I remember 1957…boy, do I remember 1957!!! World politics was all over the news and talked up in the grocery stores, the bars and…a lot…in my High School. Nikita Khrushchev was on “Face the Nation” and said our children would grow up as socialists and communists. Pakistan’s Prime Minister (in a long line of visiting dignitaries) was meeting with President Eisenhower. Jordan’s King Hussein turned 21. Experts said the U.S. economy is on the rise. Time magazine’s cover features Wimbledon winner, Althea Gibson…North Carolina and Tennessee are said to have made significant integration breakthroughs. Maserati has the fastest racing machines and the finest drivers: Juan Fangio and Stirling Moss. But, the Milwaukee Braves have the finest team and the finest fans ANYWHERE…or so it seems to a 16 year old living three plus hours from Milwaukee County Stadium. With 99 and 44/100’s of the season experienced via the dulcet tones of Earl Gillespie and Blaine Walsh, it was an exciting, maddening, frustrating, exhilarating, gut-wrenching pennant race. National League President, Warren Giles, said prior to opening day he thought the National League was so balanced that he was “looking for an eight-team pennant race”. For 100 games or so it did turn out to be one of the tightest races in Major League history…more on that in a minute…
For all intents and purposes, the season for the Milwaukee Braves fans begins the last Sunday in February when Opening Day tickets go on sale.
Lines begin to form on Saturday night… regardless of the temperature. The masses begin to arrive about sunrise; many come as entire families…not just Mom and Pop and the kids, but often with grandparents and/or grandkids. Milwaukee Braves fans tend to go to games in groups: whole families, neighbors, friends, loved ones and–sometimes, apparently, whole towns and villages. They sometimes arrive by the busload. The Greyhound Bus Line alone sent 1,180 chartered buses to County Stadium in 1957. Group- ticket purchases numbered over 375,000 fans. They hang around after the game is over – to get autographs, to talk to, to touch or just be near these guys who are a kind of cross between neighbors and heroes. After all, thanks to television, radio, newspapers and the willingness of team members to be approachable in the grocery store, at church, at the boys’ and girls’ clubs and at special events… it’s like everyone has had a kind of familial acquaintanceship with most of the players for about five years now.
They come into our homes via the TV, they worship in our churches, they shop the same places we do – and that’s in addition to the games. It’s at the games where this riotous relationship plays out the best. Counting 1957, Milwaukee is the only NL city to go over two million in attendance four years in a row and, counting 1953, these five years represent the highest attendance numbers in NL history. Milwaukee outdraws both the Yankees and the Dodgers!! Milwaukee fans are just nuts for the Braves!!!
In the evening after the incredible disappointment at the end of the ’56 season in St.Louis, Bob Allen, Braves statistician (and former Marquette All-American distance runner), thought to himself that somebody should at least go down to the train station to be there to greet the guys as they got back into town. As it happened, so did 20,000 other wild-eyed fans. Bob never did get near the players…
The aforementioned attendance figures underscore the idea that these fans are there win or lose, rain or shine!! The Braves decided they would only sell 12,000 season tickets even though they could probably have sold double that.
Season tickets have great value to these very intense rooters. A season ticket holder can assign his or her (incidentally, 37% of all season ticket holders are women) ticket to whomever they choose. If they pass away it becomes part of their estate. A supposedly true story has it that during an argument after supper a man shot (wounded) his wife. Several friends and neighbors hurried to the jail to buy his tickets. After being turned away without seeing him they sought out his attorney. I never heard an ending but it gives some insight into why the word “fan” is a shortened version of fanatic. One day a local butcher calls the Braves’ team office to report that his “safe was robbed last night”. A sympathetic Braves employee says, “Man, that’s terrible…How much did they get?” Says the butcher, “To hell with the money, my tickets were in that safe!!”
The new secretary to the Mayor of a nearby town made him sign a paper prior to her taking the job guaranteeing that she could carry a transistor radio wherever their business took them so she could always follow the game. A waitress at the Schroeder Hotel is vociferously thankful for the Braves-it means that nearly every weekend someone from her family (mostly all from up nort’) comes to visit her…and go to the game.
For reasons only she knows, a lady decided one day to sit on a horseshoe while listening to the game on the radio. The Braves won so…she sat on it again the next day and they won again. After they’d won nine or ten in a row, her husband discovered what she was doing and threw the horseshoe in the river and yelled at her that she “should be cooking and cleaning”. She promptly wrote a letter to the Braves to “report” him. No one is quite sure what she expected the Braves to do…
A husband in one of the larger Wisconsin cities gave his wife money and asked her to drive to Milwaukee “and buy some good lower grandstand seats”. Instead, she goes to the Braves ticket outlet in their town and gets a pair of upper grandstand seats. When he sees the tickets, the husband throws them at his wife – it’s laundry day – and the tickets go into the washing machine. He again says “Go to Milwaukee and get good seats!” The next day she shows up at the Braves ticket office with two chewed up, slightly damp, faded tickets. Says Charlie Blossfield, assistant ticket manager, “It was apparent she had not been using TIDE, the gentle detergent for tickets; but, rather, Brand X, which is known to treat cardboard harshly”.
…And, finally…A local lawyer with tickets to Sunday’s game catches the flu, faints and falls down in his home breaking his nose, gashing his forehead and incurring multiple facial lacerations. At 10:00A.M. Sunday morning he shows up at the hospital, gets his nose set and numerous stitches in his face. He is assigned a room wherein he calls a friend and walks out of the facility, gets into the friend’s car and goes home to pick up an overcoat. Then, drugged, stitched, bandaged up and still weak from the flu, he goes to the game. Afterwards he goes back to his room at the hospital…where he is regaled as a great medical hero…and a wacko fanatical Braves fan!!
The inundation of gifts from the fans to the players has settled down…to some extent. Gifts from retailers has also subsided…to some extent. However…each player still gets a new Dodge for their personal use during the season. They also get gas cards, beer, free laundry services and free milk. A number of businesses – local and statewide – pay players to allow them to use the player’s name and/or picture as part of their advertising promotions…The love affair is far from over!!
As it continues, unfortunately, to be the case, once again we said, “See you later”, to some old friends – some good old friends. It’s getting to the point where losing these guys gets tougher and tougher because we’ve had at least another year to get attached to them. In sorta kinda alphabetical order:
Toby Atwell caught at least parts of 15 games. He hit two of his nine career homers for us. Toby’s last game in the Bigs was September 28, 1956.
Ray Crone really was a pretty decent pitcher; that’s probably the reason he was part of the 6/15/57 trade that brought Red Schoendienst to Milwaukee.
Jack Dittmer was traded to Detroit for Chick King and cash on 2/12/57. I have more editorial remarks (whining) here as Jack was and still is a personal fave of mine…Gayle and I got to do a great interview with him which I’ll try to get in here one of these days.
Earl Hersh got in seven games and hit .231-his last Major League appearance was 9/22/56.
Chet Nichols appears to have dropped off the conventional radar after the 1956 season but shows up again in 1960 with the Red Sox.
Danny O’Connell went to the Giants on 6/15/57 as part of the Red Schoendienst, et al. deal.
Jim Pendleton came to Milwaukee as a rookie in 1953 so, of course, is an automatic favorite. He was traded to Pittsburgh for
Dick Cole on 4/3/57.
Humberto Robinson will go 18-7 with a 2.95 ERA for Toronto in the International League in “57. He’ll be back with the Braves in ’58.
Bob Roselli was also here in ’55-’56. He will spend ’57 in Toronto and be back with the parent club in ’58.
Lou Sleater was released 4/11/57 and, ultimately, will sign with the Tigers.
Chuck Tanner, due to a superfluity of good outfielders, went to the Cubbies on waivers-6/8/57. Another fave…he gave us some great memories!!
Bobby Thomson of The-shot-heard-‘round-the-world fame and his-broken-ankle-got-Aaron-in-the-lineup fame went back to the Giants in the deal for Schoendienst. If you’ve been following along, you already know my early memories and affection for him.
This might be as good a place as any to reiterate a point made many moons ago: In a 16-team system, every guy who made it as far as the Major League level was one heck of a ball player. Whether he stayed for the proverbial cup of coffee or had a long career—He had a lot of talent and certainly deserves all the fan respect we give him…maybe more. Thank you…for your support!!
This year’s group of new friends is a far more disparate group than we met in ’56…No doubt we’ve got some new blood here but on balance we’ve also got some solid veteran experience joining us.
Dick Cole, infielder,was with Pittsburgh from ’51 to ’56. He came over in the Pendleton trade.
John De Merit signs for a nice bonus right off the University of Wisconsin campus. A four-sport athlete in high school, he played basketball and baseball in college.
Harry Hanebrink was here in 1953. He spent ’54-’55 with Toledo in the American Association and ’56 with Wichita in the same league. He’s a pretty good clutch hitter with some pop.
Bob Hazle, you may recall, came into the Braves system as part of the George Crowe trade. He came up with Cincinnati in ’55, spent ’56 at Wichita and was in Wichita until he was called up on July 28…and…you’ll be hearing more about him shortly!
Joey Jay, the first Little Leaguer to play ML ball, was with the Braves from ’53-’55 but split the ’56 season between Wichita (A.A.) and Atlanta (Southern).
Vernal L. “Nippy” Jones was sold by Sacramento (PCL) to the Braves 7/6/57. He played 8.2 innings during the regular season…
his last regular season game was 9/29/57…stay tuned for his post season role…
Bobby Malkmus, after six successful years in the minors, was a bona fide rookie in 1957.
Don McMahon was a rookie relief pitcher in ’57. Signed as an amateur free agent in 1950, he went 20-9 as a starter for Owensboro (Kitty). After military service in ’51 and ’52, he’d been an accomplished minor-league reliever since ’53.
Juan Pizarro, another rookie pitcher, was signed as an amateur free agent in ’56 and spent last season with Jacksonville (So. Atlantic). His dandy fastball was the main reason for his 23-6 record with a 1.77 ERA. He had 318 strike-outs in 274 IP…Smokin’!!!
Mel Roach was with the Braves in ’53-’54 but spent ’55 and ’56 enjoying the hospitality of his Uncle Sam.
Carl Sawatski, very bright journeyman catcher, came up with the Cubs in 1948. He was up and down several times before being traded to Milwaukee by Toronto (International). He will do some catching and help with pinch-hitting duties.
Red Schoendienst was traded by the Giants to the Braves on 6/15/57. Joe Reichler reports this as one of the three best trades the Braves made in their history.
Ray Shearer was a rookie in 1957. The Braves bought his contract from Brooklyn and sent him to Wichita (A.A.) where he was voted onto the All-Star team…he was hitting .316.
Robert “Hawk” Taylor was another of the Braves’ rookies in 1957.
He was signed 6/1/57 as a “bonus baby” by Wid Matthews and Dick Keely. A sprinter, a three-sport athlete and an honor student to boot…Hmmmm…How ‘bout that..!!?!
Keeping track of KEY signatures to differentiate ’56 balls from ’57 balls will be a little tricky…You have to keep in mind that some of the players who left and some of the players who just joined us played parts of the season in two different places—Watch the Dates…!!! Crone, Thomson and O’Connell will appear on balls signed prior to 6/15…Red will appear on balls signed LATER than 6/15. It’ll be similar for Chuck Tanner, Bob Hazle, Nippy Jones, John De Merit and Hawk Taylor. The guys who played for the Braves ONLY during the 1957 season are Dick Cole, Nippy Jones, Bobby Malkmus and Ray Shearer…if any of their names are on the ball, it’s a ’57.
After the disappointing end to the ’56 season, Manager Fred Haney gave his players forewarning of his sterner side: “Have a good time this winter, boys; next spring you’re going to find me the toughest so and so you ever saw. You might hate me for awhile…
but you’ll love me when they’re handing you those World Series checks”.
1957 in Bradenton was rough!! Haney was like a drill sergeant-
The Braves worked long hours on everything from fundamentals to specialized plays. There might have been some mental complaints but nobody said much…mostly because they were too tired to say much. It certainly seemed to have one very positive effect: Every-
one was determined to do whatever was necessary to get handed one of those World Series checks!!
Every ballclub thinks of Opening Day as the day they play their first Home game…It’s obvious, however, that every year half the teams will play their first game of the season on the road. In 1957 the Braves’ first game was in Chicago on April 17; they won, 4-1. Spahnie was the winning pitcher with a four-hitter. The Cubs got their lone run in the fifth and Spahn no-hit them the rest of the way. Bob Rush was the losing pitcher. In the sixth, Aaron singled, came home on Mathews triple and Adcock singled Eddie home. Whereupon Johnny Logan hit maybe the longest of all his homers; well over the 400 foot sign in center field and that, as they say, was that!! Wednesday was a travel day…the two games that were scheduled got rained out.
Thursday, the 18th, was the Braves’ home opener against the Redlegs (Remember…?? They were the Redlegs for a couple years or so in order to not somehow be confused with or seen as communist sympathizers (…No editorial will be offered here though one is almost certainly called for…). Anyway…Opening Day in Milwaukee dawned cloudy with a misty fog that sort of shrouded Harnischfeger and Johnston Cookies. (As a kind of aside: Braves’ management apparently had something of a reputation around the league for being a little reluctant to call off games due to ominous or bad weather. Some referred to a Milwaukee downpour as “Perini’s Dew”…). By 10:00A.M. quite a crowd had lined up for bleacher tickets – no one even mentioned the weather…by game time it was in the fifties and there were some patches of blue sky here and there.
As fans filed in they were quick to note the scoreboard had been widened 12 feet so they could keep track of games in both leagues.
Some 41,506 fans paid to get in (396 of those paid for standing room) and another 2,658 got in on some type of pass. That’s 44,164 folks in a place that seats 43,768—how sweet it is!! Lou
Burdette pitched a six-hitter, Hank Aaron hit a home run into the right center field bullpen…1-0. That was it…Burdette’s first shutout-he led the league last year with six…Hank hits his first HR of the season…The Braves register their fifth straight home opener win…YIPPEE!!!
The rest of April was pretty cool…the Braves continued to win…five in a row…nine of their first 10 games.
Redlegs manager, Birdie Tebbetts, managed to stir up some stuff; he charged Burdette with being a “cheating spitballer” and vowed to film every move Burdette made in every outing until he had proof-positive of his allegations. Some sided with Tebbetts, most seemed think he was just posturing to try to reverse some of Burdette’s psychological edge. The film came up with zip, nada, nothing. NL Prexy Warren Giles stated clearly that there was no evidence of wetness…no witness to wetness…no wetness to witness…you get the picture. Burdette, who was among the fiercest of competitors on the field, never confessed to using a spitball…and…never stopped using the rumors, accusations and innuendoes to his mental benefaction. An amazing athlete, he never had a sore arm, he never “coasted”, he always had his head in the game and he “bore down” on every pitch. Off the field it was a totally different story: easy-going, seemingly without a care in the world, Lou had a great sense of humor. One day after a game he went around the clubhouse shaking hands, “nice knowin’ ya”, “hang in there”, telling everyone he’d been traded to the Giants. Reporters went especially nuts… He was often in on pranks with cohort Warren Spahn who was his roomie on the road and neighbor (their families shared a duplex) at home.
In the off-season, Lou worked for Miller Brewing as a speaker at luncheons, banquets and special events.
May probably brought blooming flowers somewhere…For the Braves it brought errors, sloppy play, light hitting and losing. By mid-month Cincinnati had taken over first place. Somewhere in this stretch it really started boiling down to a five-team race: Braves, Dodgers, Redlegs, Cardinals and Phillies. For the next few weeks these five teams were never separated by more than five games…even the Giants stayed close ‘til the end of June!
June was HUGE!! On the 8th the Dodgers (last year’s WS winner) won their fifth straight game to take over first place in the NL (Not counting the first week of the season when everybody was tied for first, this would be the only day of the ’57 season when the Dodgers would be in first). On June 15th, the trading deadline, Braves’ management (Fred Haney, John Quinn, et al…) kicked into another gear.
Bobby Thomson, Ray Crone and Danny O’Connell were traded to the New York Giants for future HOF’er, Red Schoendienst!! It was bittersweet but Wowie Zowie!! What a difference it made for the Braves!! On June 16th, Burdette lost a one-hitter to Curt Simmons and the Phillies…the Redhead hit a triple and a single in the losing cause.
On June 17th, in his first appearance as a Brave in Milwaukee, Schoendienst went four for four (two doubles, two singles) in another unfortunate loss. After the game Wes Covington was called back up from Wichita. On June 18th the Braves signed bonus-baby Bob “Hawk” Taylor out of Superman’s hometown: Metropolis, IL for $100,000. Hawk, a catcher, is said by many to be the best ballplayer ever to come out of southern Illinois. On June 19th Covington hit a two-run homerun in a Buhl-pitched victory. June 23rd: The Braves win both ends of a double-header vs. the Phils; it was a Pyrrhic victory as Joe Adcock broke the fibula in his right leg sliding into 2nd base. Slick-fielding, good-hitting Frank Torre will play 1st — but without Adcock’s incredible power. No way is that a knock on Torre…maybe there are two or three guys in either league as strong as Adcock. From about the middle of June until about the middle of August the league lead will change hands 10 times…As a fan you could just hardly breathe…
In late June the Braves called pitcher Don McMahon up from Wichita…June 30th, a Sunday, marked his first appearance. He came in in the top of the ninth in relief of Taylor Phillips…the score was tied 4-4. The crowd gasped in astonishment at his sensational speed. The first batter he faced never got his bat off his shoulder and gaped as the third strike hit Crandall’s mitt. He struck out two in the ninth, two in the 10th, two in the 11th and one in the 12th. In the bottom of the 12th he was lifted for a pinch-hitter…Mathews won it with a home run in the 13th. As he was rushed by reporters and players McMahon stated several times,
“After the first pitch I was all right”. Someone asked Crandall if McMahon was as fast as he appeared? “Fast?” said Crandall, “His ball seemed to come out of the tips of the center field trees. He was so fast I couldn’t see him”. Although the term had not yet come into vogue, in 32 appearances, McMahon would be almost perfect as the Braves new “closer”.
July brought more tests and trials and, also, Haney’s still more resourceful use of his incredible bench. The All-Star break was mostly a non-event for Milwaukee fans…and others…SEVEN Cincy players were “elected” to the All-Star team by the fans. After some official investigation into ballots and voting, the Commissioner’s office disqualified two of the seven. Hank Aaron was the only starter from the Braves although Lou Burdette pitched four strong innings in a 6-5 loss.
On July 11th Billy Bruton and Felix Mantilla collided in short center field…both were injured…Bruton the worst…with torn knee ligaments, he would be out for the season. Haney moved Aaron to center (where he’d NEVER played) and, if possible, Hank hit even better!!! On July 16th the Braves started on a 17 of 19 win streak that stretched into winning 24 of 29 and an eight and a half game lead with less than 25 games left to play. In the midst of that, on July 28th, they brought Bob Hazle up from Wichita…Bob Hazle of the George Crowe trade…Bob Hazle who isn’t even mentioned in the ’57 yearbook, Bob “Hurricane” Hazle who is about to hit .403 in 41 games and seven of his nine career ML home runs…That Bob Hazle!!!…Who, in his first week and a half in the Bigs, had four three-(or more) hit games. An Hurricane, indeed!!! And yet, as unbelievable as it may sound, on July 26th, there were only 2 ½ games separating the top five teams in the National League…could I just breathe normally for a day…???
…And then…August was almost La La Land: everybody else seemed to fall apart…the Braves didn’t…and played well enough to get into first place for good-although WE didn’t know that at the time…However, by (9/2) Labor Day, as noted earlier, they were up by 8 ½ games.
September began with quite a scare: The Braves lost 8 of 11…two to St. Louis who it seemed like was winning every day. By mid- September the lead was down to two and a half games. At that point, however, that incredible Braves’ talent and tenacity – the pitching, the power hitting, the bench strength – all jelled. Ironically, it culminated against the Cardinals – head to head – in the 11th inning on September 23rd when Hank Aaron hit a Billy Muffett pitch well over the 402 foot sign in deepest center for a game-winning, pennant-winning home run!!! Johnny Logan, who’d singled, trotted/leaped/jumped to the plate ahead of Aaron!! The team raced out to meet Aaron at the plate and jubilantly carried him off the field. There was pandemonium in the dug-out, in the clubhouse, in the stadium, in Milwaukee, in all Wisconsin!!! After five years of greater growing anticipation and affection, THE BRAVES HAD WON THE PENNANT!!!!!!!
Anticlimactically…there were still five more games to play…In short-they won three and lost two…Aaron got his first ever Major League grand slam the very next day!! Spahn got another win and another loss. In the loss, Johnny Klippstein (Reds) lost his no-hitter bid with two out in the bottom of the ninth when Hazle singled. The only other Braves baserunner was Harry Hanebrink who worked Klippstein for a walk in the fourth. The Braves beat the Reds the next day – Sunday – last game of the season – in the last of the ninth before 45,000 wild and crazy fans. Braves had been ahead, 2-0, but the Reds scored three in the top of the ninth. Adcock led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, pinch-hitter Ray Shearer binged another single, Schoendienst singled Adcock home to tie it up and Mantilla singled Shearer home for the final run and final win of the 1957 season!! (Stick that in your trivia bag…!!)
There is no way…no brief way…to credit all the heroes of the 1957 season. Everybody had a share…from front office to batboy…some performed memorable feats and some were diligent and reliable.
You have to remember John Quinn’s trades and Fred Haney’s judicious use of his strong and talented bench…17 different players were on the DL (a term not yet in vogue) at one time or another during the season. Warren Spahn, at 36, went 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA 271.1 IP. He had 111 strikeouts and 18 complete games. He won the Cy Young Award (only one was awarded in those days) and was fifth in the MVP voting. Lou Burdette went 17-9 (fourth in the NL in wins) with a 3.72 ERA in 256.2.IP…He had 14 complete games. Bob Buhl led the league in winning percentage (.720). He went 18-7 with 2.74 ERA in 216.2 IP. That ERA was fourth best in the league. He also had 117 strikeouts and 14 complete games in spite of being out injured for three crucial weeks in August. The incredible pitching surprise (we knew we had pitching) was the 27 year old rookie sensation, Don McMahon. In some intense relief situations, he was 2-3 with nine saves and a 1.54 ERA in ML play!!
Team hitting was second only to St. Louis. Hank Aaron (23), in spite of being called upon to play the toughest outfield position still led the league in HR’s: 44; and RBI’s: 132. His batting average was 4th best at .322. He also led the league in runs scored (118) and total bases (369). He was named the league MVP (beating out Stan Musial). Eddie Mathews’ power numbers were down a tad in ’57 but he still had a great season!! He hit 32 homers, had 94 RBI’s, batted .292, scored 109 runs and led the team with 90 bases on balls. When the discussion turns to what made the ’57 team that extra amount better than last year, Red Schoendienst’s name invariably comes up. Red hit .310, was 3rd in the MVP balloting, scored 56 runs – 32 after coming to the Braves. He fielded with the best at .987 and his 200 hits led the league – 122 of those were after he came over to the Braves…This was the first time in Red’s 13 year career he’d gotten 200 hits. Wes Covington, in spite of being sent down for a short time, played more games in left than anyone else. If anyone helped make up for the loss of Adcock’s power, it was Wes; he hit .284 with 21 homers, scored 51 runs and drove in 65.
Bob Hazle’s performance in the final 41 games of the season will be remembered as long as anybody remembers the ’57 season!! His addition to a momentum that was already rolling was extraordinary…!!! He was a “Hurricane”—Virtually unstoppable!! He hit .507 for the month of August!! His on-base percentage was .477!! His slugging percentage was .649!! Absolutely amazing!!!
There is something relevant/pertinent to be said for every guy on the team – even the “cup of coffee” guys…I tried to sneak a couple in earlier…If there is an intangible element to the 1957 Braves’ success, I believe it has to do not only with tenacity but, also, with TEAMness. They played as a team – they were loose, yet focused…and it’s not much of a stretch to think they rallied around Fred Haney’s spring training comments: “You may hate me now-but, you won’t hate me when they’re passing out those World Series checks”…Them’s pretty good focusing words…!!
The story is told variously depending on who’s doing the telling-“Someone” told “Someone” that given the logo on the left sleeve of the Braves’ uniforms, they should be called the “Chiefs” because Indian chiefs wore headdresses.
Personally I like best the version that has Bill Duehren, commercial illustrator with the Frank H. Bercker studios in Milwaukee telling G.M. John Quinn that the Braves need a new, more truly definitive logo and Quinn telling Duehren to show him. After numerous prefatory, prototypical endeavors was born the now-famous Laughing Brave. He has been disparately referred to as “yelling”, “howling” or “screaming”; but, in reality, he has been, lo, these many years…laughing!! Bill Duehren was a premier “western” artist given to painstaking research and exquisite attention to detail. He wanted to depict the Brave as “laughing” because he felt Native Americans were too often portrayed negatively and disrespectfully. The model for the laughing Brave was one of Duehren’s co-workers.
Some of his friends and neighbors show up on the cover of the 1954 scorecard. You can find his last name on the covers of the ’54-’60 scorecards and his artwork and influence on the ’61-’65 covers. His favorites were the ’57 cover, showing the state of Wisconsin in the shape of a baseball glove and the ’60 cover with the knothole gang and the neighborhood police officer. Bill Duehren was a true baseball fan…check out the amazing detail of the ’61 scorecard cover…Unfortunately, studio illustrators didn’t get a lot of individual attention in those days which may explain why a lot of HUGE Braves fans don’t recognize his name.
Although we first saw him on the cover of the ’55 scorecard, the Braves didn’t change the left sleeve logo from the “Chief” to the Laughing Brave until Opening Day 1957…Keep that in mind when you’re trying to date pictures. Bill Duehren also did collectible artwork for the Miller Brewing Company, Schlitz, Harnischfeger and the Brewers. He passed away August 29, 2006…Thankfully he left us a ton of great memories!!
There is a plethora of wonderful memorabilia and collectibles from 1957-we’ll not begin to exhaust it in two separate efforts. My personal opinion (only) is that everyone – fans, retailers, souvenir purveyors – all thought that after the disappointment in’56, THIS had to be the year of the Braves…and everybody jumped on the bandwagon…Hmmm…and YIPPEE!!!
The 1957 Milwaukee Braves Picture Pack, as it’s designated in the SCD Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards, was quite likely printed late in the season and sold by County Stadium concessionaires. I say “late” because Bob Hazle is in it and Billy Bruton is not (Injured-out for the season). At first glance these 5×7’s look uncannily like the Jay Publishing Photos (sans serif) which will begin their inaugural season in 1958. I have no information regarding printing, so don’t know if the same people did both…Here’s another marvelous opportunity to keep those cards and letters (and emails) coming. The most obvious difference, at least to this novice, comes right after the player’s name…these team-issued pix say “Hank Aaron, Outfielder” whereas the Jay’s say “Hank Aaron, Milwaukee Braves”. Mnemonic device (maybe…?): The team (who issued these) thinks you know who Hank Aaron plays for, so they tell you what position he plays – well, anyway, that’s how I keep track. These came in a tanish-brown envelope, not unlike the Jay’s, but not from New Canaan, Conn. like the Jay’s did, there were 12 pix per pack and they cost 35 cents…Oh, and everyone is either a pitcher, a catcher, an infielder or an outfielder.
The 1957 Spic and Span Braves set can still be found on ebay or at shows. There are actually 20 cards in the set but most people only ever find 16…the Covington, Schoendienst, Trowbridge and Mantilla cards appear to have been short-printed and are very hard to find, not to mention three or four times as expensive. Generally they are described as being 4×5 but the “4” can vary as much as a quarter of an inch. The “5” is closer but still often a tad shy of actual five inches…Don’t be alarmed! Besides the picture, there’s a little line of encouragement or salutation above the facsimile autograph. In the lower right corner of the white border is the Spic and Span logo. The backs are blank.
These are 1957 Uniform Player’s Contracts between these particular players and The National League Baseball Club of Milwaukee, Inc. I’d like to tell you I have every guy on the team but I don’t…I did, however, get a whole passel of my faves: Johnny Logan, Frank Torre, Nippy Jones, Joey Jay, Wes Covington, Ray Shearer, Del Crandall, Gene Conley, Bob Hazle and Billy Bruton. One of the things I find fascinating about contracts is the salaries-No, I’m not going on my usual rant here, but…These guys played for the love of the GAME!!!
These ashtrays are just a variation on a theme…and I’m betting there are a couple other variations still out there – I’m not really looking to find any more…however, they do seem fairly easy to find…and affordable. I have never seen anything to indicate who manufactured them. The buttons kinda sorta speak for themselves although it’s possible one or two are from ’58 – Let me know if you know. The “button” that doesn’t look like a button-the three-dimensional one in the middle-has a battery and a switch and lights up…some of them blink, I’m told. I have another version of the light-up one that I’ll show you later…
The ’57 Topps set was the biggest I can remember with 24 Braves including the Team Card. The cards were a tad smaller than in previous years. Apparently Topps used color photos instead of colorized photos. As unbelievable as it might seem (if you’ve been following this), the negative for the Aaron card was processed backwards so he looks left-handed with the Indian patch on the wrong sleeve. If this ever got corrected, I’m unaware of it. In general it looks as though old photos were used or it was just the timing…in all the photos where the left sleeve is visible…only card number 383–Juan Pizarro–shows the new Laughing Brave patch. Very Cool!!
An unusual and most excellent issue in 1957 was the Swift Meats set. These came in packages of Swift Hot Dogs-one player per package. You could punch out the pieces and, using the pre-cut slots, make a stand-up figure. The set was like 18 different players; Hank Aaron and Johnny Logan are the only Braves. There is also a Display sheet/board you can get. If you collect for value, don’t punch out the parts-if you collect for fun…have at it!!!
Sometimes it gets real tempting…!!
These are a few of the mugs and glasses available from this era…the set of six and the two taller glasses are from an unknown manufacturer and were, I think, Stadium souvenirs. The small mugs in front are from Bill’s Specialty in Milwaukee-quite a number of nifty souvenirs came from Bill’s. The mug on the right-in back-is artwork by Herb Gardner, the wildly popular cartoonist, whose characters-The Nebbishes-are often credited with being the ‘50’s version of “The Simpsons”. I remember tons of Nebbish merchandise but have no clue how this mug fits into anything. The glass with the full-headdress-Indian is of a remarkably similar design to one of the Braves Boosters decals…some connection…?? Let me know if you know…
I like pennants a lot; it’s hard to resist buying them most of the time. I tell everyone I don’t collect pennants because I kinda don’t but then I see one that is so cool and so colorful. Part of the whole deal with pennants is all the variations…something old, something new, something red, green, black or blue…Mostly what is included here is stuff from “about” 1957…and earlier…Most of it is a lot like some kinds of classical music: variations on a theme. If you know how to date these, let me know…I hope the colors come across…!!
Preferred Products Corporation of Milwaukee issued a second set of sepia 8×10’s between 1957 and 1960. For all intents and purposes they much the same as the earlier set. The SCD Standard Catalog… has the only checklist I’m aware of and they admit it may be incomplete. The artwork on the newer set is a little tighter, denser and may have utilized a photo in the process. Some of the poses in the newer set may suggest just a little more action than the strictly-portrait approach of the earlier set. The player’s name is the easiest way to instantly differentiate between the two sets; in the early set the name is in script; in the latter set it is in block letters.
Here are just a few schedules-some straightforward and pragmatic-some a tad more interesting. I especially like the Gregg Electronics sched…it is folded with a slot so it makes a triangle and stands up on your table or shelf, it has a County Stadium seating diagram on the back and the pages/months are color-coded with a lot of information. The Thorp Finance and Sheboygan Glass Company scheds are very practical single-fold-stick-in-your-pocket types from out-of-town retailers. The Clark Super 100 schedule has three folds-sort of like four little pages/sections on both sides. It includes the broadcast schedule, seating chart of the stadium and a list of statewide radio stations (plus three in Minnesota) that carry the Braves games. This particular one is stamped “Tom’s Clark Super 100 Service at 35th and West McKinley Boulevard in Milwaukee”. The Greyhound sched is home games only, a single-fold pocket-type and has stamped on the front in pretty faded ink: “Manitowoc Greyhound Bus Agency
Braves’ Charter Bus Home”…plus address and ‘phone number. Finally, the round, metal West Side Bank schedules…amazingly similar to ‘56’s A.O. Smith offering. One side is for advertising, the other side is divided into six pie-slice segments (April to September) with the home-game schedule. The ’58 version will be this same format but there’ll be a change in ’59. If you hadn’t noticed, these may be my favorite scheds!!
“The Man from Schweppes is Here!!” The Schweppes man, Commander Edward Whitehead, brings Fred Haney a cricket bat and his unique, secret “Schweppervesence” to Blaine Walsh. London-based House of Schweppes (…”since 1794…”) tours the U.S. touting their secret-recipe, uniquely carbonated Quinine water-“The Authentic Tonic” in your Gin and Tonic drinks…and we got his picture…
This is a kind of mish-mosh of cool collectibles from this period but are neither rare nor high-dollar items…just fun stuff!! The placemats are pretty functional although there are some subtle variations to pique your interest…some are laminated, some have a restaurant/business name on them. I coulda put the ruler in with the scheds but liked it here better…in case you can’t read it, the advertiser is Fond du Lac Building and Loan. The Postal cancellation stamp was noted in an earlier installment-I couldn’t recall if I had a picture of it then…The Tepee Pass has a smidge more interest because in 1957 Birdie Tebbetts was not yet an employee of the Milwaukee Braves organization—so…does he rate a pass because he’s the manager of the Redlegs or because we so admire his baseless harassment of Lou Burdette…??…Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know… In my less than humble opinion, the 45rpm record is the most interesting of these pieces. It is, first of all, the play-by-play broadcast, by Earl Gillespie, of Hank’s 11th inning, pennant-winning home run on September 23, 1957. Additionally, it is Earl’s interviews with John Quinn, Lou Perini and, of course, the man of the hour, decade, century, Hank Aaron, after the game…note the variant picture sleeve…So…get out your old bobby-sox-and-blue-jeans-Friday-night-after-the-game-sock-hop- 45rpm-record player and play this one over and over and over again!!!
Well that’s about it for the nonce…I’ve already started getting stuff together for the World Series portion. As I work through the research materials and re-read Bob Buege’s tomes (and others), it occurs to me at this juncture that the next chapter may end up as less text and way more pix…I guess we’ll see…A reminder: The Milwaukee Braves Historical Association, The Wisconsin State Historical Society, The Milwaukee County Historical Society, The Milwaukee Brewers and, I think, a host of other groups and individuals are preparing to honor the 50th Anniversary of the ’57 World Series (and the 25th Anniversary of the 1982 Brewers) during the summer of 2007. I have been approached to help and am honored and flattered to contribute in any way I can…I’ll keep you posted on whatever I learn…as always, keep those cards and letters (and emails) coming…I just love it…!!!
Until then, please stay tuned…for the World Series…
Go Get “Em, Braves!!