Milwaukee Chicks utility infielder Gladys Davis, who was frequently pictured rocking her shades like a boss.

See her, up in the back row?

Seems a little informal for a team picture, but that's what I love about it. And she obviously liked wearing her tinted lenses, since she was so often photographed in them. And although she wasn't the only one who wore them, she does seem to have worn them more than her teammates.

Whether traveling, hanging out at the Orchard, or posing for pictures, her future's so bright...

All photos: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

I See You Shiver with An-tici....

Posted this little tidbit on Twitter last night...

Big things coming for the weekend. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"Diamond Lassies", 1944

Like most papers, the Milwaukee Journal published expanded Sunday editions complete with photo sections. The Journal called theirs the "Roto Section", after rotogravure, a well-known photo printing process common at the time.

This amazing three=quarter page photo layout was published on the second page of the Journal's Roto Section on Sunday, June 25, 1944, seventy-five years ago today. It gives us both a team photo of the Milwaukee Chicks at Borchert Field and a behind-the-scenes look at the women of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League.

We start with a large team photo, the squad posing before the Borchert Field grandstand.

Diamond Lassies

The Yankees, when they pose for that "almost annual" series picture, never look more impressive as a baseball group than our Milwaukee "Schnitts." Here they are with their manager, Max Carey, former big league star. The "Schnitts," a member of the six-team All-American Girls' Professional Ball league, play their games at Borchert field when our Brewers are on the road.

Front row (left to right) are Thelma Eisen, 22, of Los Angeles, outfielder; Vivian Anderson, 23, 2417 N. 88th st., infielder; Dorothy Maguire, 25, of Cleveland, catcher; Betty Whiting, 18, of Ida, Mich., inflielder; (second row, same order) Lafern Price, 18, of Terre Haute, Ind., pitcher; Josephine Kabick, 22, of Detroit, pitcher; Olga Grant, 23, of Edmonton, Alta., outfielder; Mary Thompson, 22, of Greenville, S.C., pitcher; Shirley Schulze, 21, of Chicago, outfielder; (top) Mgr. Carey, Connie Wisniewski, 22, of Detroit, pitcher; Dolores Klosowski, 21, of Detroit, infielder; Emily Stevenson, 18, of Champaign, Ill., catcher; Alma Ziegler, 22, of Los Angeles, infielder, and Judy Dusanko, 22, of Regina, Alta., infielder. Another member of the team is Doris Tetzlaff, Watertown, Wis., an infielder.

—Journal Staff Photos by Robert Boyd
Also missing from the photo is right-handed pitcher Sylvia Wronski. On that Sunday Wronski was still five days away from making her first appearance in a Milwaukee uniform, having been farmed out to the suburban amateur leagues to start the season. It's likely that she hadn't yet been called up when this picture was taken.

Each of the teams in the league has a chaperone. Milwaukee's "house mother" is Dorothy Hunter (left) of Winnipeg, Man., who last year played with the Racine team. Here she rubs Viola Thompson's injured foot.
Viola Thompson was a left-handed hurler, a rookie in 1944. Her sister Fredda Acker, also a ballplayer, gained some notariety when she went to Spring Training with the South Bend Blue Sox while also the reigning Mrs. America.

Somehow can't avoid the notion that this particular photo was staged to show off Ms. Thompson's leg.

Borchert field old timers shake their heads at scenes like this. Never before has the Brewer dressing room had lipstick and fingernail polish for the players.
And modern-day human beings shake their heads at photo captions like this.

At least those three pictures give us a good view of the uniforms and ballpark facilities. The remaining photos are somewhat less interesting from that perspective, but do lend some insight into how the league was viewed by the public. Or at least by newspaper editors.

Charming is the word for women's baseball. Before the season opened, the teams trained together at Peru, Ill., and a representative of a Chicago charm school was on hand to give introductions. Off the diamond, Audrey Kissel of St. Louis, Mo., is a long haired beauty, but on, her tresses are in decorous braids styled by Francis McCune of the charm school, who is shown fixing the proper diamond hairdo for Audrey. The other pictures are of Louise Simpson of Charlotte, N.C.—on the diamond and off.
It's good that the Schnitts were given such coverage, even if some of it was patronizing. Two steps forward, one step back.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

On This Day - "Autograph, Miss?"

In our last "On This Day" entry, we saw members of the 1944 Milwaukee Chicks signing the cast of their teammate Dolores Klosowski.

Today, we're looking at a different kind of autograph session, as young Milwaukee baseball fans get signatures from the eventual All-American Girls Professional Ball League champions.

AUTOGRAPH MISS? And, sure enough, Connie Wisniewski, ace pitcher of the Milwaukee Chicks, autographs a cap for one of the players in the Milwaukee Sentinel Carriers' league as, left to right, Pitchers Viola Thompson and Clara Cook look on. Carriers in the group are Leo Waskiewicz, Allan Borzynski and Edwin Stanks of the Little Kings and Bill Franzen and Leonard Czerwinski of the Tim Tylers. Around 400 Sentinel carriers were guests of the league management at the Chicks-Belles game yesterday morning.
This is fantastic. And a clever promotion from the league; it was not uncommon for the Chicks to play before 500 spectators (for comparison, the Brewers of that time often saw a few thousand in the grandstands). In this one day, the crowd would have been almost-doubled by the paperboys.

And those Sentinel carriers saw one heck of a ballgame; the Chicks blew the Racine Belles out of Borchert Field, jumping out to a 2-run lead in the bottom of the first and cruising to a 10-0 lead. Racine salvaged a few runs after the game was put away, but the Chicks dominated.

Chicks Maul Belles, 10-3

Battering the offerings of Pitcher Jane Jacobs for 12 solid base knocks, the Milwaukee Chicks defeated the Racine Belles 10 to 3 in an All-American Girls' Ball league game yesterday morning at Borchert field. It was the Chicks' fourth straight win and their third in a row over the title favorite Belles.

While her mates were piling up a 10 to 0 lead, a six run rally in the sixth being the biggest factor, Pitcher Jo Kabick, stately Chicks fastballer, was invincible, but eased up in the final frames during which the Belles counted their runs.

I wonder if the AAGPBL repeated this promotion for carriers from the city's other papers. Future baseball star Harvey Kuenn was a thirteen-year-old shortstop playing in the Milwaukee Journal's carrier league that summer, and it's wonderful to think of the future 1982 Brewers manager interacting with the All-American players at Borchert Field on a summer's day thirty-eight years earlier.

Who knows? Maybe the young Harvey even got an autograph for himself.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

On This Day: Signing the Cast

On this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League were featured in the pages of the Milwaukee Journal. Not for their prowess on the diamond, but for the results of their customary hard play.

Despite playing in short skirts designed more to show off their legs than protect them, the women of the AAGPBL by all accounts ran hard on the basepaths. "Strawberries", their name for the road-rash bruise-slash-scrapes with dirt ground in, were commonplace. But sometimes, the fierce baserunning resulted in greater injuries. As when Chicks first baseman Dolores Klosowski broke her right leg sliding into a base.

The Journal found a pleasant way of showcasing the injury, with Klosowski sitting on the edge of the Borchert Field dugout, surrounded by teammates signing her cast. I'm grateful today that the Journal's sports editor featured so many photos of the players, but I can't help but notice how many of them have that slumber-party vibe. The tightrope these women had to walk, being not only mere athletes but also beacons of Good Clean American (young) Womanhood.

The Schnits autograph the case on the broken leg of their teammate, Dolores Klosowski, Detroit, Mich. The Milwaukee infielder in the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league fractured her leg recently sliding into a base. Left to right are shown Doris Tetzlaff, third base; Clara Cook, pitcher; Midd Klosowski; Vicki Panos, outfielder; and Pat Keagle, shortstop. The Schnits are home for a 21 game stand through July 4.
—Journal Photo
The pleasant newspaper spin shouldn't downplay the seriousness of her injury; her leg never properly healed and it cut her career cruelly short. Klosowski sat for the rest of the season, and when she came back the following spring she had reinvented herself as a pitcher. She appeared in 19 games for the South Bend Blue Sox in 1945, but retired after the season ended.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

"Girls of Summer" Merchandise to Come!

Ebbets Field Flannels dropped this bombshell on Twitter yesterday:

This is amazing. I Knew that this was coming—I helped consult with Ebbets Field on this line starting back in February—but it's really exciting to finally see the public announcement.

This nylon jacket features the Milwaukee Chicks cap logo on the chest. On the back... well, you'll just have to wait a while longer to see that.

The "Girls of Summer" collection will be available on June 28th. We'll have a lot to talk about then.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

On This Day: "An Umpire's View of Girls' Baseball"

On this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Journal published a very interesting take on the All-American Girls Professional Ball League.

Journal Sports Editor R.G. Lynch had an ongoing column titled "Maybe I'm Wrong", in which he would expound upon the sports subjects of the day. On June 18, 1944, he turned nearly the entire thing over to a verbatim interview with visiting umpire Bob Kober, in town to officiate a game between the hometown Milwaukee Chicks and the Rockford Peaches.

Kober's perspective is interesting. He was a veteran umpire who had spent nearly twenty years calling balls and strikes in the minors. Now he was behind the plate in the AAGPBL, a unique perspective to be sure.

Here's what Kober had to say:

Maybe I'm Wrong
[Sports Editor]

A Veteran Umpire's View of Girls' Baseball

After 19 years of umpiring minor league baseball, Bob KOber finds the brand of ball played in the All-American Girls' Professional league a bit strange, more exacting for the umpire but "very interesting." Kober, who umpired in the American association in 1935-'36 and spent the last seven years in the Southern association, came to town Friday to work the series between the Milwaukee Schnits and Rockford. He said that he passed up a chance to umpire in the International league, "because I knew the trials and tribulations of baseball and thought I'd see what this new league was like—and I'm not sorry I did. In men's baseball," he said, "the pitch is overhand or from the side and you have time to look it over, but in this girl's game the distance is so short that you can't turn your head for a second, you've got to keep your eye on the ball all the time, and it looks as if it comes out of the ground because the pitch is underhand.

"The plays on the bases are closer, too. The base lines are shorter and the ball doesn't travel as fast as a baseball, so the ball and the runner get there about the same time. We have more close ones to call and plays are more complicated. In baseball, you know what the men will do, pretty well, but you can't tell what the girls will do. You can't loaf a minute. I never saw a soft ball game until I went to work in this league, and when I opened at Racine I knew I was in for something, but I sure like it.

They Play Hard

"It's a real game. Anyone who goes to see it once will go again. The girls play harder than men. They put their heart and soul into it and they cry when they lose. A little girl named Audrey Haine, with Minneapolis, allowed only three hits in one game. Then a ground ball was hit to her and she threw wild to first and lost the game. She cried like a baby. Bubber Jonnard (Minneapolis manager) told her that big leaguers made wild throws, but she kept on crying.

There are some ballplayers in this league that if they were men they'd be worth $150,000. Dorothy Schroeder, South Bend shortstop, is only 16, but if he doesn't handle the ball like Charley Gilbert or Donie Bush my name isn't Kober. I'll bet money you have shortstops in the American association who can't play like she does, she fields and throws like a man, and a damned good one. Go out and see her. Bonnie Baker, the South Bend catcher, handles herself just like Muddy Ruel. She's classy. You've got a dandy catcher on the Schnits in Dorothy McGuire, and a player in Merle Keagle that stands up at the plate just like Rogers Hornsby.

"There are four or five real stars on each team, and the rest are coming along. Boys who worked in the league last year say the four old clubs &mdash Racine, Kenosha, South Bend and Rockford—have improved 60%. Your Milwaukee team and Minneapolis will improve, too. These girls are used to soft ball, and they have to adjust themselves.

Heartfelt Rebukes

"This league is a high class outfit. The players are paid better than men in the lower minors, and some get more than a good many do in the American association. The people who run it are high class and it is handled that way. You'd be surprised at the crowds we play to in the four cities who had the girls last year.

"Things are a lot different for umpires. You don't get the cussing and the riding you get in baseball, but you get things that make you feel worse. In baseball, when a player yells 'Open your eyes, you blind sob!" you just get mad. In this game I've had a girl say 'I'm giving you a dirty look, Mr. Umpire.' And I've had one come up and say 'Mr. Umpire, you didn't treat me right. You could have called me safe. I had a tie.' And an old lady at Racine stopped me to say, 'Aren't you ashamed of yourself for calling that little girl out at third?'"

SOmetimes a thing like that get you, because you know they really mean it.
Fascinating. Obviously Kober isn't a completely objective observer, as an employee of the league. But even so, it's interesting to see how he, or the league, or both, are selling the game to the Journal's readers.

On This Day - "The Camera Beat the Play"

On this day in 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League were playing a double=header at Borchert Field.

They had originally been scheduled to play a four-game series against the Rockford Peaches, but bad weather had forced the cancellation of the first two games (including the initial tilt, when a storm had torn off part of Borchert Field's roof during the seventh inning of a Brewer game). Readers of the Milwaukee Sentinel were treated to this quarter-page ad promoting the games:

The AAGPBL certainly went all-out promoting the Chicks. The Brewers never had this kind of treatment. Of course, with four decades of history behind them, the Brewers didn't exactly need it.

So with the skies cleared and the storm damage cleared away, the games could resume. Although the Chicks might have wanted just one more rain check.

Is there anything more exciting than a play at the plate? The Journal's camera caught this one as it happened, with Chicks backstop Dorothy Maguire guarding the plate.

The camera beat the play Sunday as Jo Leonard of Rockford slid into home plate at Borchert field in the second inning of the first game of a double header with the Milwaukee Schnits of the All-American Girls' Professional Ball League. A second later, Catcher Dorothy Maguire of Milwaukee put the bal on her and Umpire Al Gembler called her out. Milwaukee lost, 6-5.
—Journal Staff
And talk about "dirt in the skirt". This is how the players got their famous "strawberries", sliding into home plate with only satin tap pants for protection. The sweet-sounding name belied the gruesomeness of the injury, nasty scrapes with dirt ground in.

The Chicks lost the first game 6-5, but managed a split by taking the second and final game of the series, 3-0, on RBI singles from third baseman Doris Tetzlaff and first baseman Betty Whiting.

This brought Milwaukee's record to 10-13, or .435, good for fifth place in the six-team league. The Chicks would have to step up if they wanted a shot at the AAGPBL post-season.