Sometimes I think back to the County Stadium days in Milwaukee, which mostly took place before I was born and while I was a kid. County Stadium reached its demise as I became an adult and I never really got to say goodbye to the old house. I was off at university in another state and I kind of forgot about and neglected County Stadium as it went unwillingly into that good night. It didn’t help my awareness of the Stadium’s end that the late 90’s represented some pretty bad baseball for the local nine. But in hindsight, I should’ve observed County’s passing better. Certainly the park wasn’t as aesthetically glorious in its elder days as it was when it opened in 1953. County Stadium always seemed rather mundane compared to many MLB parks, but I guess you don’t appreciate what you got 'til it’s gone.
I remember going to ball games with my dad and brothers, seeing the bright field and dingy corrugated steel. I remember randomly attending games during my high school days, because we could. Brewers games weren’t always well attended, but it was a scene, a nationally recognized and recorded event every time a game was played. I remember realizing how cool it was that, in a small market, we had a major league baseball team. Even if the Brewers were abhorrently awful and beyond frustrating, we had a team. We could sport the logo of our beloved and underachieving bunch and follow them everyday throughout the season because we were afforded that luxury in Milwaukee.
The Brewers’ presence in town as I grew up was a really special thing that I still cherish today, and always will. Later on, meeting many people who didn’t grow up with a major league ballclub around (and oftentimes nowhere nearby), I came to grips with just how unique it is to live in a city with a MLB team. Milwaukee is really lucky to have the Brewers (hat tip to Bud Selig), especially since the financial machinery and greed of major league baseball nearly left the Brew City in the dust forever when the Braves left in the mid-60’s.
I remember County Stadium in a foggy way, unclear and fluid in my mind unless I’m looking directly at a picture of it. I remember the high catwalks in the upper grandstand and thinking about what it would be like to work up there. I remember the walking ramps, much like the ones in Miller Park today, where you walk up or down the ramp, turning 90 degrees and then quickly another 90 degrees as you navigate the park’s levels. I remember the blown-out look of the bleacher sections, the smell of sausages alleviating the sight of pocked pavement and the party atmosphere of Brewers games, even if the place wasn’t packed.
I never did any research on County Stadium when it was still standing but a lot of cool stuff happened there: three World Series, two All-Star games, plenty of baseball accomplishments in both leagues. Tons of bands played the park, including Pink Floyd numerous times. I wouldn’t mind taking a time machine and going to the Floyd show and the Rolling Stones way back in 1975. County Stadium played host to the Milwaukee Braves, Green Bay Packers and, of course, the Brewers. Even the Chicago White Sox called it home briefly in the late 60’s.
All I have left of County Stadium are memories and stories. Well, also the Cream City brick from the Stadium and the corresponding certificate, which my family gave me. I also have some other trinkets; nice keepsakes they are. There’s also the movie Major League, which offers great shots of County Stadium. I miss County Stadium, in a way. I miss the chaos and beauty of not having a roof, at least a little bit. A truly outdoor park, County Stadium meant you could be beaten around by the weather. Miller Park bests County Stadium in innumerable ways, but there’s a tradeoff there, some compromises were made. Looking back on the old house, I’m just glad I was old enough to create some lasting memories at County before it went away forever. So when are they gonna bring that beer mug of Bernie’s over to Miller Park? Even in today’s world, that beer mug is long overdue.