April 24, 2018

The First Police-Fire Baseball Game in Milwaukee

April 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Many cities have annual Policemen vs. Firemen baseball games. Here are the details of the first such game played in Milwaukee. My guess is a good many followed these same lines.

In June 1890 it was announced a baseball game between teams of the Milwaukee Police Department and Fire Department would be played to benefit the relief funds of the two departments, reported to be running rather low at the time. The game was to be played at Athletic Park—home of the minor league Brewers—at 7th and Chambers Street on Saturday, August 2. That the contest was to be a good natured affair could be seen by all, as the early notice stated patrol wagons, special surgeons and undertakers would be provided for the game. Later the police chief said he authorized his department’s surgeon to be on the ground with a large medicine chest “well filled with arnica and other remedies.” The fire chief would send Engine No.4 to the park “to be used in playing on any one that may become hot about the rulings, etc.”

General admission tickets were priced at 50 cents, with reserved grandstand seats extra. Two weeks before the game tickets were reported to be selling “like hot cakes,” and were bolstered by the E.P. Allis Company purchasing 100 tickets, paying $1.00 for each. Several other large institutions proposed to give employees the afternoon off to attend the game. There were to be no free passes to the game, “and for once in their lives the city officials paid good, honest currency, to get in, just like an ordinary citizen. The strange and unusual performance of paying their way was a great shock to some of them, but no serious effect resulted.” The morning of the game it was reported about 5,000 tickets had been sold.

Officer Anton Falch was named captain of the Police team and Lt. Jacob Doll the captain of the Fire Department nine. For uniforms the firemen’s nine picked blue trousers and shirts, red caps, belts and stockings. The police nine wore white trousers and shirts, blue caps, belts and stockings. The teams’ official names were reported in the Milwaukee Sentinel as “Water-squirters” and “Run-me-in’s.”

Although it was stated both teams had a number of excellent players, Patrolman Anton Falch was perhaps the biggest name from the two teams. At 6-6 and 220 pounds he no doubt stood out. But he also had the most baseball experience on the diamond. He was a catcher in 1882 and 1883 with the local semi-professional Arctics, the club that claimed the Wisconsin championship in the latter year. In 1884 Falch was the change catcher for the Milwaukee club of the minor Northwestern League. When that club joined the Union Association—a third major league—in September, Falch appeared in five games, batting .111. Falch again played with the minor league Milwaukees in the Northwestern League in 1885. His professional baseball career ended when he was hired by the Police Department on September 2, 1885.

At first it was reported Police Chief Janssen and Fire Chief James Foley would be the umpires, and “as a matter of precaution and self-protection, occupy an iron cell from the Central station, which will be transported to the grounds and placed in an elevated position.” However, it was soon decided Mayor Peck would umpire the game and the two chiefs would sit on the bench—Chief Foley with an axe and Chief Janssen with a club. If these two men were needed as coaches it was admitted the tools of their trade could become dangerous, “but it will increase the chances of seeing a good game.” Unfortunately Mayor Peck planned to “be revelling [sic] ‘mid the weird and romantic spot of the National Yellowstone park” on the day of the game. The mayor sent a letter of apology, noting he knew nothing about the game of baseball, but promised to bring back a grizzly bear “to be placed on the police force to act as a policeman in a bad district,” and a geyser for Chief Foley to be used for fires.” A new umpire had to be found. The services of William Furlong were secured. Billy Furlong, a successful lawyer connected to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, had been an infielder in the mid 1870s on the first Milwaukee all professional West End Club. He had also umpired in the National League, so was a competent choice for the arbiter of this game. Furlong got into the fun, spreading a report he had taken out a $10,000 accident policy, in addition to purchasing a wire vest worn by some police officers, after accepting the position.

The captains of the two nines set about putting their teams together, of course “desirous of selecting only the very best men.” Naturally, there was great controversy before the game. Chief Foley accused his police counterpart of putting a janitor on his team [David Milbrath, the janitor at the Central Police Station on North Broadway], as “he didn’t have policemen enough who know what a ball and bat are.” As it turned out Milbrath did not play.

Going into the game the firemen were confident of a win, especially when they heard the “ever-alert” detective, Dennis Sullivan, would be in right field. But Detective Sullivan only smiled at this, telling the Milwaukee Sentinel reporter, while “touching” his partner for a cigar: “Their name is mud, sure!” As it turned out, Sullivan was not on the police team. But word on the street favored the smoke-eaters. Fire Department Secretary George Glassner told the Sentinel he had counted fifty men walking around town the night before with lanterns “trying to find a solitary person who might be willing to bet on the Run-me-ins.” Bets of 10 to 5 on the firemen found few takers. The coppers said nothing while “preparing to whitewash their friends from across the street in the most approved style.”

The contest was one of the best attended games in the city, packing both the grandstand and the bleachers at Athletic Park. Many public officials attended the game. Nearly all the members of the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners were in the stands, as were almost all the city’s aldermen. Several members of the School Board were on hand, and ex-President of the board, George Obermannn, got into hot water for attempting to corrupt the press. “He actually had the temerity to go into the reporters’ stand and ask the scribes to refrain from any little pleasantries or scintillations of humor at the expense of his friend Chief Janssen” and his players. Reportedly over half of the four to five thousand in attendance were ladies. Also at the game were several members of the Chicago fire department.

Umpire Furlong yelled “Play b-a-ll” at 3:45. The firemen went to bat first. Jake Doll hit the ball so hard off patrolman William Matheus it shook “the grand stand and came near causing an earthquake panic among the ladies.” Lt. Doll settled for a double. The next batter, John Dever, failed to bring him in. The fire department captain “hit the umpire and every thing else except the ball.” The ‘Water-squirters’ came up empty in the inning. The police scored in the bottom of the first off fire department pitcher Allie Ries. The pitching style of Ries was described in the Milwaukee Sentinel:


“Pitcher Ries had a way of tying himself into an incipient knot and then sending it forth with the old don’t-know-whether-it-came-from-the-head-or-feet movement.” His drop was his best pitch, which “generally struck about two feet under when they hit it.”

The fire department nine tied the score in the top of the second inning, and the police scored two in the bottom of the frame to give the ‘Run-em-ins’ a 3 to 1 lead. But then the roof caved in. In the top of the third the firemen scored twelve times, adding six more in the fourth. The coppers could not keep pace, and after four innings the score stood 19 to 11. Policeman Matheus found the bombarding too severe, and “went out into the solitude of the field,” while Officer George Schoepperle took over the twirling. The game ended with a 27 to 20 win for the fire department nine.

There were some players who stood out during the game. Fireman James McMahon stole five bases, “generally finishing off his runs by coiling himself up like a reel of hose and rolling on to the base.” Officer Gustave Marx “covered himself with glory, and earned a pension” with a phenomenal one-handed catch of a fly ball. Anton Falch and Fire Captain Andy White hit home runs. Allie Ries struck out twelve policemen. The box score of the game from the Milwaukee Sentinel**:

Firemen AB R 1b SH PO A E
Jacob Doll, c 3 4 2 0 9 3 1
John Dever, ss 7 2 1 0 4 2 1
Andrew White, 1b 6 4 2 0 6 1 4
John Wolf, 2b 6 1 1 0 1 3 3
O’Neil, rf 5 4 2 0 0 0 1
Allie Ries, p 7 4 4 1 3 1 0
James McMahon, 3b 6 4 4 0 3 3 0
William Coughlin, cf 5 1 2 0 0 0 0
Mathew Delaney, lf 5 3 1 0 1 1 2
Totals 50 27 19 1 27 14 12
Policemen AB R 1b SH PO A E
William Matheus, p & cf 6 1 0 0 1 1 2
Charles Kreft ss & 3b 4 3 2 1 3 2 5
Gustave Marx, 2b 5 3 1 0 2 3 2
Anton Falch, c 6 3 3 1 6 7 0
Joseph Komarek, 1b 5 2 0 0 10 1 1
Robert Flood, 3b & ss 5 3 3 0 2 0 3
Geo. Schoepperle, lf& p 5 1 2 0 0 1 2
Partrick Gleason, cf & lf 5 2 0 0 0 0 0
Albert Genthe, rf 4 2 2 0 0 0 0
Totals 45 20 13 3 24 15 15
Score by innings
Firemen   0 1 12 6 2 2 1 3 *   — 27
Policemen   1 2 3 5 1 0 6 0 2   — 20

Earned runs: Firemen, 6; Policemen, 2. Two-base hits: Doll, Ries, Kreft, Schoepperle. Three basehits: White, McMahon. Home runs: White, Falch. Bases stolen: Doll, Dever, Wolf (2), Ries, McMahon (5), Delaney, Matheus, Kreft (3), Marx, Komarek, Gleason, Genthe. Doube play: Dever to McMahon. Bases on Balls: Firemen, 8; Policemen, 3. Hit by pitched ball: Fireman, 1; Policemen, 2. Struck out: by Ries, 12; by Matheus, 5; by Schoepperle, 2. Passed balls: Doll, 4; Falch, 1. Wild pitches: Ries, 2; Schoepperle, 1. Time, 2:20. Umpire, Billy Furlong.

** On many occasions in the box score and articles, both leading up to the game and of the game, names of members of both departments are spelled in various ways. The names used in this box score are spelled according to the City Directory of 1890. In the case of O’Neil there were three members of the Fire Department with this last name—Edward, (Capt.) Joseph, and (Lt.) Michael. No report in any paper gives a first name or rank for this player.

The fire department team had been confident of victory, claiming they “were not even as much worried at the prospects of [the] game as a telephone alarm would have made them.” They had even prepared for the victory. A number of slips of red cardboard bearing the legend “We are the people!” had been printed up before the game. After the game every member of the department wore one of the slips in his hat “and as the crestfallen policemen filed out of the park, their gaze was met by a long line of their rivals, each one wearing the taunting slip where it was bound to be seen.”

The Milwaukee Sentinel admitted the firemen had not played the finest game ever seen at Athletic Park, but had little good to say about the Police Department team. The paper thought those who represented the police should “be arrested for assault and battery on the national game of baseball,” and Chief Janssen “might also be disciplined for making promises under false pretenses” for promising the public his players—“selected with the greatest care from among the huskiest and most gigantic forces”—would play ball.

The game actually was a success, as it “readily evinced the friendly feelings of Milwaukeeans in general for their police and fire departments.” Just as important, about $5,000 was cleared on the game, to be divided between the benevolent funds of the departments.


One Response to “The First Police-Fire Baseball Game in Milwaukee”
  1. E. Klobuchar says:

    My father played for the Police dept in the 70’s and I would love to copy any pictures, articles or ??? if anyone should have any.

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