Summer is almost here and with it comes a lot of baseball and fine beer. After all the two go hand and hand. So lets visit a local baseball team from the past, that was closely related to the beer industry. During the early 1900s baseball was played everywhere and by everybody even women! There were often police ordinances established to prevent youngsters from playing ball in the streets in towns and cities across the area. Many businesses had their own teams, sometimes comprised of employees while others had experienced players on their teams.
Several Breweries in the Northern Kentucky area aside from being in the beer making business also dabbled in the world of baseball. Breweries such as the Bavarian Brewing Company, Heidelberg Brewery and the George Wiedemann Brewing Company all at one point in time fielded baseball clubs. The Wiedemann Club and Heidelberg club played around the same time and even faced each other on several occasions. The most prominent though was the Wiedemann Baseball Club also known as the ‘Brewers’ They were a Semi-Pro team that played baseball in Newport, Kentucky. According to team letterhead from 1909 the club was organized sometime in 1903.
The above letterhead from the August “Garry” Hermann papers obtained from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Hermann owned the Cincinnati Reds from 1902 to 1927. He also had a stint as the president of the National Baseball Commission. This particular letterhead was part of a note sent to Hermann from Wiedemann manager Arthur Nieman. Notice how the letter head proclaims the club as being leaders in Semi-Professional Baseball.
While researching the club between 1903 and 1907 other than a few game announcements and outcomes not many details were found. Prior to 1908 they played in various ball parks in Newport and Bellevue. This post is not a definitive history of the Wiedemann Baseball Club by any means. One of the earliest rivals of the club was a team from Covington called the Blues (not to be confused with the Blue Sox that played in Covington from May to June in 1913). The two teams met on many occasions over the years, victory often dictated who would host the series opener the following year. Additionally in 1905 one of their earlier seasons the club met a Cincinnati Police team at Anderson Ferry. The Brewers enjoyed many great rivalries with local teams including the Cincinnati Shamrocks and a club from Cynthiana Kentucky. The Wiedemann club primarily played on Sundays and played teams from all over, including teams from Louisville, Indiana, Covington, foreign teams, All-Star teams, even teams comprised of women. Rain outs were always a factor and games were often played into early November. The club was often referred to in the local newspapers as one of the finest semi-pro teams around. Their early success led to a big change for the club for the 1908 season.
In 1908 Wiedemann Ball Park was built in a lot located along the Licking River between 10th and 11th streets along Lowell street. This seems to be about the time the club gained its popularity amongst the baseball circuit which would last until about the 1920s. The opening game at the new park was originally scheduled for May 8th, 1908, but rains wiped out any chance of playing on the new field. The opener was rescheduled for May 17th 1908. The club dropped the home opener 7-6 in a contest against the Shamrocks of Cincinnati.
1908 was an exciting season for the Wiedemann Club, they were described as one of the best teams in the Kentucky Indiana Ohio League (K.I.O.). Aside from playing other K.I.O. teams like Covington Kentucky and Dayton Ohio. They played independent traveling teams and even a professional team. Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to the club occurred on August 12th 1908 when the Cincinnati Reds crossed the Ohio and played the Brewers at Wiedemann Ballpark. The Reds won the game 7-2 slugging 3 home runs in the 4th inning of the game. Two of the homers came off consecutive pitchers described by the Enquirer as a first in Reds history. The Reds totaled 10 hits of the Brewers in the win. The Brewers hit one homerun off Reds pitcher Jean Dubec and totaled 9 hits. The two clubs were scheduled to play again in October 1910 but rain prevented the game from being played according to a report from the Kentucky Post. Another interesting connection with the Reds happened in the March of 1912. Charles Applegate the manager of the Wiedemann club sent a letter to August “Garry Hermann” about using Wiedemann Park for practices and exhibition games. Why would Applegate have done this? After the Reds 1911 season their home field Palace of the Fans was demolished to make way for Redland Field (later known as Crosley Field) which was still being built prior to the start of the Reds 1912 season.
A few weeks later in September the Wiedemann club met the Weiss All-Stars in a novelty game as it was advertised as such in the Enquirer. Just who were the Weiss All-Stars? This team featured as many claimed the best female pitcher in the United States Ms. Alta Weiss. A large crowd gathered to watch Ms. Weiss pitch. She gave up five hits to the Weidemann club before moving to first base for the remainder of the game. The relief pitcher that took over for her gave up 10 hits. The Weidemann club scored 6 runs on Weiss over the first 2 innings. The Brewers would win the game 12-5.
In December 1908 Charles Applegate was named manager of the club. Applegate had played for various teams in Newport and the greater Cincinnati area. He was considered a great baseball mind and had friends all across the amateur and semi-pro ranks. He would go on to manage the club until sometime in the 1920s. He was also considered a player/manager often playing centerfield for the club.
In May 1909 Wiedemann Park faced a Cuban invasion. A travelling team from Cuba that had defeated many professional clubs including the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Athletics played against the Brewers. The two clubs faced off in Newport on May 30th. The Cuban pitcher Mendez held the Brewers to only two hits both coming off the bat of first baseman Artie Meyer. The Cuban club won the game 5-0. The Cuban team had many return trips to Wiedemann Park winning many games over the Brewers.
On July 4th that summer the Brewers played a double-header against the Nebraska Indians a barnstorming team that played all over the country. The club was comprised of a number of Native Americans. The two clubs split the double header with Wiedemann dropping the first game and winning the second game. The Nebraska club would become frequent visitors to Wiedemann Park. In August 1909 the Wiedemanns added former Red pitcher Noodles Hahn to the club. Hahn pitched for the Reds from 1899-1905 and for the New York Highlanders in 1906 before leaving the major league ranks. In his debut for the Wiedemann club he allowed 6 hits and struck out 9 batters. Wiedemann won 6-3 over the Shamrocks a team he had once played for. Things changed for the club after the 1910 season. Manager Applegate made the decision to drop out of the “leagues” and play strictly independent baseball. In a January 16, 1911 article from the Enquirer he said league ball was not good financially and fans wanted to see their favorites play.
Applegate brought in teams from all over the region and world to play his club, including a Chinese team and return games against the Cuban team and Nebraska Indians. A game in August 1912 featured one of the game’s greatest pitchers, Cy Young. In a charity game benefiting Eagle Lodge in Newport, Young agreed to play for the Eagle All-Star club. Wiedemann won the game 6-2. As a fan of baseball I find it amazing that the great Cy Young played in Newport, Kentucky. The Post reported that it was the largest crowd ever at Wiedemann Park with 3,506 coming out to see Young pitch. In another double header feature in Newport the Brewers played West Covington winning 2-0. The second game welcomed the Texas Bloomer Girls. The ladies played the Brewers to a tie before the game was called. The club routinely scheduled games against “all-star” teams made up of former major and minor leaguers. One such team was led by Harry Steinfeldt. Steinfeldt played for both the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. He was the third baseman in the famous Tinker-Evers-Chance infield for the Cubs (read the poem about the trio here http://www.baseball-almanac.com/poetry/po_sad.shtml).
The Wiedemann club had tremendous success on the independent circuit. The 1913 season featured more of the same, games against local clubs and more traveling clubs. Another double header in May saw them facing off against a women’s team from Covington. The Covington Girls defeated the Brewers 6-2. The Kentucky Post recap of the game from May 19, 1913 described a one armed player named Heitman. The Kentucky Post said ,“He got a triple and double in four times at bat and made four grand catches of fly balls”. We can’t be sure if the team was a mixture of men and women but the article suggests it. The Chinese University team from Hawaii also challenged the Brewers in 1913. The Chinese team won the game 6-1. Errors were abundant as the Kentucky Post described, which was something that many articles had never mentioned about the Wiedemann club. Additionally games were played against the Nebraska Indians and a team from the Philippine’s. During a stretch in 1913 the Brewers had won 9 straight games and began calling on teams to challenge them for the semi-pro championship of Cincinnati. At the end of August they claimed the championship of Northern Kentucky defeating two teams in one day for the title.
In 1914 big changes came to the club. Local business owners in Newport sought to establish a team in the Ohio State League. The plan was for the new club to play at Wiedemann Park and entrance into the new league meant that the existing Wiedemann team would most likely fold. The venture did not last very long, in fact the Newport Brewers left town transferring to Paris, KY in a shorter amount of time than the Blue Sox did a year prior in Covington. The Wiedemann club never really folded and continued playing under a new manager and continued their winning ways. After the 1914 season the story of the club gets a little sketchy as coverage of amateur baseball in local press is sparse. Below is a photo of the club from April 1915 that appeared in the Kentucky Times Star. The club was reorganized and now managed by Sid Berte who had managed clubs in Cincinnati.
At some point after 1914 or 1915 the club found itself without a true home park. Wiedemann Park was purchased by Andrews Steel in 1916 and the company planned to put their own team on the field. Wiedemann played much of the 1916 season and the entirety of 1917 playing games on the road. They traveled all over Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana and even played games in Chicago. 1917 saw many local semi-pro players drafted to fight in the Great War (World War I). Several players that had played for the Wiedemann Club at one time or another headed to Europe. While players left for war other players moved up through the local ranks. One local guy that had gained quite a following in Newport was Joseph “Cy” Seibert. Cy joined the Wiedemann club in 1917. During 1916 while playing for another Newport team he batted around .400 for the season.
Many players wore the Wiedemann uniform on the diamond over the years. In a 1917 Kentucky Post Article Manager Applegate said that club records showed that they had played more than 500 games (winning many of them an official record is unknown) and that well over 200 players had put on the Wiedemann uniform. Of those players a handful of them had played in the minor and major leagues. Players like George “Admiral” Schlei who at one time played for the Reds, of course Noodles Hahn who we mentioned earlier, Jesse Tannehill a former Red and his brother Lee who played for the White Sox and numerous other former major leaguers. Players for teams like the Wiedemann club often went to new teams mid-season. Managers often released players because they found someone better from another team. During the 1912 season a pitcher named Louis Thomas for the Brewers was recommended to Connie Mack manager of the Philadelphia Athletics. Thomas was a spitball artist. Spitball is a term used in baseball to describe a ball that has been doctored by the pitcher before the delivery before it was banned, generally the pitcher would spit on the ball making it heavier and altering its delivery. He was one of the best pitchers the Wiedemann club had ever seen. He averaged 10 to 14 strikeouts per game and during the 1911 season and had a record of 18-2 according to a July 23, 1912 Kentucky Post article. Thomas was brought in for a tryout for the Athletics, however baseball-reference.org does not list any statistics for him or ever playing with the Athletics. Leading us to believe he never joined the Athletics. The site does list a Louis Thomas playing for some minor league teams in Worcester, MA and New Haven CT in 1913 and 1914 that could possibly be him. Despite their dazzling play on the diamond baseball for many of the guys that put on a Wiedemann uniform was a secondary job. They worked as salesmen, machinists and even at the Wiedemann Brewery itself. Ray Arnzen who pitched for the 1946 Buckeye League champion team was a bottler at the brewery. Ed Arnzen who also played for the Brewers worked at the brewery as well. A third Arnzen, Stan also played for the club but did not work for the brewery. While unknown it is likely that more players especially in the latter years of the clubs existence worked for the brewery.
Not much was found about the club during the 1920s and 1930s. The club did play games in 1922 and 1924, but additional information was not found. We know the club won the Buckeye League Championship in 1946 and played again in 1947. They could have continued playing after 1947, but amateur baseball coverage seemingly disappeared overnight making way for coverage of softball leagues. At some point softball leagues grew more popular than amateur baseball leagues (a trend still popular today). The emergence of softball leagues may have led to the downfall of the teams like the Wiedemann Brewers. We don’t know when the club played their last game it could have been 1947 or in the years following.
Newport, Kentucky was the site of some fantastic baseball during the height of the Wiedemann clubs existence. Many baseball legends including Cy Young and played the national past time in Newport. Yet one thing never happened in Newport or even Covington for that matter. With Wiedemann being considered at the top of the class of semi-professional baseball they never played against the Covington Blue Sox. In 1913 as part of the upstart Federal League the Blue Sox had a short run in Covington before relocating to Kansas City. Had the Blue Sox stayed in Covington it is a possibility the two clubs would have met on the diamond either at Federal Park in Covington or at Wiedemann Park in Newport either at the end of the 1913 Federal League Season or sometime during the 1914 campaigns. One of the long time Wiedemann players Eddie Cefalu briefly played with the Blue Sox before they left town. Call it a dream matchup, but I for sure would have spent the 25 cents on grand stand tickets to catch this epic battle for supremacy of baseball in Northern Kentucky.
From what little has been uncovered about the Wiedemann club they were without a doubt one of the jewels of the diamond in Northern Kentucky baseball history. The Kenton County Library has an extensive newspaper archive featuring the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kentucky Post and Kentucky Times-Star all of which were used to help research this article.
If any of our readers out there have any additional information about the club, or if you have a relative that may have played for the team we would like to hear about it. If you have pictures or stories to tell contact us at Luke.Groeschen@kentonlibrary.org
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Local History and Genealogy Department