Letdown in Milwaukee
By David Marasco
Robert Fick owns the last hit in Tiger Stadium. It was a
towering shot that bounced off of the right field roof for a
grand slam. Cincinnati's Michael Tucker is down in the
books for the last hit in Milwaukee County Stadium. It was
a nubber to the first baseman, but since the Brewer's' Juan
Acevedo didn't exactly hustle off the mound, Tucker reached
safely. For all the happy memories I have of County
Stadium, I wish I could write that the Brewers took out the
old yard with in good fashion. But I can't. That's a shame
because the faithful deserved better.
Let's get the game out of the way. Jeff D'Amico started for
Milwaukee and plain didn't have it. Any hopes for an ERA
title imploded as he was pounded by the Reds. The death
blow was a three-run jack off the bat of Sean Casey, the
last home run in County Stadium. That pushed the score to
6-0. While the Reds poured on the runs, the Brewers didn't
do squat. Raul Casanova had a nice day at the plate with a
double and a triple. The problem was that he was all of
Milwaukee's attack. The rest of the team could not manage a
hit or a walk off of Elmer Dessens, who pitched a complete
game and faced only 29 hitters. Mark Lorreta grounded to
short for the last out.
All season the Brewers have been counting down the games
left in the stadium ala Cal Ripken and the Streak. This has
been in the form of large cards posted on the mezzanine
level down the left field line. After each game became
official, some celebrity would remove a card, revealing the
next smaller number underneath. For the final card pull Bud
Selig himself did the honors. And he screwed it up.
Instead of waiting for the "5,4,3,2,1..." countdown to
complete, he yanked on five. Very anti-climactic. Compare
that to the night before. When the time came the fans
looked up to the mezzanine and saw a well-known face. Even
from a distance of over a hundred yards people could still
make out who it was. "Could that be? It is!" Hank Aaron.
The was of recognition buzzed through the crowd like an
electric current. Nobody at the game would forget the
But maybe something like that would have been lost on
Thursday's crowd. Milwaukee has a reputation for drunken
There was some element of that crowd at the final game. The
people in front of me got tired of waiting for the soda
vendor and gave their young children beer instead. Many fans
were not really following the game. One of the loudest
moments came when Olympian Ben Sheets was introduced to the
crowd. The stands broke out into a rolling "USA! USA!"
chant. That was roughly the mentality level of the crowd
After a long wait the Brewers launched their postgame show.
They brought out a beloved broadcaster to host the event,
removed home plate for transplant to the new park, showed
some highlight clips, brought out the past heroes,
transferred the Brewers flag to a representative from the
current team, and then turned off the stadium lights. Sound
familiar? That's the exact set of events that Detroit used
to close down Tiger Stadium last year. Bud was there, and I
think that he spent the night scribbling on the back of an
But the entire thing had the feel of a student who skipped
class and borrowed the notes from a classmate. When you do
this you will often fail the final exam. The Brewers got
the broad strokes right, but missed the details. The Tigers
sent out their players to sappy music, whereas the Brewers
announced their old players as they came onto the field. In
Detroit it worked amazingly well. As each person took the
field the camera would focus on his face. People in the
stands would try to age their memories and figure out who
the player was. Then the player ran past the camera,
revealing the name on the back of the uniform as he did so.
As the players were recognized the fans would respond with
cheers for their old friends. In Milwaukee each player was
given a brief biography before being called onto the field.
It seemed less warm, as if each intro was followed by an
applause sign. In Detroit each person brought their own
memories to the players, whereas in Milwaukee the players
were remembered by a reading from the stat book. The
obvious exception to this was the last player, Robin Yount.
He took the field on his motorcycle, rode around the
perimeter, stopped in center field and then finally took his
place at short stop. Even with the likes of Aaron, Spahn
and Molitor already on the field, the chants of "MVP! MVP!"
for Robin were well deserved.
In Detroit they had the team flag on the same pole as the
American flag. To bring down the team flag they also had to
lower Old Glory. With the deep nationalistic quality of
baseball, tied in with the finality of the event, a
descending American flag is a very powerful image. Many in
Detroit broke down and were reduced to tears during the
lowering. Milwaukee's transfer of the flag involved their
mascot Bernie Brewer. He slid down his beer slide with the
flag into the fake mug of beer, then handed over the flag to
the next in the chain. Not exactly the same effect, is it?
After the flag was given to Mark Loretta, they slowly turned
down the stadium lights. In Detroit this quieted the crowd,
a final reminder that this meant forever. When people left
the ballpark, it was like leaving church after a powerful
sermon. When they turned off the lights in Milwaukee, they
followed it with a short fireworks display. That put a
completely different spin on the mood. It was par for the
course. Brewers management, as usual, dropped the ball.
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