American Association Milwaukee Brewers

Research: “First Light”
by Paul F. Tenpenny

Copyright 2008 Tencentzports

Reprinted with permission of the Author

This past April, a fixture at local Milwaukee, Regional and National sports collectibles shows, Bob Koehler passed away. He had many friends in the hobby, all of whom have been sharing their fond memories of Bob along with tributes to him written in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sports Collectors Digest and American Association Almanac.

I would like to add my voice to that group sharing their experiences about Bob Koehler.
I first met him in the 1980s, he was a source for Milwaukee Braves and Milwaukee Brewer items that I collected and was always a friendly and knowledgeable dealer, ever ready to help you find something or to share information.

When my interest shifted to the “Borchert” Brewers about 5 years ago, there was nobody in Milwaukee who knew more than him. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, existed in book form until recently. Anybody attempting research in this area of Milwaukee history was pretty much in the dark when approaching the subject. Bob provided the “first light” for me in a very dark area of research. True research goes where no one else has gone before. Bob’s work compiling team rosters and his photos are some of the various signs posts I have used extensively to try to guide my way doing research. Even now as I hit the microfilm machines and spend the long hours needed to do the job right at the Milwaukee Public Library and elsewhere, his footprints are all around me. Bob and others actually xeroxed newspaper clippings and put them into book form to make it easier for interested parties to read about baseball in the 1940s.

Thanks Bob. I will not forget you or your help and encouragement.

In closing, many times people ask why? What is it about collecting that causes you to devote so much time and resources on something from so long ago? “Aren’t you living in the past?”
I know Bob was asked why he gave up teaching to pursue his passion for baseball history. A pretty risky change of life for sure. But it worked out well for him and he did what he loved.

The answer to that question is NO. Neither Bob nor I live in the past, but we refuse to forget the past.
The past still has value for us today. Baseball is not life but it is representative of the quality of our lives. We are not that different from those people who flocked to Borchert field with family and friends. If not baseball, something else gives us joy, direction and focus.
Something in our past always drives us to our future. Our connection with those times, a fondness or nostalgia for the experiences of our youth always have a bearing on where we take our life.

I have great memories of baseball, going with my dad to see Hank Aaron, Ed Matthews and Spahnie at Milwaukee County stadium. I only wish I still had my favorite T shirt. I have been looking for one like it for 30 years now.

Clutching his McDonalds burgers, A 10 year old baseball fan proudly wears his Milwaukee Braves T shirt while his sister, Mare, upon seeing this photograph will never forgive him for including it in this article. Cute curlers sis. (Author’s much loved family & photo – Summer of 1963)

The last time I talked with Bob was in 2007 at the Milwaukee Public Library where he and Bill Topitzes were giving a short talk on the American Association Brewers. While telling the group attending about the Brewers, players and Borchert Field, he shared with us his family photos which included a shot of him in his “Brewer” T shirt.

Borchert Field Bob Koehler (Summer of 1952)

What blew me away was that Bob still had his T shirt pictured in that photo. WoW!!! The only one I have ever seen. It made an immediate connection with me as I know how much my Brave T shirt meant to me since mine was lost to the rag bag so long ago. My last words to Bob that day were, if he ever got rid of it…etc.(which I doubted he ever would) at least to make sure it and the photo ends up in a local Museum where others can appreciate it.
It surely belongs there and I believe this “T” and it’s memory was an important part of why Bob loved baseball and it guided his life’s work. It was the “torch” that lit the path of his life.

I am happy to say that Thanks to Pam Koehler, I now can share this rare piece with readers.
And Bob, I promise, this one will always be accessible to anyone who wants to see it.

Pam thank you for passing his “Torch” on to me. I will treasure it for the rest of my life.