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Walkin' Through the (Ball) Park and Reminiscin'

One man's memories of one team, two ballparks, and forty-five years of Brewers baseball.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball returned to Brew City in 1970 when the former Seattle Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers. After sitting vacant since September 1965 when the Braves toted their tomahawks to Atlanta, Milwaukee County Stadium once again would host major league baseball.

I was ten years old that summer and I can remember listening to Brewers games on my little transistor radio, which I would tuck under my pillow late at night in an effort to keep my parents from knowing I was staying up late, hanging on every word uttered by radio broadcaster Merle Harmon.

One time in particular I recall listening to a late-night game played out in Anaheim, California against the Angels. Being only a young lad, I was mesmerized by Harmon's naming off the starting line-up and his subsequent call of the game. I don't  remember who won the contest, but those first couple month's worth of games began my love affair with Milwaukee Brewers baseball.

I would not attend a game in person until 1978, but my first trip to County Stadium featured a classic battle between Larry Hisle and Goose Gossage.

The hated Yankees held a 4-0 lead early, but the Brewers came back with three runs in the fourth to cut the deficit to 4-3. Each team scored a single run in the sixth to set up a dandy finish.

With the Brewers trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth, Hisle walked to the plate with Robin Yount standing on second with two outs. My friends and I were sitting in the 'Uecker Seats,' about halfway up in the farthest reaches of the upper deck in right field.

Hisle, who had already homered off Gossage in the sixth, smashed a long hit to right field. We saw right fielder Lou Piniella go back and then he disappeared from our view. Seconds later, County Stadium erupted in raucous cheering as the ball had cleared the fence for a two-run game-winner.

A few years later I saw a future Brewers manager take a beating, losing a battle with a baseball.

On July 6, 1984, my ex-wife and I saw a doubleheader with the Oakland Athletics. The Brewers went on to lose both ends of the twinbill, but in the bottom of the second in the first game, right fielder Davey Lopes lost a line drive in the lights or sun--I don't remember which--but it found him, smashing right into his face. He would come out of the game and end up on the DL for a month.

His pain continued 16 years later as the manager of the Brewers (from 2000-April 2002). His record: 144-195.

I did have the opportunity to go to perhaps a half-dozen Opening Days with a bunch of friends and did we have stories to tell.

For a few years in the mid-late 80s, a group of co-workers and I attended Opening Day each year. We dressed for cold weather and we almost always got it. Back then, we drove the three hours to Milwaukee not knowing if the game would be played or not. Winter jackets, hats, mittens, and boots were the apparel of the day--and we still froze.

Two times stand out among all those years: a buddy of mine was so cold and so tired from working 11-7 the night before that we found him sleeping in the mens' bathroom--twice. I walked in to use the facilities and there was Steve, just inside the door under a heater, the wall holding him up. We made sure to give him crap about that.

Another time it was warmer, in the low 50s and we were grilling out before the game. The little Weber grill was packed with burgers and brats, until Steve tried to adjust the dampers on the bottom. Then the burgers and brats were on the ground, rolling down the hill toward the stadium. We just brushed them off and cleaned them with water and we were good to go. A little grit in the diet never hurt anybody.

I also got the chance to spend time at the ballyard with my young son Corey.

In the late 80s, I took him to his first Brewers game. As it was a chilly May, we walked around the mostly-empty County Stadium and sat in a half-dozen different places, trying to catch the game from different perspectives. I'm not sure if he remembers, but I do. It was a great chance to bond with my son.

His favorite player was Robin Yount, and I saw him play a few times, but one game sticks out.

In 1992, my second ex-wife and I were 'this' close to Brewers history. On September 8, we traveled from central Wisconsin to watch the Brewers and the Indians, and in particular, to watch Yount attempt to get his 3,000th hit. He came into the game with 2,998 and we thought he might be able to get a pair of base knocks to take his place in history.

The first time up he singled to right off Jack Armstrong for 2,999...and then went hitless his next four trips. The crowd was into it and we all were hoping to see this magical milestone, but no such luck.

Yount got his hit the next evening off Jose Mesa in the 7th inning of a 5-4 loss to the Indians. So close, yet so far away.

I went to what should have been the last series at County Stadium in 1999, but the unfortunate tragedy at Miller Park with 'Big Blue' forced the Brewers to stay at MCS for one more year.

Then Miller Park did open in 2001, and our group went to Opening Day, watching President George W. Bush throw out the First Pitch and seeing the Brewers defeat the Reds by a score of 5-4 in front of 42,000 fans.

Back in those days, the Brewers opened and closed the retractable roof each game, giving the fans a chance to 'ooh and ahh' over the novelty of it all.

The new park was host to the All-Star Game in 2002, and although we didn't go to that, we were able to attend a special contest the night before.

A couple buddies and I attended the Home Run Derby and I missed a Sammy Sosa home run by five feet, failing to be quick enough to grab the rolling ball a couple seats away from me. It couldn't have been because of the mass quantities of alcohol we drank, could it?

We did get to see Dale Earnhardt, Jr. signing autographs out in the parking lot before the Derby, though.

Then my current wife--wife number three if you are keeping count--and I got to take my folks to their first game in Milwaukee since 1957, when the Braves ruled the National League.

We sat down the right field line and had a good time. My dad passed away a couple months ago, but I was glad he had a chance to see Miller Park.

Our first time sitting out beyond the Brewers bullpen brought both fond and painful memories.

One year while Mike Cameron was still a Brewer, we were sitting in the TGIFridays outdoor seating area and I caught a batting practice ball tossed our way by the slick-fielding center fielder. That was just before I tried to catch a Rickie Weeks BP rocket without a glove.

My right index finger was numb for three hours. Good thing I didn't catch it.

That ends my tales and adventures, starting at Milwaukee County Stadium and ending at Miller Park. I've been a fan since Day 1 and will be until I can't cheer for them any more, through thick and thin.

But a World Series appearance would be nice...

<EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael Trzinski has written for Reviewing the Brew and as this piece exhibits, has been a Brewers fan forever. We're very happy to add him to the cadre of talented writers at Brew Crew Ball. You'll be seeing his articles approximately once or twice a week now. And we're sure you're going to like the addition.>