Milwaukee Talks: Ulice Payne
OMC: You've lived in Milwaukee for years, and in a certain sector, you've been a pretty visible guy. But now people must recognize you in the grocery store or at the gas station. What's that like?
UP: That's good, as long as they're Brewer fans! It's funny, because I've always been in a visible light, but more so in this job. No doubt about it. Doesn't really change me much, though I'm more sensitive to how much I expose my children. Otherwise, I'm pretty much a people's person, anyway. I try not to hurt anybody. I look over my shoulder. I'm not stealing anything or messing around with anyone's wife. I can walk in, sit down and everything's cool, man. That's who I am. No big deal.
OMC: What do you like about Milwaukee?
UP: Milwaukee has grown on me. When I first came here, I thought it was very conservative. The busses stopped running at midnight in the early '70s. But it was always clean and orderly. There were no ghettos here. I found it to be a very comfortable environment. At Marquette, I met a lot of good people, including my wife. I've spent most of my adult life here, so this is my home. It's a nice a place to be, man.
OMC: What do you like to do when you leave Miller Park? Where's your favorite restaurant?
UP: George Webb's. My wife and mother-in-law always have Webb's coupons in their purses. I think it's a Milwaukee thing. But I only eat certain things at George Webb's.
OMC: Well, when the Brewers win 12 games in a row, we can all enjoy a free Webb's hamburger.
UP: We're working on that again, you know! Milwaukee has some great restaurants. I've always liked Grenadier's, even with the new ownership. I like Caterina's on Oklahoma. Simple, small.
OMC: What's next for Ulice Payne, the guy who's conquered Milwaukee?
UP: Oh, I don't know! I want to win the World Series. My mission is to win here. And the odds are with us. There are certain degrees of probability in everything. Baseball is very good about that. It's called "convergence to the means." We have not been to the playoffs since '82. So just by the fact that it's been so long, we are closer now to it happening! I believe it. It will come. I think we're perfectly situated with the new ball park, the new labor agreement and a chance for the ball club in the minds of the public. The market has to know that things are different. Look at the Packers. When I got here, the team was in bad shape. It was ugly. But then they brought in Bob Harlan, who brought in a new GM, who brought in a new coach. Boom! It all changed. It was like, "We are not accepting what you do not like." And I thought that was very important. Your experience will be different.
OMC: It's important to hear you say that. Because fans like me will keep going to and listening to games on the radio. But most people aren't that patient.
UP: That's right, and you can't count on that. And thank you for being that way. But after a while, you won't stay that way. When you hit that point, it's too late. But I'm just learning. Wait till next year. When I got here, certain things were already rolling and I couldn't change them. And I didn't have my people. But now I have a senior leadership team, and I get feedback. This year, we had to accept most of the players who were under contract. This is the bottom of the "V." Now we go from here.
OMC: Allow me to ask one selfish question. A while back we ran a poll on OnMilwaukee.com asking if fans would like to see a return to the old "ball and glove" Brewers logo?
UP: What were the results?
OMC: About 95 percent said yes. Everyone loves that logo. Even rappers are wearing Brewers hats!
UP: Yeah, 50 Cent. Allen Iverson. We checked with mlb.com, and the highest selling hat across the country is the Brewers throwback. Funny, we just changed logos two years ago, right? We have talked about this issue. Again, if the fans want it, you've got to give the fans what they want. But we invested a lot of money (in the current logo) and its merchandise. But rather than change (the logo) right now, they have batting practice jerseys and stuff. We might look to incorporate the old logo into the gear.
OMC: But down the road, you wouldn't rule it out?
UP: I wouldn't rule it out, but I just want to make sure my inventory is handled. You'd be surprised all the places that "M" is woven into. But we will change it, and when we do, I think we will look to go back to that.
OMC: There certainly is an emotional connection with that logo to when the Brewers were good.
UP: Winning builds an emotional connection. That's what sports do. Winning will cure a lot. But the question is, how can we win? First we have to be honest with ourselves and see where the talent is. Don't kid yourself. We didn't highlight any player this year in our ad campaign, because you know what? We lost 200 games in two years. Let's not kid ourselves. No one is untradable. The baseball plan must drive the business plan. And the baseball plan starts with baseball players.
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