A return to glory.
Until this past weekend, Detroit hadn’t stepped on baseball’s biggest stage since 1984. And their long-suffering Tigers fans are lapping up every delicious, delirious, face-painting, high-fiving minute. For the past few weeks, they’ve been hugging complete strangers, chanting “Let’s Go, Tigers” in streets and bars, gobbling up overpriced souvenirs as fast as racks can be restocked.
A weekend trip to the Motor City for Game 1 of the Tigers-Cardinals matchup served as something of a sneak preview for a potential Brewers appearance in the World Series. We can’t tell you exactly when (or even if) that’s going to happen (Come on, if we were any good at stuff like that we’d be in Vegas, wouldn’t we?), but you should feel free to file these observations in a time capsule to be unearthed when that miraculous day arrives.
Location, location, location: The Brewers recently wrapped up their sixth season at Miller Park, but a lot of fans still haven’t gotten over the fact that the stadium was not located downtown.
While downtown stadiums definitely have their charm, a trip to Comerica Park showed that there is also a downside.
We arrived at the ballpark roughly three hours before Game 1 and found there was nowhere to go. Well, check that ... There were sports bars and other establishments within a few blocks of the ballpark, but they were all packed and had impossibly long lines to get inside.
That led to a somewhat strange scene in which thousands of people milled around the stadium without any general purpose or place to go until the gates opened. A few people watched the Michigan-Iowa football game on an outdoor big-screen, but there weren’t a lot of options.
We ended up going to a large theater across from the park. A Detroit radio station was hosting a free party for non-ticket holding fans. The average wait time for a frosty adult beverage was about 25 minutes.
Having a stadium surrounded by vast parking lots like Miller Park (or Lambeau Field, for that matter) gives fans the opportunity to enjoy their own food and beverages before the game and allows the ballpark to be the focal point.
Here is a tip for the Brewers and MLB in the event Miller Park hosts a World Series: have some bands play outside and bring in some food and beverage stands and portable bathrooms.
The elements: The gametime temperature on Saturday was in the low 50s and the wind was calm, which made for a rather pleasant night. Game 2 on Sunday seemed raw and bitter cold. Unless the roof bogeys break down, weather won’t be a problem if the Brewers play at Miller Park.
The singers: It’s not too early to think about who would sing the national anthem before a Brewers World Series home game. With the approval of MLB, the Tigers invited Detroit icon Bob Seger to play "America the Beautiful," and he was outstanding. Seger kicks off a concert tour Nov. 8 in Grand Rapids, Mich. to promote "Face the Promise," his first album of all-new material in 11 years. He’ll play the Bradley Center on Nov. 16.
Detroit native Anita Baker sang the anthem before Game 2 and John Mellencamp performed "Our Country," which happens to be used in a commercial for Chevy trucks. You can bet that Kid Rock will be involved if the series returns next weekend. Eminem led cheers from the scoreboard.
Who would get the musical nod in Milwaukee? The Violent Femmes? The BoDeans? Eric Benet? Al Jarreau hasn’t been at a game in awhile, has he?
The pitchers: Before Game 1, the Tigers had Al Kaline and Willie Horton -- stars from the 1968 championship team -- throw out ceremonial first pitches before Game 1. (Fox didn’t bother to show them on the broadcast). Longtime Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, who led the 1984 team to a title, threw out the first pitch before Game 2.
Who would get the nod in Milwaukee? Probably the same guys who have done it for other big game lately -- Robin Yount and / or Paul Molitor. You can also bet that Rollie Fingers and others could get consideration.
Longtime broadcast Bob Uecker would undoubtedly have a role. Tigers icon Ernie Harwell accompanied Kaline and Horton on the field Saturday and delivered the ball to the mound along with kids from the Boys and Girls Club. (Alan Trammell did the honor on Sunday, and you could easily see Jim Gantner or Gorman Thomas doing so in a Milwaukee series).
Merchandise mania: Remember when the Badgers went to the Rose Bowl for the first time under Barry Alvarez? Or the year that the Packers returned to the Super Bowl? Chances are you, your parents or your neighbor still have a T-shirt, sweatshirt or hat that commemorates those events. When teams make it to the World Series, merchandise sales skyrocket. Fans outside the ballpark were paying $15 for plastic lanyards to hold their game tickets (a World Series pin also was included). Sales of "official" merchandise seemed brisk, but savvy shoppers know that the stuff is always marked down right after the event.
Fan behavior: Not all fans at the World Series are diehard followers of the home side. With ticket prices ranging from $125 to $250, the Series attracts a more well-heeled throng than your average Buckethead Night. A lot of seats are taken up by corporate sponsors from out of town. A small percentage are taken up by fans of the visiting club.
The Tigers die-hards were easy to spot and fell into three categories. First, there were the "I can’t believe this is actually happening and I’m really here" group. Then, there were the "I can’t believe I’m here, so I’ll be unusually loud and obnoxious tonight" group. Finally, there were the drunken yahoos. They’re always around, aren't they?
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 OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.