Every 25 years or so, the baseball gods throw a bone to Milwaukee. Or so it would seem.
Fifty years ago, the 1957 Milwaukee Braves won the World Series. Twenty-five years ago, the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers went to their only World Series, but came up one game short of a world championship.
So, will 2007 be the year the Brewers return to post-season play? We can only hope, and as the great Bob Uecker is fond of saying, "Hope springs attorney."
Bud Lea, former Milwaukee Sentinel sportswriter and the vice president of the Milwaukee Braves Historical Society, is concerned that the Brewers' silver anniversary will drown out the half-century celebration for the 1957 Braves.
After all, the people who are old enough to remember the Braves are fewer in number every year, and the players also are fading away. Former Braves pitcher Lew Burdette passed away just this week.
The historical organization, which is the brainchild of former Braves shortstop Johnny Logan, is inviting the 22 surviving members of that '57 club to come to Milwaukee to attend a banquet on Aug. 30 at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino's Northern Lights Theater. Former Braves star Henry Aaron is among those committed to attending the banquet, Lea said.
However, Milwaukee's corporations and the community in general have been slow to support the Braves' anniversary, Lea said.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, the only time you're going to see these guys together. We're having a tough time convincing people. Fifty years -- I think maybe people have forgotten," Lea said.
Tom Kaminski, treasurer of the Milwaukee Braves Historical Society, said, "That's going to be the last chance. It's important for the city."
Kaminski said they will attempt to reenact the Braves' celebration parade, ending at a monument for the team that is erected along the third base line of Helfaer Field, the youth baseball diamond in Miller Park's parking lot.
Kaminski, who was an assistant to the traveling secretary for the Braves as a young man, is hopeful they can persuade the ESPN Classic cable television channel to cover the team's reunion.
Lea, Logan and Kaminski are fine fellows. But they're not professional fundraisers or marketers. They need the help of the public relations agencies in this town and anyone else who could volunteer for the cause. If you can help them, call Kaminski at (414) 347-1212.
By contrast, the Brewers have the full marketing resources of a modern Major League Baseball team, and they're using them.
Regardless of how the team performs on the field, the Brewers' front office is hard at work preparing for the upcoming season. And that work is paying off, as the Brewers' season ticket sales are 15 percent ahead of last year's pace, according to Tyler Barnes, the team's vice president of communications.
Last year, the Brewers drew more than 2.3 million in attendance, and Barnes is confident they'll surpass that total this year.
With youngsters such as shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Ricky Weeks returning from injuries to complement centerfielder Billy Hall and first baseman Prince Fielder in a potent lineup, the Brewers' hot stove league is heating up. And the flame was stoked even higher when the team recently signed free agent pitcher Jeff Suppan.
"We're optimistic that the season will have improvement over last year. People certainly have very high hopes," Barnes said.
The Brewers will be celebrating that 1982 team's accomplishments throughout this season.
The team and Major League Baseball Productions are digging through their vaults and will produce a 60-minute DVD documentary that will capture the pennant fever that swept Milwaukee during that magical summer. "Harvey's Wallbangers: The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers," which will be narrated by Uecker, will go on sale for $24.95 on April 10.
The Brewers plan to book a Milwaukee-area movie theater for an advance showing of the documentary, Barnes said.
The Brewers also are producing a companion DVD that will feature Game Five of the Brewers' 1982 American League Championship Series against the California Angels in its entirety. That win capped a remarkable comeback and propelled the Brewers into the World Series.
Visitors to Miller Park will be reminded about the 1982 season throughout the upcoming season:
- Every Friday home game, fans will receive a five-inch bobblehead featuring a member of that 1982 club.
- The Brewers will have "Retro Fridays," when the team will wear its alternate home uniforms with the pinstripes. The jerseys will feature a special patch with a logo commemorating the silver anniversary of the American League pennant on the sleeve. New merchandise featuring that logo also will be available at the Miller Park Fan Zone store.
- The Brewers are planning a two-day reunion celebration for members of the '82 club on Aug. 13-14. The festivities will include a charity golf outing (for more information, call Patty Harsch at 414-902-4585).
"We have planned a number of very special events and activities related to the 1982 championship team, from special giveaways and promotions to appearances all summer long in and around Miller Park," said Rick Schlesinger, executive vice president of business operations. "It all culminates with a reunion of the entire organization from 1982 during our August series against the Cardinals."
The Brewers will give away nesting dolls featuring the likenesses of Braves legends Aaron, Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews on Sept. 2.
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