Newman Exhibit: The St. Louis Browns

A Browns jersey once worn by pitcher Al Gerheauser, 1948. Currently on display in the Newman Tower.

Olin Library’s newly completed Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration spotlights objects from the Washington University Libraries’ Julian Edison Department of Special Collections as well as loaned artifacts and exhibits curated by students and faculty.

In an effort to showcase some of our city’s history, Washington University Libraries has dedicated one of these new display cases to a temporary exhibit on the St. Louis Browns. This exhibit is made up of baseball memorabilia loaned to Washington University in St. Louis by Lewis A. Levey, Ed Wheatley, and the St. Louis Browns Historical Society.

Who Were the St. Louis Browns?

If you have lived in St. Louis for a long time, you might remember that before the 1950s, the city used to have two baseball teams: the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns. The Browns were a Major League Baseball team that competed in the American League. Originally the Milwaukee Brewers, this team took the name the Browns, the former name of the St. Louis Cardinals, when it moved to St. Louis in 1902.

A notebook featuring “Louie the Elf,” a logo that owner Bill Veeck introduced when he bought the team in 1951.

The Browns’ home field was Sportsman’s Park, a 30,000 spectator stadium built in 1881 in North St. Louis. In the early 1950s, this field was sold to the St. Louis Cardinals, who continued to play there until it was demolished in 1966. August Busch donated the land to the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, which still operates on the site today.

A photograph of Sportsman Park. A model of the park is currently on display in the Newman Tower.

The Browns played in St. Louis for over fifty years and even played through WWII. They ended up winning their only American League Pennant in 1944 while some league players were still at war. That same year, they made their only World Series appearance in the “Streetcar Series,” which they lost to rival Cardinals.

A souvenir program for the 1944 Worlds Series between St. Louis’ two rival teams, the Browns and the Cardinals.

The Browns Leave St. Louis

In 1951, Bill Veeck took ownership of the Browns,  and attempted to drive the Cardinals out of the city. It appeared he had won when Cardinal’s owner Fred Saigh was forced to sell the team in 1952, but the wealthy St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch company ended up saving the team. Less than a year later, Veeck sold the Browns, and the team moved to Baltimore, Maryland to become The Baltimore Orioles.

A photograph of Washington University alumnus Ed Mickelson who played for the St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Cardinals. Mickelson’s bat is currently on display in the Newman Tower.

The Browns’ last game in St. Louis was at Sportsman’s Park on September 27, 1953.  One of the players in this last game was Ed Mickelson, who had graduated from Washington University in St. Louis the year before. Ed Mickelson spent the majority of his eleven-year career in the minor leagues. He enjoyed brief stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, The St. Louis Browns and Chicago Cubs. Mickelson still lives in the St. Louis area. The bat he used during the Browns’ last game is currently on display in the Newman Tower exhibit. Also on display is a baseball from this last game, signed by all of the members of the team.

A baseball used during the Browns’ last game in Sportsman Stadium, signed by all of the players. September 27, 1953. This ball is currently on display in the Newman Tower.

More Information on St. Louis Baseball History

If you are interested in learning more about baseball history in the United States and the St. Louis region, please check out this finding aid compiled by the Washington University Local History Archives, which details items in our collections related to St. Louis baseball history and provides links to books and resources on the subject.

The Browns’ memorabilia, including baseball cards, decals, photographs, a model of Sportsman’s Park and a player jersey, mitt, bat, and signed ball, will be on display in the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration through the end of the year. Come and see these historic items while they are still here!

About the author

Rose is a PhD candidate in English and American Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. When she is not working on her dissertation on post-1945 asylum novels or blogging about the amazing materials in Special Collections, she fills much of her time reading, writing, gardening, and wrestling.