Strange Brew

added 5/7/2002 by Darrell Pittman
Our guides for this trip to the Upper Midwest, Gladda Gedriddover and Freezia Toezhoff, had warned us to dress warmly, but neither Susan nor I expected the cold, rainy weather that was incumbent when we were in Chicago last week.

We had hoped to take in a White Sox-Royals game while we were there (the Cubs having left town just before our arrival), but it was just too cold and wet, so we decided to save our Chicago baseball experience for next June or August when the Astros take on the Baby Bears at Wrigley.

On Friday afternoon, we rented a car and hit I-94 for Milwaukee.

We attended a ballgame at Miller Park, a Saturday afternoon affair between the Brewers and the Marlins. The game itself was pretty non-descript; I didn’t even bother to find out who finally won. We left in the seventh inning with the Marlins leading 5-4.

Miller Park was built right next door to old County Stadium, and was to have been opened for the 2000 season along with PNC Park, Pac Bell Park, and Enron/Astros Field. All were designed by the same architects. Unfortunately, the 1999 collapse of a crane killed some construction workers and delayed the opening of Miller Park until the 2001 season. After the new park was finished, the old one was promptly torn down, and is now covered by a parking lot.

Walking from the non-preferred parking lot into the ballpark reminded both Susan and I of that seemingly endless walk we used to make when entering the Astrodome. The major difference here is that tailgating in Milwaukee is an art form. In fact, some tailgaters never even bother to enter the ballpark; they continue partying while listening to the ballgame on the radio.

Attendance was low… maybe 12,000-15,000. It is to the Brewers’ credit that they seem to be offering incentives to draw fans to the games. Parking was free, and our tickets were only $6 each for upper deck seats. On this day, they had $1 sodas, and $1 hot dogs.

Saturday was a fine day in Milwaukee with a cloudless sky and temperature in the mid-60s; a glorious day for baseball.

Having breakfasted in Racine at Apple Holler, we passed by the ballpark on our way back to our hotel about three hours before game time, and saw that the roof was open. Susan and I were both looking forward to watching the game under a sunny, cloudless, and relatively warm Spring sky. When we got back to the ballpark, however, the roof was inexplicably closed. We talked to several fans who, like us, could not understand why the roof was closed, and were very disappointed.

Just like Astros Field, Miller Park is another of the new wave of “retro” ballparks, attempting to integrate modern high-tech features and a cozy, old-style feel. Preserving their traditions, Bernie the Brewer still slides down his slide, and they still have the Sausage Races in the sixth. Try to eliminate either one of those, or tailgating, and I think there would be a riot.

Sad to say, I saw about twice as much Packers gear as I did for the Brewers. Milwaukee is a football town, and probably always will be, not unlike Houston.

We hit I-94 again Sunday morning for Minneapolis. Sunday night, we were privileged to attend a square dance in St. Paul which featured an excellent caller and the rare treat of live music, and another on Monday night with the same caller at a different club, this one a so-called “gay” club, which put some new colors in our paint-set dancing-wise. The folks at both clubs went out of their way to welcome and recognize us for having come all the way from Texas to visit their clubs.

The newspaper in Minneapolis regularly features stories about various funding schemes for a new ballpark for the Twins. Most of the talk centers around taxes on alcohol and tobacco. My gut feel is that they will get it done.

Tonight (Tuesday) we will attend the Twins-Mariners game at the Metrodome (the “Humpdome”), which is about six blocks from our hotel. This should be a very interesting ballgame.

Tomorrow night, one more square dance, then we’re back to Chicago to catch a plane home to Houston on Thursday.

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