By Drew Olson Special to Published May 31, 2006 at 5:43 AM

At some point this season, most likely after the final out is recorded on a road "getaway day" (baseball lingo for the final game of a series), Milwaukee Brewers rookie players will walk into the clubhouse and discover that their street clothes have been stolen and replaced with bizarre costumes.

One might be a Hooters girl. Another might be a fairy princess. You might see a cheerleader heading for the team bus alongside a caveman, a pimp or Ronald McDonald.

Nobody knows exactly when this rookie hazing ritual began, but it has been a staple of clubhouse life for years and it doesn't show any signs of dying anytime soon.

In that way, it is the opposite of the kangaroo court.

"You really don't see kangaroo court any more these days," Brewers first base coach Dave Nelson said before a recent game. "You know where you see it? At fantasy camp. I did a fantasy camp a few years ago and we did one. That's about the only place you see it now."

According to, the phrase "kangaroo court" has two definitions:

1. A mock court set up in violation of established legal procedure.

2. A court characterized by dishonesty or incompetence.

When it comes to baseball, those definitions are accurate and almost interchangeable. Years ago, every clubhouse had a suggestion box on the wall with the words "court cases" (or a variation) scribbled on the outside. It was here that players would write up their teammates for transgressions that occurred both on and off the field. The Kangaroo Court would convene occasionally and the cases would be heard by the "judge," who was often the player with the most seniority, the best sense of humor or a combination of the two -- and a jury of veteran teammates who would levy fines. Money collected often would go to charity, a team party or both.

"I remember in the 1970s, George Scott was our judge," Brewers bench coach Robin Yount said, referring to the popular first baseman known as "Boomer."

"That was funny. He used to wear a black robe and a white wig. Can you imagine that? I don't think anybody ever got a picture like that."

Secret tribunals are seldom photographed. And, they are seldom as banal -- and hilarious -- as baseball's venerable kangaroo courts routinely were 25 years ago.

The cases ranged from on-field mental errors -- throwing to the wrong base or failing to tag up on a fly ball or spitting tobacco juice on one's jersey -- to off-field things like wearing a questionable suit, eating while naked in the clubhouse, spilling a drink on the plane or just about anything else.

"Any little thing, they would get on you for it," said Brewers bullpen coach Bill Castro, who played for three clubs in a 10-year big-league carer. "If you wore an ugly shirt or bought some ugly clothes, they'd fine you. If you called your wife, that was a fine.

"The rookies always got the shaft. Them and Gumby (infielder Jim Gantner) were always the guys taking the most heat, but sooner or later everybody got it. Anything you did that was stupid, they'd bring it on you."

Bill Schroeder, the Brewers' former catcher and current TV analyst, agreed.

"One of the biggest fines was for public displays of affection," he said. "If a guy was seen sucking face with someone on the dance floor, that was a big one. There were lots of other ones, though."

The biggest fines often came from fraternizing with players from the other team before a game.

"That was the biggest one," Yount said. "You were always watching guys for that. You had one minute to say hello to somebody. There was always somebody on the watch."

If court was still in session today, a lot of players and coaches would be forfeiting a lot of their salary for fraternization fines.

"Everybody is friends now," Yount said. "It's a lot different now."

OK, so talking to the "enemy" is no longer a taboo. Aren't there other things that players could take to a higher kangaroo court? Why is the tradition going the way of the twi-night doubleheader?

"I think the last time we had kangaroo court (with the Brewers) was around 1998 or '99," veteran infielder Jeff Cirillo said. "I remember because (Bob) Wickman, the team's closer, was getting on (catcher) Bobby Hughes and they almost got into a fight. I remember Hughes saying, "You want a piece of me?!" I think that was the last time we had it."

Catcher Damian Miller experienced kangaroo court while playing for Oakland in 2004.

"We probably had it four or five times that year," Miller said. "Huddy (pitcher Tim Hudson) was in charge of it and it was always a great time. Eric Byrnes was way ahead of everybody (in fines). He just got beat down. He always had a rebuttal, but he'd take a beating. It was a lot of fun and I think it was good for the team. I really wish we would do it around here."

Given the cutting nature of trying cases, it's natural to assume that current players are too thin-skinned to handle the give and take of kangaroo court. While admitting that may be an element, Brewers coaches didn't feel that was the only reason.

"I don't think they know anything about it," Castro said. "Nobody has really brought it up. Some of the young kids don't know."

Pitching coach Mike Maddux agreed, who hasn't seen a kanagaroo court since he was a judge in Montreal, had another theory.

"Clubhouses today are a hell of a lot different than they were a couple years ago," Maddux said. "There is so much other entertainment available. When you were in places like County Stadium, Wrigley (Field) and some of those ballparks, you would look at each other and say "OK, what do we do? Let's sit around and fraternize." Today, you've got big-screen TVs, weight rooms, video rooms. You can sit around and you can go have gourmet dinners. There is more entertainment in front of you. You don't have to create your own fun."

Yount agreed.

"You were trying to find a way to pass time back then," he said. "There was nothing there. This is a country club, now. It's not the same at all. You picture this and what we used to clubhouse in, you do feel like you're in a country club now."

The amenities aren't the only fact, Yount said. Another is the loss of familiarity that has been caused by free agency.

"It used to be that you had four or five guys come in to the big leagues together at the same time and you play together four or five years and it helped with the camaraderie," Yount said. "You don't have the close teams like you used to.

"When it comes to kangaroo court, I think it's a rarity to have a team close-knit enough to want to do it. I don't know if it's thin skin so much. There is so much movement today you don't get a chance to know your teammates all that well. This (Brewers team) is a unique clubhouse in that way. It's a good group of people that blend well together. It's not that common in baseball today. I think it has to do with more movement. Nobody is around each other long enough to be that friendly.

"I think kangaroo courts can be pretty fun in the right circumstances, but it can also be counter-productive if it's not just right."

Brewers manager Ned Yost is a fan of cohesion, but not necessarily the kangaroo court.

"It's kind of stupid," Yost said. "A lot of times, it got so stupid, guys would get pissed. I never saw (the educational benefit). I guess it could be good."

During his days as a minor-league manager, current Brewers third base coach Dale Sveum required his players to have kangaroo court.

"We'd always have it on the road, because it was a nice way to break up a trip," Sveum said. "If the team was scuffling, I'd have it after a game and bring in a bunch of beer. We did it on the road so nobody was driving. You'd get the guys together and the beer was like truth serum.

"Guys would say "What the (bleep) were you thinking?" They'd say things that they may have been too scared to say in another setting. You get a lot accomplished, believe it or not."

Said Schroeder: "Kangaroo court was essentially just an opportunity to get everybody to be a team and not just scatter in 20 different directions right when the game ended. One thing you don't see very much any more is guys just sitting around after a game, having a few beers and talking about baseball. Sometimes you can learn just as much baseball after the game as you do out on the field. I remember in Cleveland, we'd stay so long after the game drinking beer and playing cards and taking baseball that the clubhouse guy would flip us the keys and say, 'Lock up when you leave.'"

Sveum and Schroeder were teammates in the mid-1980s, when veterans like Rick Manning ruled the kangaroo court and players were routinely presented with post-game "awards," which were an offshoot of court.

After every victory, the player of the game was presented with a traveling "trophy," that was actually a marital aid. When Juan Nieves was interviewed in the clubhouse following his no-hitter in 1987, the player of the game trophy was visible in his locker until an unidentified hand removed it from the camera shot.

"I think that was actually Harry Dalton," Schroreder said, referring to the club's general manager at the time.

Not all of the post-game awards were prestigious. There was a toilet seat for the boneheaded play of the game. There was a bat with a hole in it for players who struck out three or more times.

"It was usually for something that was screwed up," Sveum said. "If you made a bad defensive play, you got a big ball that was velcroed to a big glove. If you screwed up on the bases, you got a big huge pair of spikes to hang in your locker. If a pitcher gave up a long home run, he got a big baseball with a frown and a band-aid on it and he had to carry it on the road with him until the next game.

"The whole thing was a lot of fun."

Nelson experienced a similar situation with the Royals. "When I was in Kansas City,, we had the Gong Award," he said. "We were all on "The Gong Show" one day and we got the idea. If somebody screwed up or did something stupid, we'd hang it up in his locker.

It was a huge gong, and you had to keep that sucker there until whoever got it next. It wasn't for doing anything good. It was always for screwing up."

Now that he runs the Brewers' fantasy camp, Schroeder makes sure that kangaroo court is part of the program.

"It's always a highlight," he said. "It's a great bonding thing. Guys have a lot of fun. I just think that today, in general, people aren't willing to poke fun at themselves so much. We take things a little more seriously than we did a few years ago.

"We still tried to win, but we also had a lot of fun."

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.