County Stadium helped to make Milwaukee Big League in 1953, but it nearly opened with a minor league tenant.
The Brewers had been Milwaukee’s home team for over a half-century when the Boston Braves relocated to the city, bringing Major League Baseball to Wisconsin for the first time since 1901. Those Brewers were minor leaguers, members of the American Association, and played their home games at Borchert Field on the city’s north side.
By 1950, with a number of east coast Major League clubs struggling, Milwaukee – which always gave the Brewers ample support – was seen as a potential destination for a team in need of a new hometown. That fall, ground was broken on Milwaukee County Stadium, a publicly-financed modern ballpark that, it was hoped, would lure a Major League baseball team and (just maybe) the NFL’s Packers out of Green Bay.
In the meantime, the new stadium secured a tenant in the minor league Brewers. After a number of construction delays, an opening date of July 24, 1952 was announced. The Brewers would have the privilege of playing in the minor’s most luxurious park until a Major League tenant was secured. Unfortunately, more delays pushed the opener back to April, 1953 and it now seemed that a big league team could be secured for the ballpark’s debut.
While the city chased the St. Louis Browns, who were in dire need of a new hometown, the Brewers prepared for an opener at the new stadium. Printed materials from the end of the 1952 season boasted of the new park even though the stadium’s backers were aghast at the idea of the park opening as the home of the Brewers. Over the winter, the Boston Braves, who owned the Brewers, opposed a Browns move to Milwaukee on the grounds that Milwaukee was too valuable a territory to surrender without a comparable market to which his Brewers could move.
Of course, no city could offer a brand new stadium for a minor league team, and the Braves’ objections were mostly to delay any action until they could orchestrate their own shift to Milwaukee. Meanwhile, the Brewers were forced to act as if they would actually open the season at County Stadium. Arrangements were made and tickets were printed but, just weeks before the season was set to open, the Braves move was approved and the Brewers were sent packing, relocated to Toledo to operate as the Mudhens.
This ticket, one of a few known of its kind, could have been exchanged for a ticket to the Braves opener at County Stadium (with an extra 75 cents to make up the difference in price) and would have allowed the bearer to see a great game in which the brand-new Milwaukee Braves topped the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on a walk-off homer by Bill Bruton.
Antique Milwaukee is a new Milwaukee Magazine web series that takes a closer look at objects and curiosities from around town that have a story to tell. We’ll reveal a piece of Milwaukee’s history through a new artifact in each installment.