For many years, the giant letters that spelled out “Milwaukee County Stadium” were visible not only to thousands of Brewers fans attending games and concert-goers, but to even more drivers on I-94.
Those letters – which were removed before the stadium was torn down – were sold at auction, along with many other items, including seats, signs, dugout telephones and more, when County Stadium was being demolished after the opening of Miller Park (now American Family Insurance Field) in 2001.
Some items were kept by the team.
“We have a good amount of historical artifacts in our archives,” says Brewers’ VP of Communications Tyler Barnes. “Some of it is here in Milwaukee, but much of it is with a professional archivist in Atlanta.”
Now, the Brewers also have those letters.
The second owner of the oversized memorabilia – Steven Radmer – sold them to the team, which arrived on Tuesday with a truck to pick the 22 8-foot-tall letters.
"Over the past few years I've started collecting Milwaukee County Stadium memorabilia," says Radmer. "I have a number of signs, blueprints, a turnstyle and a seat.
"I'm part of a few County Stadium Facebook groups and one day a seller from the Madison area reached out to me and said he had the letters that were on the side of Milwaukee County Stadium. After a few back and forth messages, I rented a U-Haul and was on my way to pick them up."
Radmer bought the letters last November.
"I paid more for the letters than I told my wife," he says, "and I sold them to the Brewers for a few dollars profit."
Radmer says the seller had the letters in his garage for the past two decades.
"When I became owner, my plan was to reach out to a few businesses to see if they were interested in displaying them so others could enjoy the letters."
The Brewers declined to comment on how much they paid for the letters, but they are happy to have them, as Barnes says, “back home.
“We didn’t even know they still existed but about 24 hours later, we were ready to commit,” he says. “We simply felt like we should reacquire them as they represented a significant part of our history.”
In April, says Old Milwaukee Facebook group administrator Adam Levin, Radmer reached out to him looking to find a home for the historic giant alphabet. Levin posted about the letters in the group and one thing led to another.
“I saw a post in Old Milwaukee that the letters were for sale, and (thought) how nice it would be if they could find their way back to the stadium,” says Richard Kerhin, who owns the Downtown restaurant Aperitivo on Plankinton Avenue.
“I had recently hosted a luncheon with Brewers executive staff, so I contacted their admin and told her about it. She answered back that they were interested and I put them in contact with the seller. Serendipity!”
At the moment, Barnes says it’s unclear what the team will do with its storage-intensive purchase.
“No plans yet, but they are safe and sound,” he says. “For lack of a better term, it was something of an impulse buy.”
Perhaps they’ll figure into a future “beer district,” if such a plan materializes.
In the meantime, whatever the price of the letters, the deal came with a nice little bonus.
Radmer will throw out the first pitch at a Brewers game later this season.
"That's something that was always on my bucket list," Radmer says.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.