By Phil Hecken
As alluded to yesterday, if you got through the entire article, today I have a very special treat — Uni Watch stalwart Chance Michaels has penned an absolutely fabulous article on the 1913 throwbacks the Milwaukee Brewers will be wearing today (their opponents, the Cardinals, are also throwing back. For reference, here’s what those Cards looked like).
For those of you who read on a regular basis, Chance needs no introduction, and he’s guest authored a number of articles for me before. Few pay such close attention to detail or make sure everything is *just so* as Chance. And when he approached me about a week ago with his pitch for this article, it took me all of about three seconds to say “PLEASE”.
So, without further ado, then — here is that promised article. You’re in for a treat. Here’s Chance:
An Anniversary on Tap
By Chance Michaels
Today, the Brewers will take the field at Miller Park dressed in 1913 finery. And I’m pleased to be able to say that I had a small role in making it happen.
Uni Watchers may know that I run two blogs, to borrow an old chestnut: one that chronicles the æsthetic history of the Green Bay Packers; and an obscure one. That second blog, BorchertField.com, is dedicated to the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association, a minor league baseball club that played from 1902-1952. The “Brews” (a nickname sometimes used by fans at the time, and one I now use to distinguish them from the current National League club) won eight league pennants and five postseason minor league championships, the first of each in 1913 with a powerhouse club full of colorful characters (not to mention a goat mascot!). It was that success over fifty-one seasons that paved the way for major league baseball to return to the Cream City, first in the form of the Milwaukee Braves and then with a team that adopted the minor league club’s name.
Back in May of 2012, I was interviewed by Milwaukee-based writer and radio host Doug Russell for OnMilwaukee.com about that blog. I mentioned to him during the course of our conversation that I was approaching the Brewers about a Turn Back the Clock event honoring the Brews. 2013, I told him, was going to be the 100th Anniversary of that club’s first league pennant, and a throwback seemed like a natural way of remembering the old club. I had reached out to the Brewers in past years, beginning in 2002 (the Brews’ centennial), but those entreaties had never come to anything.
The Brewers had held TBTC events for the Brews twice before: once in 1993, where the Brewers wore a uniform roughly “inspired by” the 1920s, and the second time in 1996, where they wore much more accurate 1946-era uniforms.
Armed with Doug’s contacts, I hoped this time I might interest the Brewers in another tribute to the Brews. He agreed, and put me in touch with Tyler Barnes, Vice President of Communications for the team. We first spoke in August.
To my delight, Barnes was indeed very interested in commemorating the Brews’ first pennant with a TBTC uniform, bobble head, the works. I suggested that a traditional American Association city might be an appropriate opponent; with matching throwback uniforms for the Kansas City Blues, St. Paul Saints or Minneapolis Millers.
Barnes asked me to supply some reference photos on the 1913 uniform. I told him that I could do one better: I could get him an authentic jersey from that season, from the collection of Paul Tenpenny, one of regular contributors to my blog. The jersey is a real beut, soft white flannel with blue piping and a squat blue block “M” on the breast.
So the jersey was easy. The rest of the uniform, not so much. In particular, we were all concerned about the caps. The Brews wore solid navy caps with no logo for the majority of the 1913 season, but I had material which suggested that they may have adopted a modified uniform near the end of the season as they cruised to the pennant. We wanted to nail that down, if possible. Other teams had worn plain caps for their early-20th Century TBTC events, but nobody in our discussion was keen on being one of them. If we could go in a more interesting direction, we would, and it looked as though we could find historical precedent for it.
And with that, we were off!
I gathered contemporary photos and newspaper accounts of the Brews’ uniforms. In September, I sent the Brewers a packet of reference photos, and then heard nothing. For weeks. The process works slowly, and as I told Tyler Barnes, he had to oversee dozens of special events while I was waiting for word on my own pet project.
November came, bringing official notification that the day had been scheduled for May 5th against the Cardinals. The visitors would also wear recreations of their 1913 togs.
Then nothing again for a couple months. In early January the Brewers released a picture of the day’s bobble head giveaway, featuring first baseman Corey Hart. This was my first look at Majestic’s interpretation of the uniform. Although I wish Mr. Hart was showing a little more sock, I think they did a pretty good job.
Interestingly, there was no corresponding announcement that the Brewers would be wearing those uniforms on the field. That meant no mention of the uniforms in Paul’s 2013 baseball preview. I presumed that somebody would put two and two together, and make the connection, but no. I received emails from dozens of my readers commenting on the bobblehead, but nobody asked the question I was anticipating.
I was able to confirm the TBTC uniforms on my blog in April, but at that point still hadn’t seen a picture of them. In my original pitch, I had suggested that the Brewers might go numberless, as the Yankees and Red Sox did for Fenway Park’s Centennial game last season, but didn’t think it was a real possibility. Barnes confirmed to me that the club had decided to add numbers to the jersey. He had helped manage the ceremonies for the final game at Tiger Stadium, and as part of that they had center fielder Gabe Kapler wear a number-less jersey as a tribute to Ty Cobb. “It’s a cool feature,” he told me, “but at times we have to take some liberties to allow for the modern conveniences.”. I hadn’t seriously thought the Brewers would go that route, and wasn’t terribly surprised or disappointed in his response.
Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky with the caps. Apparently New Era wasn’t able to match the cream-colored fabric to everyone’s satisfaction, so it was back to navy caps. One additional liberty was taken in the form of a cream “M” to adorn the crown. There is ample historical precedent for that in the Brews’ history, as close as 1912. Replicas of the intended design, white with blue details, will still be on sale at Miller Park.
And now, almost exactly a year to the day after I first suggested this event to Doug Russell, we’ve arrived at the big day. I’ll be at Miller Park today, interviewed by Russell on Newsradio 620 WTMJ about the process, and my collaborator Paul Tenpenny and I are to make an appearance on FOX Sports Wisconsin in the third inning, showing off his vintage 1913 jersey to the audience.
I asked Barnes how much awareness of the old club existed at One Brewers Way, and he responded with this:
People here – fans, front office, players – really enjoy our tributes to past teams, whether it’s the Negro Leagues Tribute Game, 1982 Retro Friday uniforms, or the like. Sure, people know the old Minor League Brewers because they were such a staple of the baseball culture before the arrival of Major League Baseball. We (Brewers) even placed an historical marker at the old location of Borchert Field several years ago, though it’s actually about 200 yards from the true location as the area is now a freeway. We pay close attention to the history of baseball in Milwaukee because what we are doing today will soon be part of that legacy. We don’t want to be left behind by those who succeed us, so we take care to remember those that came before us.
Makes me glad to be a Brewer fan.
I’ve spent a fair amount of my adult life carrying the flag for our old Brews, and it makes me more proud than I can say to have had a small part in bringing them back for one game.
Thanks Chance! Fantastic article and even better that you could play a role in this! OK, readers — what say you?
Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.
Another smallish set today, but as always it’s a good one.
Click on each image to enlarge.
We begin today with John Turney, with an old Rams pic:
Crazy Legs circa 1951.
Next up is Pete Woychick with a reader non-request (what?):
This is for the submitter who researched Jack Trice’s uniform number. I know he didn’t ask for a colorization, but I think his dedication deserves recognition!
Pete also did this next baseball colorization, and as his wont, accompanied it with a nice backstory:
In my corner of the world, there’s Portland, and then there’s Portland, Maine. This squad is from the latter, a member of the on-again, off-again New England League. The 1947 Pilots managed just a 45-80 record (improved from 20-99-1 the previous year!), but in this photo they appear to be in the process of “hanging a crooked number” in the fifth inning. The team was briefly (1948-49) a Class-B Phillies affiliate, but the uniforms I’ve given them here are purely fanciful; I was unable to find any information on their actual colors.
Our final colorization is somewhat fanciful, based on that wonderful old school photo provided by Jerry Reuss yesterday. It’s by Rob Holecko.
I colorized the Jerry Reuss photo.
That’s it for today. Lets keep those colorizations coming Uni Watchers!
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.
And so, lets begin:
We begin today with Michael Romero, with some concepts for Scarlet Knight footall:
I really, really disliked the clown costumes that my alma mater rolled out this past year. We are the birthplace of college football, I think we should embrace the tradition, not run from it. To that end, I came up with a new uniform concept for them.
A clean, classic look. No extra striping on the jersey, though I did leave the Nikelace. Return to a classic Varsity block font. One nice scarlet stripe on the pants. Also includes a Blackout uni, since scarlet looks good on black without all that extra costume crap.
Next up is Scott Russell, who submitted a new logo for the Dolphins:
I submitted this to Paul for his Re-design the Dolphins competition. But it didn’t fare well because it didn’t stray too far away from the original design. However, looking at all of the negative feedback online regarding the new Dolphins logo… maybe that’s a good thing?
I’ve been a lifelong fan, and would have preferred to see some more natural evolution to the design, rather than a complete redesign. To put it lightly, I’m not a big fan of the new look. I would have preferred it if they did something like this…
Hope you’re having a good week!
We close today with Brian Bennett who has some concepts for the Canucks & Wild:
Sorry, I still like the tweaks idea, in the sense of a uniform that has some deficiencies that can be improved with minor changes to the existing elements.
Vancouver Canucks jerseys. Currently there are two primary issues: lack of color matching between the orca logo and the uniform, and the total lack of any design relationship between the orca and the “VANCOUVER” lettering. Adding the “V” used in the Vancouver Millionaires jersey gives a base for “VANCOUVER” and adds green to better match the jersey. (But like the current jerseys, still looks better without “VANCOUVER.”)
Minnesota Wild third jerseys. Overuse of the wheat/vintage white leaves a jersey with little color and contrast. Adds white, more red and gold in the star. Same motif can work for red and white jerseys.
And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.
OK folks — that’s a wrap for this fine Sunday.
Big thanks to Chance for that great writeup and also to the colorizers and concepters.
One programming note — we’re going to stop accepting any last minute submissions to the UWFFL design contest (there are still four teams whose submissions we’ve yet to see) this Tuesday — so if you’re working on anything, please make sure to get it in to me ASAP. OK? OK!
Everyone have a great week and I’ll catch you next weekend. Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“Once, while shopping for clothes at Nordstrom’s in downtown Seattle, [Chris Berman] had sales people from all over the store hustling to satisfy his whims. He dropped more than few grand on ties, shirts, belts, etc. I watched the whole spectacle from the high chair at the shoeshine stand realizing this was one of the greatest shows that ESPN would never air!”