As much as I love Miller Park, here’s a story that could probably never happen there (to its detriment): My parents took all the brothers and my grandpa to a game at Milwaukee County Stadium in the summer of 1998. Even though it was early in June, the upper deck of the Stadium caught the lake breeze as it always did and swirled it around us like a refrigerator fan and we were chilly in windbreakers.
It was “Turn Back the Clock Night” and the Brewers wore Milwaukee Braves uniforms to play against… the Atlanta Braves. The difference between their outfits was that one was gray and one was white, one had an “A” on the cap and one had a “M,” which was difficult for a couple of kids to see from way up there. One of the Braves teams was on it’s way to a 9-0 complete game shutout pitched by the 43-year-old El Presidente. (Hint: It wasn’t the Brewers).
But then a special guest star made an appearance to keep things interesting.
Some time around the sixth inning, a squirrel showed up on the field. It wandered around in circles in shallow right field, and didn’t draw too much attention until it started to drift toward the infield, right behind 2nd baseman Fernando Viña, who was on his way to an All-Star and the best Brewer at the time.
The crowd’s cheers would crescendo as the squirrel got closer to Viña. He kept looking around him, unsure of why the crowd was hollering in the middle of a boring at-bat. The squirrel ran back and forth along the base path, or at least close enough to it for us to shout “Go for two!” and “Steal 2nd!” Viña made a half-hearted grab for the squirrel with his glove, and then the cornered squirrel made a dive right for his knees, and he leaped over it. The squirrel made another dive, this time Viña stood still and it cleared his feet.
The entire Stadium of 39,071 was bowled over by now, laughing so hard we were crying. The grounds crew ran out and began chasing the squirrel back to the wall in left-center field which quickly elicited a ballpark-wide “Ass-hole” chant. After heading off a couple of the squirrel’s jukes and zig-zags, they opened their section of the wall and shepherded the squirrel through it. We all sighed “Awwww…”
But then, just as the gate was about to seal shut, the squirrel came bursting back onto the field, diving through the closing wall like Indiana Jones narrowly escaping the Temple of Doom!!! The crowd went nuts, went ape-shit. The first time I saw a curtain call as a Brewers fan, it was for a squirrel.
God bless that tiny, furry squirrel. I assume the modern architecture of Miller Park would prevent such run-ins with nature, even though there are birds in the rafters. Maybe we should consider installing a squirrel door, if only to cheer us up if we should ever have to sit through another chilly shutout loss by our team, which finished 74-88 that year, wearing jerseys commemorating the last time our town had a contender… 40 years earlier.
I’m going to the game tonight. Lil’ bro Paulie got tickets as part of a half-off promotion. It’s kind of an odd two-game series against the Cardinals, and we could use a win.