As a Wisconsin sports fan, I’m pretty proud of our team names: Packers, Bucks, Badgers, and of course, the Brewers. Because unlike many other sports teams, our nicknames actually make sense with their respective location. For example, I really don’t think that there are too many bengal tigers running around Cincinnati, Ohio. And I really doubt that wizards are casting spells all over Washington D.C. (Ed.— Washington Bullets? Appropriate).
A couple thousand Milwaukeeans sport their blaze orange during hunting season to get themselves a nice, big buck. Makes sense. Curly Lambeau worked for the Indian (meat) Packing Company in 1919. But the Milwaukee Brewers name goes back beyond Bernie Brewer, Miller Park, and even Pabst or Schlitz.
The legend goes that America’s pastime was invented by a guy named General Abner Doubleday. He was a graduate of West Point in 1842 and rose through the ranks as the Civil War approached. The story goes that while Doubleday was a cadet at West Point, he traveled north to Cooperstown, N.Y. and somehow ended up at Elihu Phinney’s cow pasture — which is now the site of Doubleday Field where the Hall of Fame Game is played. This farm is where it is claimed that Doubleday organized and played in many baseball games.
According to a commission organized by Al Spalding, the legendary sporting goods guy, Doubleday coined the term “baseball,” designed the diamond, officially set fielder positions, and established the rules and field regulations — thus creating the modern game of baseball. (Ed.— The Doubleday origin legend is disputed, but in history, the best story wins.)
As the Civil War raged, Doubleday was shifted around from post to post and he eventually ended up in the 1st Corps of the Army of the Potomac. This is where Doubleday meets the Brewers. Not the Brewers like Rickie Weeks and Jason Kendall Brewers.
I mean the real Brewers. Like, oom-pa-pa and lederhosen. The real life, tough as nails inspiration for Bernie Brewer — German, Scottish and Irish immigrants with bright red noses from burst capillaries on account of, you know, trinken ze bier.
These immigrants made up the distinctive Iron Brigade that was apart of the 1st Corps. These Wisconsinites, or “Westerners” as they were called, were seen as undignified, rough and tumble frontiersman. And that they were. There’s a reason they were called the Iron Brigade.
But they probably made kickass baseball players. And even more probable is that the occupation of many of these German and Irish immigrants was brewing beer. And even more probable — so probable that I’ll guarantee it — is that these original Brewers played baseball in camps at Gettysburg and Antietam under the eye of the supposed inventor of the game, Abner Doubleday.
So before the first all-professional team was founded in 1869, before the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Reds, and all the other “original” teams, before even the Milwaukee Cream Citys of 1870s and ’80s, there were the Brewers of Wisconsin, in the blue uniforms as always, playing with the founder of the sport.
The Crew has been there since the start — whether it’s a few young men around a camp fire in 1862 or a few young men chewing sunflower seeds in a dugout in 2008 — they’ve been there.