Welcome to the refreshed Brew Crew Ball! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here. Come Fan With Us!
Baseball fandom began early for me. I really don’t remember the Milwaukee Braves winning the World Series in 1957; my first real recollections are of the Braves losing the 1959 pennant in a playoff with the Dodgers. I was seven. My brother, two years older, was devastated. I think he’s recovered by now.
The real driving force for our fandom was my grandmother. She listened faithfully to Earl Gillespe and Blaine Walsh, on her front porch or from her bed. My favorite memory of her fandom was when they were visiting us and the Braves were facing San Francisco. We had to go to bed, and when she came down in the morning we asked her how they did. She said she wasn’t sure, but she thought Spahn threw a no-hitter. We were astounded that she couldn’t stay awake with a no-hitter going! I can understand that better now.
Spahn had indeed no-hit the Giants (with Hank Aaron driving in Frank Bolling in the top of the first for the only run of the game - I had to look that up.) It was 1961, and I was nine. That was the year that Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle had their epic homerun battle, with Maris ending the season at 61 (in a 162 game schedule, the first year of expansion of the schedule from 154 games, and the addition of the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators. The Senators replaced the original franchise that moved that year to become the Minnesota Twins.) The next season, the National League added the New York Mets and the Houston Colt 45s.
My favorite Brave was Eddie Mathews, natch! A power hitting lefty, and I hit lefty! I was scrawny, though, and had the power of a gnat, but still. Warren Spahn and Henry Aaron, of course...but there were others. I remember when a young Joe Torre joined the team (his brother Frank was also a Brave). Too many memories to list. In the early 60s my mother bought us a record album entitled “Go Get’em Braves!”, a catch-phrase of Gillespes. It was the radio highlights of the Braves history, and we wore that sucker out. I can still recite large portions of game broadcasts verbatim.
I was hooked. The next year, I got my first Strat-O-Matic game. Just the five team set, but I played many, many games by myself and with my older brother. I introduced the game to some friends, and a few years later we had our first draft (four teams) and season of our own teams...a league that grew to eight teams in a few years, and was incredibly competitive. My best team was built on pitching and defense. It was after the 1968 season, the Year of the Pitcher (Denny McLain, 31 wins, Bob Gibson with a 1.12 ERA. They were both on my staff, and weren’t my best starters! That was a very young Andy Messersmith, who was dominant for the Angels in about 81 innings as a rookie.) Won 117 games - in a 154 game schedule. Eight team leagues played 154 games, and we used the 1959 major league national league schedule. Our bible was The Sporting News, which gave very comprehensive statistics on a weekly basis. That was the first publication that I actually asked for a subscription to.
So the upshot of that time spent was that we payed tremendous attention to the stats all year. We kept our players year to year, and had a draft of new players for the following season. We rapidly learned the value of on base ability and slugging percentage. We never developed the Sabermetric systems, but did pay special attention to those stats. And hits and walks/nine innings for pitchers. I was an early analytics nerd; in fact, I paid way more attention to that then than I do now. I think that has something to do with time constraints...
By the way, Gibson had an 11.9 WAR in ‘68; I had not known that until today. Certainly wouldn’t have known it then!
Well, the Braves moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season. I was 13, and that was my devastating baseball moment (until the 1982 World Series, at which time I was a little bit better equipped to handle disappointment). I remained a baseball fan, and still a Braves fan, but WGN broadcast all of the Cub games, and they became my second favorite team. 1969 was a tough year...the Cubs collapsed and the Mets blew by them in the first year of divisional play, and then beat the Braves in a five game series to go to the World Series. But the next season, the expansion Seattle Pilots shaky ownership led to their sale to Bud Selig’s group, and the team moved to Milwaukee for the 1970 season. It was a ragtag group, and not very good, but it was our team, and my brothers, friends, and I all embraced them as our favorite team.
The Brewers grew into themselves as I grew into adulthood. After my junior year of college I got to backpack through Europe with some friends, and they all thought I was nuts as every chance I got I purchased the International Herald Tribune to see what the Brewers were doing. That was the only way I could get that info back then! It was the year that every team in the AL East was around .500 for much of the early season, including the Brewers, and of Billy Martin’s “if the Brewers are contenders, then I’m a Chinese Aviator” statement.
The team slowly built itself into a real contender, and my favorite player became Larry Hisle. Man, I sure wish his shoulder had held up. I don’t think any of us thought that 1982 team would be the last World Series representative from Milwaukee in team history to this point.
My Brewer fandom survived living in the Chicago area for a year or so, and three years in Springfield, Illinois - during which the Brewers faced the Cardinals in the ‘82 series. So there were Cardinal fans to deal with. In fact, the Cards had their farm team in Springfield then. A return to Wisconsin in 1984 has allowed me to be close to the action, able to attend a few games a year, and I have followed them closely ever since. The Tom Trebelhorn era, the very bad teams prior to the sale of the franchise to Mark Attanasio, the Doug Melvin era that just never quite got all the way, and the hiring of David Stearns and the all-out rebuild that has brought the Brewers back to the edge of serious contention. Every season is a new adventure, and at 65 I can appreciate each season for the fun things they bring. But also, at 65, I have a bit more urgency in wanting them to get that first championship. Makes me happy to see the rebuild seemingly a bit ahead of schedule!
I found Brew Crew Ball in 2009. I have been a reader, commenter, and now a writer ever since. It’s a great place to follow the team and keep an even disposition about the team and its fortunes. I have spent considerable time on other Brewer sources, especially the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, but the quality of the participants on this site, and the quality of the analysis, have me here most of the time (for Brewer coverage). As is human nature, as the team improves the participation on BCB (Milwaukee edition) will grow. It’s great fun to share my enthusiasm with other folks that care as much as I do, to one degree or another, and look at the current status and the future of the whole organization, from top to bottom.
I follow analytics to a lesser degree now, and other teams’ stats not as much, but still pay pretty close attention (and can follow) discussions about those sides of baseball. I still firmly believe that there are other contributing factors to the success of a baseball team; a career of managing sales people has taught me that the individual personalities and contributions of my peers can mean as much to our over-all success as just their numbers. I know, I know...a tad heretical, but there you are. Analytical stats are a great place to start when building your team.
I’d like to take this chance to thank everyone that has written on BCB, and other team sites that I visit, over the years - both the content authors and the commenters. It greatly enhances my baseball experience, and I look forward to it every day. Those days of getting my information from the International Herald Tribune are long past - both figuratively and literally.
Why are you a fan of your favorite team? SBNation is having a sweepstakes for fans and contributors that could net you a $500 gift card!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. SB Nation Why Are You a Fan Reader Sweepstakes starts on 8:00am ET on May 25, 2017 and ends at 11:59pm ET on June 8, 2017. Open only to eligible legal residents of the United States, 18 years or older. Click here for Official Rules and complete details, including entry instructions, odds of winning, alternative method of entry, prize details and restrictions, etc. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Sponsor: Vox Media, Inc.