Baseball has a long season.  Getting longer all the time, in fact.  It is hard to remember that not long ago, when a pitcher named Jim Brosnan wrote a pretty good book called The Long Season about the 1959 season, they played a mere 154 games instead of 162.  And now the World Series is scheduled to go into November!  By the way, you can get a big chuckle by reading about those who criticized Brosnan’s book for breaking the clubhouse code.  It is sort of like criticizing the contemporaneous Father Knows Best for blowing the lid off the American family.

Part of the problem is the playoffs.  I’ll admit it was pretty difficult to come out on top after expansion, like in 1967 when you had to beat nine other teams.  Now you only have to come out on top of 4, 5, or 6, depending on where you are.  Does that make any sense?  And of course you don’t have to come out on top because you can be the Wild Card.  I still have trouble with this concept, though I’ll admit as a Boston fan I have been the beneficiary of it, for it just doesn’t seem the same to root for your team to squeak into second.  At least it is not like basketball, where they play they entire season to eliminate three teams and then the rest start all over again with the real season.  And while I am whining about the alignment, how about 14 teams in one league and 16 in the other?  It offends one’s sense of symmetry.  I suppose if there were 15 and 15 it would make scheduling games problematic, but you could always have an interleague game for the odd teams.  And speaking of interleague, can we please get rid of the Designated Hitter rule in the American League?

Enough ranting, and what does this have to do with Milwaukee, the alleged subject of this post?  Well, the Baseball Commissioner is the owner of the Milwaukee team (I have to pause to think what they are called – I believe the Brewers) and I think he bears responsibility for some of this.  Consider for a moment what I just said – the Baseball Commissioner is the owner of a team!  Excuse me?  Maybe I heard too much propaganda when I was a kid about Kenesaw Mountain Landis (is that a cool name or what!) and how the Commissioner was going to be above the fray, with an interest only in what was good for baseball.  You can imagine that being the view of broad-minded men like Peter Ueberroth, Bart Giamatti, and Fay Vincent.  (Admittedly, there were some earlier losers, like Ford Frick, who put the asterisk next to Maris’ record.  I know Billy Crystal is a Yankee Fan, but I respect those who get it right, and he definitely got it right in 61*, which is an excellent baseball movie.  He also went to NYU’s Tisch school, where my daughter is.)  But is this the perspective of Bud Selig, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers?  Let us return to the days when there were giants in the earth.

Because it is a long season, the game that you watch has significance not only as the game per se, but in how it will affect the standings.  This is most significant later in the season, when you can calculate who has to win what in order to make the playoffs.  I remember in the fatal year of 1978, at a time when the Red Sox enjoyed a huge advantage over the Yankees in the standings, I was discussing this with a friend.  I had worked out the math, and I said, “In order to win, the Yankees will have to play .750 ball while the Red Sox play .500.”  My implication was that this was unlikely, but of course, it happened, culminating in the infamous playoff game.  Speaking of which, most Red Sox fans blame Bucky F. Dent for the outcome.  But as far as I was concerned, it was all over when the starting pitcher for the Red Sox was announced: “Ex-Yankee Mike Torrez.”  Do you see the fallacy there?  Once a Yankee, always a Yankee in my book.

The game I saw in Milwaukee is illustrative of these ups and downs.  Here is how the Wikipedia entry on the Brewers describes the end of the 2008 regular season:

The Brewers came off the sweep from the Cubs with an amazing August, winning 20 of 28 games in the month. Sabathia made history by becoming the first pitcher in over 90 years to win his first 9 games after being traded mid-season. With a steady 5 game lead for the Wild Card, the hope of a playoff spot seemed secured, but the Brewers struggled in September, first getting swept by the New York Mets, and then just over a week later, getting swept in 4 games by the Philadelphia Phillies, losing their lead in the Wild Card. Feeling a change was needed, the Brewers fired manager Ned Yost with just 12 games left in the season, replacing him with Brewers third base coach Dale Sveum. Sveum named Garth Iorg as his replacement as third base coach, and made Robin Yount the new bench coach, replacing Ted Simmons. With the final 6 games at home, the Brewers were still in the hunt for the Wild Card behind the New York Mets. They first swept the Pittsburgh Pirates, thanks to walk-off home runs by Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, tying the New York Mets for the Wild Card lead with 3 games to go against the NL Central division champion Chicago Cubs.


Against that dramatic backdrop, we had our bar meeting in nearby Madison the weekend of that series against the Cubs.  I had checked for tickets, but thought I would be out of luck because the game started at noon on Saturday, just as we were scheduled to finish our meeting.  However, our meeting broke up early, around 11, and when I checked the game, it was now scheduled for 2:00.  John Kidwell, who lives in Madison, agreed to go with me, and drive us in, so I snagged a couple of tickets on Stub Hub.  I didn’t think they were going to be good seats, as they were in the uppermost deck, but the decks rise very steeply behind the plate, and even though we were high, we were not that far beck from the field and I thought we got a very good view.  Here’s a picture of Miller Park that shows how vertical those stands are:

Miller Park

I googled the game, and found the box score for Saturday, September 27,2008, at this site:

As you can see, the Makers of Beer lost to the Cubs that day after having won five in a row.  But the Mets lost, too, so they remained knotted with one game to go.  For that final game, the Brewmakers brought out Sabathia for the third time in a week, and he rose to the occasion, pitching a complete game victory while the Mets lost, putting the Milwaukees in the postseason for the first time in a quarter century.  Alas, they only remained in the hunt for the minimum four games, and then the vultures picked over the team, and it never recovered.

It was fun being part of that excitement, which was experienced by a sellout crowd.  I don’t remember much else about the park, except that some sort of scene involving beer in center field came to life when a home run was hit.  I don’t even remember if there was beer available other than the eponymous Miller, though there probably was.  In any event, I count it a good day at the ball park.