Justin Barkhurst, who manages and plays for the Milwaukee Beavers amateur baseball team, grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and has lived in the Milwaukee area for 15 years.
Rooting for the White Sox and the Brewers, Barkhurst isn’t much of a Cubs fan. But, when he got a call from "Chicago's Original Voice of the National Anthem," Wayne Messmer, who was also the Cubs’ long-time P.A. announcer, Barkhurst took the call.
Messmer is going to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Friday night’s Beavers game against the Dousman Frogs at 7 p.m. at Joecks Memorial Field, 7468 N. Lannon Rd. in Lannon.
Not a bad get for the first Milwaukee team in the more than century of Land O’Lakes Baseball.
So, how did this happen?
“We always play Wayne Messmer's rendition of the national anthem before games,” says Barkhurst. “He is mostly a Chicago legend and began singing for the Blackhawks in the ‘80s, when cheering through the song became a team tradition, and still performs for the Cubs and all over including Game 5 of the 2016 World Series.
“I've always admired this man and YouTube videos of him performing in the old Chicago Stadium are incredible.”
Messmer saw a reel that Barkhurst made and posted to the Beavers’ Instagram account. The video, in which Messmer was tagged, included a recording of Messmer playing before a game.
“He actually reached out to me,” says Barkhurst. “I almost passed out.”
Turns out that Messmer will be in Milwaukee on Saturday, singing the anthem as of a Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., and he offered to perform the anthem live before the Beavers game on Friday evening.
“We are floored and are planning to have a Beavers game for the ages which I'm calling Wayne Messmer Night,” says Barkhurst. “He is coming with some friends from the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight and his wife Kathleen, and will hang out during the game and is cool with pictures and autographs. And he wants to down a few Beaver Brats!”
Looking forward to belting out our National Anthem and downing a couple brats. — Wayne P. Messmer Ph.D. CSP (@WayneMessmer) June 12, 2023
The Beavers started out in 1991 and played in the County League, Milwaukee Baseball League, Langsdorf and Rock League Baseball organizations before joining the Land O’Lakes amateur league in 2016, according to Barkhurst.
“We've been playing home games in Lannon at historic Joecks Memorial Field since 2019," he explains, "where the previous very historic townball team – the Lannon Stonemen – played forever."
The Stonemen team folded in 2017.
"To me, your community baseball team represents an age-old tradition in time that needs to be honored and preserved," Messmer told Barkhurst.
Admission to the game is free and there’s a full concession stand.
But get there early as, of course, the performance takes place before the game.
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.