MILWAUKEE – The Milwaukee Brewers, Minneapolis Millers and St. Paul Saints were rivals in the American Association from its inception in 1902 and for the next half-century. By the 1950s, the second team in two-franchise towns — Braves in Boston, Athletics in Philadelphia, Browns in St. Louis — were looking for new locations with better stadiums.
Milwaukee had the advantage over Minneapolis-St. Paul for this reason: It was one city and one county, not two cities and two counties fighting each other.
Ground was broken for County Stadium in October 1950; there were constructions delays, but it was ready to go by 1953. On March 18, 1953, the Braves announced they were moving to Milwaukee — 27 days before the first game.
In the Twin Cities, Minneapolis forces opened Met Stadium in Bloomington in 1956 and St. Paul opened the original Midway Stadium in 1957. That’s why those two fat guys are still shaking hands across the river, folks.
As we quibbled, Milwaukee became the nation’s baseball hotbed — immediately drawing a National League record of 1,826,317 (63 home dates, with 14 doubleheaders) in 1953.
Lou Perini was the owner who moved the Braves to Milwaukee. Then, new owner Bill Bartholomay moved them to Atlanta in 1966 in pursuit of radio and TV money in the South. Seattle was a one-year bust with the expansion Pilots in 1969, and that’s how Milwaukee got back in MLB with the Brewers in 1970.
Good years, bad years, a stadium fight; Cubs south, Lake Michigan east, Packers north, Badgers west and now Giannis Antetokounmpo — lots of appealing competition, but Milwaukee has proven that baseball still can be found in its soul.
The Brewers vaulted to 2.87 million in attendance by being in first place for a long stretch in 2007. Starting then, they have been under 2.5 million only once, while passing 3 million three times.
Bob Uecker, legend of the radio booth, was asked to explain, and said:
“Not a secret — numerous good teams, families drive to Miller Park in the summer knowing there’s going to be a game, and Mark Attanasio is very popular as an owner.
“Plus, it’s Milwaukee. Beer and baseball. Hard to beat that.”
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• Milwaukee remains a city of taverns. For instance: One after another on Blue Mound Road, small joints pitch fan transportation to Brewers games (were fans being allowed to attend in 2020).
• Miller Park opened in 2001. The beer company paid $40 million for 20 seasons of naming rights. Next year, it will be American Family Field.
• The Milwaukee Braves’ record was 1,146-890 (.563). Their poorest won-loss in 13 seasons was 84-78 in 1963.