By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jun 09, 2005 at 5:10 AM

{image1}The Yankees learned the hard way this week that Milwaukee ain't Bushville anymore -- as if it ever was.

First, the Brewers pulled out a nice 4-3 win over the Yankees. It was New York's seventh loss in eight games and dropped the Yanks below. 500. Through Monday night, the Bronx Bombers had lost three of four against two teams in the Brewers and Twins that have a combined payroll of about half of their paychecks.

On Tuesday, Ben Sheets shut out the Yanks on two hits in seven innings. The Brewers hung on for a 2-1 win. In both games, Derrick Turnbow got Derek Jeter to make the last out.

The Yankees also learned that Milwaukee has a world-class ballyard in Miller Park and some great fans -- including a few who were rooting for the Yankees. The Brewers even have an owner that is a Yankees' fan, when they aren't playing the very team he owns.

So, how did this Bushville thing ever get started anyway? Nobody will ever fess up to being the one who used the phrase, but the Yankees' reference to Milwaukee as "Bushville" during the 1957 World Series has always intensified Beer Town baseball fans' emotions.

Bob Buege, who in the eyes of this writer wrote the quintessential history of the Braves with "The Milwaukee Braves: A Baseball Eulogy" wrote, "In the midst of the downtown street celebration (of the 1957 World Series win), one hand-lettered, hand-held sign, photographed by a newsman, said it all -- 'Bushville Wins'."

Some have attributed the statement to Yankees' manager Casey Stengel. In fact, at least one source, claims Stengel -- who himself had managed the minor league Brewers in 1944 -- made the statement about Sturtevant, a small town south of Milwaukee.

Others said it was one of the players who had made the statement, apparently heard by a Milwaukee newsman during a welcome celebration for the New York team. Still others say, "Bushville," was never actually the reference. A player reportedly called the welcoming crowd, "strictly bush." (For those of you who are not big baseball fans, bush has always been a derogatory baseball term for something that was second rate and not big league.)

Whatever was actually said, and whoever actually said it, didn't really matter. It became a rallying cry for the Milwaukee fans, who in those days were without a doubt the most loyal and rabid in baseball.

They made the Yankees feel very uncomfortable in County Stadium, and when Lew Burdette stuck it to the Bombers at Yankee Stadium in the 7th Game, the Braves' fans let the world know that Bushville was at the time the capitol of baseball.

Ironically, Joe Torre, who now manages the Yankees and once played for the Braves, was one of those irritated by the Bushville label. Torre, whose brother, Frank, played for the Braves in the Series, told writer Tom Verducci the following:

"Only when I went to Milwaukee did I really learn just how precious and thrilling the World Series is, especially when my own brother made his first World Series start in Game Four. The town was absolutely nuts about the Braves. For Milwaukee fans, it was a time as special as your first love. The ball club had moved there from Boston only four years earlier. The streets and stores of the downtown area were covered with banners and signs wishing their team good luck. Many of the signs said, "Go Bushville," because some of the Yankees players, apparently not enamored of having to go to a small midwestern city, had referred to Milwaukee as "the bushes." It was a great baseball town that called itself "Baseball's Main Street." I never had liked the Yankees -- everybody in my family grew up fans of the Giants and the National League--and it really angered me that they looked down on having to go to the small town to play the World Series." (--Library of Congress)

It's nice to know that Torre never liked the very team he now manages. I'll bet there are days, when the Yankees are losing and carping at each other, and owner George Steinbrenner is carping at everybody, that Torre still feels that way.

The label still haunted Milwaukee after the Braves abandoned the town to move to Atlanta. It even became a bit of a rallying tool again when the Brewers came to town and started to host the Yankees in American League games.

There were some great AL games between the Brewers and Yanks. They played for the 1981 pennant, in a weird split-season playoff necessitated by a work stoppage. The Yankees won, but the Brewers would come back in 1982 to win it.

Of course, Billy Martin always sparked controversy when he came to town. In fact, a Chinese Aviator Night was held at County Stadium to jab at Martin after he made what today would be considered a very politically incorrect statement.

Reggie Jackson was another favorite target of Brewers fans. He often took plenty of abuse from fans in the right field bleachers.

Frank Clines of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote about a weekend that will always stand out for this writer in Brewers-Yankees clashes:

"Yes, the Yankees were back in town less than two weeks later for a three-game weekend series. And their fortunes were no better.

On Friday night, lefty Ron Guidry -- on his way to the Cy Young Award -- took the mound with a 13-0 record. So much for perfection: Larry Hisle blasted two homers off him, Caldwell pitched another gem and the Brewers won, 6-0.

The next night Hisle homered twice again -- the second a two-run shot off Gossage in the eighth inning that gave Milwaukee a 6-5 victory and produced a thunderous ovation from the crowd of 46,518.

"You know things like that happen, but I think it's beyond what I deserve," Hisle said, forcing Brewers fans to charge him with an error."

Of course, many things from the era when Milwaukee was dubbed Bushville have changed. When you do an Internet search for Bushville today, you are more likely to find stories about camps protesting George W. Bush policies. But, the series this week could not help but bring back a lot of that history.

Player of the Week

Carlos Lee has to get the honor again. He reached base 10 straight times from Saturday night through Monday, including eight hits in eight official at-bats. That tied a club record shared by four others. Give Brady Clark and Bill Hall honorable mentions.

Top Draft Pick

Ryan Braun, the Miami U. third baseman who was the Brewers' first draft pick, met with the media via a conference call before the Brewers-Yankees game on Tuesday night. "I definitely knew they had an interest in me," Braun said of the Brewers. "I'm thrilled with the prospect of becoming a Milwaukee Brewer."

Braun actually has a tie with the Yankees, since Alex Rodriguez, a Miami native, works out in the winter at the baseball team facility. "We've talked about what he had to do to make the transition to third base," said Braun, who like A-Rod started as a shortstop. "He gave me some tips and helped me."

The Brewers, who lack third base prospects in their farm system, will start talks with Braun after his Miami team completes play in the NCAA tournament. The Hurricanes play in a Super Regional this weekend.

In the eighth round, the Brewers took Jemile Weeks, the younger brother of top prospect Rickie Weeks. The younger Weeks played at Lake Brantley High School in Florida.

Hot Tix

The Brewers now go to Philadelphia for a weekend series that starts a road trip that doesn't end until June 20, when the Cubs come to town.

If you want to see some baseball in the state, you might go to Grand Chute, where the WIAA baseball tourney will be played this weekend.

While on high school sports, kudos go to all the state prep champs. Special mention goes to Green Bay's Steve Marcelle, who broke Stu Voight's shot put record that stood for almost four decades.

If football is your preference, you might give the Milwaukee Marauders semi-pro team a try. They play the Lake County Chiefs at 6 p.m. Sunday at Valley Field. If your football preference is Aussie Rules, go to Chicago to watch the Bombers play a road game Saturday.

And, in the real story that needs advance publicity, if you are an eligible voter, you can cast your ballot for either Golden Eagles or Hilltoppers for the Marquette nickname. The selections were narrowed to those two Tuesday. You have until June 24 to vote. MU hopes to announce the final name by July 1. This lover of sports history picks Hilltoppers, which served as the school nickname from 1917-'54.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.