Borchert Field, home to Milwaukee professional baseball for over 60 years, was located between W. Burleigh, W. Chambers, N. 7th, and N. 8th Streets. Known originally as Athletic Park when it opened on May 20, 1888, the ballpark hosted the major league Brewers in 1891, the minor league Brewers from 1902 to 1952, the Negro National League Bears in 1923, and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Chicks in 1944. Marquette University and the NFL's Milwaukee Badgers and Green Bay Packers also played football at Borchert Field.
The rectangular wooden ballpark was renamed in 1927 following the death of Brewers owner Otto Borchert. It was the home field for such Hall of Famers as Al Simmons, Eddie Mathews, Bill Veeck, Casey Stengel, and Pete Hill, as well as Olympian Jim Thorpe. Milwaukee natives who played at Borchert field on their way to the majors included Happy Felsch, Joe Hauser, and Ken Keltner. Home runs often landed on porches across the street from the neighborhood ballpark, especially when Cooperstown legends such as Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson visited.
After completion of Milwaukee County Stadium and the arrival of the Braves in 1953, Borchert Field was demolished. Interstate 43 now passes through the site of Milwaukee's longest-lived professional ballpark.
The Milwaukee Bears Negro National League 1923
The Milwaukee Bears were a Negro National League team formed in 1923 to replace the Pittsburgh Keystones. The Bears drew many of their players from the disbanded Keystones roster as well as from the New Orleans Crescent Stars, an independent southern team. They played their home games at Athletic Park, later renamed Borchert Field, which stood four blocks west of this location.
The Milwaukee Bears were led by player-manager Joseph Preston "Pete" Hill. Hill was a star outfielder for the Chicago American Giants, and he later served as player-manager for the Detroit Stars and the Baltimore Black Sox. A prolific hitter, Hill was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.
While "barnstorming" teams featuring Negro League legends like James "Cool Papa" Bell drew sizable crowds on their occasional visits to Milwaukee, the Bears were hampered by scheduling conflicts at Borchert Field with the minor league Milwaukee Brewers and by a lack of consistent newspaper coverage. They compiled a losing record before disbanding in late July, well before the official end of their one and only season.