We woke up early Friday morning and bid our new favorite city farewell as we headed downtown to catch an Amtrak up to Milwaukee. The trip is only about 90 miles up the coast of Lake Michigan was peaceful and scenic. We got in to “downtown” Milwaukee at about 10 am and, luckily, our Airbnb hosts were kind enough to let us drop our bags at the house.
We met our hosts, Susie and Ron, and their hyena looking dog, Tristan. Very hospitable Milwaukeeans with a creaky, old, eclectic home. We made our way to the ballpark for our 12:15 tour. We try to take as many tours as possible when we’re on the road, but Milwaukee was the only stadium that we could book on this trip. Brent will get into more specifics about the stadium in his game recap, but as we approached Miller Park for the first time both of us were struck by just how ugly it is from the outside. It’s a mixture of brick, concrete, and steel beams and, quite honestly, is hideous.
The tour itself was great. Our tour guide Jeff had been giving tours for 6 years and knew his stuff. We learned a lot about the teams history and the ballpark itself. One thing that became clear very quickly was just how much Milwaukee loves Bud Selig. They have a statue of him in front of the stadium, a plaque of him in their wall of fame, his number is retired, and a 15 minute documentary of him, “The Selig Experience”, plays all game in a small theater inside the stadium. Bud was a local businessman that headed an investment group to buy a baseball franchise and bring baseball back to Milwaukee in 1975 after the Milwaukee Braves left for Atlanta in 1970. That’s all good and well. But then he became commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1998 to 2015. Outside of Milwaukee, Bud is best known for turning a blind eye to steroid use throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s until it no longer was viable for him to ignore the black-eye cash cow that he had created, so he flipped radically the other way and came down hard on steroid users all while claiming innocence and ignorance to what he allowed to happen. I personally never liked him as commissioner, but this was not the place to raise those opinions, so I digress.
Some of the more colorful aspects of the ballpark include:
- The retractable roof. It’s the only roof that opens by fanning out in two directions as opposed to being a singular panel on a track. It only takes about 10 minutes to fully open or close the roof and only costs about $20 each time. We saw it open during the tour and closed for the game. It’s a very impressive feat of engineering.
- The UV lamps. On the field before and after every game are “Grass Growing Lamps.” Because of the lack of sunlight with the roof closed and the cold weather, the grounds crew utilizes UV lamps to help the grass grow. They give off about 20% of the sun’s UV rays.
- Bob Uecker. The Brewers radio announcer for the last 50 years has been Bob Uecker. You may know him from Mr. Belvedere or the Major League movies, but he’s been in baseball as a player or announcer for over 60 years. The Milwaukee native is a legend and is well celebrated in the ballpark. We were able to sit at his seat in the press box and take pictures with his statue in the back row of the stadium.
- Bernie the Brewer. The Brewers loveable mascot Bernie sits up in his dugout above left field during the game and goes down a big yellow slide every time the Brewers hit a homerun or win. The fans love him. He’s no rally monkey, but you could say we felt the Bern a little.
After the stadium tour we headed back “downtown” to Lakefront Brewery. It was #1 on the list of “Thing to do in Milwaukee” and some of the locals told us about it too. It’s an old warehouse building right on the Milwaukee river a few blocks from Lake Michigan. The main room is fairly large and I was shocked to see it packed at 230pm on a Friday. We were talked into the $11 brewery tour which included the tour, 4 drinks, and a pint glass.
The tour itself was the most unique tour either of us had ever taken. The whole schtick of the place is super laid back and has the feel of a “regular man’s” brewery. Our tour guide, James, was a young guy wearing a t-shirt and basketball shorts. He divulged that he was a theatre major and boy could we tell. Nick would be turning over in his grave. He had his own mug and was chugging beer the whole time. By the end of the tour he was definitely drunk or very close to it. The Brewery had done some funny things over the years like buy Bernie the Brewers old dugout home from when the team moved from Milwaukee County Stadium to Miller Park in 2001. They also bought the bottle line from the set of Laverne and Shirley. They had a stop where we all sang the theme song. To be honest, Ive never seen 1 second of that show and had never heard the theme song, so I was a little lost. But I was also 4 drinks in by that point, but it didn’t matter much to me.
After the tour we needed to sober up before the game, so we headed down the River Walk trail into “downtown”. Milwaukee itself is a nice city. It’s clean. Friendly people. Nice river. There’s just not much to do. We walked over to the Harley-Davidson museum and Brent gushed on for 20 minutes about how it used to be Davidson-Harley and how they started on the museum’s location for their first garage and on and on and on and on. For twenty minutes. We snapped a picture for Brent outside with the sign so Brent could frame it above his bed and off we went to the game.