Monday, October 17, 2011

Thank You

Last night the Milwaukee Brewers’ season ended with a thud as they lost, 12-6, to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. It was a sad ending to an otherwise wonderful season. When you think about it, they played longer than the Angels, Astros, Athletics, Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Rays, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Twins, White Sox and Yankees did. Fourteen of these teams had higher payrolls than the Brewers, while only five drew more fans.

Since last night, I have heard a myriad of meatball fans spewing their vitriol regarding the loss. When the ranting and raving started about who was to blame, I turned off the radio.

I was glad I wasn’t one of those guys. Choosing to remain upbeat, I decided to write a positive letter to my favorite baseball team.

Dear Milwaukee Brewers,

Thank you for the tremendous season. It provided many wonderful and magnificent memories, which I will treasure forever.  They included Corey Hart, Casey McGehee and Prince Fielder all hitting 3 home runs in a single game, Prince winning the All Star game MVP in Arizona, the unbelievable streak the team went on after the break, clinching the Division title against Florida and finally that amazing 10-inning win against the Diamondbacks to advance to the National League Championship Series.

These are only a few recollections that immediately come to mind, I am sure that many more will come to mind as I reflect on this record setting season. Again, I thank you.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Brewers provided so many incredible memories. After all, they have been supplying me with so many for the past four decades.

It started with getting the autographs from George “Boomer” Scott and Johnny Briggs at the Kenosha Burger Chef in 1972.

Or the time I skipped school my senior year to attend Opening Day in 1975. What made this so special was not the case of Pabst Blue Ribbon we drank on the way driving to the game, but that I was able to witness Hank Aaron’s first hit as a Brewer.

Next were all of those games in the mezzanine during the 1982 and 1983 seasons. I was fortunate enough to take my folks to several games in those choice seats. One memorable game was taking my nephew, “Little” Mike to his first baseball game. I can still see his wide-eyed look as he took it all in.

There was also the time I took Grandma ‘Trisch to a matinee game in the mezzanine. The game was secondary to Grandma; she was more concerned in getting one of those Doobie-Q hot dogs. After a while, I finally figured out she wanted a Dubuque hot dog. She loved it.

Going to the ALCS game in 1982 when Mark Brouhard became an instant hero is something I will never forget. Especially sitting in the cold rain with my buddies, Jimmy Gentile, Will Meurer and Kevin Hoff.

Of course, watching the heartbreaking 1982 World Series is etched in my mind forever. Seeing Robin Yount circling the warning track on his motorcycle during the post Series celebration quickly made the sting of the game seven loss go away.

Another unforgettable Robin Yount moment was being in attendance when his number 19 was retired on May 29, 1994 against the Seattle Mariners. The 9-8 win was the last Brewer game I saw in person.

The last game ever at County Stadium was on September 28, 2000. Elmer Dessens of the Reds got Mark Loretta to ground out to shortstop to end the game. The Brewers lost that game 8-1 and I was crying. It wasn’t the loss that brought me to tears; it was the closing ceremony that followed the game.

Legendary announcer Bob Uecker emceed the event, introducing greats from the Milwaukee Braves and Green Bay Packers. Familiar faces like Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Willie Wood, Fuzzy Thurston, Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner were there to salute the fans and the stadium.

When Uecker made his final player introduction, he began with, “his name is synonymous with the Brewers…” Robin Yount appeared from behind the left field fence and rode in on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The 56,354 fans in attendance erupted in delight. I shouted, “Yes!”

When the player introductions were finished, Uecker did a brief reading dedicated to the old park as the lights were slowly turned off, standard by standard. He closed with a version of his trademark broadcast sign-off, “…so long old friend, and goodnight everybody.”

That’s when I lost it and started bawling like a baby.

Another cherished memory is June 25, 2005. On that Saturday night Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder both hit their first career big league home run. Weeks’ came off of Johan Santana in the first inning and Prince’s was off of Jesse Crain in the sixth. The pure unadulterated joy shared in the dugout with teammate J.J. Hardy is something I will never forget.

The next fond recollection is when the team made the playoffs in 2008. It was the first time Milwaukee had made the playoffs since 1982, obviously making this a very notable happening.

Prior to this season, the last Brewer memory that sticks out in my mind is Prince winning the 2009 Home Run Derby in St. Louis. Usually I am a casual observer of the Home Run Derby but this one was special because of Prince. What made it even more special was that Dad watched it with me. It would be the last time that happened.

That brings me back to the 2011 season. Sure the Brewers came up short in their quest to return the World Series, but I’m not going to dwell on the negative. I’m not that guy. Instead, I choose to relish all of the beautiful memories the Brewers gave me. For that, I give you a final thank you.

Until next time…from the booth.


Alaska Karen said...

Paul, I really enjoyed reading that! Thank you for a great perspective.

Leplume said...

Beautifully written tribute! Even though I am a Cubs fan, I was watching the last game and holding out hope that the Brew Crew would take it. Alas, it was not to be but, like you said, it really isn't just about those glorious moments, it's the other cherished moments that makes baseball such a great sport. So whether you're a Brewer fan or an eternally optimistic Cub fan, there's just something magic about baseball. Always will be.

Paul E. Vagnoni said...

Thank you, Karen. By the way, kudos to Dr. Norris!

Thanks, Mary Beth. Don't tell anyone, but I just realized that I can really appreciate what Cub fans go through.