Bud Selig will be among the five new Hall of Famers to be inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday. The election to the Hall was based mostly on Selig’s long run as baseball’s commissioner, although his more noble work might be leading the charge to return major league baseball to his hometown of Milwaukee.
The city had lost the Braves after only 13 seasons (1953-65) to Atlanta, where owner William Bartholomay went in pursuit of a larger market and TV-radio contract.
Selig didn’t have the money but he had the energy to be out front in Milwaukee’s effort to regain a franchise. That happened in 1970, when the Seattle Pilots went bust after only one year and officially became the Milwaukee Brewers a few days before the season started.
I find it a wonderful coincidence that Selig is going into the Hall on the exact 60th anniversary of the greatest phenomenon in Milwaukee’s big-league history.
The 1957 Braves were trying to win the pennant. They solved a second base problem by trading for Red Schoendienst on the June 15 deadline. Then, they lost two important veterans — Joe Adcock and Billy Bruton — to serious injuries.
On July 29, they summoned Bob Hazle, a 26-year-old outfielder batting .279 for Class AAA Wichita. He made his first start against Pittsburgh on July 30, 1957.
A while back, Selig was asked about what happened next, and said of Hazle’s arrival: “In all the years I’ve watched baseball, and that goes back to the ’40s, I’ve never seen someone come up and have a year like ‘Hurricane’ Hazle.
“I mean, he hit rocket shots. … It was wonderful. It was a thrill. Bob Hazle. They couldn’t get him out.’’
Hazle batted .403 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in two months. The Braves won the pennant and then beat the Yankees in seven games for what remains Milwaukee’s lone World Series victory.
Sixty years later, to the day of Hazle’s first start, Selig will make his Hall of Fame speech. Baseball Bud won’t need this reminder to give a mention to the two-month Hurricane that hit his hometown.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
More notes on Milwaukee’s Hurricane Hazle:
• He brought the nickname from the minors — based on Hazel, a deadly hurricane that hit his home state of South Carolina in 1954.
• He batted .179 with Milwaukee in 1958, was sold to Detroit in May and was out of the big leagues after that season.
• Hurricane died on April 25, 1992, at age 61 in Columbia, S.C.
Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.