Dating back to the late 1850s, professional baseball in the city featured teams like the Cream City Grays and the Milwaukee Creams. It also was host to a little known, secret Milwaukee meeting in March 1900 that included baseball giants Connie Mack and Charles Comiskey and witnessed the incorporation of the American League. The original Milwaukee Brewers played in the American Association from 1902-1952 and dominated the local baseball scene for half a century. Special focus will focus on Bill Veeck’s purchase of the franchise in 1941, his unusual promotions, the appeal of manager Charlie Grimm, and his fateful 1947 decision to sell the franchise to the owner of the Boston Braves. About the same time, Milwaukee decided to build a modern stadium in hopes of attracting a major league franchise. That strategy worked. Lou Perini was enticed to move his failing franchise to Milwaukee for the 1953 season. The new Milwaukee Braves were welcomed with open arms! The transplanted team soon found itself challenging the powerful Brooklyn Dodgers for National League supremacy.
By 1957 the Braves had won the National League pennant and defeated the mighty New York Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series. The teams met again in the 1958, but the Yankees won in seven games. We will watch film highlights of both!
The early 1960’s were a time of considerable conflict in Milwaukee because of Perini’s decision to minimize the number of Braves’ games on television and an increase of rowdy behavior that prompted the Milwaukee County Board’s decision to prohibit fans from bringing beer into County Stadium. Despite the Braves having a winning record all 13 years, attendance dropped precipitously. Bitter court battles ensued, but the eventually Braves left for Atlanta in 1965, again leaving Milwaukee without a professional baseball team. That sparked car dealer and partial Braves owner, Bud Selig, to lead a determined effort to bring major league baseball back to the city. One of his strategies was to arrange for the Chicago White Sox to play games in Milwaukee in 1968 and 1969. Big crowds ensued that facilitated Selig’s purchase of the floundering Seattle Pilots just before the 1970 season. The team arrived from Arizona six days before the season began and the Milwaukee Brewers were reborn!
With this background, our next three days will focus to these key topics: the return of Henry Aaron to Milwaukee for the end of his career; future-defining personnel moves by GM Harry Dalton; the exploits of “Bambi’s Bombers”; roller coaster years from 1984-1993; the fight for public funding to replace aging County Stadium; the 1998 return to the National League; the opening of Miller Park in April 2001; the 2004 acquisition of the franchise by a team lead by west coast banker, Mark Attanasio; roster rebuilding that led to the Brewers to post-series play in 2008; notable trades that brought star pitchers Zack Greinke and C.C. Sabathia to town; the energy brought to the fanbase by the 2011 acquisition of Nyjer Morgan that led to their subsequent return to post season, fluctuating performances between 2012-2016, and a rebound that has witnessed the Brewers making the playoffs four straight years.
Throughout the week, we will reminisce about announcers who enhanced baseball experiences for over 50 years (e.g., Earl Gillespie, Merle Harmon, Bob Uecker, Pat Hughes, Brian Anderson, and former Brewer Bill Schroeder). In addition, seminar members will share baseball memories and memorabilia brought to Björklunden. It is also hoped that we can tap on the perspectives of players, central office staff, and/or sports reporters with direct personal experiences with baseball in Milwaukee. Books, audio or video material will also be available for review. Lastly, participants will be able to watch broadcasts of MLB playoff games scheduled during the week.
A seven-time Bjorklunden seminar leader, Steve Landfried '66 has been a fan of baseball since 1953—when he saw the Milwaukee Braves play the Chicago Cubs early in the inaugural season at Milwaukee County Stadium. That experience inspired him for years as a ballplayer, sports writer, and fan. That interest expanded over the years and led to his participation in two Brewers Fantasy Camps and two Senior Baseball World Series in Arizona. He eventually journeyed for Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.. There he was able to meet some of his favorite Hall of Fame baseball players—Al Kaline, Denny McClain Ozzie Smith, and Robin Yount.