50 years ago, in 1957, a wonderful thing happened to the city of Milwaukee as their “new” Major League Baseball Team, The Milwaukee Braves, arriving in the city just 4 years prior in 1953 from Boston, won their first Major League Championship by beating the New York Yankees.
Considered “Bush” league by the Yankees, Milwaukee (having had a long history of being a minor league town since the late 19th century with their Milwaukee Brewers)had something to prove to them and prove it we did. Jubilant fans marched through the streets of downtown Milwaukee carrying signs declaring”: “BUSHVILLE WINS” and “REST IN PEACE YANKS” to their East coast foes. The city was in love with their team and the Braves with the city of Milwaukee.
But the unthinkable happened, the Braves abandoned Milwaukee and moved the team to Atlanta 8 years later, in 1966. The anger and betrayal was palpable, it was bitter time, in many ways not unlike a divorce.
But the city didn’t give up. Instead of wallowing in their loss of the Braves,
Milwaukee and most notably, Allan “Bud” Selig, immediately went to work to return to it’s citizens a major league baseball team. It wasn’t an easy task, but in 1970, the Milwaukee Brewers arrived. This time not as a minor league team, but a rag tag expansion team, picked up out of bankruptcy, after only one year as the Seattle Pilots.
Fans had to endure many years of losing teams and rebuilding, but they loved their Milwaukee Brewers. 25 years ago, in 1982, Milwaukee found itself back in the World Series, this time against the St. Louis Cardinals. Milwaukee again was in the National spotlight, experiencing again all the joy that comes with victory and this time, the broken hearts that come with losing the series.
The city has had a long relationship with baseball and as the Milwaukee Brewers celebrate the anniversary of the 1982 American League Champion team this year with special giveaways and events, the Milwaukee County Historical Society wanted to join in on the celebration of our successes in baseball. But they chose to present in a unique way, focusing the relationships between the city, the fans and the teams and it’s players. I recently toured the exhibit and I am happy to report that they have all the bases covered with this exhibit.
From the early days, at Borchert Field where the Minor League Brewers played the game until 1952…
To the quickly painted signs that adorned the buses, taking fans to see their Milwaukee Braves at the newly built Milwaukee County Stadium in 1953.
The local advertisers stepped up to the plate and delivered some “hits” for fans and collectors alike…(everything you can think of, from… Hot Chocolate to Grass seed, Milk, Miller High Life Beer, Soda, Dry Cleaning to Zippo Cigarette Lighters) …
Life, was better in Milwaukee, thanks to it’s relationship with baseball.
Politicians were fans too!
All of Milwaukee profited with every person who walked through the turnstile.
Am I alone or did anybody else grow up thinking that the last words of the Star Spangled Banner were:
“and the …Home of the BRAVES”
Local Soft drink companies like Graf’s sponsored Fan Clubs and the fans drank it up…
Others predicted success and put their hamburgers where our mouths were!
Special Relationships between fans and players made us all feel like family.
Local Boys made good (Manager of the year 1982)
The Team looked great in their pinstripes and Blues … and we wore them too.
Well, some of us didn’t need pinstripes!
My thanks goes out to the Milwaukee County Historical Society for reminding us of our past in such a wonderful graphic manner and a special thanks to their Exhibitions curator:
Kimberly Louagie for her vision and execution of this exhibit. Thanks also to the people who loaned their fantastic items for us all to enjoy.
A special thanks to all you Milwaukee Baseball fans out there who no doubt will want to view this exhibit, which runs until December. Please support the institutions that preserve our heritage.
MILWAUKEE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
910 N. Old World Third Street
Milwaukee Wisconsin Phone: (414) 273-8288
Hours: Monday-Fridays 9:30am – 5pm.
Saturday 10am – 5pm.
Sunday 1pm – 5pm.