Lucille McElroy died Monday at 94. She was my mother-in-law and an ardent baseball fan. When she moved into assisted living at St. Therese in New Hope a few years back, one task for visitors was to keep current the schedule for televised Twins games on her white board.
Lucille attended games with some frequency here and in Fort Myers. The daughter (four) or son (one) who was with her was aware of this: They weren’t leaving early.
Family legend was that Lucille and her husband, Tom, were at a Braves game in the early seasons at Milwaukee’s County Stadium, and Tom decided to leave since the home team was facing defeat. Thus, Lucille was forced to listen to a winning Braves rally on the car radio rather than being there, and a golden rule was applied to her baseball fandom:
Don’t leave early.
Tom died young and the McElroy clan moved to Minneapolis, shortly after the Braves moved to Atlanta after the 1965 season, and Lucille became a Twins fan.
I was contemplating Lucille’s love of baseball and thinking how great it had to be in Milwaukee in 1953, when the announcement came on March 18 — 26 days before the season opener — that the Boston Braves would be moving to the brand-new County Stadium.
There were only 10 cities in the major leagues. Thirsty old Milwaukee would become the 11th. Eight seasons later, when the Twins arrived from Washington, the Twin Cities became the 16th.
Milwaukee inherited a fantastic ballclub, led by third baseman Eddie Mathews and pitchers Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, and then Henry Aaron arrived in 1954.
Baseball in Milwaukee was such a phenomenon that the first issue of Sports Illustrated — Aug. 16, 1954 — showed Mathews powering into a baseball with his lefthanded swing in a jam-packed County Stadium.
No NL team had drawn 2 million and the Braves did it from 1954 to 1957. They beat the Yankees in seven games in the 1957 World Series and lost to the Yankees in seven in 1958.
Too much, too soon, as the Braves were gone to Atlanta after only 13 seasons, but what a place it had to be in the 1950s if you loved baseball.
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
More on Milwaukee Braves:
• The 10 MLB cities before the Braves came to Milwaukee: New York, three teams; Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis, two teams; plus Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington.
• The Braves blew a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in Game 2 and lost a best-of-three playoff series to the L.A. Dodgers (2-0) in 1959, missing a third straight World Series.
• The Braves never had a losing season in 13 years in Milwaukee. The overall record was 1,146-890, a .563 winning percentage.