Closing Down Milwaukee’s County Stadium in 2000

Milwaukee’s County Stadium hosted its last Brewers game on September 28, 2000. Arnie Stapleton of the AP wrote:

County Stadium always was an acquired taste.

The drab decor and corrugated steel, exposed beams and electrical wires. The black-and-white scoreboard that made instant replays look like old newsreels.

The splintered wooden seats with chipped green paint. The Formica-topped concession tables. The stench of beer nullified only by the aroma of sizzling bratwurst.

It staged few pennant races, but plenty of sausage races.

But what a view, and what a place to play.

Today, the Brewers will play Cincinnati, one last game at the nation’s first publicly financed ballpark that was built in 1953 for $4.8 million, about what outfielder Jeromy Burnitz made this season alone.

Then, the wrecking ball will begin ripping down the old place where the Braves won the ’57 World Series, the Brewers won the ’82 AL pennant and the Green Bay Packers played for 41 years.

Hank Aaron. Warren Spahn. Lew Burdette. Eddie Mathews. Robin Yount. Paul Molitor. Cecil Cooper. Jim Gantner. Jim Taylor. Willie Davis. Vince Lombardi. Paul Hornung. Brett Favre. They were all here. And they created an abundance of memories:

* Aaron hit an 11th-inning homer off St. Louis’ Billy Muffet to clinch Milwaukee’s first NL pennant in 1957.

* In 1959, Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings before losing both the no-hitter and the game in the 13th inning.

* On July 20, 1976, Aaron hit his 755th and last home run. A grounds crew member kept the ball for more than 20 years before cunningly getting Aaron to sign it at an autograph show.

* On Dec. 18, 1994, the Packers ended a 62-year tradition in Milwaukee with a 21-17 victory over Atlanta.

As for the game, the Chicago Tribune reported:

So much for Milwaukee County Stadium.

And so much for Jeff D’Amico’s shot at winning the National League ERA title.

Elmer Dessens pitched a two-hitter for his first career complete game as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-1 Thursday in the final game at the 48-year-old ballpark.

“That was a nice way to end it,” Reds manager Jack McKeon said. “Blow it up.”

The Reds tagged D’Amico (12-7) for six earned runs and 10 hits in six innings. Afterward, D’Amico, who finished with a 2.66 ERA, was taken to a hospital for an MRI on his left ankle for evaluation of a possible torn tendon, team spokesman Jason Parry said.

The same teams are scheduled to open Miller Park–probably under its retractable roof–with a night game next April 6.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Sean Casey, who drove in four runs to go with Dmitri Young’s four hits and four runs scored.

Casey’s three-run homer in the fifth was the last one hit at the ballpark, which began hosting major-league play in 1953 when the Braves arrived from Boston. After the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1965, it was empty for five years except for occasional White Sox games in 1968 and 1969.

In 1970, the Brewers moved from Seattle, where they played one season as the Pilots.

Bob Uecker, who played for the Milwaukee Braves and has been the Brewers’ broadcaster since 1970, hosted ceremonies after the game.

“It was here that boys became men,” Uecker said. “And men became champions, and champions became legends.”

Warren Spahn, the winningest left-hander in baseball history with 363 victories, threw the ceremonial first pitch to Del Crandall, his batterymate on opening day with the Milwaukee Braves 48 years ago.

“It’s like the curtain’s falling,” said Spahn, 79, who tossed a two-bouncer from about 30 feet away Thursday. “The party’s over.”

All-time home-run leader Hank Aaron, decked out in his old Milwaukee Braves uniform, was the first one introduced in a postgame celebration.

Hall of Famer Robin Yount rode in on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and circled the field just like he did after the 1982 World Series.

Fans applauded wildly in the middle of the fifth, when Olympic hero Ben Sheets was introduced on the field.

Sheets, the Brewers’ top minor-league pitching prospect, shut out Cuba in the gold-medal game at Sydney earlier this week.

And a closing note from The La Crosse Tribune:

Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn, who threw the first pitch when the stadium opened in 1953 and came back to toss the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday, would like to lay claim to the pitching rubber.

And why not?

Spahn won more than 300 games and pitched the Milwaukee Braves to the 1957 National League pennant, when Milwaukee beat the New York Yankees in seven games to win the World Series.

“I’m going to take the pitcher’s mound. No, not the whole thing. I’m going to take the (pitching) rubber the 78-yearold Spahn said sternly. “I would like to have it. I pitched two no-hitters here I won my 300th game here. I guess I deserve it.”

No one surrounding Spahn argued.

It was just part of a memorable day in which the Brewers said farewell to their 47-year-old home. After the game, a forgettable 8-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, 40 different players, managers and a manager’s wife Audrey Kuehn – took fans on a walk through the Milwaukee Braves, Milwaukee Brewers and Green Bay Packers history.

It provided a dramatic ending to an era that will give way to $346 million Miller Park in 2001.

“Tonight is the final curtain,” said former Braves catcher and 30-year radio broadcaster Bob Uecker. “It’s time to say goodbye. For what was, will always be.”

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 6:20 am  Comments (4)  
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