As a lifelong local baseball fan, some of my favorite pictures from the Harley-Davidson Archives are of Milwaukee Braves’ players riding in motorcycle sidecars at County Stadium in the 1960s.
Of course, there’s another classic motorcycle image from County Stadium in 1982 featuring Robin Yount, except he was on a Honda dirt bike instead of a Harley. Either way, these really cool vintage pictures show the long-time connection between motorcycles and mainstream sports in Wisconsin.
The local Major League Baseball connection continues to this day as Harley-Davidson is a major corporate sponsor of the Brewers at Miller Park, with an exclusive deck area in left center field, signage and, of course, the pre-game motorcycle ball delivery – which I was fortunate to participate in many times.
Besides the Brewers, there are other strong local connections between motorcycles and sports that are typically not that closely connected with biker culture.
While the Packers don’t have any direct association or sponsorship deal with Harley-Davidson as a company, the two are arguably among the strongest and most nationally recognized brands from Wisconsin. Packer legends like Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre were known to ride Harleys, while there are plenty of Harley riders at Lambeau Field for Packer games.
Some of the state’s Harley dealers, like Wisconsin Harley-Davidson in Oconomowoc, connect to the Packers through smaller partnerships and charitable events. This month, Packer Super Bowl standout Santana Dotson is leading a campaign to collect coats and jackets for area children and families.
"Santana’s 71 Ways" program collected more than 1,000 coats, jackets and other items last year with Dotson attending local events and reading to children. Wisconsin Harley is a primary collection point, along with other area businesses and Lincoln Elementary School in Wauwatosa.
"We are pleased and honored to partner with Santana Dotson in this amazing community effort, and are proud to continue an annual event spanning well beyond the holiday season to help children in need throughout the year," said Robert Moakley, owner of Wisconsin Harley-Davidson. "We’re excited to help Santana in giving back to the area."
Wisconsin Harley has also worked for former Packer Gilbert Brown on charity events in the past, including a tailgate party at their dealership.
The Bucks have partnered with Harley in recent years, with both looking to benefit from the other’s local and global presence. Interest from Harley started when the Bucks drafted Yi Jianlian from China in 2007 around the same time the company was expanding its presence there.
On a more grassroots level, Harley participates in some of the Bucks’ pre-game events, including having their Jumpstart stationary motorcycle that lets non-bikers get the feel of riding. It was really fun to see the true enjoyment fans gained from the experience when I worked those events.
Here’s a little "inside baseball" on Harley’s partnership with the Brewers. At Miller Park, Harley marketing employees ride the bike out to present a "game ball" to the bat boy in the pre-game ceremony. It’s closely choreographed as you would expect, but there have been some mishaps over the years. I was extremely nervous the first time I rode around the warning track, but tended to push it a little faster every time.
Old-timers might remember that the Harley appeared for almost every pitching change at County Stadium. Since that posed logistical problems if there wasn’t an actual rider present, Harley and the Brewers decided on the pre-game ball delivery when they renewed the sponsorship at Miller Park.
While other sports teams around the country might include Harleys in the sponsorships and promotions, it’s not quite the same as it is here in Wisconsin.
Honor Flight Hero at Wisconsin Harley: The Stars and Stripes Honor Flights, taking World War II veterans to see the beautiful memorial in Washington, D.C., is a unique and emotional experience for everyone involved. Harley-Davidson has a long association with the U.S. military, and that continues on Saturday, Nov. 15 at Wisconsin Harley in Oconomowoc with a meet and greet with Honor Flight veterans from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is a great chance to show your support and celebrate our military. Veterans who appeared in the book "Honor Flight, A Visual Journey" will be in attendance, and books – as well as DVDs – will be for sale with all proceeds benefiting Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
Mike Morgan rides retro, whether on his 1976 Harley Aermacchi 250 or Heritage Softail. Mike has been a motorcyclist since 2001 having ridden in Sturgis, Daytona Beach, the California coast, New England and everywhere in between, including in the last three Milwaukee Harley Anniversary parades.
Mike worked in communications and marketing at Harley-Davidson for more than 12 years, writing and editing all kinds of content, including award-winning media kids in 2009 and 2012. He had ridden the Harley several times before Brewer games at Miller Park, and ran in one of the last sausage races at the old County Stadium when he was Communications Manager for the Stadium District Board.