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.

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