|After 50 years, Milwaukee still cherishes World Series win|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 09 October 2007 11:27|
It was Sept. 23, 1957, and the Milwaukee Braves were on the verge of clinching the National League pennant. So instead of attending his graduate class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the 23-year-old pulled off the road, turned into the ballpark and got a ticket in the upper deck.
His reward for playing hooky: Seeing Hank Aaron hit an 11th-inning homer that put the Braves in the World Series, a memory he called a ``magical moment'' 50 years later.
The young fan would go on to become the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
``I said, 'I can't miss tonight,''' Bud Selig recalled recently. ``I blew off class - the only class I ever blew off - pulled in, found one obstructed-view seat way up in the upper deck, and am very happy today that I did that. Those kind of things make great memories.''
It got even better that fall for Selig and his team. The Braves would go on to beat the big-city swagger out of Casey Stengel's New York Yankees in seven games, still the proudest baseball moment in a city lacking many happy hardball memories.
Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of the Braves' 5-0 Game 7 victory in front of 61,207 fans at Yankee Stadium. Catcher Del Crandall still remembers celebrating the final out of the game with third baseman Eddie Mathews and pitcher Lew Burdette.
``Of course, there were a lot of other players involved, but Mathews, Burdette and myself met right there between the mound, third base and home plate and we hugged each other,'' Crandall said at a recent team reunion in Milwaukee. ``That's the picture that I see and I remember a lot. That's a very important thing.''
That World Series championship is an important thing in Milwaukee, too, where baseball fans have since come to expect disappointment. The Braves left town for Atlanta after the 1965 season. Selig bought the Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee in 1970, and they made it to the World Series in 1982, only to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals.
They haven't been back to the postseason since.
A promising young Brewers team fell just short of the playoffs this year, leaving longtime Milwaukee baseball fans to cherish their fading memories of '57.
But what a season, and what a team, it was.
``I say this not bragging, but we had a very good ballclub here - I mean a very, very good ballclub here,'' Aaron said. ``I've seen a lot of clubs you talk about like the Yankees, etc., that made a lot more money than we did, of course. But I'll tell you right now, we had a very solid ballclub.''
Solid? The 1957 Braves' roster included future Hall of Famers Aaron, Mathews and pitcher Warren Spahn. Aaron won the NL MVP award that year, Spahn the NL Cy Young award.
But Aaron and several others said the move that put them over the top was adding another future Hall of Famer, second baseman Red Schoendienst, in a trade with the New York Giants in June.
Crandall said Schoendienst brought leadership to the team - and he wasn't shy about it. Schoendienst often would jog back and forth to the mound to talk to the pitcher during games.
One day, Crandall asked Burdette what the heck Schoendienst was saying.
``(Burdette) said, 'He looks at you and says, make them hit the ball to me,''' Crandall said.
Even as a fan, Selig saw what Schoendienst added to an already talented team.
``It was a great club,'' Selig said. ``When they got Schoendienst, he really made the club. Mathews, Spahn, Burdette - they were good. They had lost the pennant the year before on the last Saturday of the season, so this was big. But they were really very, very talented.''
And they had the full support of Milwaukee fans who were still fairly new to major league baseball - but knew a winner when they saw one.
``I think they were kind of hungry for baseball,'' outfielder Wes Covington said. ``And I think they knew what winning was all about, because down the road was a team by the name of the Green Bay Packers. They knew what winning was about. And we came in very shortly and we were giving them the competition that they wanted. We showed to them, as we got better and better, that it was something that they wanted to come out and see.''
Covington said Braves players built a bond with fans by signing autographs before games - something he says doesn't happen enough today.
``You'd be surprised how many people were out there eating salami and having beer and all the other unique things,'' Covington said. ``It was the feeling that the fans had. They felt like these ballplayers here were their players.''
Aaron said he couldn't ever remember hearing a Braves player get booed in Milwaukee.
``If I had played in a city like New York, I don't know that I would have made it,'' Aaron said. ``But I think that playing here in Milwaukee, playing before these fans, was probably the greatest thrill that I ever had.''
Sensing that Aaron was perhaps being a little too humble, Schoendienst interrupted: ``You'd have made it anywhere, Henry.''