By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 01, 2007 at 6:15 AM

Fifty years ago, the Milwaukee Braves' victory over the New York Yankees in the World Series sparked a celebration the likes of which hadn't been seen since the end of Prohibition.

An estimated 750,000 fans lined Wisconsin Avenue to welcome the champions home after the thrilling, seven-game decision that gave the city its first major-league championship.

"I think it was the last time that people actually 'rolled out the barrels' into the streets," explained Tom Kaminski, who was the team's assistant traveling secretary. "There's never been anything like it since."

The surviving members of that team want to make sure nobody forgets the party, and the team that made it happen.

Kaminski, joined by former Braves infielders Johnny Logan and Felix Mantilla, took part in the Milwaukee Press Club's Newsmaker Luncheon to talk about the team, the World Championship, and efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Milwaukee's lone World Series title.

Taking questions from Channel 12 sports director/ESPN Radio host Dan Needles, Journal Sentinel sports business writer Don Walker, WTMJ-AM sports director Bill Michaels and Dennis Krause of Time Warner Sports, the panel talked about the team's unique relationship with the community, the level of talent on the team and some of the funnier characters in the clubhouse.

The former players shared stories about the inability to pick up a tab during the team's heyday. Rank & Son Buick provided each player with a car to use during the season, while drinks at Ray Jackson's bar -- a popular post-game hangout -- were always on the house.

Those fringe benefits helped the old-time ballplayers get by in a day when the average salary was less than what current Yankees star Alex Rodriguez makes for one game.

"We didn't make much money then," Logan said. "Most of us all had to take jobs during the off-season. A lot of us went to work at the breweries, where we drank their beer and made almost as much money as we made playing."

It was because of those relationships that the players didn't mind mixing it up with the fans around town. Signing autographs in the parking lots before games and around town wasn't just an extra obligation in those days; it was a much-appreciated part of the job.

Logan, especially, took great joy in reflecting on some of the lighter moments of the Braves' 13-year tenure in Milwaukee. He was an original Brave who played in the team's first Milwaukee game on April 14, 1953 (a 2-1, 10-inning victory by the Braves capped by a Billy Bruton home run).

"(First baseman) Joe Adcock was my roommate," Logan said. "I'd ask if he went out the night before and if he'd say yes, I could look at (Warren) Spahn, Lew Burdette or Bobby Buhl in the eyes and know which of them was pitching that day."

Mantilla remembered his own roommate, a shy and quiet outfielder named Hank Aaron.

"He was so quiet, you could barely hear him if he'd even speak," said Mantilla -- who played in Milwaukee from 1956-‘61. "He was so thin, maybe 150 pounds; you thought he'd blow away sometimes."

While there were plenty of stories of teammates and memories, the old Braves' favorite topic was Milwaukee. The connection between players and fans was something special, and they haven't forgotten.

"When Mr. (Lou) Perini (the Braves' owner) told us we were moving to Milwaukee, we didn't know what to expect," Logan said. "But they loved us here. That first year, 1.8 million people came to see us. There were 35,000 on Opening Day and we only had about 4,000 that last time in Boston."

The Braves would set numerous attendance records at County Stadium, and were the first National League team to draw more than 2 million fans in a season. It's an impressive stat for a team which had been a perennial doormat for years and was playing in a smaller, Midwest market, in a stadium that held under 40,000 fans.

"I don't think you'll ever see anything like that again," Kaminski said about the Milwaukee's love affair with the Braves. "It's the only team in the history of professional sports to not have a losing season."

Also on the panel was former Milwaukee Sentinel sports editor Bud Lea. Like the Braves themselves, Lea came to Milwaukee in 1953 as a cub reporter. He explained the pecking order of the sports department then, which reflected the passion the city felt for its new team.

"The Braves were the top," Lea explained. "Both newspapers -- The Journal and The Sentinel expanded their staffs and sent two reporters down to St. Petersburg for spring training and anything they wrote took priority. The best beat on the paper was the Braves Next best, was University of Wisconsin football."

Lea explained that other beats, like Marquette - which still had a football team - as well as auto racing, took priority over his eventual first beat.

And Lea, being the new guy, was assigned accordingly.

"Because they were so bad, they stuck me with the Green Bay Packers," he said. "I said ‘What did I do wrong?'"

In a complete flip from today's standards, the Packers were often buried in the back pages. Reporters assigned to the Braves had top priority for space year-round, no matter what the story was. Milwaukee, at the time, was a baseball town.

The 1957 team will be honored at a banquet Aug.30 at Potawatomi Bingo & Casino's Northern Lights Theatre. According to Kaminski, only four of the 22 surviving members of the team have not responded to invitations.

The team's legacy is promoted by the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association, a non-profit group with works to share the team's rich history with today's generation. The association is in charge of the anniversary banquet and celebration.

Other plans include a possible reenactment of the team's victory parade, which would end at the Milwaukee Braves monument outside of Miller Park. The Milwaukee Braves Historical Association is still seeking corporate sponsorships for the celebration, and estimates it needs to raise over a half-million dollars to stage the event.

The Milwaukee Brewers and members of the business community have already pledged support, but the association is looking for more sponsors.