Awesome Souvenirs, Ballpark Memory

Oakland A’s v. Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park (Must Be In The Front Row)

September 21, 2016

When: June 8, 2016 at Miller Park

Box Score:  A’s v. Brewers June 8, 2016

Who: Me, Amanda and Mac

What:

This past April, my 96 year-old grandmother, Mayme, passed away.  Instead of holding the funeral right away, the family decided to wait until June so everyone could travel to Chippewa Fall, Wisconsin for a family reunion.  Two summers ago, we made a similar trip to Chippewa to bury my mom after she passed away.  During that visit, we snuck in a Twins game to add some smiles to an otherwise sad weekend.  So, this time, I decided we should fly into Milwaukee and drive the four hours to Chippewa Falls before eventually moving on to St. Paul for the flight home.  Two reasons. One, we didn’t want to replicate our previous (very sad) trip.  Two, The Brew Crew!

Our trip ended up featuring a ball game, 8 foot tall sausages, Secret Sauce, a surprise serenade, some serious knitting, sweet gear and lots of Cheese Curds.

Milwaukee

A short history lesson before delving into our game . . .

 

In case you weren’t aware, the Green Bay Packers are a bit popular in the region.  It took us approximately 8 seconds to find our first cheese head.

We decided to check out Downtown Milwaukee prior to the game.  Those things we are wearing are called jackets.  At the moment this picture was taken, there was a temperature difference between this spot and Tucson of approximately 60 degrees.  Not a typo.  You’re not reading it wrong. A 60 degree difference.  Crazy.

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Plus, during our visit we found the best donut place around.  Holey Moley Dontuts.

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They featured spectacular donuts which were regular, Gluten Free and Vegan.  Amanda and Mac still talk about them today.  A lot.  Often.  The Sugar Cinnamon GF donuts are amazing.

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Milwaukkeans are also very proud of their television heritage.

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The Game Before the Game

Per our custom, we headed over to the ballpark a couple of hours prior to First Pitch.  Luckily, the commute was only a short drive from the hotel down the Interstate.  We pulled into the parking lot with plenty of time for exploring. A frequent question our family hears when people find out that we get to games so early is: “What do you do for so long?”  This game is a perfect answer for such an inquiry.

As I mentioned, Miller Park is not located in downtown like most newer stadiums.  Originally, the plans did call for a new facility in the city center flanked by garages for parking.  Well, the locals objected to this plan because you CANNOT tailgate in a parking structure.  That’s right.  Tailgating is not reserved solely for football in Wisconsin.  The new park was moved a little further out and supplies plenty of tailgating areas.  Two hours before game time on a cool Wisconsin Wednesday evening, I was not planning on seeing any tailgaters.  I was wrong. Very wrong.

The exterior of Miller Park is very visually striking, especially when the retractable roof is open.  In person, the stadium really looks great.  Much more so than any time I have seen it on television.

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As you approach the entrance, the Brewers have erected statues to honor their four most significant baseball contributors.

Hall of Famer Robin Yount

Hammering Hank Aaron

Allan “Bud” Selig

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Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker (more on him later).

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Finally, you can actually see Miller Beer from the stadium.

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Wait, here comes an 8 Foot Bratwurst!

One of the cool aspects of attending a Brewers game is the Sausage Race.  Featuring an international selection of Chorizo, Bratwurst, Hot Dog, Italian Sausage and Polish Sausage , the race is held on the field after the Top of the 6th Inning.

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Fortunately for us, we met “Bret Wurst” walking around the parking lot.

Well, I guess we should actually go inside Miller Park

The first stop for us when visiting a new stadium is always the Team Store.  Time to buy the home team’s cap!  This trip was a bit different, because there were a couple options for us in terms of caps.  First of all, Mac and I know that we did not want the more modern “M” cap featuring a wheat shaff or the updated “Glove” in Navy Blue.  For us, the Brewers are all about the old “Glove” and only in colors Yellow or Royal Blue.  The batting practice hat is Blue with a Yellow Front Panel, while the other choice was the Royal Blue game cap.

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After much deliberation, I went with the BP cap and Mac took the Royal game cap.

Caps purchased, but there was one more very crucial item.  Stance Socks.

He Missed the Tag!

Probably the most identifiable figure in the Brewers organization is their radio announcer, Bob Uecker.  Not only is he known as their Hall of Fame Broadcaster, but Uecker is well-known as the star of his own television show (“Mr. Belvedere”), movies (“Major League”) and many appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

However, his most recognizable moment is the series of Miller Lite commercials.  Especially this one . . .

To honor their broadcaster, the Brewers placed an awesome statue of Uecker in the last row of the stadium behind home plate.  Also, the tickets in this area only cost a dollar.  It might just be the best, if not most original, statue in any MLB park.  We made the trek up to Section 422 to see “Bob.”  Also, please note Mac is rocking the nice Miami Marlins socks.

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He missed the tag!

In addition to being way up there, Section 422 offers some awesome views of the park.

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Time to Eat

After all this walking around, it was finally time to grab some food. Bratwurst, Cheese Curds and the Secret Sauce were on our menu for this game.  The Secret Sauce is a creation from the Brewers previous park, County Stadium.  A combination of BBQ and Ketchup, it is now the primary condiment of Milwaukee baseball fans.

For Mac, the cheese curds were the main food item.  Actually, not just for the day but for our entire trip to Wisconsin.  He was on a mission to eat them all. For the uneducated, curds come both fried and plain.  The plain are called Squeakers because supposedly that is the noise they make when you take a bite.  Interestingly, you don’t refrigerate the squeakers.  Things you learn.  Most places only sell the fried.

And the Secret Sauce, my friend.  Good as advertised.  Plus, there is plenty available for sale around the stadium.

 

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The final food item of the game was the mandatory Ice Cream in a Helmet.  It was spectacular and it came in the Royal Cap just like Mac’s.

What?  There is a game going on?

Finally situated, we were able to watch some baseball.  Here is Ryan Braun coming up to bat, with All-Star catcher Johnathon Lucroy in the on-deck circle.

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Bernie

If you look above the Left Field wall in the previous picture, you can see the yellow slide for Bernie Brewer.  He celebrates all home team home runs and victories by sliding down it to the next landing.  Here is a view from the Brewers bullpen.

While this is cool, it is nothing compared to the prior Bernie’s Clubhouse at County Stadium.  Instead of a playground slide, Bernie was able to slide from the top of his chalet into a huge mug of beer.  I would have to say that this celebration is unmatched by any mascot in any major sport in the United States. Seriously, check this out!

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And we even managed to bump into Bernie while in search of ice cream.

In other related mascot news, the Brewers have just brought back their mascot from the 1970’s. Barrel Man!

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Couple of other neat items from our wandering around

*Tucked into the underbelly of the stadium, is Autograph Alley.

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This wall of autographed baseballs features balls signed by ordinary fans interspersed by iconic baseball players and greats like Frank Sinatra and Muhammed Ali

*We were able to get up close to the bullpens, which sit underneath the outfield fences.  Here are some A’s warming up for a late-inning appearance.

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*Some cool game used memorabilia.

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*Ode to History – the Brewers were the second professional baseball team in Milwaukee.  The Milwaukee Braves were the best team in the National League during the 1950’s.  While beating the Yankees in the World Series, the Braves featured an amazing array of talent.  Hank Aaron. Eddie Mathews. Lew Burdette. Warren Spahn.  That’s a lot of hardware, as they say.  The Braves are honored with a nice display at the park.

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*Mac’s Dream Room.  A kid’s room completely decorated in team items.  A boy can hope!

*And one more Bernie reference

 

Stitch and Pitch

My wife, Amanda, is a fantastic knitter.  She makes some beautiful items and is always creating something cool.  During this game, she knitted her way through the Brewers victory.  20160608_195018

Now, some people might think that baseball and knitting are an unusual combination.  But this would be wrong.  In fact, MLB has a cool promotion for knitters called Stitch and Pitch.  For a specific game, knitters can buy tickets together so they can knit and watch the game.  It is hugely successful and usually sells out every year.  Unfortunately for us, the Milwaukee event was held the next night.  Why do I mention this?  Because it featured an amazing Barrel Man bobble head with a knitted sweater.  Genius!

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Totally Random Event of the Night

The guy sitting in front of us was celebrating his birthday at the game.  The lady who sang the National Anthem before the game was also sitting near us.  Before the 5th Inning, she walked over to this guy and asked if she could sing Happy Birthday for him.  So, she did.  I love the people of Milwaukee.  Everyone was so nice.

Seventh Inning Tradition – Local Version

Different stadiums play unique songs during the game. Orioles have “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.” Rangers like “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Red Sox, of course, feature “Sweet Caroline.” The Brewers take it to the next level with “Roll Out the Barrels.”

Harvey’s Wall Bangers

As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, I fell in love with the 1982 Brewers.  They went on amazing run that featured a playoff clinching Game 162 versus Jim Palmer and the Orioles, rallying from 2 games down in the ALCS and a heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series.  They were a crazy bunch of guys who were a bit rough around the edge.

One example of this was Cy Young pitcher, Pete Vuckovich.  He was a good pitcher, but he was more known for his ability to blow snot rockets on the mound as he got into his wind-up.  Here is the definitive clip of Pete with the umpire telling him his fly is down while he is on the mound.

The other reason I liked the team was Gorman Thomas, the slugger-in-residence.  As I stated in another blog entry, he is the basis for every crazy baseball player in the movies.  With his flowing mane, fu man chu facial hair and a huge wad of chew, Gorman is the definitive slugger.

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Real Life Gorman

    Here is his dopplengar from the movie “Rookie of the Year:”

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Gorman is still featured around the ballpark.  Not only does he sell his BBQ sauce in the Team Shop, but this season on Star Wars Night, the Brewers were distributing a Storming Gorman Trooper Bobble Head.  Classic.

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The Trip

So that was the first night of our trip!  As we made the journey to Chippewa Falls for my grandma’s services, we had a couple of highlights.

First, we found the best cheese curds (fried division) that we have ever tasted.  They are located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin at Mike’s Cheese Shack. Would it surprise you to learn that the only decorations in the “Shack” are autographed cheese heads hanging on the wall?

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They were so good!

Then we were able to hang out with family doing all those typical Midwestern Summer activities.

Some Ladder Ball

Corn Hole Challenges

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Drinking the hometown beer – Leinie’s

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Intense Cribbage Matches (Electronic Version)

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Fine dining at the local supper club which featured literally football-sized baked potatoes.

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And just hanging in the back yard . . .

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Grandma K

One final note.  We were in Chippewa Falls to celebrate the long life of my grandmother, Mayme.  She saw many changes in her life.  Mayme started her schooling by walking a couple of miles to a one-room school.  From there, she became a teacher in one-room school in rural Wisconsin.  After a lifetime of teaching and parenting, she went back to college when she was almost 60 years old.  Mayme was always generous to me with both love and time.  During some particularly hard times for me and my mom, she took us in and gave us a home when we didn’t have anywhere else to go.

She will be missed by me and my family.

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