Greendale Panther Baseball Flourishes on Brinkman Field
Week#55: Recreation area set aside by early planners still used for baseball. Brinkman Field named after First Village President.
History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.
History and Folklore!
"It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!" That was the catchphrase of Chicago Cubs great Ernie Banks who loved to play baseball. After spending a short time with the Greendale Panthers players and coaches this past week, I can tell you they exude that same joy of the game. Kyle Senft’s mom Karen said he eats, sleeps and drinks baseball. I’m sure that would be a common refrain from all the moms and dads of these players. But that’s not really a complaint. The moms, dads, brothers, sisters and cousins all come out to the ballgames, at least for a playoff game like the one Friday night.
By virtue of a regular season record of 15-14-1 the Panthers were seeded fourth in Sectional #4 of the WIAA State Tournament. They won the first game against Greenfield on Tuesday night 6 to 5, advancing to round two for the game against the Whitnall Falcons. The game started out with a bang. The first Whitnall batter on the first pitch socked a home run. Yikes. But that’s when Freshman pitcher Zach Miller took control. He retired the next three batters and Greendale came up to bat.
Ben Moore singled up the middle, Zach Henderson reached on a walk, and then Senior Kyle Senft doubled to left center for the first RBI of the game. By the time the bottom of the first inning was over the Panthers led 6 to 1. After that the pitching and defense were excellent. One key play came in the top of the fifth when Senior Nate VanElls fielded a ground ball and started a double play that ended a Whitnall rally. With the score at the end of the fifth inning, Greendale 9 and Whitnall 5, Nate Van Ells took over for winning pitcher Zach Miller and shut down the Falcons for the final two innings. This win was a total team effort. Baseball sure is fun when your team wins.
Greendale baseball has a rich tradition. Hall of Fame coach Robin Schrank coached teams to the State Championship in 1980, 1987 and 1995. First year head coach Brian Johnsen appears to be ready to take a run at the championship in the next few years. The team is young, with only two seniors graduating. Brian is a physical education teacher at Canterbury Grade School (last 9 years), and has previous high school coaching experience of 12 years.
Baseball is obviously in Brian’s blood. He was a first team all-state player at Franklin High School (boo!) under coach Jim Hughes, the all-time winningest baseball coach in NCAA history. He played collegiately at Ripon College and Carroll University. He coaches “because of my passion for baseball, and for developing student athletes into not only great baseball players, but better people as they move on after high school”. The two seniors are perfect examples of that desire.
Senior third baseman/pitcher Kyle Senft will be heading to UW-Oshkosh and plans to play baseball. In high school baseball takes a special kind of commitment. The season stretches into the middle of the summer, particularly as the team moves on in the tournament. Between practices and games the players spend at least 20 hours per week on baseball. But that doesn’t mean cutting the academics short. Kyle is planning on a career in Engineering, so you know he succeeded in his high school studies as well. Parents Ken and Laura can be proud of their son’s accomplishments.
Senior shortstop/pitcher Nate VanElls has received a baseball scholarship to Northwest Missouri State. He hopes to have a career in conservation but also plans on studying history. I asked him what he liked about Greendale High School. He said the camaraderie of the kids, the great teachers, the good academics, and the small class sizes. Nate’s mom Laura is somewhat happy to be almost done washing his dirty uniform. From what I saw Nate likes to play in the dirt. But Laura and Nate’s dad Mark must be having bittersweet memories as the four years of Greendale baseball get closer to the end. They will certainly miss the wins and losses of Nate’s years in high school.
Baseball is a great team sport, and it flourishes in Greendale because of the support of the Greendale parents, the Greendale athletic department, the Home Run Club, and the Greendale fans. All I can say is ‘Let’s play two’!
Greendale Baseball Varsity Roster:
Freshman- Justin Povlick, Zach Miller
Sophomores- Jacob Hagmayer, Zack Henderson, Colin Butkiewicz, Mitchell Brees, Ben Moore
Juniors- Justin Povlick, Grant Rezash, Joe Ksobiech, Anthony Jennaro, Aaron Tajnai, Thomas Schuerman, Joe Grabowski;
Seniors- Kyle Senft, Nate VanElls;
Greendale Baseball Coaches:
Head Coach Brian Johnsen
Assistants Mark Bombien and Kyle Johnsen
Junior Varsity Coach Rich Galewski
Freshman Coach Brian Desalvo
People, Past & Present!
Greendale baseball is played on Brinkman Field. Below is the story behind the name.
In May of 1938 when renters starting moving in, the Federal Government owned Greendale but the community was subject to two governing jurisdictions, the Town of Greenfield and the Town of Franklin. Three months later, on August 4, 1938 a group of residents filed a petition to incorporate as a village. The petition was granted in September. Then on October 22nd the residents voted in favor of the incorporation and on November 1, 1938 it officially became the Village of Greendale.
After becoming a Village, officers had to be elected. On November 22, 1938 a caucus was held to nominate a slate of candidates. For Village President George Brinkman was nominated to run against Charles DeGrace. One of George Brinkman’s campaign promises if elected was the strict regulation of taverns, “so that you and I can take our babies in there and get whatever we want.” This was apparently met with laughter, and must have been somewhat persuasive as he was elected Village President on December 10, 1938. One of the first ordinances passed by the board approved the pay for the position of Village President at $6.25 per month. George Brinkman was re-elected Village President in 1939 and 1941.
Unfortunately, most of what I found out about the first Village President was from his obituary. He died on June 26, 1941 at the Soldiers Home Hospital after being ill for about one year. He was an ex-serviceman, a member of American Legion Post 416, and a member of the Masonic Lodge in Racine. He worked as a brakeman for the Milwaukee Road for 20 years. Comments in the Greendale Review from Village Manager Sherwood Reeder, Mayor of Milwaukee Carl Ziedler, Chief of Police Robert Taylor and others praised him as ‘Greendale’s First Citizen. They attributed the early success of the Village to his belief in clean government, his fairness and integrity.
In tribute to this beloved figure the Board of Trustees voted on July 1, 1941 to designate the recreational field south of Broad Street as the Brinkman Memorial Field. On November 9, 1941 a parade made up of Mrs. Brinkman and her three daughters, Village President Raymond Miller, Village Manager Walter Kroening, Rev. Mohrhoff, majorette Marilyn Zarnow, parade marshall Harvey Wegner, dignitaries, four American Legion Posts, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Greendale employees, Women’s Club, firemen, village organizations and several hundred residents marched from Village Hall to the south end of Broad Street. A ceremony was held and a plaque placed on a large boulder officially dedicated the recreation area as ‘George J. Brinkman Field’, near the current high school.
You may have driven on Southway countless times without noticing this boulder and the plaque on it. Some time when you have a few minutes pull into the parking lot by the ball field and walk along the sidewalk towards the high school. After about one hundred yards under the shade of several trees you’ll see the boulder and the plaque. It’s a simple monument that fittingly recognizes a man of historical importance to the success of the Village of Greendale.
But did you know?
The eligible voters for the first election on December 10, 1938 were approximately 1,100. George Brinkman was elected Village President by a vote of 470 to 82 for Charles DeGrace. Consequently 50 percent of the eligible voters cast votes. The other officials elected were: Helen Arndt, Clerk; Henry Radtke, Treasurer; Herman Mittag, Assessor; Alois Werner, Constable; Fabian Strong, Justice of Peace; and Trustees John Dean, Victor Jacoby, Florence Mackin, William Bosanko, Richard Willette, and Harold Botz.
Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:
Week#56 Answer – The recreation area directly at the south end of Broad Street is called George J Brinkman Field or ‘Brinkman Field’ for short. It was dedicated in the memory of the First Village President of the newly formed Village of Greendale.
Week#55 Question – What is the style of architecture called represented by the early public buildings in Greendale?
** Week #55 contributors Sally Chadwick, Greendale Historical Society, Kathleen Hart, Milwaukee Sentinel, Greendale Review, Brian Johnsen .