Hello, sports fans everywhere! I dedicate this post to a few old photos and my fandom for my favorite sports team. Which one, you ask?
Well, this photo, taken over 4 years ago, is of yours truly in my Milwaukee Brewers’ home white jersey. (Please forgive the makeup around the eyes; the cover-up didn’t help as much as I had hoped.) I was thinking about a tomboy look for a photo session, and since my male side had a Brewers jersey and cap in the closet, I thought they’d be the perfect thing to have on after getting dolled up.
I bought this jersey and cap in 2000, the same year the Brewers adopted their current logo and uniforms. (Yes, the logo does look as if it belongs on the side of a bottle of beer; perhaps that was the inspiration.) Yes, the jersey seems rather large for my small frame, but I’m one (or at least my male side is one) to wear a jersey over something else like, say, a long sleeve shirt. Such an approach is part of the average sports fan’s choice of attire.
And as you may have noticed above, I couldn’t help but shed a little bit of my tomboy side — and those jeans I was wearing underneath the jersey — and show *ahem* a little leg.
You can see a few more of me in my Brewers jersey in the 2011 album of my Flickr profile. Now, why, you may ask, would I want to wear a Brewers jersey? Well, first off, because I can! [*nyah*] No, seriously, it’s because baseball is one of my favorite sports (along with hockey), and since Wisconsin has a major league team, it’s only natural that my admiration gravitates toward the Milwaukee Brewers.
Admittedly, my ability to follow baseball in my early childhood (before 8 years old or so) was rather cursory. I couldn’t catch every game on TV or radio, in part since I was never sure which frequency had the Brewers game on the radio, and my mom was never a big sports fan when my sister and I were kids. That’s not to say I never took up any interest in Brewers baseball before hitting double digits in age. I saw the occasional report or two on the Brewers on the local news, including one report about the team honoring Henry Aaron as he was retiring (yes, you whippersnappers, his last two seasons as a player were in Brewers blue and gold). And if the TV was on and Mom wasn’t paying attention, I would turn the channel to the Brewer game if and when one was being broadcast (unlike these days, not every team had every game on television back in the 1970s). My first in-person Brewers game occurred one Saturday afternoon in June 1979; we sat way in the upper deck behind home plate at County Stadium as the Brewers beat Kansas City. (We even saw some guy several rows below us risk his well being just to fish for a foul ball that landed on the awning covering the press box. Yeah, more than a few gasps of shock and relief rang out at that moment.)
But the team that would endure the Brewers to my heart and make me a devoted fan of them forevermore would be this group:
While the Brewers did reach the postseason in 1981, the 1982 squad went even further. Sure, they struggled in April and May and had to change managers at the beginning of June, but from June 2 onward, they were scintillating. It was a big surge, but it was not a cakewalk; in fact, they didn’t win the A.L. East (and a playoff spot) until the final day of the regular season.
It was during that summer of 1982 that my family and I moved to far northern Wisconsin. Before the move, I knew which radio or TV station to tune in to catch the game (we could get the Milwaukee stations in easily where we lived); catching a broadcast was harder once we moved up North however (the radio especially). But when I figured out where to turn for the broadcast, I was hooked again. And just in time, of course, to see the Brewers in the postseason.
Now, I must emphasize a caveat about sports in Wisconsin: Almost everyone eats, drinks, lives, and breathes Green Bay Packers football. If you would position Wisconsin’s sports teams by terms of popularity and give them space in a skyscraper such as, say, the Willis Tower, the Packers would occupy at least the top half of the building, maybe even extend past the radio masts that cap the building; the Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Wisconsin Badgers would occupy the floors that are closer to terra firma. But in the fall of 1982, however, the Packers and the rest of the NFL were plagued by a players strike, while the Badgers were rather mediocre in athletics. So this was the perfect time for the Brewers to capture the state’s attention. When they did capitalize on the opportunity and win the American League pennant (a difficult feat in itself), a shocking realization came over me: I wasn’t born when the Packers won Super Bowls and was too young to recall the last time they made the NFL playoffs. The Bucks were NBA playoff regulars but not enthralling. And the Badgers were, well, the Badgers. But I was about to experience something I had never recalled seeing in my 13 years: The Brewers were going to the World Series! And a team from Wisconsin was about to play for a major sports championship!
The Brewers, however, would lose to the Cardinals in that World Series in 7 games. Still, the team’s performance that year and that October really enthralled the people of Wisconsin. An enduring symbol of the mutual appreciation would have to be one that occurred after a parade and celebration the City of Milwaukee threw for the Brewers a day or two after the World Series: Star shortstop Robin Yount, a future Hall of Famer, entering County Stadium on a motorcycle.
Since that magical year, the Brewers’ fortunes have had peaks and valleys, and even a devoted fan like me would have to admit to that. The team has made the playoffs only twice since then and have never returned to the World Series. However, there have been moments and lore, from a no-hitter to racing sausages to even even a stray dog, not to mention a radio announcer that has been a beloved voice and face of the organization for decades. Oh, yes, there have been notable players, too. Take, for example, this particular outfielder; though he has endured scandal (and I won’t get into that here), he has put up good numbers in Brewer Blue, including this one: 252. (You may have to click on the image to see the moment, or click on this link if that doesn’t work.)
Perhaps one day soon, another name currently in the minor leagues will join the big club in Milwaukee, and here’s where I talk about someone you can’t help but admire:
The gentleman tipping his cap in the above photo at the Pioneer League’s recent All-Star Game is first baseman David Denson. As of this writing, he is hitting .240 for the Brewers’ rookie level team in Helena, with 4 home runs and 21 runs batted in. He has also had to make an emotional revelation, that he is gay. He is the first active player affiliated with Major League Baseball (that is, someone currently active as a player and either with a big league club or with an affiliated minor league team) to be openly gay. As he revealed in an interview over the weekend, he came out to his teammates in rather impromptu fashion: While entering the team clubhouse one day this summer, he overheard a teammate refer to him with the use of a derogatory gay sexual term. Denson, with a smile, cautioned the player to watch his language, “because you never know.” It was not too long after that (heck, it may have been a few minutes later judging from how the story is told) that Denson got a shot of courage and disclosed his sexuality to his teammates, who, one by one, gathered around to hear his admission… and lend him their support and admiration. He didn’t force his news on his teammates, he says; it just happened.
That disclosing his sexuality to his mates is a brave thing for David Denson. Perhaps lifting that veil of secrecy will allow him to gain self-confidence and eventually reach the big league level. If and when that happens, and if it happens with the Milwaukee Brewers, he will likely be welcomed and supported, at least from those with the Brewers who know him and/or have worked with him in the past. If that will be the case, he will become another player I will root for and admire, on a team I have rooted for and admired since I was a kid. And I have the Brewers jersey, cap, and memories to prove it.