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Chronicling the Brewers from the Suds Series of 1982 to the 2011 National League Central title and from Bambi’s Bombers of the late '70s to Harvey’s Wallbangers of the early '80s, Bill Schroeder, a longtime Brewers color commentator and former Brewers catcher, provides insight into the Brewers inner sanctum as only he can. Read about what goes on in the equipment and training rooms, how batting practice can be chaotic, what it’s like to travel with the team, and off-the-wall anecdotes like the time Steve Sparks injured his shoulder trying to rip a phone book in half after listening to a motivational speaker.
About the Author
Drew Olson is the on-air host for 540 ESPN and a senior editor/columnist for ESPNWisconsin.com. He previously was the senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com and a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and its predecessor, the Milwaukee Journal. He also has contributed to the Sporting News, Baseball America, Sports Illustrated, and numerous other publications. Olson grew up in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he spent a semester on the men’s basketball team “before they got good.” Bill Schroeder is the color commentator for the Milwaukee Brewers, a position he has held since 1995. He spent eight seasons in the big leagues with the Brewers and California Angels, posting a career-best .332 batting average in 1987. Born in Baltimore and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, Schroeder graduated from West Windsor Plainsboro High School, where he earned All-State honors his junior and senior years. He attended Clemson University, leading the Tigers to the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1978 and 1979. He and his wife, Kate, reside in New Berlin, Wisconsin. He has two daughters, Lindsey and Mallory, a son, Billy, and a granddaughter, Madelyn. Known for his great sense of humor, Bob Uecker has broadcast Brewers games since 1971.He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Read an Excerpt
If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers
Stories from the Milwaukee Brewers Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box
By Bill Schroeder, Drew Olson
Triumph Books LLCCopyright © 2016 Bill Schroeder with Drew Olson
All rights reserved.
Part I: Brewers Greats
This Bud's for You
People often ask me, "What was it like to work for Bud Selig?"
I tell them it was great and I mean it.
When I first got to the big leagues, Bud wasn't the commissioner yet. He was around a lot, and we would talk to him. Every once in a while, when things were going rough, he would come down and let us have it. He didn't do that often, but you could tell that he cared deeply about the team. He would come and watch batting practice, and you'd see him with that Tiparillo cigar and you could tell the ballpark was where he was happy.
When I got called up, I could tell right away that he had a special relationship with the guys from the 1982 team — Robin, Paulie, Rollie, and others. He loved those guys.
When I first came up, Harvey Kuenn was managing and his wife, Audrey, was around the club a lot, and so were Bud and his wife, Sue Selig. It was really a family atmosphere. It felt like a mom and pop store in some ways. Audrey was referred to as "Mom." She loved the players, and they loved her.
Although we always called him "Mr. Selig," he wasn't an intimidating figure. He would do things for us. He had the car dealership at the time. If you wanted a car, word got out and you'd go see Bud. I would go see his secretary, Lori Keck, an amazing lady who also worked for legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi, and tell her I needed to talk to Mr. Selig. I would go into his office, which looked exactly like it does in the Selig Experience — down to the piles of newspapers on the floor, and we would work out a deal.
He used to give players interest-free loans with payments taken out of our checks to buy cars. He didn't have to do that, but he did. He was very generous that way. The best way I can describe the whole atmosphere at that time was that it was like a family business. When it was someone's birthday, there would be cards, cake, and other treats. There were holiday parties. One time, I had a team party at my house and just about everybody showed up and I was stunned to see Bud show up. I probably shouldn't have been surprised because that's the kind of boss he was. But if I had known he was coming, I would have cut my grass.
I know a lot of people will remember Bud most for his work as commissioner. He was a consensus builder. He came in at a tough time with the work stoppages and the strike that prompted him to cancel the World Series in 1994. He dealt with the steroid issue in the late 1990s and 2000s. He worked through realignment with the Brewers moving to the National League and the Astros later moving to the American League and he instituted the wild-card, which has been a huge success.
As successful as he was in the commissioner's office, I'll always think of Bud in his role with the Brewers. The one thing I tell people is that he was the ultimate fan. When I played we could see him pacing on the loge out in front of the press box. It was right at the top of the screen, and there would be media guys up there and we could see him pace.
Bud's private box was located right next to the press box. Reporters always told us how he would come in and chat when the game was going well. His door was metal, and when things were going south for the Brewers, you often heard the door slam with a loud bang that shook the press box. When it got tight, he would pace. We could see him do it. When we had a bad inning, he would slam the door to his private box, walk into the press box, banter with reporters, and slam the door on his way out. Then he'd go back to his box and slam the door again. Tom Haudricourt from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel still laughs about the "triple slam" moments.
I remember one day during spring training I popped into the manager's office to chat with Phil Garner because we were getting ready to broadcast a Cactus League game to the folks back in Wisconsin. The team hadn't been playing very well at that time, but ... it was spring training, so nobody seemed too upset about it.
Well, one person was.
As Phil and I were chatting with a couple of writers, Bud walked by. He had just arrived from Milwaukee and he wasn't thrilled. "I've been around long enough to know that the outcome down here doesn't really matter in the big picture," Selig said, smiling. "It would be nice, though, if we could win once in a while. We're trying to sell tickets back home. Any help you can give us in that regard would be greatly appreciated."
The next day, with the game on TV, Phil trotted out his A team. He played a bunch of starters, and the Brewers fell behind by five runs in the first inning. I'm not sure if Bud slammed any doors that day, but I'm sure he wanted to.
Bud's rapport with the press was legendary. He liked newspapers and had a pretty good grasp on the concept that free publicity was good even when the stories weren't all that rosy. There was a lot of good-natured ripping between him and the men of the Fourth Estate. Bud Lea, a longtime columnist for the Milwaukee Sentinel, was one of his favorite targets. Bud spent a lot of time covering the Green Bay Packers, and when he would show up at the ballpark in August, Bud Selig would say, "Hey Bud Lea, shouldn't you be covering a Packers scrimmage?" Bud acted like the Packers were competition, but he loved them almost as much as he loved the Brewers. He and Henry Aaron used to go to games together, and he served for a time on the Packers board of directors.
The press box at County Stadium was pretty cozy. Visiting writers sat in the second row and would howl with laughter at some of the barbs traded between Bud and the local writers. One year, the Brewers had a problem when a skunk built a nest under the stands near the home bullpen. They actually brought in animal control to trap the critter, and it became one of those light local news stories that TV stations like to deliver to viewers.
Haudricourt wasn't about to let that one slip by. "Hey, Bud, I don't see what the big deal is about the skunk," he said. "I've been writing stories all season saying that your bullpen stinks." In most cases, Bud would have shot back with something about the quality of Tom's writing or the general state of the newspaper and Journal Company stock, but this time he smiled.
Like many owners Bud had his favorite players. But he was such a big fan that he often rode a roller coaster. In the mid-1990s, the Brewers had an outfielder named Gerald Williams, who was acquired with Wisconsin native Bob Wickman in a deal that sent Pat Listach, Graeme Lloyd, and later Ricky Bones to the New York Yankees. A few weeks into Williams' tenure in Milwaukee, Selig popped into the press box just as Williams delivered a base hit. "You know, I really like this Williams kid," Selig gushed. "He really plays the game the right way."
A few innings later, Selig was back in the press box, probably grabbing another Diet Coke, when Williams — who had failed to execute a sacrifice bunt and then struck out to short-circuit a rally — missed a cutoff man and allowed a runner to grab an extra base.
"I don't know what the hell Williams is doing tonight," Selig said. "He looks awful."
"But Bud, you were just singing his praises," Haudricourt said.
"I know what I said, but he's terrible right now."
As so often happens in baseball, Williams redeemed himself. He made a nice catch in the outfield and delivered another hit. When the game ended and the Brewers were exchanging congratulatory handshakes on the field and writers were heading to the clubhouse for postgame interviews, Selig stopped Haudricourt and said, "I know what I said before, but I really do like Williams."
One of the all-time classic Selig press box stories ended up inspiring the title of a book. During one particularly ugly game, Brewers media relations director Tom Skibosh and his assistant, Mario Ziino, were laughing about a joke someone had told or something that happened in a fantasy football draft or something like that when Selig stormed in and caught them laughing at what he felt should have been a somber moment. "If you want to have fun, go someplace else!" he bellowed, before storming out of the press box, slamming doors along the way.
Silence fell over the tiny press box until Haudricourt, once described by Toronto writer Bob Elliott as "the Archenemy of Silence," piped up. "You know, he's right," Haudricourt said. "If we want to have fun, we should go someplace. In fact, that would probably be a good marketing slogan for the team next year."
Everybody cracked up. After being downsized during the 1994 work stoppage, Skibosh ended up writing a memoir and calling it, If You Wanna Have Fun, Go Someplace Else.
* * *
One of the more magical evenings of the 2015 season took place on May 28 at Miller Park. Unfortunately, the Brewers were off that night. (It was one of those years). May 28 was the night that the club unveiled "the Selig Experience." Tucked into a corner of the left-field loge level, the Selig Experience is a state-of-the-art multimedia presentation that chronicles Milwaukee baseball history and the career of the former Brewers president and Major League Baseball commissioner. It wasn't until I went through the exhibit for the first time that I realized how intertwined the two entities are.
The guest list for the debut party, an elegant affair held on an unseasonably warm summer night in center field, was impressive. Henry Aaron, a close friend of Selig for 50 years, was on hand along with Robin Yount, Bob Uecker, and University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez. Selig's successor as commissioner, Rob Manfred, was on hand as was his special assistant, Joe Torre, who began his big league career playing for the Milwaukee Braves. Jeff Idelson, the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, was in the crowd as was Rachael and Sharon Robinson, the widow and daughter of one of Selig's heroes, Jackie Robinson.
The Brewers had already dedicated a statue to Selig outside Miller Park, where his likeness is immortalized near Aaron and Yount, his two favorite Milwaukee players. They also retired uniform No. 1 to honor their No. 1 fan. The Selig Experience, which was conceived by then-general manager Doug Melvin and designed by BRC Imagination Arts, which had experience with presidential libraries and several iconic brands like Ford, Coca-Cola, Guinness, Disney, and others, really is a must-see for Brewers fans of all ages. The video display, which lasts less than 15 minutes, gives way to a re-creation of Selig's County Stadium office (com- plete with his trademark Tiparillo cigar emitting a trail of smoke from an ashtray) and ends with a hologram of the man himself addressing the audience. "All the talent in the world, all the most incredible technology in the world is meaningless without a great story," said Brad Shelton, the creative director of BRC, at a press conference following the unveiling. "And, man, did we have a great story." Shelton and his team were struck by the fact that Selig's story is interwoven with Milwaukee's baseball history. "It's very rare that we get to work on something that has this kind of importance to the city which it's in," he said.
Speaking to reporters on the field, Manfred echoed that sentiment. "It is an amazing tribute to an amazing man and a great career, particularly that portion of his career that was spent here in Milwaukee," he said. "Some of us who worked with Bud for years in New York focus on all he accomplished as commissioner, and we forget, lose track of the fact, that he was the person that saved baseball in Milwaukee."
As I sat in the intimate theater, which features three rows of bleachers and three floor-to-ceiling video screens, I watched the story of Bud's love affair with the game unfold. It began when his mother, a Russian immigrant named Marie, who was an elementary school teacher, took him to games at Milwaukee's Borchert Field, home of the American Association, and to New York baseball shrines like Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, and the Polo Grounds.
When the Braves came to Milwaukee in 1953, Selig was in college and he was a dedicated fan. As a college student at the University of Wisconsin, he attended the Braves' first game on April 14, 1953, and saw Warren Spahn pitch and become a winner when Billy Bruton hit a game-winning homer in the bottom of the 10th inning. "When Billy Bruton hit the home run off [St. Louis Cardinals outfielder] Enos Slaughter's glove to win the game, it was wild," he recalled. "It became a love affair with the intensity that no one could have predicted."
Selig was a graduate student in the fall of 1957, skipping an accounting class in Madison to watch the Braves clinch the pennant on Aaron's homer off St. Louis pitcher Billy Muffett. "My seat was right behind a post, but I was there, and it was one of the most exciting nights of my life," Selig said. "I remembered that a lot more than anything I would have learned in that accounting class, I can tell you that."
When the Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta in 1965, Selig was devastated and determined to keep baseball in his hometown. He formed a group called Teams Inc. and sued to keep the Braves from leaving. The lawsuit failed, so Selig shifted his focus. With local businessmen like Ed Fitzgerald, Bob Uihlein, Irv Maier, and Ben Barkin behind him, Selig formed Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club Inc. and began trying to get an expansion franchise.
Though the Braves had been successful on the field and at the gate — at least until crowds dwindled during their lame-duck year — Selig met resistance from other owners because of his previous lawsuit. "There was plenty of anger, and I can understand that," he said. "They weren't happy with us, but they also knew that Milwaukee was an incredible baseball town. The Braves were the first National League team to draw 2 million fans. The fans were so passionate. But it was an uphill battle."
At the major league owner's meeting on May 27, 1968, in Chicago, National League president Warren Giles stepped to the microphone to announce two expansion franchises. "I saw the 'M' forming in his mouth and my heart jumped," Selig recalled. "I was sure he was going to say 'Milwaukee.'" To Selig's dismay, the National League welcomed Montreal to the big leagues. San Diego received the other NL bid with Kansas City and Seattle joining the American League. Once again, many people thought Milwaukee's bid was dead. Selig soldiered on. "It was the toughest five-year period in my life," he said. "I learned a lot of lessons about perseverance and tenacity."
With the expansion dream extinguished, Selig set his sights on buying an existing team. He tried to lure the Chicago White Sox to town, even welcoming the South Siders for a few well-attended exhibitions, but the American League nixed the sale. "Time was running out," Selig said. "Even people close to me were telling me to give up. We were down to our last chance."
In 1970 the Seattle Pilots filed for bankruptcy after one failed season at Sick's Stadium. Selig made a bid to buy the team and ended up getting it for just less than $11 million. "I cried when I got the news," Selig said. "I didn't think it was going to happen." There wasn't much time to celebrate. As spring training ended, the Pilots equipment truck stopped in Las Vegas to await orders to continue to Washington or Wisconsin. Selig had to hire a staff and be ready for the home opener in a week.
On April 7, 1970, a crowd of 37,237 gathered at County Stadium as Lew Krause and the Brewers dropped a 12–0 decision to the California Angels and Andy Messersmith. "It's the only time in my career that I didn't care whether we won or lost," Selig said. "I was so happy to have a team in Milwaukee, and we had so many things to take care of that it didn't matter. I'll never forget, though, as I was walking to my office after the final out a woman came up to me and said, 'You wanted a team in the worst way, and that's exactly what you got.' I never forgot that."
Slowly but surely, the Brewers began to improve the on-field product. Video from the Selig Experience chronicles the exploits of "Bambi's Bombers" and "Harvey's Wallbangers." I defy Brewers fans to watch highlights of Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Sixto Lezcano, Mike Caldwell, Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons, and others and not get chills.
I know I did, especially the part about "Team Streak" in 1987. I was around for the 13-game winning streak to start the season, Juan Nieves' no-hitter, and Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak. I also got chills watching highlights from the playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. "There are a lot of lessons to be learned in the great story of the Milwaukee Brewers," Selig said at the Experience gala. "What they meant, what they mean today. All the ups and downs. And they're all chronicled there. I hope that people that come [to the Experience] will really understand the franchise, what it means, what it will mean in the future, and what we went through to get it and keep it."
Though Selig became acting commissioner in 1992 and began turning over operation of the club to his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, he did find one more occasion to beat the odds. In the early 1990s, when it became apparent that the Brewers wouldn't be able to compete against bigger market clubs without a new stadium, Selig led the battle to build Miller Park.
Excerpted from If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers by Bill Schroeder, Drew Olson. Copyright © 2016 Bill Schroeder with Drew Olson. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword Craig Counsell xi
Foreword Bob Uecker xv
Part I Brewers Greats 1
This Bud's for You
Part II Smorgasbord of Stories 51
The Chandler Explosion
The Sausage Race
Part III Great Games 83
Brewers Win the 1982 Pennant
Tony Plush Saves the Day
Braun and CC Brew Up a Winner
It Takes 162
The Kid Hits 3,000
Molitor's Streak Ends
County Stadium Finale
The Hit Parade
The Future Arrives
Friday Night Fights
CC's Near No-No
Easter Sunday '87
Part IV Behind the Scenes 115
Director of Clubhouse Operations
The Training Room
The Video Revolution
Part V In the Booth 185
My Baseball Life
Becoming a Broadcaster