I’m about to leave for the Brewers-Braves game, which have been known to be rowdy affairs. But I’d like to tell a quick story about baseball in Milwaukee, and that Braves team, before they moved to Hotlanta. I know my dad reads these posts, so I might not have this totally accurate (sorry, pops) but this is what I remember hearing, plus embellishments from my imagination, about being a baseball fan as a child in the 1950s.
The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee when my dad was 1 year old. People loved them, and they drew 1.8 million people in their first year. By the time pops was 5, the Milwaukee Braves were legit contenders. Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron hit endless home runs, and Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette would strike your ass out.
They made it to the World Series to face the New York Yankees. Now, I remember my parents taking me to a touring production of “Damn Yankees” starring Jerry Lewis, and it was hilarious (“Yeah, it’s a musical, but it’s about baseball and the Devil!” I like to say).
The show makes palpable old-timers’ hatred of those Damn Yankees — but back then it was a cold hard fact of the Real World. Milwaukeeans, with their naive sense of sportsmanship, didn’t appreciate when the Bronx Bombers gave them the cold shoulder. Their manager called our town “Bushville” and they bristled at the very idea they would be forced to come to such an outpost en route to their title.
But the Milwaukee Braves beat the Yankees in seven games. Milwaukee had won a World Series. Thousands flooded the streets in jubilation. My dad got a Braves baseball cap. The Braves were hot again the next year, and made the World Series again, and again faced the Yankees.
Now, I imagine this story happening on Oct. 5, 1958, shortly after the Braves won game four to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. They were one win away from repeating as champions. Dad was on a school bus, I imagine bouncing down a picturesque Wisconsin road on a beautiful day with a crisp blue sky and fluffy white clouds billowing. Some kid started harassing pops, and next thing you know, his Braves cap is flying out the window and out into the wilderness of southeastern Wisconsin countryside. Milwaukee ended up losing the next three games straight, and New York won the championship. I can’t imagine how horrifying that must have been.
One year for Christmas, or Father’s Day or something, we got my dad a Braves cap and a Cooperstown Collection Braves jacket. The whole anecdote was extremely informative to me, as a budding Milwaukee baseball fan and relevant to why I think so many people are excited about the Brewers.
That 1957 title showed me what Milwaukee baseball means decades after the fact: we may live in a backward backstop in Middle America, but nobody pushes us around — certainly not you — not even the New York Fucking Yankees.