Halfway through summer

Halfway through summer

For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame. We usually rejoice when it is announced that the pitchers and catchers are reporting to training camp when the snow was still knee-high by the fourth. Of February. This year in the crazy quandary of COVID revisited, we are just happy to be able to see ball diamonds full of players and the games all played as scheduled.

We wore winter coats in the Midwest and brought snow shovels for opening day. In 2020 we brought dark glasses and sunblock as spring training was in the middle of summer.

And for all the cautious hoopla, here we are at the mid-season, MLB All-Star clash came and it’s going too fast. And usually, after that last out occurs in the All-Star game, summer begins to go through that hourglass like it’s got a hurried agenda.

The Platte County Fair is about to start. Next week, after the last stall is swept out, we gingerly look ahead to what’s next.

All of a sudden, the back-to-school sales are plastered all over the media. Football players are talking about pre-season and ESPN is already systematically listing teams that have no shot of getting into the World Series.

Spoiler alert. The Athletics and the Nationals were out as of opening day.

Growing up in Wisconsin, other than 1982, we had nothing but heartbreak. Usually by this time of year, we were out of it and had to be content to brag about Bernie Brewer sliding down the slide into a huge keg of beer or perhaps the Klements Sausage Races.

1982 in itself broke our hearts as the Brewers finally got to the World Series but lost to the Cardinals. Bambi’s Bombers fell a step short. Our claim to fame was that Bob Uecker was our sportscaster and he lived in my hometown suburb of Menomonee Falls where he still lives today.

He used to reside on Uecker Lane and we went to school with his kids. I once brought him a baseball card of him as a Cardinal and told him it was for my investment in baseball cards. I wanted him to sign it, and he promptly told his daughter, Leann that I had no insight and I wouldn’t amount to anything collecting worthless cards.  He then offered me 10 bucks for it, I took the money, he tore up the card.

He said, “Good, now go get a real job.”

I am old school, though. Genuine old school. Much older than I look although my daughter always disputes that and keeps me humble.

I was there before the Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee.  We lived in downtown Milwaukee until 1960 and at that time, everyone had Milwaukee Braves fever. That switched when Lombardi came to the Packers to create a dynasty, but let’s leave that for another column.

All my relatives were die-hard Braves fans and the stories were legendary about how Lou Perini moved his Boston Braves into the new Milwaukee County Stadium in 1953. Long before I was born. Ok, not that long, but long enough.

In 1957 the Milwaukee Braves won their only MLB World Series over the Yankees and my mom who was a friend of the Braves manager and also a model for Gimbles and Boston Store got to ride in the World Series parade two days after the team got back from winning game 7 in New York.

She also gave birth to my brother on the day they won the series. They say it may have been that game that sent her into labor. Trooper that she was, she WASN’T going to miss that parade. Some speculated that she was going to name him “Lewis” after Lew Burdette, the winning pitcher, but she evidently didn’t like how he looked.

So, they named him Todd. Ironically… he died in New York years later, but I can’t say for sure if it was universe-related karma.

My summer remembrances of going to games in Milwaukee are filled with the smells of the Ambrosia Chocolate Co. wafting across the field when the wind was coming in from Lake Michigan, the Harley Davidson motorcycles speeding around the stadium and of course the smells of yeast from the brewing companies in the downtown area.

The best part was watching hall-of-famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Joe Torre hitting home runs out of the park and seeing Warren Spahn’s big southpaw delivery from the mound. I wish I had just one of those Aaron autographs I got after the game.

A friend of mine and I would wait by his car, knowing he was always the last one out so he could avoid the crowds, but every game, there we were sitting on the hot asphalt by that 1964 Red Ford Galaxy convertible.   We would wear our green Little League shirts to every game and one time he asked us if we had any other shirts. We kind of laughed and it wasn’t until later in life did I realize that it was a joke.

I mean, he wore the same uniform each game. And isn’t it funny that most boys will remember the color of their Little League shirt as a kid and what position they played.

The sun rose and set on the Braves and I enjoyed going to games until 1966 when I was hooked on baseball and my heart was broken by the legends as they moved to Atlanta. And for a few years, the sun didn’t come up in Milwaukee. Still can’t bring myself to watch CNN. Perhaps it’s for other reasons.

I never got to go to another baseball game in County Stadium until I was in junior high when the new bankrupt Seattle Pilots reorganized as the Milwaukee Brewers. They came to town that first year and wowed us all by giving us the satisfaction of watching the neighboring Twins win the division and we finished 33 games out of first place. Ah yes, livin’ the dream in Milwaukee.

The summers seemed to go so much quicker after that. The Packers and the Braves had their heydays and the Bucks won their first NBA championship in 1971. Then it didn’t rain for many years in Wisconsin.

Until Brett Favre and Aaron Rogers. I’m just gettin’ started for the benefit of you Favre and Rogers haters. I should add an LOL, but I won’t.