I've Got Brewer Fever...Again
Sunday September 28th, 2008 - Lake Villa, IL
I haven’t lived in Milwaukee since the mid ‘80s when I left to chase my dream of being a standup comic. I’ve been back there countless times since and usually I couldn’t wait to leave again but today I wish I could have been there to get a case of Brewer Fever again.
Growing up a sports fan in Milwaukee in the ‘70s was no treat except for the Bucks but by the time we sat through the Brewers and the Packers we were all worn out. We had to take more than our share of lumps and it got so bad I was even cheering for the Does.
For those that don’t remember that was a women’s basketball team pre-WNBA. They’d draw about 100 people a game and the name was one of the stupidest sports nicknames of all time. Bucks and does makes sense but most people saw it as the word ‘does’. I heard a lot of people say ‘Milwaukee Does? Milwaukee does WHAT?’ I wish that was a joke.
Being a Brewer fan in grade school was painful. I remember when Del Crandall became the manager. They said how he played with the Braves and since the Braves were always good now the Brewers would be too. Uh huh. He was blasted out and then it was another supposed savior named Alex Grammas who came from the Reds. He was another dud.
I remember when Hank Aaron was traded to the Brewers for Dave May in 1975 and he was the biggest thing since the ass on a polka dancer but that didn’t put it over the top any more than anything else did. The Brewers stunk and that was hard to take for a childhood.
Then things started to change. The Brewers cleaned house and brought in Harry Dalton to be the GM and he brought in George Bamberger to be the manager and the Brewers got good in a hurry. They signed Sal Bando and Larry Hisle and traded for Rollie Fingers and Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich and they became a team that won the hearts of a city.
I remember like it was yesterday when the Brewers won the pennant in ‘82. My nephew Josh was 3 at the time and he and my brother in law went down to Wisconsin Avenue in a Ford pickup truck I had that had a cap on the back. There were people dancing on top of it at stop lights and I didn’t even care. We were high fiving everyone including all the cops.
One memory I’ll never forget was a black guy on a motorcycle stopping right next to us at a red light on Wisconsin Avenue. This guy looked like a hard core bad ass biker and he looked over at us with a scowl that immediately became a huge grin when we beeped and gave him the thumbs up. He got off his motorcycle and gave us a high five and we passed Josh out the window and he put him on his shoulders and they walked around for a while.
On ANY other day we wouldn’t have dreamed of passing a three year old kid out of the window of a truck to a criminal looking biker…who also happened to be black. But that’s the beauty of how special that moment was. EVERYONE in Milwaukee felt proud of not only the team but the city too. It had been years since the Braves moved to Atlanta and an overwhelming feeling of self worth came back to us all knowing we were on top again.
The Braves won the World Series in 1957 and lost it in 1958. They moved to Atlanta in 1966. It had been 24 years since the Braves were in the World Series and since then there were 16 long brutal seasons. Some of them didn’t have a team at all but the ones that did had some pretty bad baseball. A city and even a whole state had endured a lot to get there.
Anyone else remember Pedro Garcia? Joe Lahoud? Kevin Kobel? Johnny Briggs? Ollie Brown? Ellie Rodriguez? John Vukovich? Clyde Wright? Pete Broberg? Danny Thomas? Danny Frisella? Bryan Clutterbuck? Sam Hinds? Von Joshua? Danny Darwin? LaFayette Currence? Gary Ryerson? Russ Snyder? Max Alvis? Steve Hovely? It was a LONG haul.
1982 was a very big year and the city was Brewer crazy. I graduated high school in ‘81 and had no idea where my life was going then. I wanted to be a baseball pitcher but I had to support myself with a job while I tried to play in city leagues to get seen by someone. I did get a tryout with the Kansas City Royals but that was it. My baseball dream was over.
I remember working as a cook at the Rustler Steak House on South 27th across from the Southgate Shopping Center and there was a guy selling pennants door to door. Normally I would have to shoo the guy but everyone was so nuts for baseball I wound up buying one. I wish I still had it today just because that year was just so nuts. I remember it so clearly.
It’s been 26 years since that year and I’ve long left Milwaukee as a resident but the city will never leave me no matter where I live. I still remember seeing Brewer games back in County Stadium which was still a dump no matter how good the games were. I never did like that hell hole but I still cherish the memories I had there with my childhood friends.
Miller Park is a great place and now there’s a whole new generation of fans that will be looking back on this year with nostalgia just like I look back on ‘82. Yes they were beaten by the dreaded Cardinals in the World Series and that really stung then but now it is still a great memory that they just got there. It’s etched in my brain forever. I wonder where that biker ended up? I honestly hope he’s doing well and enjoying this round of fun as well.
One guy who I think should get some credit for this is Bud Selig. People love to destroy him on sports talk shows around the country for all he’s done to ruin baseball but for me I am grateful he brought a team to Milwaukee so I could watch baseball as a kid even if the teams stunk for most of the ‘70s. They made up for it and more by doing so well later on.
I might not agree with everything Bud has done but he has put in the Wild Card and that is the reason for all the excitement in Milwaukee today and he should get credit for that. I hope the fans take a second to give Bud a thumbs up because not only did he bring a team to town - when he sold it he passed it on to a new owner who would carry the torch well.
I live in the Chicago area now and travel more often than not as a comedian but deep in my heart I am and always will be a Brewers fan. It was ingrained in me as a kid and I can still remember Merle Harmon and Bob Uecker trying to make it interesting when it was a 10-0 blowout in June and the team was already 26 games out. GO BREWERS! Win it all!