Putting Out the Vibe Random observations from my day-to-day life

July 15, 2009

From stubborn Milt Mason to foam headed Bernie Brewer

BernieBrewerOriginsAs 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).

Bonnie Brewer

Bonnie Brewer

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.

Sources: Bernie Brewer makes comeback splash, USA Today, 1993, Wikipedia, brewers.com


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 scoreboard Milt Mason sliding down a rope Milt Mason greeting fans at County Stadium
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 Bernie Brewer Slide 1978-83 Bernie's Chalet being dismantled
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 in front of field Bernie's Chalet Bernie Brewer slide from back
Bernie’s chalet in front of Country Stadium field Bernie in his chalet (maybe falling over railing) Bernie going down his slide
     
Bernie Brewer slide closeup Bernie Brewer sliding backwards Bernie slide
Bernie Brewer closeup going down his slide Bernie Brewer slide backwards Bernie putting out the vibe into the beer mug


 

 

 

 

May 26, 2009

Ground ball to shortstop, look at the body on that broad, over to 1st base, two down

Filed under: Baseball,Hilarity — Tags: , , , — Matthew @ 3:43 pm
Tailgating
Our group at the Brewers/Twins game

I’ve waited my whole life for a Brewers team to be competitive and worth routing for. When I was younger, although I always enjoyed catching games at County Stadium, maintaining interest in Milwaukee baseball started to become a chore by around July for me.  The past few years, maintaining “brewer fever” has become easier each year of college.  I’ve even been able to easily enjoy brewer games, without frustration, for entire seasons – including catching a postseason game this past fall (an opportunity I thought I wouldn’t have in my lifetime).  The change, which continues to gain momentum, was a gradual one, probably sparked, in my opinion by a shift towards leadership willing to open their wallet to compete in the central division with the Cards, Astros, and the bitch-Cubs (all three with #13, #8, & #3 payrolls in the majors – Brewers are currently #17). Henry & I ready for the domeIn Bud Selig’s credit, however, he did do a decent job in his charge to graduates at my recent graduation.  Additional dedication to winning was demonstrated in 2008 by a replacement of Ned Yost prior to the end of the Brewers best season since their last playoff birth in 1982.  Things are definitely looking up and I just enjoyed a great weekend in Minneapolis (despite a Twins sweep), for the interleague series and catching up with friends who I rarely see now that they graduated and are real people.

Despite all of the challenging seasons that Brewers fans endured throughout my childhood, however, the one constant of brilliance was always Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker.  An unbelievable schmoozer of useless, yet extremely interesting information, because of Uecker, I occasionally go out of my way to be in my car during Brewers games, instead of watching them on TV (although I enjoy Bill Schroeder as well).  This weekend in the cities, my friend Mike shared a hilarious video of Artie Lange on Letterman sharing stories about Bob Uecker and also his friendship with Harry Caray:

This clip of Norm MacDonald sharing a Uecker story is pretty good as well.

August 22, 2008

Summer

Filed under: Baseball,Growing Up — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 2:35 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how different Summer has been throughout my life and how different its meaning has been to me.  As far as I’m concerned, I’ve gone through many different Summer phases and here’s how I remember them.

Hahn's Lanes Hitters Teeball

Hahn's Lanes Hitters Teeball (Kindergarten)

Erb Park Summers (preschool-2nd grade)
From the time I was in diapers, until shortly after I decided it was no longer acceptable to watch Mr. Rogers, I lived in Appleton.  Appleton was a pretty cool place and Summer there was freakin awesome.  My mom didn’t work at this time, so although I remember her making me read a lot, I also remember her making pigs in a blanket, letting me dig huge holes in our backyard, letting me have lemonade stands and keep the profits, and her taking me to the Erb Park Pool whenever I wanted.  Erb Park was across the street from our house so pretty much all of my friends in the neighborhood hung out there every summer day and played sports and capture the flag.  I was also on the powerhouse that was the “Hahn’s Lanes Hitters” Teeball team and our games, which were played at my elementary school across the street from my Grandparents’ house, were also extremely high on my priority list during these summers.  To sum up, think The Sandlot, only I didn’t know anyone nearly as cool as Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.

New Berlin Magic Baseball Team (4th grade)

New Berlin Magic Baseball (4th grade)

Early New Berlin Summers, my world shrunk to Sommerset Gardens (3-5th grades)
Moving to New Berlin was a bit of a shock because I really couldn’t ride my bike anywhere outside of my neighborhood.  I made a few friends in my neighborhood who I hung out with and I remember a lot of fishing with Jimmy at the tiny pond near the highway.  Baseball and my Dad’s grilled cheese sandwiches were still pretty much the most important things going on during these summers.  I also remember that the first year we formed the New Berlin Magic that we didn’t win a single tournament and our parents felt so bad for us that they bought us each a trophy at the end of the year.

The “Mom, can you drive me to _______’s house” Summers (6th grade-freshman year)
At the end of elementary school I began riding my bike to fast food restaurants (mainly taco bell) for lunch (a pretty big step in New Berlin).  This meant 2 things…  I was also still very devoted to playing baseball on the New Berlin Magic and my friends on the team pretty much composed the majority of my social life.  Our baseball team’s night games at Malone Park were awesome and it made all of us feel like we were actually a big deal to have attractive girls from Middle School come to the games.  These were the last few summers that my brother was around, so that was always fun too.

The Basement Summers (sophomore-senior years)
I still had no legitimate job to speak of (which was spectacular) and I would umpire the occasional little league game/weekend tournament when I felt like it.  Mainly I remember eating at Oakland Gyros a lot with G and going to Kopps Custard and/or Taco Bell almost every night because I was trying to gain weight for football (a strange concept now).  “Pool” Tournaments in my basement were a great excuse to eat way to much food andstay up all night (but Port always cheated).  Whenever Joe used the line “we’re going to have a Star Wars Marathon” with his parents we all knew we were in for a good night.  I hung out with Chris a lot and our bands practiced all the time, including “Skanorrhea, the musically transmitted disease.”  My ideal day during this time (and still probably my ideal day) consisted of going to the beach (or Kallio’s pool), eating all you can eat pizza at Marty’s, and then volleyball at Malone and/or hanging out in a basement for the rest of the night.  Summerfest was a great 2 week span too and in addition to seeing some great performances we got really good at sneaking water bottles through the gates.

The _______’s Parents are out of town Summer (after freshman year of college)
Straight off freshman year we all felt the need to pretend like we were still at college after we came home for the summer.  This meant that much of our day to day activities revolved around whose parents were out of town.  My typical day at this time consisted of swimming in Kallio’s pool in the afternoon, waiting tables at Houlihan’s for the dinner shift, and then playing volleyball at Malone until the lights went off at midnight and we all had to struggle to gather our belongings in the dark.

Summer of Sommer in Denver (after sophomore year)
My summer in Denver doing an internship with the Denver Children’s hospital was a great one.  First of all, it was the first time I lived with my brother since I was in seventh grade.  This turned out great and not only did we live together, but Dave served as my landlord, teammate on volleyball and softball teams, trainer, supervisor at work, and karaoke partner.  Looking back I’m a little surprised we didn’t burn out after spending so much time together.  Since I was only in Colorado for a summer though, we tried to fit in as much activity as possible.  This meant Rockies games with Martha and Kyle, parties at my cousin’s house, lot’s of bar league softball teams, fly fishing trips, whitewater rafting, climbing numerous fourteeners (and participating in a high altitude rescue mission), etc.  There was really never a shortage of things to do and the summer was one of my best.

The Pretending to be a real person summers (last summer and the present)
The last two summers I’ve done internships/worked in Madison.  One of these summers felt like it lasted for seven months because I took the semester off to do it.  This was great at first.  I literally did whatever I wanted.  I bought a short bus, built a 1000 lb. pool table in my attic, and designed a pregame parties website.  Eventually though all of my free time without homework became a sort of obligation to go out all the time.  I literally had no good excuse if people called me to go to the Essen Haus on a week night and as a result I was hung over many a day sitting at my desk.  This was the time I began drinking coffee – not as a luxury, but as a necessity.  Summer was fun though and I hung out with Matt a lot, went sailing, went to the Terrace, and pretty much just enjoyed Madison Summer.  This summer I took two classes and worked about 20-30 hours a week.  I thought it would be great, but it was a lot more work than I anticipated.  Nonetheless, weekends were still great, making it to Colorado, going up north to “Jon Fest” with my brother’s friends, camping, and for the first time had weddings of FRIENDS to go to (strange).  Unfortunately any documentation I had of these events disappeared when I got robbed three weeks ago.

Helping my dad mow the lawn in Appleton

Helping my dad mow the lawn in Appleton

So what?
Maybe I’m just tired of the classes I’m trying to take this summer, but what I’d give to go back to the Erb Park Summers.  Don’t get me wrong, Summer is still my favorite time of year, but it means something so different to me now than it did when I was a kindergartner, whose only real worry was whether or not Megan from around the corner was able to play that day.  I’ve never liked school (even preschool) so summer has always meant for me a break from the stress of another school year/semester.  I’m sure even when I’m a real person I’ll still love summer time because the world just seems to slow down and enjoy itself, but I can’t help but feel that the summer feeling that I’ve enjoyed over the years is slipping further and further away.  Maybe all I need to do is go to the beach, ride my bike to Taco Bell, and have a lemonade stand in my front yard, just like the old days.

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