As soon as the 2019 MLB schedule came out, I looked to see who the Brewers were playing in their home opener. Boy, did I get lucky! For the 2nd year in a row, the Brewers were opening against the Cardinals a week before there would be any baseball in Chicago. Better yet, the 2019 series would be 4 games as opposed to the 3 game series in 2018. Another plus in Milwaukee: the roof at Miller Park (see below) is retractable, thereby removing the possibility of a rain (snow) out.
Just like last year, Cardinal fan/co-worker Jeremy Ohmes provided the transportation to the opener and I bought the opening day tickets. After the 1st game, Jeremy took me to the Hilton City Center Hotel where I would be staying the next 3 nights as I attended the remaining 3 games of the series. Each day I took the Miller Park Express Bus to the games. The route is on the same street as the hotel (Wisconsin Avenue) and for the $1.10 senior fare, you can’t beat the price. The bus drops you off near the park and zips through traffic in an express lane to make a quick entrance and exit. Since the Brew Crew won the 2018 NL Central Division, I found the fans to be quite festive but also friendly and very knowledgeable. Below you will find commentary on the following games and observations about my non-baseball activities.
Thursday, March 28th – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Friday, March 29th – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Saturday – March 30th – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Sunday, March 31st – St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Day One – A Milwaukee “Doubleheader”
Jeremy ran into little traffic to Milwaukee so we had some time before the game. Miller Park has massive parking to accommodate the lavish tailgating done before the game. Although we had Uecker parking far from the stadium, the long walk provided us with sights and smells of good barbecue. Our Cardinal Red attire was duly noted by the tailgaters with some friendly verbal jabs. Once inside we got our magnetic schedules, brats, and beer and were set for the start of the game.
The Redbirds broke out ahead with 3 runs on HR’s by Kolten Wong and Harrison Bader. However, Milwaukee came back on a 3 run HR by NL MVP Christian Yelich. The Brewers held onto a 5-4 lead going into the 9th. With 2 outs in the 9th, pinch hitter Jose Martinez faced the Brewers top reliever southpaw Josh Hader. After fouling off some pitches, Jose hit a drive to center that outfielder Lorenzo Cain leaped and caught above the wall (shown above) to prevent a HR and save the game.
Since the Bucks were in town and the arena was about 4 blocks from my hotel, I decided after settling into my hotel room to take in a NBA game. The attraction to the game was the Bucks league leading record and their rising star 6’11” forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks beat the LA Clippers 128-118 but did get a scare when Giannis aggravated his ankle in the 4th quarter. Timeouts are filled with a lot of action. I was impressed with the Bucks T-Shirt cannon manned by Bango their mascot.
Day Two – “Hopping to It”
With plenty of time before the night game, I walked along the Milwaukee River north to The Fresh Thyme a natural food store, located in the trendy residential East Side. I achieved my goal of purchasing Super Coffee, a performance-enhancing coffee with MCT oil, a brain additive.
While walking from the store I thought I saw a mirage. Several blocks away appeared to be a street car. I soon found out that Milwaukee had built a 2 ½ mile street car line called “The Hop”. So, I hopped on (free fare) and was soon heading downtown to my favorite Milwaukee book store, Downtown Books, an old store stuffed with books well organized from floor to ceiling. I always find a BB book I don’t have there. I got back on the Hop and went to the end of the line at the train station near my hotel.
Soon I was on the Miller Park Express bus and eager to see some baseball. I try to get seats in the second deck behind home plate and below the press box. I not only got the requested section but also the top row within hearing distance of the press announcements. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 9-5 behind the 3 HR performance of their new 1st baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun kept Milwaukee in the game with HR’s.
Day Three – Historic 3rd Ward
The next morning, I jumped back on the Hop and made a short 2 stop ride to the Historic Third Ward, south of downtown. This old warehouse district has become home to a mix of retail and business at ground level and loft residences above. The focal point of the Ward is the enclosed Milwaukee Public Market, with freshly prepared foods that can be carried out or eaten in a dining area on the 2nd floor.
As I left the 3rd Ward, I noticed a sign the shape of home plate. I was approaching a sports theme microbrewery called Broken Bat Brewing Company. The bar has a lineup of 9 beers ranging from a light blonde ale to the heavy hitting double IPA. I enjoyed Ugly Finder, a NE style IPA with Mosaic Hops. Their changing beer roster helps one persevere winter and move onto spring training.
I decided to leave for the ball game on the express bus early for the purpose of getting a picture of Brewers mascot Bernie. Last year he eluded me as if I was stalking him. This year I was determined to get that picture for my mascot picture collection. After searching for an hour I struck gold; Bernie was beyond the 1st base dugout conversing with fans. In my frenzy to get that coveted picture, I trampled several fans but finally got to him. Bernie was hesitant to take a picture with an overzealous Cardinal fan but finally relented.
The Brewers edged the Redbirds 4 - 2 behind HR’s by Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw, and Mike Moustakas. With 3 hits, 1 run and 1 RBI, Kolton Wong was the one spark of Cardinals offense.
Day Four – Guest of Jeremy Schmidt
I checked out of the hotel and had the lobby staff store my bag as I made my way to Miller Park one more time. Last year I went to the final game of the season (Brewers vs. Cubs) at Wrigley Field with super Brewer fan Jeremy Schmidt. Jeremy is a cousin of good friend, White Sox fan Joe Regan. Over the years, I‘ve had many good times with Jeremy at Joe’s annual Labor Day party.
Since I had provided Jeremy with a ticket in Chicago, he returned the favor with a ticket to my this game. However, Jeremy soon regretted giving me the ticket. He was a little astonished and very upset to find out he would be sitting with a Cardinal fan. At the game last year, I was cheering for the Brew Crew and wore my Brewers hat. The game result went a long way to softening his shock.
The Cardinals blew a 3 run lead as the Brewers walked off with a 5 – 4 victory by scoring 2 runs in the 9th. The Cards got off to a fast start on HR’s by Paul DeJong, Matt Carpenter, and Paul Goldschmidt. Christian Yelich continued his hitting rampage (4 HR’s in the 4 games) by driving in the decisive 2 runs on a line drive double to LF.
A between-inning feature at each game at Miller Park is the famous sausage race. Other teams have come up with comparable races, but none as good as this one. It's sad when the race becomes the game highlight for a Cardinal fan.
Although the Cardinals lost 3 out of the 4 games to start the season, I had a very enjoyable time at the games and sightseeing around the city. On my way back to Chicago on the train, I looked at the baseball schedule for other opportunities to return; definitely a sign of the good times I had in Milwaukee.