New Marquette Law School Sits Near the Site of Milwaukee’s First Major League Ballpark

eckstein-renderingIt is a little known fact that Eckstein Hall will occupy part of the site of Milwaukee’s first major league baseball park. The park, which was used during the 1878 season, lay to the east and south of the new law school, and were it still there, the windows of Eckstein would provide a perfect view into the facility.

Major League Baseball first came to Milwaukee in November of 1877 when the West End Club of Milwaukee was admitted to the two-year old National League. As a member of the professional League Alliance the previous season, the Milwaukee club had played at its own park at 34th and State, but once it was admitted to the National League—already accepted as the premier baseball league in the United States—its board of directors decided to build a new park closer to downtown.

The new park was constructed on a site on the opposite side of Clybourn from Eckstein Hall which had been used the previous year as the grounds for the Milwaukee Cricket Club. The park itself extended from 10th and Clybourn in a southwesterly direction to Clermont (12th) Street.

The new facility opened on May 14, 1878, with a seating capacity of approximately 4000. In its first home game Milwaukee, off to a slow start with a 1-5-1 record after games in Cincinnati and Indianapolis, knocked off the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Reds, 8-5. The next day’s Milwaukee Daily News carried a detailed account of the game including the following observations: “The weather was all that could be asked, and the crowd in attendance was large. The best classes of our people were represented, and many ladies graced the occasion by their presence. The home club appeared in splendid condition, and were clad in their gray uniform. The Cincinnati boys were exceptionally fine-looking, and made a very jaunty appearance in their white uniforms.”

In its second game, played on the 16th, the locals beat Cincinnati a second time, 12-8, and climbed out of last place for the first time that season. The team unfortunately lost its next three home games before defeating Indianapolis 10-7 on May 25 to close out its initial home stand with a 3-3 record.

Alas, the 1878 season turned out to be anything but a success for Milwaukee. After the May 25 victory, the team lost 37 of its next 48 games and never won more than two games in a row. It finished with a 15-45-1 record, good for last place in the six-team league. Even more disappointing was the team’s home attendance which declined as the season progressed, and as residents of the Cream City lost interest in their losing nine. Poor attendance let the team to reschedule a number of its home games in the parks of its opponent in July and August, and by the end of the season the club had played ten more games on the road than at home.

Although the team was able to fulfill its on the field commitments to the National League, it was clearly teetering toward bankruptcy when it completed play with a 4-3 home field victory over Providence on September 14. In December, the team was expelled from the National League for failing to meet its financial obligations, and in January of 1879, the park’s “grand stands, seats, fences, etc.” were sold at a sheriff’s sale to satisfy an unpaid judgment of $135.61. The park itself was used by amateur teams for the next several years before apparently being abandoned as new facilities became available in the city.

Milwaukee baseball historian Denis Pagot’s detailed account of Milwaukee’s first major league ballpark by can be found here.

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Legacies of Lincoln

legacies-of-lincolnThis year marks both the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the sesquicentennial of his visit to Milwaukee to speak at the Wisconsin State Fair. (Lincoln’s Milwaukee speech, delivered September 30, 1859, is available here.) To commemorate these events, Marquette University Law School, together with the Department of History, will host a conference entitled “Legacies of Lincoln.” This conference, occurring on October 1 & 2, promises to be a very fine event.

First, on Thursday, October 1, at the Alumni Memorial Union, the History Department’s annual Klement Lecture will be delivered by Allen C. Guelzo, Professor of Civil War Era Studies and Professor of History at Gettysburg College. Professor Guelzo’s Klement Lecture will address “Colonel Utley’s Emancipation: The Strange Case of President Lincoln and His Bid to Become a Slaveowner.” The lecture will start at 7 p.m., preceded by a reception beginning at 6 p.m.

Second, on Friday, October 2, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Law School, the conference will feature three panels variously addressing aspects of Lincoln’s career and legacy:

  • Lincoln and Politics”: Heather Cox Richardson, University of Massachusetts–Amherst, will be joined on the panel by Alison Clark Efford and James Marten, both of Marquette University.
  • Lincoln and the Constitution”: Michael Les Benedict, The Ohio State University, will participate in a panel that will include Stephen Kantrowitz, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Kate Masur, Northwestern University.
  • Lincoln as Lawyer”: Mark E. Steiner, South Texas College of Law and author of An Honest Calling: Lincoln’s Law Practice, will speak, along with Joseph A. Ranney, DeWitt Ross & Stevens, and Thomas L. Shriner, Jr., Foley & Lardner, both of whom are adjunct faculty at the Law School.

Advance registration is required for the conference, which is free except for lawyers seeking 4.5 hours of CLE credit ($40). Conference information and a link to the registration page are available here. Particular thanks to Professor Dan Blinka for his work in helping to organize this conference and to Professor Jim Marten, chair of the History Department, for making common cause with the Law School in leading the conference. I hope that many of you will register and join us.

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Law Professors Reflect on Brown v. Board of Education

phoebewilliamsThe United States Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education is without question one of the most significant cases in modern constitutional law.  It was also a defining event in the lives of a generation of American law teachers.  Vanderbilt University Press has recently published Law Touched Our Hearts: A Generation Remembers Brown v. Board of Education (2009). The book, edited by Professors Mildred Robinson and Richard Bonnie of the University of Virginia, contains forty essays, each written by a law professor who discusses the way that his or her life was affected by the Brown decision.

The forty contributors vary considerably by gender, race, and ethnicity.  A majority, but only a majority, grew up in states where legally segregated schools existed at the time of the Brown decision.  Some are old enough to have remembered the day that the decision was handed down; others were born after it was already the law of the land.  But all, to one extent or another, believe that their personal and professional lives have been profoundly shaped by the Brown decision.

I read Law Touched Our Hearts with great interest.

Although I am too young to remember the actual announcing of the Brown decision — it was handed down two weeks before my second birthday — it was clearly a defining event in my life.  In 1956, my family moved from Giles County, Virginia, where I was born, to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.  Two years earlier, after an attempt to integrate the White Sulphur schools in response to Brown, the town and nation witnessed the first post-Brown, anti-integration riot in the United States which led the county school board to cancel the integration experiment after only one week.  In 1956, integration occurred a second time, this time as the result of a federal court order.  My mother started teaching at White Sulphur Elementary that fall, and when I started school there two years later the fate of integrated education seemed anything but certain.  In 1959, we moved back to Virginia where the schools were completely segregated, and I experienced integration a second time in 1964, when Giles County decided to voluntarily close its black schools and incorporate the entire black and white population into a single school system.  (Incredibly, Giles County was the first county in Virginia to do this.)

I was also interested in Law Touched Our Hearts because eight of the contributors are good friends of mine.  I can say, though, without fear of contradiction, that the most moving and most poignant essay in the entire collection is the one written by my Marquette colleague Phoebe Williams.  Phoebe’s essay, titled “Segregation in Memphis,” tells the story of her experiences as an 8-year old school child in segregated Memphis schools when the Brown decision was handed down.  Although the Brown edict was to be adopted with “all deliberate speed,” the “promises of Brown,” as Phoebe puts it “remained unrealized” in Memphis.  There had been no school integration in Memphis when Phoebe graduated from high school in 1963, and there would be none for years to come.  Her first experience with integrated education came when she enrolled at Marquette as an undergraduate.

Phoebe’s essay wonderfully captured the spirit of optimism that arose with the handing down of the Brown decision, as well as the disappointment that accompanied the failure of southern states to live up to its mandates.

I was already familiar with much of Phoebe’s account because of an appearance she made several years ago in a class on the History of the Civil Rights Movement that I was teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences.  I invited Phoebe to come speak to the class about her experiences growing in the era of segregation.  The students in the class were riveted by her presentation, even though most were northerners and had been born more than two decades after the Brown decision.  Many students later told me that Phoebe’s presentation was the highlight of the class.

I strongly recommend Law Touched Our Hearts to anyone interested in the history of civil rights in the United States, but I insist that anyone with any sort of Marquette connection should read Phoebe Williams’ contribution to the collection (pp. 123-134).

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