Wednesday, July 31, 2019

"Baseball, Maestro, Please", 1944

Seventy-five years ago, in the summer of 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League were involved in a most unusual promotion. The ballclub paired with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in a series of "double-headers", classical music concerts with baseball games.

The brainchild of league founder Philip K. Wrigley, ably abetted by Chicks general manager Eddie Stumpf, these concerts were created in the hope of drawing attention to the league. And in that respect, at least, they were phenomenally successful.

The promotion was noticed by none other than Time magazine, in its issue dated July 31, 1944.

The Sport section begins on page 40 of the magazine; this is the first article in that section.

The transcript gives us a peek into the league, at least this one person's impression:


Baseball, Maestro, Please

"Music and baseball don't mix ordinarily but women and music mix."

Thus promoter Eddie Stumpf, after one of the strangest double-headers in baseball history. At Milwaukee's Borchert Field, General Manager Stumpf's Milwaukee Chicks had met their Minneapolis rivals in the All-American Girls Professional Ball League after a one-hour prelude of classical music (Grieg's Heart Wounds, Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, etc.) by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Hot dog and pop sales came to a hushed pause during the concert. Shushed by indignantly reverent ushers, the fidgety fans sat in silence, stretched their voices in relief after the sacred ceremony of music. Philip Knight Wrigley, backer of the League and chief matchmaker in its marriage to music, was solemnly enthusiastic. He has long been eager to try any scheme, however undignified, which might promote his Midwestern softball carnival.

Model Upbringing. When Wrigley thought up the Girls League last year, he was dead set on having it feminine as well as female. Screening out tomboy candidates, he hired Beautician Helena Rubenstein to give the survivors chic. But she never quite succeeded.

Neither did the League. Only four teams played last year: the Rockford (Ill.) Peaches, South Bend Blue Sox, Racine (Wis.) Belles, Kenosha (Wis.) Comets. In a 108-game schedule, they drew some 200,000 fans and a $125,000 gate, but wound up $75,000 in the hole.

This year conditioning was supervised by a former Powers model, Ruth Tiffany, who runs a Chicago charm studio. Assisted by the League's public-relations director, Gertrude Hendricks, who once taught the construction of form-fit corsets, she cajoled some 120 candidates through a fortnight of spring training on 1) conversation techniques, 2) etiquette, 3) posture, 4) dress, 5) make-up and hair-do for the outdoor girl, 6) how to attract the right kind of man as against the wolf. Before hitting the road, the players pledged themselves not to smoke in public or appear in bars, arranged to stop in private homes instead of hotels.

Bouncing Box Office. The first results were sensational. With Milwaukee and Minneapolis added to the roster, box-office takes for the opening games were 300 to 900% higher than last year. But by the time the diamond darlings reached the halfway mark last week, season attendance was slumping close to last year's average.

It seemed unlikely to be boosted any higher by Wrigley's idea of mixing bats and batons. Only 659 people attended last week' double-header, first of a series of four. Sporting and musical experts agreed that some ball fans might be converted into music lovers, but that the reverse possibilities were dubious.
This presumably went to press before the league gave up on the Minneapolis market, or our unnamed critic would have mentioned it.

Well, I guess all publicity is good publicity. Even even it did come with a dose of sexist Time snark.

Friday, July 26, 2019

On This Day - "About the Girls"

On this day seventy-five years ago, on July 26, 1944, the Milwaukee Journal's sports editor R. G. Lynch devoted his column "Maybe I'm Wrong" to printing letters from his readers.

What's notable for us is that two of the five letters in Lynch's mailbag were about our Milwaukee Chicks baseball club. struggling to bring the All-American Girls' Professional Ball League to Milwaukee.

Maybe I'm Wrong
[Sports Editor]

About the Girls

FROM "A New Fan," E. Lake View av,: I attended the girls' game at Borchert field last Wednesday and heard the Milwaukee symphony orchestra. My attitude was a critical one but I came away a fan. The girls were attractive in their neat uniforms and they played a clever game of baseball. Dr. Julius Ehrlich and his orchestra played very well indeed. I do hope, and I believe many others will hope with me, that Dr. Ehrlich will include some of the semiclassics with his symphonic music in programs to come, for we all like to hear familiar and loved music beautifully played.

The fact that we attended the concert - game combination again Thursday should be sufficient evidence that we loved it. We had not seen a professional baseball game for several years but the entire family turned out for this.
Excellent feedback, and exactly the response that league founder Philip K. Wrigley was hoping for when he paired his league with Milwaukee's classical music scene. For this one anonymous Whitefish Bay family, at least, Wrigley's novel experiment was a roaring success.

The second letter Lynch printed was also positive, but more along the lines of offering constructive criticism.
Lower Prices

FROM A. G. Heinmiller, 342 N. Water st.: Maybe symphony concerts will help to bring up the attendance at the girls' baseball games, but I think a reasonable price might be a bigger encouragement for the fans to come out. I'm a pretty loyal fan, myself, but I haven't been able to make myself pay 95c to see a game that lasts about 1 hour 15 minutes, in which they make all the way from 5 to 15 errors, when I can see the Brewers for the same price. I think a 50c price plus tax would show as much net revenue and bring out a crowd. Or why not try a two for one plan a few times?
This isn't a new suggestion, but it's a very sensible one. It seems short-sighted to price the brand-new Chicks at the same prices the Brewers could command, considering that the Brews had a forty-year head start and were playing at a level right below the Major Leagues.

We know the Chicks had several free-or-reduced-price specials for paperboy baseball leagues and for Red Cross blood donors. And that is a great start to get people through the turnstiles, but we hear a constant refrain that the ticket prices were making it hard to bring them back again.

I'm also fascinated by A. G. Heinmiller's description of the games themselves. We knew that AAGPBL games, at least in Milwaukee, were fast-paced affairs, with lots of baserunning and lots of errors. But seventy-five minutes? That's astounding.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

On This Day - "Want to Laugh at a Millionaire?"

In the summer of 1944, the Milwaukee Chicks baseball club was struggling to survive in Milwaukee. The All-American Girls' Professional Ball League team was doing well on the diamond but struggling at the box office. The last thing they could afford was a feud with one of the most powerful newspaper columnists in Milwaukee. But that's just what they got.

The first shot was fired by R. G. Lynch, who was not only a columnist but the sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal. At the end of his column "Maybe I'm Wrong", on Sunday, July 16, 1944, Lynch took square aim at Wrigley, his symphony "double-headers", and even the AAGPBL itself.

Maybe I'm Wrong
[Sports Editor]

Want to Laugh at a Millionaire? Go Ahead!

Recipe for girls' baseball popularity: Separate the bull fiddle of one symphony orchestra. Beat the musicians until stiff and bull fiddle until splintered. Fold in one girls' ball club. Pour into ball park well greased with newspaper advertising and bake three July nights and one afternoon.

You don't like the recipe? You think symphony music and glorified soft ball will not mix any better than pickles and cream? Well, the recipe was concocted by a millionaire businessman, Phil Wrigley. He is the prime backer of the All-American Girls' Professional Ball league which moved into Milwaukee and Minneapolis this year after a fairly successful start in four smaller cities last season. The league is simply dripping red ink in the two big towns. Wrigley recently decided to so something about it. He reasoned that Brewer fans got enough baseball watching the Brewers so the girls would have to interest others. A lot of persons with no interest at all in girls' baseball would have to be enticed out to the field to see the new game. What would be the bait to get them out?

"Hire the Milwaukee symphony orchestra," ordered Wrigley.

The men he pays to carry out his ideas tried to substitute a name dance band, but it was no go. Wrigley wanted symphony and, besides, Kay Kyster, Horace Heidt and the rest of the maestros of dance orchestras were unavailable.

So the Milwaukee symphony orchestra will play a one hour concert Wednesday night at Borchert field, starting at 7:30, and after that the girls will play ball. The same combination will be offered Thursday and Friday nights. Next Sunday afternoon, a musical sandwich will be on the bill of fare, with the orchestra playing between games of a double header.

Mr. Wrigley's minions hope that the music lovers who attend the concerts will not get up and walk out when the girl ballplayers take the field. Mr. Wrigley's minions, confidentially, think he is nuts, but they would not be quoted for anything—not because P. K. would fire them (he is not that way at all), but because they gave thought before that some of the millionaire gum man's ideas were screwy and have seen those nutty ideas pay off.
"Maybe I'm Wrong", indeed.

It's a bit rich that the Lynch should turn up his nose at the league being "well greased with newspaper advertising", considering how much his employer was charging the league to run its ads before every single home game. As they did with the established Brewers. Heck, there's an ad for a Brewer game literally next to his column.

   Philip K. Wrigley
   (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)
We should not be surprised that Philip K. Wrigley quickly learned that he was being mocked by one of the two major daily newspapers in his newest and largest AAGPBL city. Nor should we surprised that he didn't like it. What may be surprising is his reaction; he dictated, in the words of the Journal, "a letter of four and one-half pages, single space". He sent his rant to the Journal before reconsidering and quickly forwarding a second communiqué, one that took his first letter off the record.

Lynch agreed not to publish the full original letter, but he did extensively mine it for his next column. The following Sunday, Lynch led with an in-depth review of, and response to, Wrigley's missive.

Maybe I'm Wrong
[Sports Editor]

Mr. Wrigley Makes a Point, but Too Subtly

PHIL WRIGLEY, the chewing gum and baseball man, read the comment in this column last Sunday about girls' baseball and the symphony orchestra and decided this reporter, in common with a good many others, did not understand his thinking, so he sat down and dictates a letter of four and one-half pages, single space. We enjoyed that letter and wish that our readers could enjoy it too. Unfortunately, we sent along another note as an afterthought to say that the letter was not intended for publication. However, we got permission to quote from it, so that the readers may understand why we—and probably they—did not follow Wrigley's thinking with regard to the girls' league or the symphony orchestra. It is about the most subtle thinking we have come across in a long time. The idea behind the girls' league is shrewd and the thought behind the symphony orchestra is rare, indeed!

"From the broad point of view," Wrigley wrote, "I think it can be said that softball is a substitute for baseball and as such has been frowned upon by professional baseball, but, as I have seen it, it is a substitute by necessity and not by choice. Nine times out of 10 it is played because it takes less space, less skill and less equipment than baseball, but it has one great advantage and that is it makes millions of people familiar with the fundamentals of and skill necessary for professional baseball. I do not think that anyone can argue that our national pastime is not more enjoyable and better entertainment when you at least have some idea of what it is all about."

A Girls' Sport

With soft ball becoming a substitute for baseball, this seemed to Wrigley a liability which could be turned into an asset by proper handline, "which meant recognition of the fact that because of its limitation it was not in competition with baseball but, on the contrary, through its wider possibilities, it could act as a stepping stone, or feeder, to baseball, both from the players' standpoint and that of the spectator."

Wrigley decided that the best way to mark a sharp distinction between baseball and soft ball was to label soft ball a girls' sport.

"The standards of baseball," he wrote, "are set by men, and it seems logical, therefore, to set the standards of soft ball by girls. This fact alone can prevent competition between the two sports and, at the same time, offer the so-called weaker sex... an opportunity to take part in our national pastime without being considered a freak."

The girls' league is in its second season and Wrigley, who created it, has not seen a league game. He explains:

"I am primarily a professional baseball man and for that reason I have not gone to any of the league games because I knew that I would immediately start drawing comparisons between girls' ball and baseball. This has been proven by the two exhibition games I have seen, because I immediately drew a comparison and was disappointed and, as a sports editor, I imagine you are having the same trouble. We all seem to need a basis from which to start and it seems to be human nature to follow the beaten path and make comparisons, rather than to start from scratch."

It was to avoid comparison and competition that the league started last year in cities where there was no organized baseball, he said, and went on:

"This year the league stuck its neck out by going into two cities that had professional baseball teams and by using the baseball parks—first, because they were the only places available, and, secondly, on what may be a mistaken theory of economics. Anyone who would either rent of build a hotel or office building, or a home for that matter, to be used 77 days out of the year, should have his head examined, but for a baseball club it is considered absolutely sound....

No Comparison

"The results this year have shown that it was a mistake to go into the Milwaukee and Minneapolis ball parks.... If you tried to play professional football on an ice hockey rink, you would immediately draw a comparison between ice hockey and football and naturally to the detriment of football, because both the press and the public would look at it through the eyes of and compare it with hockey....

"When you compare girls' ball with baseball, you are at the same disadvantage. Girls' ball is not in competition with, nor should it be compared with baseball any more than it is in competition with or should be compared with a symphony orchestra. That is the point we want to make, although probably nobody will get it, but at least we should get a new audience who will judge girls' ball on its own merit and not in comparison with baseball."

Apparently, Wrigley is going to stick to this problem as grimly as he stuck to his Chicago Cubs until he put them on the right road by signing Charley Grimm as manager, for it was announced Saturday that the symphony orchestra concerts would resume when the Schnitts begin their next home stand August 11 and continue the rest of the season, except when the orchestra has conflicting engagements.
It's not particularly surprising that Lynch continued to sneer at Wrigley and his league. But Wrigley's letter is stunning, and I'm not at all surprised that he (or his lawyers, or his battery of public relations professionals) tried to hold the Journal back from publishing his "letter of four and one-half pages, single space".

What's particularly stunning to me is Wrigley's admission that he hadn't watched a single league game in the year-and-a-half the AAGPBL had been in existence. And the two exhibition games he did watch made him think the product was inferior to men's baseball.

Wrigley's letter forces us to challenge our impressions and assumptions about him. Maybe Garry Marshall's portrayal of "Walter Harvey" in A League of Their Own was more on the mark than I realized: a disinterested and absentee owner more worried about filling potentially-vacant ballpark dates than in advancing the sport, or blazing a new trail, or the cause of equality, or... virtually anything.

In the film, Harvey founds the league as a backstop because he's afraid the war will rob him of his male workforce. No more men to play baseball? No worries, bring the women in. And then, when his fears prove unfounded, the candy magnate is content to toss them aside.

We're winning the war. Our situation changed. Roosevelt himself said, "Men's baseball won't be shut down." So we won't need the girls next year.

I love these girls. I don't need them, but I love them. Look at that. Come on. Let's go. Oh, look at me. I'm full of peanuts! I've got peanuts all over myself.
This is what it's gonna be like in the factories too, I suppose, isn't it? "The men are back, Rosie. Turn in your rivets." We told them it was their patriotic duty to get out of the kitchen and go to work. And now when the men come back, we'll send them back to the kitchen.
What should we do, send the boys returning from war back to the kitchen? Come on.
Do you know how dedicated these girls are? What they go through?

They play with sprained ankles, broken fingers. They ride a bus sometimes all night to play a double-header the next morning.
I'll make it up to them.
What? With Harvey Bars?
I'm getting tired of listening to you, Ira.
That does sound like the Wrigley who wrote to the Milwaukee Journal.

   Ken Sells
   (AAGPBL Players Association)
In the film, the league only survives because Ira Lowenstein, played by David Strathairn, takes it over from his boss. This, too, had its roots in reality. The Lowenstein character was based on Ken Sells, who was the assistant general manager of the Cubs when Wrigley tapped him to run the AAGPBL. Sells served as the first President of the league, running the day-to-day for the disinterested Wrigley. Sells began the transition from a single-entity league to the franchise model common to baseball, where individual operators would buy and run their own teams. That was the point when the league stopped being dependent upon the whims of a chewing-gum magnate and began to run like a real league.

So maybe we give Wrigley a little too much credit. Father of the league, to be sure, but a distant and removed one. It's worth noting that others were responsible for getting Wrigley's brainchild onto the diamond, and keeping it there. Others, presumably, who actually watched the games.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

On This Day - "The Tying Run 'Squeezes' Home"

Today, we continue our "On This Day" series in 1944, following the Milwaukee Chicks and their 1944 All-American Girls Professional Ball League championship season as it happened.

From the archives of the Milwaukee Journal comes this amazing action shot. Is there anything more exciting in baseball than a play at the plate?

The tying run "squeezes" home in the fifth inning of Sunday's first game between the Milwaukee and Rockford girls' teams at Borchert field. Thelma (Pigtails) Eisen scores on a bunt by Doris Tetzlaff of the Milwaukee Schnitts as Catcher Dorothy Green of the Peaches takes the throw. Milwaukee lost both games.
—Journal Staff
The composition of the photo is gorgeous. The long stride of Chicks left fielder Thelma Eisen burning past the plate, the Rockford Peaches catcher hunched over behind her. Not for the first time do I wish we could see the original photos rather than just the rough microfiche scans.

Even with this pair of losses, the Chicks were clawing their way back to respectability after a rough start to the season. Unfortunately for them, Milwaukee's other baseball team was dominating its league. Check out the article just to the left of our dynamic action photo:

By this point, the attendance was a serious concern to the league. It's not hard to figure out why the Chicks were struggling at the ticket office. The AAGPBL had matched its ticket prices to those of the long-established (and much-beloved) Brewers, and the Chicks couldn't play the same quality of baseball.

This newspaper provides the perfect example. On this day, the Chicks dropped both halves of a double-header, and fell to the middle of the AAGPBL standings. The Brewers, on the other hand, won both games in their double-header and were pulling away from the pack with a ten-game lead over second-place Columbus. Brewer manager Casey Stengel had his club playing .700 ball(!), with a record at that point of 68-29.

Hard to sell tickets in that environment. We like to think that all our local sports teams are brothers and sisters, fighting together for the glory of our city, but in reality they are competitors for the time, attention, and most of all money of the local fans. And in Milwaukee in 1944, it would have been hard for anyone to compete with the mighty Brewers, much less a brand-new startup in a league still trying to prove itself.

On This Day - "Girls Give Up at Minneapolis"

Today, we continue our "On This Day" series in 1944, following the Milwaukee Chicks and their 1944 All-American Girls Professional Ball League championship season as it happened.

We've tracked some wonderful and compelling moments so far, from Spring Training to Opening Day to behind-the-scenes pics at Borchert Field to "double-header" concerts with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. From triumphs to personal tragedies. But on this day seventy-five years ago, on Sunday, July 23, 1944, the Milwaukee Journal brought its readers the worst news of the season so far:

Girls Give Up at Minneapolis

Drop Home Schedule

The All-American Girls' Professional Ball league has given up in Minneapolis. The Lakers, representing that city, will continue to play but only as a road team, which will add six games to the schedules at Kenosha and South Bend and four games to the schedules at Milwaukee and Rockford.

Minneapolis and Milwaukee were added to the league this season. President Ken Sells explained Saturday that Minneapolis "apparently is not yet ready for for this new sport. Attendance has not been large enough to warrant continuing there this summer."

The Milwaukee Schnitts swapped Marie Kaczmierczak for Josephine Figlio of Racine Saturday. Both are infielders. The Lakers signed Margaret Callaghan, a third baseman from the Pacific coast.

Milwaukee and Racine, after their league game Thursday afternoon, will go to soldiers' home to play an exhibition game at 6:30 p. m.

The Lakers defeated the Schnitts Saturday night, 5-4, at Borchert field. The Schnitts stole 14 bases.
The Journal fails to even acknowledge the follow-up question: What about Milwaukee? They were also struggling at the box office, possibly because the league insisted on pricing their tickets at the same level as the popular and established Brewers. But were they struggling enough to put a second season at risk? The paper is silent.

So Minneapolis was out of the league. The Millerettes/Lakers had earned a new nickname, one that would follow them through the remainder of the 1944 season: the "Minneapolis Orphans". The AAGPBL's grand experiment with major cities was on the ropes.

Monday, July 22, 2019

On This Day - "Lakers Pound Out 5-4 Win Over Chicks"

Today, we continue our "On This Day" series in 1944, following the Milwaukee Chicks and their 1944 All-American Girls Professional Ball League championship season as it happened.

On this day, seventy-five years ago, the Chicks dropped a game to the visiting Minneapolis Millerettes/Lakers. And the Milwaukee Sentinel was there to catch it. But the day's most important contribution to AAGPBL history may have happened off the diamond.

Lakers Pound Out 5-4 Win Over Chicks


Dottie Wiltse, curve balling mound ace of the Minneapolis Lakers, was a little too tough for Max (Mother) Carey's Milwaukee Chicks last night at Borchert field as the Lakers too a 5 to 4 verdict in the series finale to even the series at two wins each.

Connie Wisniewski, Milwaukee ace, was the opposing pitcher, but 11 hits and some sieve-like defensive play mixed sufficiently well for the Lakers to annex the the triumph.

With two out in the ninth Vickie Panos singled, stole second and third. Pat Keagle walked and stole second, Panos counting on the play. Ty Eisen drilled a sharp single to left, to score Keagle and went to third on Helen Callaghan's futile, foolish attempt to nail her at first. With the tying run at the hot corner, Doris Tetzlaff rolled sharply to the shortstop Treza who came up with the ball and retiring her at first to end the game.

In the seventh the fans got on Umpire Jack Rice for calling Alma Ziegler out at third. Everybody but Rice saw she was standing on the bag when tagged, but he was blocked out by two other players.

The Chicks and the Rockford Peaches play a twin bill this afternoon, preceded by a one hour concert by the Milwaukee Symphony orchestra led by Dr. Julius Ehrlich.
Love a bottom-of-the-ninth rally, shame they couldn't finish it off.

This was the third of the four crossover-doubleheaders between the Chicks and the Milwaukee Symphony.

The picture is amazing, especially for a night . The photographer was set up just feet off the basepaths. Perhaps it have been taken with the same stroboscopic process its rival the Milwaukee Journal introduced in the early 1940s.


Minneapolis' Helen Gallaghan lays down a successful bunt in last night's game against the Chicks at Borchert field

Photo by Tony Neuman Sentinel Staff Photographer
Elsewhere on the page, Sentinel Sports Editor Stoney McGlynn casually dropped a bombshell in the middle of one of his columns:
(by the way the name Chicks has been adopted by the team as the official club name and the name Schnitts is out just like schnitts were back in the Volstead era.)
That parenthetical phrase is fascinating. The team started the season with no official nickname, only being referred to as "Milwaukee" in newspaper ads and league publicity materials. The first nickname floated was "Brewerettes" after the popular local club, as was done in Minneapolis with their Millers and Millerettes. The two major Milwaukee dailies each jumped in; the Sentinel coined "Chicks", after a then-popular movie "Mother Carey's Chickens", and the Journal responded with "Schnitts" (initially spelled with just one 't'), for a short pour of draft beer.

Of course, McGlynn would say that; his paper wanted bragging rights for their name achieving currency. But is it true?

We certainly know that the players were using the name to refer to themselves, at least by the time they commissioned a trophy for manager Max Carey for a celebration in early September. We also know that in publications printed after the season the league was also using the name, even before the relocation to Grand Rapids was announced. Perhaps this was indeed when the name first took hold.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

1949 Ticket Stub

This 1949 ticket stub, from a Wednesday night double-header seventy years ago today, is a recent addition to the archives.

A West Box seat, Box 5, Row 9, Seat 7. Sounds like it would be a pretty good seat. It cost $1.66 including taxes, which, adjusting for inflation, would be $17.90 in April 2019 dollars. Such a deal.

The ticket itself is a fairly simple one, with two-color printing on one side. The reverse is blank.

What's special about this particular stub is that the ticket-taker left just enough of the ticket body to show us an element of the design I've never before seen; a tiny Brews mascot Owgust in catcher's gear!

We'll have to guess at the rest of the design, but I would bet it's part of a matched set of pitcher and catcher, as featured on the masthead of the club's newsletter Brewer News, and on the inside of every score card, throughout the 1940s.

I've never seen these figures on ticket stub, however. The stubs I have in my collection are too short, with too much of the ticket body removed. Here's one from six seasons before our 1949 stub, and one from three years after:

That 1952 stub has the exact same layout as our 1949, but there's not enough of either ticket body to see a full design, Owgust or no. I love that they kept this layout, almost certainly a stock style from the Arcus Ticket Company in Chicago.

The only difference, besides date and seat location, is the Brewer official identified. In 1949 it was D'Arcy "Jake" Flowers, a former infielder who followed up his fifteen-year playing career (10 of it in the majors) with a stint as a minor-league manager and a big league coach before talking over as the Brewers' president. He had come to Milwaukee in 1947 when Lou Perini brought the Brewers into the Boston Braves organization. By 1952, the club was run by longtime Brewer catcher/coach "Red" Smith.

Seventy years ago, this ticket was in the pocket of one of the 7,962 baseball fans at the old wooden ballpark who saw the hometown Brews take two games from the league-leading St. Paul Saints, 3-2 and then 5-3.

A wonderful find, a grand addition to the collection.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Today in 1944 - "The Music of the Spheres"

This summer of 2019, we have been charting the season of the Milwaukee Chicks baseball club as it happened.

And it was on this day in 1944 that something entirely unprecedented happened.

The newest members of the All-American Girls Professional Ball League were involved in an equally-new kind of promotion; a series of "double-headers" with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, a ballgame paired with classical music concert. It was an inspired gimmick. one that I bet Brewer owner Bill Veeck, master of the promotional stroke, wished he had thought of first.

Here's how the double-headers were advertised in the local papers.

This particular example was a third-page ad in the Milwaukee Journal, printed on Tuesday, July 18, 1944, the afternoon before the first concert.

You can't say the league wasn't promoting its newest innovation.

The first announcement had been made on July 7th:

Listen to Baseball Symphony; Girls Will Play, With Music

Something new in entertainment, a combination of music by a symphony orchestra and baseball games featuring professional girl ballplayers, will be offered July 19, 20, 22 and 23 at Borchert field. Announcement of the combination was made in Chicago Saturday by Philip K. Wrigley, sponsor of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball league.

The Milwaukee Symphony orchestra, directed by Dr. Julius Ehrlich, will play popular and semi-classical music for one hour each evening before the ball game begins. The Milwaukee girls' baseball team, playing their first season, will play the Minneapolis girls' club on the first three evenings and a double header with Rockford on July 23.

Wrigley said that because girls baseball is new in Milwaukee, the symphony concert is being offered as an additional attraction. The Milwaukee symphony was selected, he said, because of its outstanding reputation with Milwaukee music lovers.

In contrast to this, according to the league's press representative, the girl baseball teams "bawl out the umpires, slide for bases, hit right or left handed and do all the other things that the best professional men's club members do, except chew tobacco."
This shows a bit of Wrigley's desperation. For its sophomore season, the league had taken the leap from its original quartet of Rockford, South Bend, Racine, and Kenosha into the much larger Milwaukee and Minneapolis. By mid-season, the two new clubs for 1944 were having trouble drawing patrons, failing to compete against the established American Association clubs. Wrigley's experimentation with major cities looked to be a failure, but he was going to go down swinging.

From a promotional standpoint, the concerts were instantly successful. Both of Milwaukee's major daily papers covered the details when they were announced on July 16th, just days before Opening Night.

The afternoon Milwaukee Journal had the most prominent coverage. In the Arts Section, nestled in between articles on an upcoming New York Center concert and the Nazi theft of a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, we have this piece on Wrigley's double-headers.

Befitting its position in the paper, the Journal was extremely interested in the programing, and what its music-loving readers could expect at the old wooden ballpark.

Orchestra Music, Ball Games Will Be Combined This Week

SOMETHING out of the ordinary in music will be offered here this week when the Milwaukee symphony orchestra, under Dr. Julius Ehrlich, begins a series of four "pop" concerts at Borchert baseball field, in connection with the ball games of the All-American Girls' Professional Baseball League.

The idea is that of Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing gum and sports leader, who is promoting the girls' ball teams.

The orchestra will play on a stand near second base, and a large acoustical shell will amplify the music.

On Wednesday at 7:30p. m. the orchestra will play "The Star Spangled Banner," the "Blue Danube" waltz, Sousa's "Hands Across the Sea," Weber's "Oberon" overture, the first movement of Schubert's "Unfinished" symphony, Grieg's "Heart Wounds" and "The Last Spring" and Ravel's popular "Pavanne for a Dead Princess."

Thursday at 7:30 p. m. the music will include the wedding march from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the "Fledermaus" overture, Liszt's "Preludes," Waldteufel's "Espana" waltz and Beethoven's "Congratulations" minuet.

At 7:30 p. m. Friday the musicians will play the "Night in Venice" overture of Strauss, Lanner's "Court Ball" dances, Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" fantasy and the "Stars and Stripes Forever" of Souza.

The final program will be held next Sunday afternoon, July 23, between games of a double-header.
The following morning, the Milwaukee Sentinel had its preview, although on the very bottom of its radio page, not the fine arts.

The Sentinel didn't offer quite so detailed a preview of the program as the Journal's arts section offered, and the paper also seemed to have missed the initial announcement the week before. But they do win the award for purple prose.

Symphonies for Ball Fans Latest Cultural Offering

Just to prove that baseball fans do wash behind their ears, and that people who like symphony music may not be hot-house orchids with an allergy to sports, P. K. Wrigley announced yesterday that the twain shall meet.

They'll meet at the Brewers' park, at 7:30 p. m. next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, when the Milwaukee symphony orchestra, directed by Dr. Julius Ehrlich, will give "pop" concerts before the girls' baseball games, and on Sunday afternoon, July 23, between games.

The orchestra will play familiar excerpts from Schubert, Grieg, Ravelle, Strauss and Souza, from a sound equipped shell used successfully in a Lawrence Tibbet program. If the first concerts are well received, baseball officials and Milwaukee Friends of Music said others will be arranged during the remainder of the baseball season.
When the big day came, the Milwaukee Sentinel was full of opinions. If you know Sentinel editor Stoney McGlynn, you know he had opinions.



MRS. O'LEARY had her cow and, apparently, the Milwaukee Girls' All-American Ball League Chicks will have their double symphony - afield and with music.

Not that there is any apparent connection, but there should be as much connection between the O'Leary bovine and double symphony as there is between the combination baseball-softball of the Chicks and the dulcet tones poured forth by the Piccolo Petes and Trombone Tommies of Dr. Julius Ehrlich's Milwaukee Symphony orchestra, which are slated to double hitch for four performances at Borchert field, the first of which is tonight at 7:30.

A Stumpf Air?

Having known Mr. Eddie Stumpf, the Chicks business manager, for a number of years your reporter strongly suspected an air of the Stumpf promotional technique in the somewhat fantastic setup. Not that Mr. Stumpf has an ear for music, because, having heard his rendition of "The Moon Comes Over the Mountain," I know that Bach Beethoven and Bing, or barroom quartets of any consequence, have nothing to fear from Mr. Stumpf in a musical way, but primarily because Mr. Stumpf has delved deeply into the promotional fields and angles and might be expected to come up with anything, not excluding a combination of grand opera, a grunt and groan mat match and a Ku Klux rally all at one and the same time.

However, I learn the twin offering is the brain child of Mr. Phil Wrigley, the mint who makes a mint out of mint and some of his business associates. Anyone with the kind of moola that Mr. Wrigley has at his beck and call has no business being criticized by me although a fifth grade teacher with whom I've had considerable trials and tribulations over two (2) years, always ordained that gum chewing could never be listed among the finer accomplishments even sans any lip smacking or bubble popping components. She, no doubt was somewhat backward in reads the ads which stated gum chewing was good for the digestion even though it has never been [illegible] a tonic for green apple [illegible].

*     *     *

A Strange 'Wedding'

THE Chicks-Ehrlich combination at least has one [illegible] virtue. It has occasioned [illegible] of comment, and, as in this case has made the public print with regularity and gusto, all of which is attracting attention to the Chicks, the primary object is the strange wedding of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms with baseball, blond babes, beer and torrid [illegible] wow.

Mr. Wrigley and his business advisers evidently are aware of Milwaukee's aptitude for and a deep appreciation of music both instrumental and vocal. Therefore the music lovers will pour into Borchert field to hear the musical outpourings of the [illegible] and, also, remain over to take advantage of bargain basement baseball, become converted to the baseball abilities of such gorgeous and talented gals such as Pat Keagle, Tommy Thompson, Alma Ziegler, Betty Whiting and Jo Kabick, just to mention a few of Max (Mother) Carey's chicks and pack Borchert field for the remainder of the season.

However, I strongly suspect that the music lovers will remain music lovers after the game and return to their native habitats where they can carry forth with music to their heart's content, enjoy their beer and schnizel or what what you, and get their baseball out of the papers.

*     *     *

Betting on Babes

BUT, once again, who is to tell Mr. Wrigley he is wrong? His dad quit a good soap flake business, which was giving [illegible] gum as a premium, to [illegible] gum and ended up with [illegible] pot, including Catalina island and the Chicago Cubs, although [illegible] time, or until Charlie Grimm is rehired to pilot the club. [illegible] liability and trading bait [illegible] good used car business.

Methinks, as stated before, the right kind of prices would popularize the Chicks, who [illegible] stage setting (ya know, [illegible] glamor) variety of baseball entertainment and can [illegible] the game like all get [illegible] quicker than the pipings of any Piccolo Pete.

Come what may I sincerely hope Mr. Phil Wrigely [illegible] junk the baseball babes [illegible] et al like his dad did [illegible] gum. I'm strictly sport [illegible] and hardly know a Bach [illegible] bock although under [illegible] conditions can out [illegible] Parleee Vous almost any [illegible] of the first AEF.

But bring on Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. I'm betting on the Baseball Babes at the right price.
The microfiche scan is terrible, with much of the final paragraph's text illegible. But I'm not sure we're missing all that much.

The rest of the coverage on the page is much more interesting. Written by Sentinel music critic Edward P. Halline:

Symphony Orchestra Bait Set for Glamor Gal Baseball Tonight

Sentinel Music Critic

The august princes and princesses who used to hire the Bachs, Haydn and Mozarts to perform music solely for their princely entertainment may be expected to turn over in their graves tonight.

A man who owes his fortune not to royal birth, but to the clicking jaws of millions, is hiring a symphony orchestra to perform the music of celebrated composers for the ears of a gum chewing, peanut crunching and pop drinking crowd of baseball fans.

This strange marriage of music and sport will take place at the Milwaukee Brewers' Borchert field at 7:30, when the Milwaukee Symphony orchestra of 60 pieces marches into the infield to take its place on a tarpaulin stage in front of an improvised sound reflector.


The music, directed by the orchestra's conductor, Dr. Julius Ehrlich, will be Weber, Schubert, Grieg, Ravel, Johann Strauss and John Philip Sousa.

The sport directed by Manager Max Carey and others, will be the new and colorful variety played by the Milwaukee Girls' ball team against its Minneapolis rival in the All-American Girls' Professional ball league. The game starts at 8:30, thereby giving the fans one full symphonic hour.

This unprecedented idea was not hatched by a screwball or even a philanthropist, but by a hardheaded business man, Philip K. Wrigley, chewing gum magnate, owner of the Chicago cubs and chief backer of the glamor girl ball league.


Curiously enough, Wrigley isn't trying to make music lovers out of the fans. That's up to the orchestra. He wants to make fans out of the music lovers.

The crowds drawn by his nimble young ladies have proved much too small here so far, and so Wrigley proposes to draw upon the untapped baseball market of symphony goers.

Even Dr. Ehrlich, dubious at first, was entranced when he saw the Milwaukee Chicks play the other day. It was the first game he had ever seen, and he found it had rhythm, color and some interesting harmonic combinations in the general noise and confusion.

It may be assumed he detected some resemblance to modern ballet, but it will be a long time before baseball fans are called baseballetomaniacs.


Dr. Ehrlich, who had long conducted in Europe before coming here, was particularly impressed with this newest idea of music for the masses. Only in democratic America, he said, could this happen.

Anyway, it's going to happen again tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30 p. m., Sunday at 1:30 p. m., between two games of a double-header, and on other occasions if the marriage of sport and music outlasts this Borchert field honeymoon.
And so the stage was set.

The coverage the next day tells us how the event was received. The Sentinel led the way with this fantastic photo of three of the performers:

I love the posed photo of the maestro signing a baseball.


And quite a case could be made out for the charms which went with the music last night at Borchert field as a symphonic concert and a girls' baseball game were offered to the public. Getting an autograph from Dr. Julius Ehrlich, conductor, were Josephine Kabick (left) and Viola Thomson of the Milwaukee Chicks. The slick Chicks then won from Minneapolis, 5-4.
Sentinel photo.
The game review itself, by Sentinel music critic Edward P. Halline, is so delightful it has to reproduced in full.
Slick Chicks Vie With Strauss

Concert, Girls Baseball Provide an Occasion


The fabled music of the spheres was heard at Borchert field last night. The music was provided by Dr. Julius Ehrlich and the Milwaukee Symphony orchestra. The spheres were propelled with astonishing grace and swiftness by the nine nimble Chicks of the Milwaukee Girls' Baseball team and their rivals from Minneapolis.

In other words, long haired music and shoulder bob baseball exchanged fraternal greetings, and the podium and the pitcher's box were almost synonymous.

The results: Victory for Weber, Schubert, Grieg, Ravel, Johann Strauss, Sousa and the Chicks, by 5-4.


Such was the marriage of the muse and the softball sister of the game played by Amos Rusie, "Iron Man" McGinnitty and the tempestuous John McGraw.

Though Borchert field has rung with raucous and vulgar shouts from time immemorial, it had the hushed atmosphere of a church when Dr. Erlich and his musicians got the "Oberon" overture under way. Customers were continually filling in and those who talked aloud were vehemently shushed by the ushers.

There were whispers and murmurs, of course, but nothing more than the rustle of quiet comments which fly from pew to pew at a church wedding. The solemn expressions and grave demeanor of Chief Usher Byron Morris and his underlings fitted exactly such an occasion.

Of the 800 in the audience when the game finally began, about 600 were on hand for the music. The hardbitten baseball fans who came a little too early had a sort of baffled look as they grimly marched to their seats to the strains of the first movement of Schubert's "Unfinished" symphony or Grieg's "Heart Wounds".

The concert over, Dr. Ehrlich stayed to see if the game had any musical possibilities. Well, the gray clad Chicks and their pink hued foes from Minneapolis danced and raced about the diamond with all the zeal and abandon of topnotch ballet companies.

For premiere danseuse, blond Pat Keagle, the Chicks' shortstop, was unmatched. She flung herself through the air to make impossible catches.

The crowd had its obvious fun, mock wolf howls for the glamor girls and delighted laughs when any came to an undignified embrace of Mother Earth.


As for the game itself, it ended on somewhat of a sour note for Dottie Wiltse of the Lakers, who threw wild to second base in the ninth attempting to pick Mickey Maguire off and the Chicks' catcher scored the winning run. Connie Wisniewski, returning to action after a long absence due to a knee injury, had difficulty fielding bunts and this helped Minneapolis tie the score in the sixth with a three run rally.

The victory started the Chicks off on the right road in the opening game of the second half of the split season.

Chicks, Lakers and orchestra will all play a return engagement again tonight.
The box score tells the story. The Chicks jumped out to an early lead, the Lakers came back to tie it in the sixth, and the Chicks put it away with a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth. Can't ask for a more exciting game than that!

The afternoon Milwaukee Journal put its coverage right on the front page of the paper.

Beneath that rather confusing headline, the uncredited writer gives us our best sense of the concert in rich and vivid detail.

Symphony Goes to Bat at Baseball Park; Scorekeeper Is Not So Sure It Was a Hit

Picture on Picture Page

There are not many cities in this world where a symphony orchestra has presented a concert from home plate in a baseball park. Nor are there many baseball parks where a leather lunged vendor will walk silently up to a customer, tap him on the back and whisper gently, "Wanna hot dawg, mister?"

That, however, is what happened at Borchert field Wednesday as the Milwaukee Symphony orchestra opened a series of four concerts in connection with the ball games of the All-American Girls' Professional Baseball league.

The spectators, 700 of them scattered throughout the 9,200 seat grandstand, seemed to outnumber the orchestra only by about three to one as Conductor Julius Ehrlich began operations from the catcher's box. A weak pat-pat of applause greeted Ehrlich's raised baton.

Although the program called for "audience participating" in the "Star Spangled Banner," the symphony's soprano, Eleanor German, sang mostly alone. The applause for the orchestra thickened, however, as the audience got into the swing of things, nibbling hot dogs and drinking cold beer or pop as they listened to von Weber's "Oberon" overture. Incoming fans, some talking and laughing as they entered the stand, were quickly shhhhhh'd and stared into silence as they wandered up the ramp.

Watches His Watch

Only a few of the more conservative fans were not pleased. One gentleman in the last row drank his root beer, tore his paper napkin into little shreds, and glanced at his watch several times as the orchestra played the first movement of Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony." "Good thing he didn't finish it," he growled, looking at his watch again.

But most of the fans loved it. Grieg's remorseful "Heart Wounds" drew as much applause as a good peg from short to first would have received, and his "The Last Spring," played by the entire orchestra, received a two bagger hand.

Strauss, the orchestra, and Conductor Ehrlich received an extra special handicap for the "Blue Danube." Jack May, 4221 N. 46th st., smiled broadly and stated, "Long hair music? I can take it or leave it along. But this I like."

Then came "Hands Across the Sea," by Sousa. Midway in the march, the flood lights went up, and the audience uttered the familiar "Ahhhhh," which could be heard above the music. The symphony continued, and a cool night breeze, stirring the flags of all of the United Nations which were mounted on the top of the acoustical shell behind the orchestra, drew the audience's attention back to "Hands Across the Sea."

Shouts "Bravo"

As the orchestra finished the last bars of the concert, one coatless patron sitting along the third base foul line waved a beer bottle and shouted "Bravo!" The rest of the audience just applauded as hard as 700 could applaud.

As the musicians filed back under the grandstand to remove instrument cases and music folders from the "ump" room, one remarked angrily "Only in a ball park would somebody shout 'Bravo' for Sousa"!

But after all, as one of the cellists pointed out, if Nero could fiddle for a fire, surely a symphony could play marches for a sports event.

The concerts will continue before the games Thursday and Saturday, and between the double header Sunday. And Viola Thompson, who came from Greenville, S.C. to pitch for the Milwaukee girls' team, "put one right over the plate" when she said, "I'm glad they are coming back. Good music is good music, whether it is in Carnegie hall or the Brewer ball park."

(The Milwaukee girls won, 5-4. Details in Sports Section.)
Outstanding. Really brings the scene to life.

Compared to the front page, the Sports Section offered a relatively pedestrian review of the game.

One brief mention of the concert marks this summary of the Schnitts beating the Lakers (and mind you, this is about three years before the NBA team would adopt the moniker).

Schnitts Beat Lakers, 5-4

Throw Loses Game

Milwaukee got away to a winning start in the second half schedule of the All-American Girls Professional Ball league Wednesday night, beating Minneapolis, 5-4, at Borchert field. The Milwaukee symphony orchestra played for some 700 patrons before the game. Dottie Wiltse of the visitors lost her own ball game by throwing wild to first base in the ninth, trying to pick Catcher Dorothy Maguire off base, and the Schnitts' catcher scored before the ball could be recovered.

Connie Wisniewski pitched for Milwaukee for the first time since her knee was injured and the Lakers took advantage of her disability to turn bunts into hits, which made the game close.

Racine defeated Kenosha, 5-2.
A good start to the second half of the 1944 season. The Chicks would need Wisniewski fully healthy to make a run at the second-half title and with it the AAGPBL playoffs.

But as promised on the first page of the Journal, right under the headline, they were saving the best for last. On the back page of the paper they had a photo section, mostly featuring the Democratic Presidential Convention.

In the lower right-hand corner, the photos we were promised. A tantalizing peek at the Orchard as concert hall.

Amazing. These four deserve a closer look.

'Music Under the Stars'—at Borchert Field

You wouldn't have believed it. But some 700 persons saw the Milwaukee symphony and the Milwaukee Schnitts, the girls' baseball team, get together and entertain Wednesday night at Borchert field.

Yes sir, the orchestra gave an hour's program, then the gals beat Minneapolis in baseball. Still dubious? They're making music and runs again Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
—All Journal Staff
A Borchert field visitor in two moods. He is Dan Cameron, 823 N. Cass st. Left, he listens to the symphonietta. Right, he gives vent to his feelings as the Schnitts push across a run. Is Dan fan or music lover?
First the gals came in, now it's highbrow orchestra. These Borchert field maintenance crewmen—(from left) Frank Prohaska, Harry Wienke and Johnny Heim—still can hardly believe it.
Stunning. How lucky we are to have these moments preserved by the newspapers. And now the Journal's front-page headline makes more sense.

Ultimately, the concerts were not enough to draw the crowds that could have saved the Chicks in Milwaukee. But wherever the idea came from, be it Stumpf or Wrigley or an anonymous marketing advisor somewhere, this particular combination of local cultural institutions is as wonderful as it was brief, a bright shining moment in Milwaukee baseball (and musical) history.