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.

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