As I’ve written in other posts, being a brewers fan is not always an easy task and evidently 1970 (a 65-97 season) was no different. Many are probably already familiar, but this was the year that Bernie Brewer was born. However, Bernie started not as a large foam headed mascot with good hygiene, but rather a 69 year old retired aviation engineer (who I’ve heard, but haven’t confirmed, helped to build the original County Stadium). This aviation engineer, Milt Mason, so loved the Brewers that to combat struggling attendance numbers during their first Milwaukee season, he stubbornly vowed (with a nudge from his friend, Marvin Milkes, the Brewers’ Operations Director) to sit on top of the scoreboard (81 steps high) until attendance at a home game reached 40,000 (at first his goal was a sellout but he eventually became more realistic). He was even given a specially constructed trailer with a 21-inch-color TV, a gas stove, an exercise bike, a refrigerator, and two telephones for talking to fans and the media respectively. Opposing coaches even accused him of stealing signs from his trailer with binoculars. His goal was accomplished on Bat Day, August 16, 1970, when a crowd of 44,387 showed up just to get Milt down from the scoreboard (or wanted free bats). To celebrate that day’s 4-3 victory over the Indians, Milt swung down from the scoreboard on a 30 foot rope (and supposedly badly burned his hands) before falling another 15 feet and breaking some bones. Although I haven’t completely confirmed this, due to some pretty severe storms during those 40 days and Milt’s love of beer, I’ve heard that he could be smelled from just as far away as he could be seen on top of the scoreboard. I’ve also heard that after those 40 days, Milt was never hard to find around County Stadium because fans could just follow their noses. As a tribute to Milt, who died on June 12, 1973, Bernie Brewer became the team’s mascot in 1973 and celebrated Brewers’ success by sliding into a stein of beer (something that Miller Park has been criticized for omitting). By the 1980s, Bernie began resembling wrestler Colonel DeBeers until he was retired in 1984. Fortunately, in 1993, fans voted 21,751 to 1,389 to resurrect the Bernie Brewer that I grew up with and he returned on Tuesday, June 8, 1993 (who by then looked a lot more like Robin Yount).
As a side note, who knew that from 1973-79 there was also a Bonnie Brewer (Bernie has probably been lonely ever since). Also, evidently, another blogger has also noticed that there seems to be a real lack of information on Milt Mason. I’d love to see a picture or read some historical news accounts of the man. I did just purchase True Brew: A Quarter Century With the Milwaukee Brewers – maybe it will shed a little more light on the subject.
Update 7-23-09: My new book, True Brew: A Quarter Century With the Milwaukee Brewers, has just arrived and it was well worth the $1.05 that it cost on amazon.com. The chapter describing Milt has some great quotes from the man himself! Here are some pictures of Milt Mason, the original Bernie Brewer, scanned from my new book.
Milt Mason Pictures from 1970
|Milt Mason camped above the scoreboard during his 40 day protest||Milt Mason sliding down a rope
after the win over the Indians
|Milt Mason greeting fans at County Stadium|
More Early Bernie Brewer Pictures
|Bonnie Brewer spanking an Orioles
coach during a seventh inning stretch
|Bernie Brewer Slide 1978-83||Bernie’s Chalet being dismantled in ’84 for outfield bleachers|
Bernie’s Resurrection in ’93
|Bernie’s chalet in front of Country Stadium field||Bernie in his chalet (maybe falling over railing)||Bernie going down his slide|
|Bernie Brewer closeup going down his slide||Bernie Brewer slide backwards||Bernie putting out the vibe into the beer mug|