Last stadium of the summer! We finish our 30-ballpark tour seeing our Phils play two days in a row in Beer Country USA – aka Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s only fitting that a venue known as Miller Park is home to the baseball organization called the Brewers. And it was definitely a great ballpark to conclude our road trip with, ranking up there as one of my favorites. The structure uses a nice combination of classic and modern styles, with brick forming the exterior walls and huge glass windows situated all around the building. And on both sides of the main gate where it says “Miller Park” are two gigantic rounded windows that look almost like bug eyes from the front.
This stadium utilizes one of the coolest retractable roofs out of the 6 ballparks that have one, opening up from the center in the direction of both foul lines, with its panels stored above the “bug-eyes.” The roof was open both nights we went to a game here, but you can tell that these two over-sized windows – along with the big rectangular ones flanking the scoreboard in center field – let in so much sunlight when it’s closed that I’m sure it still feels almost like an outdoor game. That’s one of the things I didn’t like about Rogers Centre in Toronto – the roof was closed and there were no big windows letting light in so it just felt like an indoor game (the artificial turf didn’t help the cause there either).
Outside the main entrance are a few statues of Milwaukee baseball legends. The first is Hank Aaron, who I’ve definitely mentioned multiple times this summer. He’s known by many to be the greatest to ever play the game. After playing only a year for the Negro League Indianapolis Clowns (and leading them to a Championship victory that year), he was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1952. He played for them from until 1974, moving with them to Atlanta in 1965, then was traded back to the city of Milwaukee to join the new hometown-squad Brewers for the final 2 years of his career. I’m sure I’ve highlighted some of his amazing achievements already, but just to refresh your memory: he has hit the second-most home runs history (755) behind the juiced-up Barry Bonds (but he’s still the home run king to me). He holds 4 MLB career records: total bases, RBIs, extra-base hits, and consecutive seasons with 150+ hits (17). He was selected to the All-Star team 21 times out of his 23 seasons in the big leagues, won 2 batting titles, 4 home run titles, and 3 Gold Gloves. He’s the statue below to the right.
The other statue depicts “Rockin” Robin Yount, who played his entire 20-year career for the Brewers from 1974 to ’93. He holds franchise records for career hits (3,142), runs (1,632), doubles (583), triples (126), homers (251), RBIs (1,406), and walks (966). And the third statue is of Bud Selig, who bought the Seattle Pilots in 1970 and moved them to Milwaukee to become the Brewers and begin a new era of Milwaukee baseball. He is now the commissioner of MLB.
Around the main concourse are a few cool displays. One is the Milwaukee Braves Honor Roll, paying homage to the first professional baseball organization in the city, who were a beloved team in the community for 13 seasons (1953-’65), never finishing a season with a losing record. Plaques and banners commemorate the best players from this era, including Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn, 4-time All Star Johnny Logan, and power hitting duo Eddie Mathews & Hank Aaron. A plaque also honors the 1957 team, who beat the Yankees to deliver the city’s first World Series Championship.
Down the hall is Autograph Alley, displaying dozens of baseballs signed by some baseball immortals like Casey Stengel, Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, Joe DiMaggio, and Bob Feller. Other stars like Mohammed Ali even have signed balls here.
Milwaukee is proud to be the birthplace and home of the Harley Davidson motorcycle company, and Miller Park shows this pride with an entire Harley-Davidson Deck over the left-center field bleachers, complete with a buffet for a party of up to 42. Your gang is even reserved access to the exclusive Harley Parking Lot for bikes only. Three Harley models sit up on the beam above that, which you can see from pretty much any seat in the park, and the ceremonial game ball is even delivered via motorcycle.
Probably the most well-known feature of Miller Park is the huge slide that the mascot, “Bernie,” slides down after Brewer homers and wins. He hangs out it his little perch high above left field when the Brew Crew is up to bat, jumps down the slide with his arms high in the air, and waves a big Brewers flag when he gets to the bottom. And Hall of Fame broadcaster (and former Milwaukee catcher) Bob Uecker is known for his home run catch-phrase, which is displayed above Bernie’s Dugout and lights up with a Brewer blast: “Get up, get up, get outta here.. Gone!”
Milwaukee is a city known for it’s meat. And more specifically: its brats. The sausages at Miller are widely claimed to be the best in the big leagues, so we couldn’t pass up tasting them for ourselves. We decided to try the chorizo first. The skin had the perfect snap, breaking with the first bite, and the meat inside was so juicy, tender and flavorful. And with a little sauerkraut and hot mustard to add some heat, it was easily much better than any dog we’ve had all summer. And around the 6th inning we went back to try the Italian, which was a little more burnt with a charred flavor – just the way I like it. Also available were Polish brats (like kielbasa), and something known as the “Giant Slugger”: a 1-pound, 2-foot-long hot dog topped with nacho cheese, chili, grilled onions, and jalapenos. I’d have to starve myself all day to even attempt this.
First night’s game:
We saw Cliff Lee pitch for the Phillies on the 4th of July against the Mets, and earn his first win of the season (extremely late in the year for such a great pitcher). Up until today, he’s only won a single game since then. And it didn’t look too promising early, giving up back-to-back homers to Ryan Braun (shown below) and Aramis Ramirez in the first inning. Then in the fourth, Braun came up and smashed a second home run to make the score 3-1. But in the top of the 5th, the Phils put together a rare 2-out rally for themselves with a single, a walk, and another single to load the bases for third baseman Kevin Frandsen – who’s only played about 15 games all year since replacing the injured Placido Polanco. He ripped a ball into the left-center field gap to score all three baserunners and take the lead 4-3. If they could hold on to this lead for 4 more innings, Lee could finally get another win! In the bottom of the 8th inning, Lee gets 2 quick outs, but Brewer second baseman Rickie Weeks reaches on a throwing error by – how ironic – third baseman Kevin Frandsen. Lee is taken out of the game, and reliever Josh Linblom (who we got from the Dodgers for Shane Victorino a few weeks ago) intentionally walks Ryan Braun.. smart move.. but then UNintentionally walks Aramis Ramirez, bringing up slugger Corey Hart with the bases loaded. A few pitches into the count, Hart blasts a shot just over the right-center field wall, barely out of the reach of Domonic Brown.. who barely even left the ground. He’s 6’5” and can probably jump over a car if he wanted to. Man I hate him so much right now.
Final score: Brewers 7, Phillies 4
Starting pitchers: Marco Estrada (ND) – 5 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 4 ER, 1 K; Cliff Lee (ND) – 7.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R (3 ER), 12 Ks
Homers: Ryan Braun (2), Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart (GS)
Second day in Milwaukee, final day of the trip:
With a full day before the 7 o’clock game, we explored the city a bit, walking around the Historic District and ending up in the Milwaukee Public Market. It’s not as big as the Reading Terminal Market we go to all the time in Philly (where you have to get a pork sandwich at DiNic’s if you ever go), but definitely had a wide variety of foods at dozens of stands and counters. We were in a seafood mood so got some oysters and a shrimp/sausage gumbo. I would never expect Milwaukee to have great seafood (does Lake Michigan have sea animals? I have no clue, don’t judge me), but these oysters were fresh and plump and sooo tasty. And the gumbo was awesome too.
With some more time to kill, we found a little German neighborhood in town with tons of bars and cheese shops with lots of samples (as if we didn’t eat enough today). We stopped at a bar called Mader’s and got a sausage and cheese platter to go with our genuine German beers. Bratwurst, knockwurst, Swiss, and Cheddar. Yum.
After a day of eating and mozying, we headed to our final game of the summer. And if you read my Anaheim post back in June, you might remember us sitting next to a newlywed couple, Ben and Sara, who were touring the California ballparks for their honeymoon – after getting married on home plate of Miller Park! Anyway, we got in touch when we came into town, and Sara was actually going to tonight’s game with some family and was nice enough to show us around a bit. They have season tickets in the club level, so we got to see the beautiful indoor lounges, complete with a buffet and even a grand piano player. Haven’t seen that in any other stadium. And if it weren’t for Sara, we wouldn’t have even noticed Craig Counsell walking right by us! He played in the majors for 15 years, finishing his career with 4 years here in Milwaukee. Thanks for the tour Sara!
I think we had some bad luck here at Miller – not only because of how the Phils played – but because of the annoying fans around us. Kept getting up and leaving mid-at bat (hate that), and this one guy had to have been the world’s worst heckler… “Hey Rickie, you’re dreads are too heavy!….. I’m saying that because you just swung and missed as if they were weighing you down!” But I can confidently say that these fans put together the coolest “wave” I’ve ever seen at a sporting event. It started off normally, taking a couple tries to get everyone into it. But when it caught on, it went around the stadium a couple times, then we noticed that it was coming back around in slow motion! I’ve never seen this before so I was a little confused, but when it got closer to us, we saw that everyone was just very slowly moving to standing up and raise their arms in the air. And once the slow-motion wave went all the way around once, it was time for a high-speed one. I don’t know how they choreographed this, but nobody missed a beat – it hit a certain section, then took off.. it looked so cool from across the stadium. Definitely giving you Brewer fans props on putting that together. Very impressive.
Later in the game was the Famous Sausage Race. A brat, Polish sausage, Italian sausage, hot dog, and Chorizo all race around the warning track wearing clothing and facial hair. The fans just eat it up.
We wanted nothing more than to conclude our epic summer trip with a victory from our Phillies. They gave us a little hope by striking first with a Ryan Howard RBI-double in the fourth inning. But we were quickly frustrated in the bottom half of the inning when Brewer speedster Nyjer Morgan knocked a ball towards the right-center field gap with 2 men on base. Domonic Brown ran a long way and got to the ball, but it hit right off his glove… way to miss another chance to prevent some scoring. Then after an intentional walk, Milwaukee pitcher Yovani Gallardo even gets in on the hitting action, slapping the ball to right and scoring 2 more. Philly starter Vance Worley is replaced by BJ Rosenberg (who we saw blow the extra-inning game all the way back in Baltimore for his major league debut) in the 5th, who gives up a 2-run homer to Ryan Braun – his 3rd homer in the past 2 nights. The Phils managed to scrap in another run in the 9th, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Final score: Brewers 6, Phillies 2
Starting pitchers: Yovani Gallardo – 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 9 Ks; Vance Worley (L) – 4.2 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 4 ER, 3 Ks
Home runs: Ryan Braun