The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
Over the next few weeks, we'll give each of the 30 teams a day in the spotlight, showcasing the icons and traditions that make each big-league hamlet special. Up next are our pals Ben Goldsworthy and Adam Woznicki of the late, great Chuckie Hacks blog.
1. Bob Uecker: Summer in Wisconsin wouldn't seem right without hearing Bob Uecker's voice on the radio. "Mr. Baseball" grew up in Milwaukee, played for the Milwaukee Braves, and has been the Brewers announcer since 1978. The 77-year-old Ueck is a great listen because he can fill the long pauses in a baseball game with some great stories. Sometimes the game almost gets lost in the stories, but when you broadcast 162 games a year, that's ok. That's the beauty of baseball. And Bob Uecker.
Outside of Wisconsin, Ueck is widely recognized for his many comedic appearances, including the epic Miller Lite ads of the early-80's, Mr. Belvedere, Harry Doyle in Major League, his stint as an announcer at Wrestlemania III, and this epic photo from Sports Illustrated. However, Ueck is uniquely Wisconsin and that's what we love about him.
If you live in Wisconsin and are not at the Brewers game, Uecker's voice makes you think of summer and want to kick back and enjoy a macrobrew on another beautiful Wisconsin evening. Recent health scares have made us realize the Ueck will not be around forever, and like when most great announcers hang it up, the game just won't be the same without that familiar voice narrating the action.
2. Tailgating: Miller Park is home to the best tailgating in MLB. Want proof? Just check out this timeless Big League Stew video from 2008. I dare you to watch this video and not want to come to Miller Park for some tailgate action.
I hear people at other baseball stadiums say they have great tailgating and I'm sure you have a good time with your six-pack of Corona Light, a bag of Subway sandwiches, and a football to throw around just don't quite cut it. A successful Miller Park tailgate usually consists of several meat options (brats, burgers, ribs, steaks), many, many Wisconsin-based beers (Miller Lite, Miller High Life, New Glarus Spotted Cow, something Sprecher), an ample selection of sides, and a variety of parking lot games to choose from (cornhole, washers, donkey balls). If things go well you should be entering the game around the second inning.
3. Robin Yount and Paul Molitor: Robin Yount and Paul Molitor were Brewers teammates from 1978 to 1992. That encompasses years 1 to 15 of my life. It was great growing up and following a baseball team that had two first-ballot Hall of Famers playing every day. Even when the Brewers were having bad seasons, it was always fun to go to County Stadium and watch Rockin' Robin and Paulie play.
Yount won MVP awards at two different positions, reached 3,000 hits in Milwaukee, and is famously known for riding his motorcycle around the warning track at County Stadium following the post-1982 World Series parade. Molitor had 2,281 of his hits in a Brewers uniform, a 39-game hitting streak in 1987, and was run out of town by idiotic GM Sal Bando after the 1992 season because Sal figured a million dollar pay cut was acceptable for a guy who "was only a DH." (Molly went on to hit .332 and .341 over the next two seasons. Great job there Sal.)
Milwaukee has been home to some great baseball duos. Aaron-Mathews, Yount-Molitor, and Fielder-Braun, but for my money, and mostly because of my age, the Yount-Molitor duo was the most exciting to watch.
4. The Final Game at County Stadium: Ol' County Stadium. The ballpark of my youth. Nothing very exciting about the place. Built in the early 1950's to attract a MLB team to Milwaukee (landed the Braves in 1953), County didn't have much going for it. It had a funk of spilt beer and bratwurst and I think the aluminum siding was falling off from the start. It had an antiquated scoreboard that could only be fixed by one guy in Switzerland. If he was on vacation they had to bring in a hand-operated scoreboard from nearby Wilson Park. Gulls camped out in the outfield and Gus the Wonder Dog had to be unleashed to chase the birds off the field. There was the big, ugly, monolithic speaker in center field that replaced Bernie's beer barrel and mug. Local radio personalities Bob and Brian called the place "Third World Country Stadium" and by the end, that moniker wasn't too far off. But, it was my ball park and I loved it. And it will live forever in every viewing of "Major League".
The final game at County Stadium occurred on Sept. 28, 2000 against the Reds. The Brewers were two-hit by Elmer Dessens to help close out another awful season. At this point, the Brewers as a franchise were just putrid. A series of terrible personnel decisions (starting with the Molitor decision), bad PR moves, the political battle over the new stadium, and the tragic accident at Miller Park left a black cloud over the franchise.
Then the Brewers did something they had not done for nearly a decade. They put on a ceremony that got people excited about baseball in Milwaukee. I was going to grad school in Iowa at the time and drove back the day of to attend the game with my dad. We had many good times together at County.
Wikipedia does a great job of summarizing what happened that day:
"In a closing ceremony led by legendary announcer Bob Uecker, greats from the Milwaukee Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, and Green Bay Packers were introduced. Familiar faces such as Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Frank Torre, and Bob Buhl represented the Braves. Willie Wood and Fuzzy Thurston were some of the notable Packers. Brewers greats that came back to salute the fans and the stadium included Paul Molitor, Jim Gantner, Rollie Fingers, and the widow of 1982 manager Harvey Kuenn. When Uecker announced what would be the final player introduction in the stadium, he began, "his name is synonymous with the Brewers..." Robin Yount then appeared from the left field fence on another Milwaukee legend, a Harley Davidson motorcycle. This was in honor of Yount's famous entrance during the County Stadium celebration for the Brewers following the 1982 World Series, when Yount rode his Honda XR500 dirt bike (a bike which was not street-legal, but had been nonetheless used by Yount for the entire season) around the warning track, much to the delight of the fans. Following the introductions, Uecker read a short requiem for the old park as the lights were turned off, standard by standard. He closed with a version of this trademark broadcast sign-off "...so-long old friend, and goodnight everybody."
It was truly something to see. The current Brewers players carried the American flag up the bleachers in County Stadium and Mark Loretta handed it off to construction workers at Miller Park. Hank Aaron was standing in the field in his old Braves jersey. It was a great way to close out a place where so many memories were made. My dad put his arm around me and had a tear in his eye. This was from a guy who never got too emotional. It was a special experience and one I'll never forget.
5. The Sausage Race: The mascot race that started them all. From the humble beginnings of a cartoon version of Brat, Polish, and Italian racing around various parts of Milwaukee on the awful County Stadium scoreboard in the early-90's, to the addition of Hot Dog and racing sausage mascots emerging from the left field corner to run around the stadium on Sundays in the mid-90's, to running at every home game beginning in 2000, to the Italian getting bopped in the head by Randall Simon in 2003, to adding Chorizo in 2007, its been quite a journey for the Racing Sausages.
I've been to hundreds of Brewers games and I still enjoy the sausage races, and yes, I am 34 years old. It's fun to watch and kids can't seem to get enough. Plus, it's always fun to place a small wager on the Sausage Race. The Racing Sausages are in high demand in the Milwaukee area and also have their own 5K fun run around Miller Park where the sausages, in full costume, run the entire 5k in the middle of July. If you finish behind a person in a sausage costume, you are probably best served by not entering another 5k.
6. Brewers = Summer = Good Times: As Lindsay mentioned in her Twins list, baseball signals a time of change in the upper Midwest from our brutal winters to our wonderful summers. We are a hard working group of people that work our tails off in the dark, cold, winter months, but come summer, we like to kick back and have a good time. If you aren't aware, summertime in Milwaukee is a blast due to the fact that we are holed up for several months and want to enjoy the great outdoors when we can. Milwaukee has some sort of large ethnic festival going on every weekend in the summer and for two weeks we host Summerfest, the world's largest outdoor music festival. We begrudgingly accept the mass influx of flatlanders (people from Illinois) every weekend because let's be honest, not a lot of natural beauty there.
But the one activity that makes summers in Milwaukee the best is going to Brewers games. Now that the Brewers are relevant again, Miller Park is the place to be in the summer. It's the place to be seen in Milwaukee. When the Brewers are playing well, the whole vibe around town improves. People everywhere are wearing Brewers gear. In Milwaukee itself, I would say the people wearing Brewers gear surpasses people wearing Packers gear, and that is saying something. Kids in the area idolize Braun, Yo, Rickie, and the Ax-man. It's great to have legit major stars playing again for our team.
7. The Logo: Yah, you know which one I'm talking about. The time honored ball-in-glove logo. It may not be a classic logo like the Olde English D, but it is a pretty awesome logo. Plus, it's what the Brewers wore during their only World Series appearance. Milwaukee was the epicenter of cool logos in the 80's with this logo and the sweet Bucks logo with the cartoon Bango spinning a basketball on his deer nose. (It also took this author a few years to realize that there is a "m" and a "b" in the logo. For so long I just saw a ball and glove that I never was able to see the "m" and the "b". Like the guy looking for the sailboat in the photo in "Mallrats.") The Brewers wear updated uniforms with this logo about 5 times a year but I wouldsay fan gear is split about 50/50 between the current and old logo.
8. Miller Park: We already touched on County Stadium and the memories it held, but let's be honest, it was a dump compared to Miller Park. Miller Park has all the amenities a modern ballpark should have but also has some of the coziness of County Stadium now that it has broken itself in. It is a very affordable stadium and you can find great seats at every price level. That's why Miller Park is so family friendly.
Obviously the best feature of Miller Park is the retractable roof. Nothing quite like watching a baseball game and then walking back to your car through a foot of snow. Its great not having to sit through 40 degree weather in April to watch a game. It helps with the attendance and helps make watching a game enjoyable. Plus, when teams get snowed or hurricane out in their home parks, Milwaukee is often the place where games are played. It's a fun time and you can get good seats for cheap.
9. Mark Attanasio: You have to give credit where credit is due. Simply put, Brewers fans are lucky to have an owner like Mark Attanasio. There's no denying the correlation between the Brewers turnaround from MLB laughing stock to perennial contender and Mr. Attanasio's purchase of the team in 2005. He maximizes revenues wherever possible and puts every dime back into the organization, whether through placing a quality product on the field or making upgrades to Miller Park itself. It's just a comforting feeling as a fan to know that your owner will efficiently do whatever it takes to contend every single year.
10. Ned Yost is no longer the manager: Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I know. Ron Roenicke is by no means infallible and Ken Macha was a waste of two years of everyone's life. But mention Ned Yost to most Brewers fans and you'll get an immediate response along the lines of "Oh thank God we got rid of that guy."
I'm not sure what his worst trait was. It's a toss-up between horrible bullpen management, no accountability for the players for a lack of on-field production, or being completely condescending to the media. Early in 2008 he was asked by a reporter if he found it a little odd that Rickie Weeks was one of the league leaders in runs scored, despite having a below-average on-base percentage (compared to other league leaders in runs scored). A rational human being would acknowledge the numbers then say something positive about his player and move on from there. Ned answered a different way: "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter," Yost told reporters. "See, you guys have no concept. He's a run-scorer. So there's nothing weird about it. That's what he does."
I specifically remember my head almost exploding when reading that. You also can't forget Ned's infamous "Money Order" where each postion on the field had an assigned spot in the batting order and it didn't matter who was playin that position, the order remained the same. You can read more about this phenomenon here. Enjoy the ride Royals fans.
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