Saturdays Suds: Baseball & Beer #52 – Gunther Beer

13 09 2014

My next “Saturday Suds” is one I’ve had as a “to-do” post for quite a while.  Over 2 years ago I did a post about National Bohemian, which was a sponsor for the Washington Senators for a few years and for the Baltimore Orioles for quite a while.  I learned of another beer that had advertised with the Orioles in the past.   Like the Knickerbocker beer from New York that I did last month – Gunther is a defunct brand.

Gunthers-Beer-Labels-Gunther-Brewing-Company_60453-1

Gunther Beer canBrewery: Gunther Brewing Company in Baltimore, MD

Beer:  Gunther Beer / Gunther Ale

Description:  Gunther’s main product was a lager style beer.  I can’t describe it since it’s been out of production for 40 years!

George Guenther moved from Bavaria to Baltimore in 1881 and started brewing beers shortly thereafter.  He operated his company under a few different names (most using the Gunther/Guenther surname) at first, and opened the main plant for Gunther Brewing Company in 1900 on Conkling Street in what is now Baltimore’s Canton Historic District.  Along with National Bohemian – these two breweries helped give this area the nickname “Brewer’s Hill”.

Making it through prohibition as a bottler and manufacturing company, Gunther was a popular local option along with Natty Boh.  Like many other local breweries, Gunther felt the squeeze in the 1950’s, eventually getting bought up by Hamm’s (a Minneapolis brewery), who discontinued the brand.  When Hamm’s couldn’t penetrate the Baltimore market, Gunther was sold it to Schaefer, who eventually discontinued it in the 1970’s.

Medium:  Like I said it’s defunct – but Gunther was an early proponent of selling beer in cans.

How it’s related to baseball:  Gunther was a beer sponsor for the Baltimore Orioles for quite some time.  Not only the Baltimore Orioles you know of today.  Prior to 1954, that franchise was the St. Louis Browns, and there was a minor league team of the International League that was sponsored by Gunther.

Gunther Orioles minor league

In 1954 when the Browns moved from St. Louis and became the Orioles, Gunther was one of the original sponsors.  There’s an interesting story regarding Gunther and Ernie Harwell, who was the Orioles first play-by-play announcer.  When Gunther became the primary sponsor in 1956, Harwell assumed he would be fired. But when he was meeting a Gunther agency man for lunch, their waiter, unaware who his customers were, asked them to sign a petition to keep Harwell.  The impression worked and Harwell stayed on for a few more years before moving to Detroit.

Gunther had a slogan for the relationship with the new team in town – “Get on the Oriole bandwagon with Gunther”.  They were a sponsor until 1960 when Hamm’s discontinued the product – there was a Gunther ad as the scoreboard sponsor in the outfield.

Gunther Baltimore Memorial Stadium

It went through two separate designs.  The second one had a light up option on the slogan – Happiest Hit in Beer – where the word “hit” would light up to display if the official scorer had ruled a play a hit or error.

Gunther Beer Memorial Stadium ScoreBoard

Hamm’s later took over the sponsorship of the scoreboard until National Bohemian became the primary sponsor in 1965.  But because of the early association with the Orioles, you can find a lot of brewmania – including this Gunther hall of fame statue of Baltimore’s favorite son, Babe Ruth.

Gunther Babe Ruth statue

Additionally, there were some postcards of Washington Senators players that were sponsored by Gunther.  They came out around 1947-1948.  I couldn’t find too much on them except that they’re listed in Beckett.

Today, they’ve turned the old brewery into upscale apartments but stayed true to the Gunther heritage:

Gunther apartments

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