As we sat way up behind home plate in the upper level that afternoon, we witnessed a close game with drama and a couple of lead changes. The Mets scored six runs in five innings off Brewers starter Dana Eveland. Home runs by second baseman Richie Weeks and a promising rookie named Prince Fielder kept the Brew Crew in the game, and then the Brewers stormed back to tie the game at eight by the 9th inning.
This was the very opposite of a pitchers’ duel. A homer by Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca off Brewers closer Derrick Turnbow crushed the spirits of every fan except for the Mets fans who had come in our group. Ironically, that night was also Derrick Turnbow Bobblehead Night, celebrating the career of the man who blew the game for the home team.
In some ballparks, a home run meant blaring sirens, real or fake fireworks, a massive levitating Apple (hello, Shea!), or video screen theatrics, but this one featured a furry mascot coasting down a slide in a corner of the park. There were four Brewer homers that night, and by the time the Brewers lost the game, poor Bernie Brewer must have been in the clubhouse icing his sore bottom.
Every park features stunts to hold fans’ interest between innings. In Yankee Stadium, for example, one constant is the electronic subway race between the B, D, and 4 trains, in which fans look up at a screen and cheer a virtual train in a hypothetical race. However, I had never, ever seen people dress up as sausages and physically race each other on the field (or anywhere else, for that matter) until I got to Milwaukee. Between the halves of the 6th inning, we watched the Italian Sausage beat out the Bratwurst to break a tie for the season lead. The underrated Hot Dog and Polish Sausage both finished in the dust, as they often do. Losers. The Chorizo sausage was added the following year in a nod to Milwaukee’s growing Latino population, making the entire affair a Five Meat Race.
It might be the only time in my life that I see sausages race each other on foot. They made such an impression that I just had to put them in this book’s title. And just curious: if sausages keep in shape by running, are they still fatty? The mind reels.
The 7th inning stretch came an inning after the Unhealthy Meat Sprint. When it arrived, the entire crowd stood and sang that old standard Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I was about to sit back down when a strange other song broke out, something about rolling a barrel. Of the 45,150 people in the park that night, approximately 45,135 sang this little ditty while the others (basically our group) stood there dumbfounded. It was explained to us as a “Wisconsin Thing.” Okay. The actual name of the song was “Beer Barrel Polka.” In case you were interested, it’s also known as “Roll Out the Barrel.” If you are ever looking for unique local ambience in a ballpark, look no further.
The Brewers lost despite a good effort, but the game impressed upon me several things. With a new owner, a great young team, a passionate fan base and ways to reach out to fans that did not exist in other ballparks, the Brewers finally seemed on their way after years – okay, decades – lost in the wilderness. From the Beer Barrel Polka to real sausages to people dressed up as fake sausages, a Brewers game was truly a unique experience for their fans. Hopefully for them, it wouldn’t be long before their “Party Like It’s ’82!” T-shirts were thoroughly outdated.
Excerpted from Rally Caps, Rain Delays and Racing Sausages by Eric Kabakoff © 2013.
Reprinted with permission by the author.
Rally Caps, Rain Delays and Racing Sausages|
A Baseball Fan’s Quest to See the Game from a Seat in Every Ballpark
Years in the making, one avid baseball fan chronicles his trips to every major league team's ballpark, recalling what each of the 30 teams did to stir up the passions of those who came to watch them. Billed as a look at baseball teams’ relationships with their fans, it's a ballpark-by-ballpark account of what differentiates the experience at each.
About the Author
Eric Kabakoff is a present-day Brooklynite and longtime Yankees fan who visited his first major league ballpark (Veterans Stadium) in 1985. Over the ensuing 26 years he visited many more until he finally entered Tropicana Field in September of 2011, whereupon he had seen his 30th and final home team play. In October 2013, Kabakoff became a first-time author in order to detail the trips he embarked upon to fulfill his lifelong quest of seeing each major league team play in their home ballpark.