Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Billy Cannon, 1937-2018

One of the greatest stories in the history of college football has come to an end.

William Abb Cannon was born on August 2, 1937, in, in a retroactive irony, the State of Mississippi, in its town of Philadelphia. During World War II, his father got a defense plant job in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the family moved there, and Billy has been known as a Louisiana boy ever since.

He was a 3-sport letterman at Istrouma High School, leading the football team to a State Championship, setting a State record for points in a basketball season, and, in track & field, set State records for the 100-yard dash and the shot put.

But in the Summer of 1955, just after turning 18, he already got into his first bit of legal trouble. He and some friends saw some men in the company of prostitutes, and told them to pay up or they'd talk. He was charged with theft, and received a 90-day suspended sentence.

The Universities of Florida and Mississippi wanted him. But Louisiana State University offered him something they didn't: A between-semesters job at a local car dealership. (Under today's rules, this would be an NCAA violation.) And his mother told him he should stay close to home. "Mommy was older and wiser," he said, "and I followed her advice."

*

In 1957, as a sophomore, he was paired in LSU's backfield with Jim Taylor, who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers. He also played in the defensive backfield, and was the team's main punter. Against the University of Alabama, he ran the ball only 8 times, but gained 140 yards and scored a touchdown.

Against Texas Tech, he noticed that the Red Raiders were focusing on Taylor: "They were just wearing Jimy out. Of course, they weren't looking for me." He made them pay by returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, and with 36 yards rushing, 31 yards passing, catching a 59-yard touchdown pass, returning a kickoff for a touchdown, and a 40-yard punting average. LSU won 19-14.

The 1958 season would be LSU's 1st National Championship. The Tigers roared to the Southeastern Conference title, destroyed cross-State rival Tulane 62-0 in New Orleans, and returned to Tulane Stadium on New Year's Day and beat 12th-ranked Clemson 7-0 in the Sugar Bowl. Cannon was responsible for all 7 points, both the touchdown and the extra-point kick. Oddly, the touchdown he produced was not due to his running, but to an option pass, to Mickey Mangham.

Cannon was named Player of the Year by UPI and The Sporting News -- but only finished 3rd in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, behind Army running back Pete Dawkins and Iowa quarterback Randy Duncan. (Iowa was awarded the National Championship by the Football Writers Association of America, but lost to Ohio State and were tied by the Air Force Academy, both at home, so their claim is ridiculous.)

Along with Cannon, most of LSU's defensive starters returned for 1959, and through 6 games, they were 6-0, having allowed just 6 points, on 2 field goals. Then came October 31, 1959, and their annual "Magnolia Bowl" showdown with the University of Mississippi, at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. "Ole Miss" was ranked Number 3, and this may have been the biggest game in the SEC's 27-season history to that point.

The Rebels kicked a field goal in the 1st quarter, and led 3-0 with about 10 minutes left in regulation. Then they punted. Cannon was under orders from head coach Paul Dietzel not to run with a kickoff or a punt if it landed inside the 20-yard line. This one landed on the 11th. Cannon caught it, and ran, and Dietzel yelled, "Billy, no, no, no!" Soon, however, he was yelling, "Go, go, go!" Cannon broke 7 tackles, includuing attempts by future Jet linebacker Larry Grantham and future Yankee catcher Jake Gibbs, and ran 89 yards for a touchdown.
Painting of the run, by Mike Roberts.
LSU traditionally wears white at home.

The game wasn't over, though. Ole Miss had one last drive in them, and were on the 1-yard line with 18 seconds left. Cannon and Warren Rabb, who was also the LSU quarterback, combined on a game-saving tackle, and the Tigers were 7-3 winners.

That game is perhaps the most famous regular-season contest in LSU football history, but it may have taken too much out of them. The next week, they lost to the University of Tennessee, 14-13, with the Volunteers stopping Cannon on a 2-point conversion, ending LSU's 19-game winning streak. Then they faced a rare bowl game rematch, and lost to Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, 21-0.

Still, Cannon was awarded the Heisman Trophy, with his defense taken into consideration. But, just as Doug Flutie might not have won it 25 years later without that Hail Mary touchdown pass in the rainy Orange Bowl, Cannon might not have won it without his "Halloween Run."

*

The American Football League had just been founded, and made Cannon the 1st pick in their 1st-ever draft, by the Houston Oilers. The Los Angeles Rams also drafted him. He could have chosen the Hollywood lifestyle, including big endorsements. Instead, he chose the higher bonus and the higher straight salary, and went to Houston.

He justified that by helping the Oilers win the 1960 and 1961 AFL Championships -- still the only time the Oilers/Titans franchise has gone as far as the rules of the time have allowed them to go. They almost made it 3 straight, but lost the 1962 AFL Championship Game to the Dallas Texans in double overtime.

At the Polo Grounds on December 10, 1961, against the New York Titans, forerunners of the Jets, between rushing and receiving, he had 330 yards from scrimmage: 216 rushing and 114 receiving. Although this was in the AFL, after the 1970 merger, the NFL recognized it as a record, and it remains one, 57 years later.
This photo was definitely taken at the Polo Grounds,
and could be from the game in question.

He won another AFL Championship with the 1967 Oakland Raiders, having convinced head coach, general manager and then-part-owner Al Davis to bring in his Houston quarterback, George Blanda. Unfortunately for the Raiders, Cannon dropped a pass in Super Bowl II, and the Raiders lost to the Green Bay Packers. He also played for the Raiders against the Jets twice in 1968, in the game that became known as the Heidi Bowl (in which he scored a touchdown), and in the AFL Championship Game, which the Jets won on the way to their stunning upset win in Super Bowl III.
A bit odd to see him wearing any number other than 20.

He was released by the Raiders after the 1969 season, and had been accepted at Loyola University in Chicago: Like another 1960s sports hero, 1967 American League Cy Young Award winner Jim Lonborg of the Boston Red Sox, he became an orthodontist. But the Kansas City Chiefs gave him one last shot, though an injury after 6 games convinced him that enough was enough. In 11 seasons, he rushed for 2,455 yards, caught 236 passes for 3,656 yards, scored 65 touchdowns and passed for another. 


His Number 20 was retired by LSU, and he is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, like yet another 1960s sports hero, 1968 AL Most Valuable Player Denny McLain, he got involved in something he shouldn't have, and went to prison. Based on those 2 facts, upon his release, he was given a job as the head dentist for the State penal system, a job he still holds.

*

Billy returned to Baton Rouge, with his wife Dorothy "Dot" Dupuy, and their 5 children: Terri Cannon Byrd, Gina Cannon McWilliams, Dara Cannon Kelsoe, Billy Cannon Jr., and Bunnie Cannon. He lived to see 8 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.

Billy Cannon Jr. also became a prominent athlete, attending Baton Rouge's Broadmoor High School. On October 31, 1979, 20 years to the day after his father's Halloween Run, Billy Jr. did the exact same thing, albeit in high school: Returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown. In a weird twist of fate, it was against his father's alma mater, Istrouma High School.

Billy Jr. was All-American and All-State in both baseball and football at Broadmoor, and, with George Steinbrenner's fixation on signing football players who could play baseball (including John Elway), the Yankees drafted him in 1980.

But he disappointed both Steinbrenner and LSU fans, who'd hoped he would play at the same school as his father. Instead, he went to Texas A&M University, and became a star linebacker and kick returner. There were rumors that, like Peyton Manning a generation later, he purposely avoided his father's school, and thus his father's shadow. There were also rumors that A&M, like so many Texas schools flouting NCAA regulations, allowed money to change hands. Given the later legal troubles of Billy Sr., this is very believable.
The Dallas Cowboys made him the 1st A&M player they ever drafted, in the 1st round of the 1984 NFL Draft -- possibly because they had heard that their arch-rivals, the Washington Redskins, were also considering him. But his pro career lasted only 8 games, due to a back injury. He sued the Cowboys for negligence, and a settlement was reached.

*

Despite a successful dental practice, in the early 1980s, he made bad real estate investments, and he racked up gambling debts. To offset this, He got involved in a counterfeiting scheme, and got caught. He was convicted in 1983, and served 2 1/2 years in federal prison in Texarkana, Texas. He regained his dentistry license, but few of his patients returned: He had let them down, not as a dentist, or even as a sports legend, but as a person.

In 1981, Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford published Everybody's All-American, a novel about a college football star of the 1950s who falls on hard times. It was set at the University of North Carolina, where Charlie "Choo-Choo" Justice had been a big star, and people presumed that the lead, Gavin Grey, a.k.a. "The Grey Ghost," was based on Justice.

In 1988, a film based on it was released, but the setting was moved to LSU. Officially, it was "The University of Louisiana," which doesn't exist in real life, but who was kidding who? The school was in Baton Rouge, the colors were purple and yellow, the team was the Tigers, they won the National Championship in 1958, and, as Grey, Dennis Quaid wore Number 20.

Grey stars for the Washington Redskins in the 1960s, but a knee injury curtails his career, and he ends up a wreck with the AFL's Denver Broncos, well before "Broncomania" turned them from a joke franchise into an iconic team.

At the end of the book, Grey, completely despondent, tries to kill his wife Babs, fails, and kills himself. As with the baseball saga The Natural, the film's ending is a bit more upbeat: Grey gets back on his feet, and mends his marriage to Babs (Jessica Lange).

By the time the film came out, Cannon's fall from grace was complete, and people simply assumed that Gavin Grey was based on Billy Cannon. Others, remembering the UNC-set book, presumed Charlie Justice. Defore denied both: "Never met Justice or Cannon, and hardly knew anything about them."



Ironically, it was the Louisiana State Penitentiary that rescued him. Their dental clinic was unable to keep dentists working there. They hired him to reorganize the clinic, and the warden was impressed enough to put him in charge of the prison's entire medial system. Dr. Billy Cannon remained the system's dentist for the rest of his life, and was beloved by the inmates.

It became okay to honor him again. A video of his Halloween Run is played on the Tiger Stadium jumbotron before every game. His Number 20 was retired. He was elected to the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
He had been elected to the College Football Hall right before his arrest, and the election was rescinded. In 2008, on the 50th Anniversary of his National Championship, he became the only man ever to be "re-elected" to that Hall. (Not quite: Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bobby Dodd, Bowden Wyatt and Steve Spurrier have been elected as both players and coaches.)

Last August, LSU approved a proposal to erect a statue of him. Oddly, it depicts not his Halloween Run, but the game-saving tackle that he and Warren Rabb made at the end.
Dr. Billy Cannon died at his farmhouse in St. Francisville, Louisiana this past Sunday, May 20, 2018. He was 80 years old. His funeral was held at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus, the arena named for the biggest LSU sports legend since Billy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How to Be a New York Soccer Fan In Houston -- 2018 Edtion

This past Sunday night, the New York Red Bulls visited Atlanta United, and got the job done, winning 3-1.

This season, they do not travel to Texas to play the Houston Dynamo. So I have to do a Trip Guide for the Dynamo's upcoming home match with New York City FC.

Before You Go. The Houston Chronicle is predicting low 90s -- yes, 90s -- on Friday afternoon, and a cooler mid-70s for gametime. The heat is often a problem, since, unlike Houston's baseball, football and basketball teams, the soccer team plays open to the elements. Certainly, it will be warmer in Houston than in New York and New Jersey at this time of year. The paper is also predicting a thunderstorm, but it should be done by kickoff.

Houston is in the Central Time Zone, so you'll be an hour behind New York time. Although Texas was a Confederate State, you won't need to bring your passport or change your money.

Tickets. The Dynamo are averaging 18,609 fans per home game this season, up about 1,100 from the season before. However, this being soccer, it wouldn't matter if they averaged a sellout (22,039), because MLS teams always set aside tickets for visiting fans.

The Dynamo put visiting fans in at the top of Section 230, in the stadium's southeast corner. Tickets are $29.

Getting There. It's 1,629 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Houston, and 1,619 miles from Red Bull Arena to BBVA Compass Stadium. You're probably thinking that you should be flying.

Keep in mind, this will be Memorial Day weekend. For that reason alone, fares may be higher, and availability lower, than normal.

Flying from Newark to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (That's named for the father, not the son) can be done for as little as $759, nonstop on United Airlines. Bus 102 will get you to downtown Houston in about an hour and 20 minutes.

There are 2 ways to get there by train. One is to change trains in Chicago, and then change to a bus in Longview, Texas. The other is to take Amtrak's Crescent out of Penn Station in New York at 2:15 PM Eastern Time 2 days before you want to arrive, arrive at Union Station in New Orleans at 7:32 PM Central Time the day before you want to arrive, stay in New Orleans overnight, and then transfer to the Sunset Limited at 9:00 AM, and arrive in Houston at 6:18 PM. (In other words, about an hour before kickoff.) The station is at 902 Washington Street, a mile and a half west of the stadium.

No, I'm not making any of that up. And it would cost a whopping $1,137 round-trip. You don't want that, so let's just forget Amtrak, and move on.

Greyhound takes about 42 hours, requires changing buses at least twice, and $656 round-trip, although it can drop to as little as $453 with advanced purchase. You're better off spending a little extra and flying. The Houston Greyhound station is at 2121 Main Street, a mile and a half southwest of the stadium.

If you actually think it's worth it to drive, get someone to go with you, so you'll have someone to talk to and one of you can drive while the other sleeps.

You'll be taking Interstate 78 across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania to Harrisburg, where you'll pick up Interstate 81 and take that through the narrow panhandles of Maryland and West Virginia, down the Appalachian spine of Virginia and into Tennessee, where you'll pick up Interstate 40, stay on that briefly until you reach Interstate 75, and take that until you reach Interstate 59, which will take you into Georgia briefly and then across Alabama and Mississippi, and into Louisiana, where you take Interstate 12 west outside New Orleans. Take that until you reach Interstate 10. Once in Texas, Exit 770 will get you to downtown Houston.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 3 hours in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in Maryland, half an hour in West Virginia, 5 and a half hours in Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Tennessee, half an hour in Georgia, 4 hours in Alabama, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Mississippi, 4 hours and 30 minutes in Louisiana and 2 hours in Texas. Including rest stops, and accounting for traffic, we're talking about a 40-hour trip.

Once In the City. Houston was founded in 1836 as Allen's Landing, and was renamed for Sam Houston, "the Father of Texas." There are 2.2 million people in the city proper, making it the 4th-largest in America, and 6.2 million in the metropolitan area, making it 5th.

The weather in Houston is so bad! (How bad is it?) A "bayou" (BYE-yoo) is a body of water, typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can be either an extremely slow-moving stream or river, often with a poorly-defined shoreline, or a marshy lake or wetland. And Houston is known as the Bayou City.

When people talk about "the bayou," they usually mean Louisiana. But Southeast Texas is also bayou country, and it frequently leaves Houston hot, humid and muggy. It's a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The Astrodome had to be built not just to promote Houston, or to protect people from the heat, but to protect them from the bugs. Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers said, "Some of those mosquitoes are twin-engine jobs."

Fortunately, just as there's an overhead walkway system in Minneapolis, and an "Underground City" in Montreal, in their cases to protect pedestrians from their cities' notoriously cold Winter, there is a "Houston Tunnel System," begun in the 1930s, and inspired by New York itself, by the system under Rockefeller Center. Regardless of how much this may help, remember to stay hydrated.

The sales tax in the State of Texas is 6.25 percent, but in the City of Houston it goes up to 8.25 percent. The city doesn't appear to have a "centerpoint," where the address numbers start at 1, but there is a Main Street, running northeast/southwest. ZIP Codes in the Houston area start with the digits 77. The Area Codes are 713, with 281, 346 and 832 as overlays.

Houston has not 1, not 2, but 3 beltways: Interstate 610, a.k.a. the Inner Loop; Beltway 8, a.k.a. the Sam Houston Tollway; and State Highway 99, a.k.a. the Grand Parkway.

There is a light rail system, called METRORail, but you probably won't need it to get from a downtown hotel to the ballpark. One zone is $1.25, and the price rises to $4.50 for 4 zones, so a daypass is a better bargain at $3.00.
Going In. BBVA Compass Stadium, its naming rights bought by a Spain-based banking corporation, is in the East of Downtown neighborhood, or EaDo, separated from Downtown Houston by Interstate 69, the Southwest Freeway. The mailing address is 2200 Texas Avenue. Parking is $20. It is served by the EaDo/Stadium METRORail station.
Opening in 2012, the stadium nicknamed "The Oven" is also home to the Houston Dash of the National Women's Soccer League, and the football team of Texas Southern University. This makes the Dynamo 1 of 2 MLS teams groundsharing with a college football team. The University of Houston played football there in 2013, while their new stadium was built on the site of their old one.
Despite the "pub culture" of soccer, this is Texas, this is the South, and the Dynamo organization is one of the few in MLS that actively encourages tailgate parties. They set aside Lot B and Lot C for fans who want to tailgate. (The Red Bulls allow it, but there's a difference between allowing and encouraging. It's part of the culture in the South.)

The field is real grass, and is aligned north-to-south -- well, northeast-to-southwest, anyway. It's hosted 9 men's international matches, including a U.S. draw with Canada on January 13, 2013; and 2 women's international matches, both U.S. wins: Over China on December 12, 2012, and over Mexico on April 8, 2018.
Food. Being a "Wild West" city, you might expect Houston to have Western-themed stands with "real American food" at its stadiums. Being a Southern State, you might also expect to have barbecue. Being in South Texas, you might expect Mexican food. And you would be right on all counts.

They have Texas Fare at Sections 105, 110, 117 and 136; Pizza on the Pitch at 107 and 138; Taqueria Los Anaranjados (Spanish for "the Orange Ones") at 115 and 135; Extreme Dogs & Nachos at 122; Bayou City BBQ at 125 and 133; and Far Post & East End Grill at 127 and 139;

Team History Displays. The 1996 MLS charter club version of the San Jose Earthquakes (replaced in 2008) moved to Houston for the 2006 season, and, in shocking fashion -- shocking not just for the bright orange jerseys -- won the next 2 MLS Cups. They also won Conference Championships in 2011 and 2012, although they lost the MLS Cup Finals on those occasions.
The Dynamo hang banners for their titles under the roof at the south end. They do not have any retired numbers, or a team hall of fame. Nor did they announce a 10th Anniversary Team in 2016. Probably their greatest legend, still with them, is U.S. national team mainstay DaMarcus Beasley.
They also contest the Texas Derby with FC Dallas, and have won it 6 of the 11 times it's been played, including this season. The winner gets a trophy named El Capitán, a replica 18th Century mountain howitzer cannon.
El Capitán, at The Oven

And they annually run the Dynamo Charities Cup, a friendly against a club form another country, usually in mid-season so that said club won't have to interrupt its own league season. They beat Monterrey of Mexico in the inaugural match in 2009, C.D. Águila of El Salvador in 2010, Stoke City of England in 2013, Santos Laguna of Mexico in 2015, and Real Sociedad of Spain on penalties last year; while losing to Bolton Wanderers of England in 2011, Valencia of Spain in 2012, and Aston Villa of England in 2014.
Agúila forward Rudis Corrales, manager Carlos Mijangos,
Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear and midfielder Brad Davis,
with the 2010 Dynamo Charities Cup

Stuff. The Soccer Shop is located opposite Section 114 on Texas Avenue, toward the northwest corner of the Stadium, and is open for up to one hour before gates open. Fans must have a valid ticket to enter on matchdays. Whether they go along with the Western/Texas theme and sell cowboy hats with the team logo on them, I don't know.

While there are commemorative DVDs for their 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup seasons, and this year marks their 10th Anniversary in town, as yet, there appear to be no books about the Dynamo.

During the Game. If you were wearing Dallas Cowboy gear to a Houston Texans game, or Texas Longhorns gear to a Texas A&M Aggies game (or vice versa), or FC Dallas gear to this stadium, you might be in trouble. But Dynamo fans aren't especially hostile to New Yorkers, so safety shouldn't be an issue.

Knock, knock. "Who's there?" Orange. "Orange who?" Orange you glad whoever designed the Dynamo's uniforms didn't design your team's uniforms? They're so orange (How orange are they?), they make the Dutch national team look like men in gray flannel suits! The Dynamo even have "Forever Orange" as one of their slogans. So if you don't antagonize anyone, and you keep hydrated so you don't overheat, the greatest danger at a Houston Dynamo match will be to your retinas!

Upon the move from San Jose, the club was originally named Houston 1836, in a nod to German sports clubs naming themselves after their year of founding. Before the large influx of Mexicans and other Hispanics, Germans were the largest ethnic group in Houston.

Obviously, this soccer team wasn't founded in 1836 -- no existing professional sports team, anywhere in the world, goes back that far -- but the City of Houston was, so it seemed like a good idea at first. But the new team's original fan base, with perhaps a plurality of Mexican-Americans, was infuriated: For them, 1836 was the year that Mexico lost Texas.

So the name was changed. But while "Dynamo" is a name that suggests power, it was also the name of several teams founded by Communist countries for the "company teams" of their secret police units, including in Moscow, East Berlin, Kiev, Tblisi, etc. How did that go over in right-wing Texas? For once, the State's penchant for ignorance helped: Nobody seemed to notice the similarity.

A Mexican citizen named Gabriel Brener is the majority owner of the club, but boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya is a part-owner. The club accepts applications for National Anthem singers, rather than having a regular do it. Unlike most MLS clubs, they have cheerleaders (this is Texas, after all), known as the Dynamo Girls. Their mascot is a fox named Dynamo Diesel, who looks suspiciously like the Car Fox character from the Carfax commercials.
Dynamo Diesel and the Dynamo Girls

The main Dynamo supporters groups all sit in the North End, or La Zona Naranja (The Orange Zone), Sections 215, 216 and 217. They include the Texian Army, named for the army that won Texas' independence from Mexico in 1836 (that name doesn't seem to have offended Hispanic locals); La Bateria (The Battery); the Brickwall Firm; and El Batallón (The Batallion).
"Forever Orange"

Many of their songs are in Spanish, including the standby used by the Red Bulls and many others: "¡Vamos, vamos Houston, esta noche, tenemos que ganar!" (Let's go, let's go Houston! This night, we have to win!)

One unpleasant side of Dynamo support was homophobic remarks made on one of the groups' Twitter feeds in the Spring of 2013. They have since accepted the backlash, and cut that stuff out.

After the Game. Houston is a comparatively low-crime city, and not a city known for having particularly nutty fans. As long as you behave yourself, they'll probably behave themselves, win or lose.

Lucky's Pub appears to be the go-to bar for New Yorkers living in the Houston area. It is at 801 St. Emanuel Street at Rusk Street, a block west of the stadium. Stadia Sports Grill, supposedly a haven for Jets fans, is at 11200 Broadway Street in Pearland, but that's 15 miles south of the ballpark.

If your visit to Houston is during the European soccer season (the day after this match will be the season-closing UEFA Champions League Final), and you want to watch your favorite club play, you can do so at the following locations:

* Arsenal, Manchester United and Barcelona: The Richmond Arms, 5920 Richmond Drive, 8 miles west of downtown. Bus 20 to Sage Road & San Felipe Road, then transfer to Bus 32 to Fountainview Drive at Richmond Drive.

* Liverpool: The Gorgeous Gael, 5555 Morningside Drive, 5 miles southwest of downtown, near the Rice University campus. Bus 20 to Shepherd Drive at Memorial Drive, then transfer to Bus 27 to Greenbriar Drive at University Blvd.

* Everton, Manchester City and Celtic: The Phoenix Brewpub, 1915 Westheimer Road at McDuffie Street, about 3 miles southwest of downtown. Bus 82 to Westheimer at Hazard.

* Chelsea and Real Madrid: King's Court Bar & Kitchen, 903 Hutchins Street, across from the stadium's south end.

* Newcastle United: The Backyard Grill, 9453 Jones Road, 18 miles northwest of downtown. No public transit on weekends.

* Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich: BarMunich, 2616 Louisiana Street at Dennis Street, just south of downtown. Light Rail to McGowen. If you can't find your favorite club listed here, this place is probably the best choice, because of its early opening.

* Italian teams: Nick's Place, 2713 Rockridge Drive, at Westheimer Road, about 12 miles west of downtown. Bus 82 to Westheimer & Westerland. Be warned, New York soccer fan: This is also listed as the home base of New England Patriots fans, thus probably also Boston Red Sox fans. Things could turn nasty.

Sidelights. The Dynamo's 1st home, from 2006 to 2011, was Robertson Stadium. They had their 2006 and 2007 championship seasons there, although they didn't play the MLS Cup Finals there. In 2006, they beat the New England Revolution at Pizza Hut Park, now Toyota Stadium, home of their arch-rivals, FC Dallas. In 2007, they beat the Revs again, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.

Built in 1942 as Public School Stadium, and known as Jeppesen Stadium from 1958 to 1980, Corbin J. Robertson Stadium (named for a member of the University of Houston's board of regents) seated 36,000 people at its peak, and was also home to the University of Houston football team from 1946 to 1950, and again from 1998 to 2012; and was the 1st home of the Houston Oilers, from 1960 to 1964.
The Oilers won the 1960 American Football League Championship Game there, over the Los Angeles Chargers (who moved to San Diego the next year), but lost the 1962 AFL Championship Game there to the Dallas Texans (who became the Kansas City Chiefs the next year). They won the 1961 AFL Championship Game on the road.

TDECU Stadium, the new home of University of Houston football, has been built at the site. 3874 Holman Street at Cullen Blvd. Number 52 bus.
The Oilers played the 1965, '66 and '67 seasons at Rice Stadium, home of Rice University. Although built in 1950 and probably already obsolete, it seated a lot more people than did the Astrodome, and so Super Bowl VIII was played there instead of the Astrodome in January 1974, and the Miami Dolphins won it -- and haven't won a Super Bowl since.

It has been significantly renovated, and Rice still uses it. University Blvd. at Greenbriar Street, although the mailing address is 6100 S. Main Street. Number 700 bus.

Before there were the Astros, or even the Colt .45's, there were the Houston Buffaloes. The Buffs played at Buffalo Stadium, a.k.a. Buff Stadium, for most of their history, from 1928 to 1961, when the Colt .45's made them obsolete.

The Buffs won 8 Texas League Pennants: 1928, 1931, 1940, 1947, 1951, 1954, 1956 and 1957. The stadium was at the southwest corner of Leeland Street & Cullen Blvd., about 2 1/2 miles southeast of downtown. A furniture store is on the site now. Number 20 bus.

In 1965, the Astrodome opened, and was nicknamed "The Eighth Wonder of the World." It sure didn't seem like an exaggeration: The 1st roofed sports stadium in the world. (Supposedly, the Romans built stadia with canvas roofs, but that's hardly the same thing.) The Astros played there until 1999, and then moved into Enron Field/Minute Maid Park for the 2000 season. The Oilers played at the Astrodome from 1968 to 1996, when they moved to Tennessee to become the Titans.
In 2002, the new NFL team, the Houston Texans, began play next-door to the Astrodome, at NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium), which, like Minute Maid Park, has a retractable roof. Suddenly, the mostly-vacant Astrodome seemed, as one writer put it, like a relic of a future that never came to be. (This same writer said the same thing of Shea Stadium and, across Roosevelt Avenue, the surviving structures of the 1964 World's Fair.)

Once, the Astrodome was flashy enough to be the site of movies like The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training and Murder at the World Series. (Both in 1977. In the latter, the Astros, who had never yet gotten close to a Pennant, played the Series against the Oakland Athletics, who had just gotten fire-sold by owner Charlie Finley.)

The Astrodome also hosted the legendary 1968 college basketball game between Number 1 UCLA (with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then still Lew Alcindor) and Number 2 University of Houston (whose Elvin Hayes led them to victory, before falling to UCLA in that year's Final Four), the 1971 Final Four (UCLA beating Villanova in the Final), and the cheese-tastic 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, the "Battle of the Sexes."

The Astrodome hosted 3 fights for the Heavyweight Champion of the World, with the defending Champion winning all 3 by knockout: Muhammad Ali over Cleveland Williams on November 14, 1966; Ali over Ernie Terrell on February 6, 1967; and Larry Holmes over Randall "Tex" Cobb on November 26, 1982.

Elvis Presley sang there on February 27, 28 and March 1, 1970 and on March 3, 1974. It hosted Selena's last big concert before her murder in 1995, and when Jennifer Lopez starred in the film version, it was used for the re-creation. In 2004, the same year NRG Stadium hosted the Super Bowl (which was won by... Janet Jackson, I think), the Astrodome was used to film a high school football playoff for the film version of Friday Night Lights; the old Astros division title banners can be clearly seen.

Today, though, the Astrodome seems, like the Republican Party that held a ridiculously bigoted Convention there in 1992, stuck in the past, and not just because they renominated failed President George H.W. Bush. The former Eighth Wonder of the World is now nicknamed the Lonely Landmark, and while it served as a shelter for people displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, since 2008, when it was hit with numerous code violations, only maintenance workers and security guards have been allowed to enter.

On February 13, 2018, the Harris County Commissioners, the Dome's overseers, approved the Astrodome Revitalization Project, which will raise the stadium's floor and use the space underneath as a huge parking garage. Construction is expected to be completed sometime in 2020.
NRG Stadium hosted the Final Four in 2011 (Connecticut beating Butler in the Final), and earlier this year (Villanova beating North Carolina). It hosted Super Bowl LI this coming February, with (take your pick: The Atlanta Falcons choking, or the New England Patriots cheating). It will host the 2023-24 College Football National Championship Game.

It was built roughly on the site of Colt Stadium, which was the baseball team's home in their 1st 3 seasons, 1962, '63 and '64, when they were known as the Houston Colt .45's (spelled with the apostrophe), before moving into the dome and changing the name of the team.

The windows in the roof made it impossible to see the ball in the Sun. So they were painted, and then the grass died. So the 1st artificial turf in sports had to be laid down in 1966, known as AstroTurf. Sandy Koufax, he of the mosquito quip, hated the turf, saying, "I was one of those guys who pitched without a cup. I wouldn't do it on this stuff." And Dick Allen of the Philadelphia Phillies, looking at the 1st artificial field in baseball history, said, "If a horse can't eat it, I don't want to play on it."

The Astrodome hosted a 1988 match between the national soccer teams of the U.S. and Ecuador, which Ecuador won. NRG Stadium has hosted 3 such matches, a 2008 draw with Mexico, a 2011 win over Panama, and a 2016 loss to Argentina in the Copa America. The Mexico team has made it a home-away-from-home, playing several matches there.

The NRG complex, including the Astrodome, is at 8400 Kirby Drive at Reliant Parkway. Number 700 bus.

For the 2000 season, the Astros moved to Minute Maid Park, at 501 Crawford Street at Texas Avenue, 4 blocks west of BBVA Compass Stadium.

The NBA's Houston Rockets played at the Summit, later known as the Compaq Center, from 1975 to 2003. Elvis sang at The Summit on August 28, 1976. It's been converted into the Lakewood Church Central Campus, a megachurch presided over by Dr. Joel Osteen. 3700 Southwest Freeway at Timmons Lane. Number 53 bus.

The Rockets now play in the Toyota Center, at 1510 Polk Street at Crawford Street. It's 9 blocks south of Minute Maid Park, and a little bit southwest of BBVA Compass Stadium.

The Houston Aeros, with Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty, won the World Hockey Association championships of 1974 and 1975, while playing at the Sam Houston Coliseum, before moving into the Summit in 1975 and folding in 1978. The ABA's Houston Mavericks played there from 1967 to 1969. Elvis sang there on October 13, 1956, and the Beatles played there on August 19, 1965. Before the opening of The Summit, the Rockets played at the Coliseum, and at the Astrodome.

The Sam Houston Coliseum was built in 1937 and demolished in 1998. It replaced Sam Houston Hall, where the 1928 Democratic Convention nominated Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, who thus became the 1st Catholic nominated for President by a major party.

The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts is now on the site. 801 Bagby Street, at Rusk Street, downtown.

The nearest NHL team to Houston is the Dallas Stars, 242 miles away. If Houston had an NHL team, its metropolitan area would rank 10th in population in the NHL.

There's another notable sports site in Houston: The U.S. Military Entry Processing Station, in the Customs House, where Muhammad Ali, then living and training in Houston, had to report to fulfill his draft obligation. He did report there, on April 28, 1967, and refused to be drafted. (To be fair, they did call his birth name, Cassius Clay, not his legal name, Muhammad Ali.) Ali was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of the Heavyweight Title. He stayed out of prison on appeal, and case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction.

The Customs House is still standing, and still used in part by the U.S. Department of Defense. 701 San Jacinto Street. Central Station on METRORail.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at Hofheinz Pavilion on November 12, 1971; and June 4 and 5, 1975. He also sang at the City Auditorium on October 8, 1955 and April 21, 1956. That's better known as the venue where R&B singer Johnny Ace mistakenly shot himself before a show on Christmas Day, December 25, 1955. The Jones Hall for the Performing Arts replaced it in 1966. 615 Louisiana Street at Capitol Street, downtown.

Also, early in his career, Elvis sang in Houston at the Paladium Club (8100 S. Main Street, near the Astrocomplex) on November 26, 27 and 28, 1954; Cook's Hoedown (603 Capitol Street, around the corner from Jones Hall) on November 27 and December 28, 1954, and April 24 and August 7, 1955; Magnolia Gardens (12044 Riverside Street, no public transit) on April 24, May 22, June 19 and August 7, 1955; and Eagles Hall at 2204 Louisiana Street on January 1 and March 19, 1955 (2204 Louisiana Street, downtown). All of these have since been demolished.

Elvis sang near the University of Texas campus in Austin, 160 miles to the northwest, at Dessau Hall on March 17, 1955, the Sportscenter on August 25, 1955, the Skyline Club on January 18, 1956, and the Municipal Auditorium on March 28, 1977. And he sang near the Texas A&M campus, 100 miles to the northwest, at the Rodeo Grounds in Bryan on August 23, 1955 and the G. Rolle White Coliseum in College Station on October 3, 1955;

Elvis also sang in South Texas at the City Auditorium in Beaumont, 85 miles to the northeast, on June 20 and 21, 1955 and January 17, 1956; at the football stadium at Conroe High School, 40 miles to the north, on August 24, 1955; in Corpus Christi, 200 miles to the southwest, at the Hoedown Club on July 3, 1955 and the Memorial Coliseum on April 16, 1956; in Galveston, 50 miles to the southeast, at the City Auditorium on January 16, 1956; at the baseball field in Gonzales, 130 miles to the west, on August 26, 1955; at Woodrow Wilson High School in Port Arthur, 90 miles to the east on November 25, 1955; and at Southwest Texas State University (LBJ's alma mater, now "Texas State"), 165 miles to the west, on October 6, 1955.

There are other places that might be considered "South Texas" where he sang, but I'll include them with "West Texas" when I do this for the San Antonio Spurs.

The tallest building in Houston, and in all of Texas, is the JPMorgan Chase Tower, formerly the Texas Commerce Tower. It was built in 1982 at 600 Travis Street at Texas Avenue, downtown, and stands 1,002 feet tall, rising 75 stories above the concrete over the bayou. It is the tallest 5-sided building in the world.

Houston's version of New York's American Museum of Natural History is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in Hermann Park, at Main Street and Hermann Park Drive. The Houston Museum of Fine Arts is at 1001 Bissonnet Street, just 5 blocks away. Both can be reached by the Number 700 bus.

Of course, the name "Houston" is most connected with two things: Its namesake, the legendary Senator, Governor and war hero Sam Houston; and the Johnson Space Center, the NASA control center named after President Lyndon B. Johnson, who, as Senate Majority Leader, wrote the bill creating NASA and the Space Center, because he thought it would bring a lot of jobs and money to Houston (and he was right).

Most historic sites relating to Sam, however, are not in the city that bears his name. As for reaching the Johnson Space Center, it's at 2101 NASA Parkway and Saturn Lane. The Number 249 bus goes there, so if you don't have a car, Houston, you won't have a problem.

Although Houston was the post-Presidential home for George H.W. and Barbara Bush, his Presidential Library is at Texas A&M University, 100 miles away in College Station. Barbara Bush died on April 17, 2018. She was buried at the Library at TAMU. When George dies, he will be buried alongside her. I don't know the former President's address, and, in the interest of privacy, I wouldn't print it here if I did.

The Alley Theatre, downtown at 615 Texas Avenue, opened in 1968, and in 1976 hosted the Vice Presidential debate between Senators Walter Mondale and Bob Dole. This is where Dole named World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars as "all Democrat wars" -- forgetting that the Republicans wanted America to get into all but World War II, and didn't want that one because they liked the Nazis' anti-union status; and that it was actually the Republicans who got us into Vietnam.

There have been a few TV shows set in Houston, but the only one that lasted was Reba, starring country singer Reba McIntire. But it was filmed in Los Angeles, so if you're a fan, you won't find the house in Houston.

Films set in Houston, in addition to the sports-themed ones, include Brewster McCloud (which also used the Astrodome, and not to be confused with Dennis Weaver's show McCloud), Logan's Run (which used the Houston Hyatt Regency for some scenes), Telefon (set there but filmed in California), Terms of EndearmentReality Bites, and, perhaps most iconically, Urban Cowboy.

*

Houston can be hot, but it's a good sports town, and, best of all, it's not Dallas. So there can be a good old time in the hot town tonight.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Yankees Crown Royals, Remain In 1st Place

Tired from all that waiting through rain delays in Washington, the Yankees flew out to Kansas City for their next series. It surprised nobody that they lost the opener to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. CC Sabathia did not have good stuff, although the bullpen was decent. Aaron Hicks went 3-for-4, and Giancarlo Stanton 2-for-4, but the rest of the lineup only managed 3 hits.

Royals 5, Yankees 2. WP: Jakob Junis (5-3). SV: Kelvin Herrera (9). LP: Sabathia (2-1)

*

Things got better on Saturday night. The Royals don't celebrate Old-Timers' Day, but they brought back a bunch of former greats in celebration of their 50th Season. (Next year will be their 50th Anniversary.) In addition to Royal heroes like George Brett and Frank White, there were some guys who also did things of note with the Yankees, like Lou Piniella, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran.

Luis Severino was very effective again, going 6 innings, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks, striking out 6. Between them, Chad Green, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman allowed only 1 hit (Green in the 7th) and 1 walk (Chapman in the 9th).

It seemed like ages since the Yankees did any hitting, but they got 2 home runs from Gary Sanchez, and 1 each from Stanton, Hicks and Gleyber Torres. Sanchez and Torres each had 3 RBIs on the night.

Yankees 8, Royals 3. WP: Severino (7-1). No save. LP: Danny Duffy (1-6).

*

Then, yesterday, Sonny Gray pitched brilliantly, taking a shutout into the 8th inning. He was backed by 4 home runs: 2 by Tyler Austin, and 1 each by Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine.

Yankees 10, Royals 1. WP: Gray (3-3). No save. LP: Eric Skoglund (1-4).

*

So here's where things stand, 7 weeks into the 26-week Major League Baseball regular season:

* The Yankees are 30-13, with a winning percentage of .698, the best in the major leagues.

* They and the Boston Red Sox, at 32-15, are technically tied for 1st place in the American League Eastern Division, but, since the Yankees have 2 games in hand, they are 2 games ahead of the Sox in the all-important loss column. The Tampa Bay Rays are 9 back, 10 in the loss column; the Toronto Blue Jays, 10 and 12; the Baltimore Orioles, 17 1/2 and 19. This Division looks like a 2-horse race, and the same 2 classics.

* If the current standings held to the end of the season, the Red Sox would host the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Game, with the winner facing the Yankees in 1 AL Division Series, and the Houston Astros facing the Cleveland Indians in the other. In the National League, it would be the resurgent Philadelphia Phillies hosting the St. Louis Cardinals, with the winner facing the Atlanta Braves in 1 NLDS, and the Milwaukee Brewers would play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the other.

The Yankees continue their roadtrip, against the Texas Rangers. Here are the projected pitching matchups:

* Monday, 8:05 PM Eastern Time (7:05 Central and local): Masahiro Tanaka against Bartolo Colon, who turns 45 on Thursday. Funny how he was a "cheat" when he pitched for the Yankees in 2011, but nobody has cared about his performance-enhancing drug use since he left the Yankees.

* Tuesday, 8:05: Domingo German vs. Cole Hamels. There is a rumor going around that the Yankees are going to try to trade for Hamels, who helped the Phillies win Pennants in 2008 and '09, but I wouldn't bet on it. He doesn't really offer the Yankees an upgrade anymore. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2008 World Series. Given some of his acquisitions of the last few years, I've joked that Yankee general manager Brian Cashman is still trying to win the 2008 World Series, more so than he was in 2008 -- or for 2018.

* Wednesday, 7:05 (6:05 local): CC Sabathia -- for once, the thinnest starter in a series, and not the oldest -- vs. Doug Fister.

Thursday is a day off, and then the Yankees return to start a new home series on Friday, against the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How to Be a Met Fan In Milwaukee -- 2018 Edition

The Yankees went to Milwaukee every season from 1970 to 1997, when the Brewers got kicked over from the American League to the National League. Now, they only go there when the quirks of the Interleague schedule work out that way. And they won't go there this season, although the Brewers will come to Yankee Stadium for games on July 7, 8 and 9.

The Mets, however, will got to Milwaukee this season, for a 4-game series, starting next Thursday.

Before You Go. Milwaukee is on Lake Michigan, which makes it chilly in the winter. But this is late May, so the weather shouldn't be much of an issue.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website is predicting high 60s for the afternoons, and the high 50s for the evenings. They are predicting scattered thunderstorms for Friday, but they should end by the time you head to the game. However, Miller Park has a retractable roof, so it won't rain on you during the games.

Milwaukee is in the Central Time Zone, an hour behind New York. Adjust your various timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The Brewers are averaging 32,995 fans per home game this season, already up over 1,400 per game from last season, and school isn't even out yet. Nevertheless, as the Mets and Brewers have never had a rivalry, you should be able to buy any ticket you can afford.

On the Field Level (lower), Infield Boxes are $67 and Outfield Boxes are $47. On the Loge (middle), Infield Boxes are $47 and Outfield Boxes are $40. On the Terrace (upper), Boxes are $25 and Reserved are $18. Bleachers are $28.

Getting There. Downtown Milwaukee is 879 land miles from Times Square. And Miller Park is 893 miles from Citi Field, 887 miles from Yankee Stadium II. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

At first, unlike some other Midwestern cities, this seems like a good idea if you can afford it. If you order today, United Airlines can fly you there for under $500 round-trip. Most other airlines will make at least one stop between any of the New York area airports and General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, most likely in Chicago, and you'll spend nearly as much time on the ground at O'Hare as you do in the air. The GRE bus will get you downtown in a little over half an hour.

(Billy Mitchell was a Milwaukee-area native, a General in the U.S. Army Air Service, and an early advocate for air power. Although he didn't live to see its establishment, he is called the Father of the U.S. Air Force.)

The Milwaukee Intermodal Station, which serves both Greyhound and Amtrak, is at 433 W. St. Paul Avenue, at 5th Street. There are 4 daily Greyhound runs that will get you from New York to Milwaukee. Only 1 requires as few as 1 changeover.

That bus leaves Port Authority at 10:15 PM, and includes rest stops at Milesburg, Pennsylvania; Cleveland and Toledo, before arriving in Chicago at 3:10 the next afternoon (Central Time). There's a half-hour's wait before leaving Chicago at 3:40 and arriving in Milwaukee at 6:20. That's a little under 21 hours, counting the time change. So if you leave Port Authority at 10:15 on Thursday night, you'll might not arrive in Milwaukee with enough time to check into a downtown hotel and get out to the ballpark in time for the Friday night game. Better to take the Thursday 5:15 PM bus out of New York, changing at Cleveland at 2:35 AM and Chicago at 10:30 AM, and arriving in Milwaukee at 1:55 PM.

You can return home at 8:50 Sunday night, although you'll have to make transfers at Chicago (10:35 PM), Detroit (6:05 AM), and Pittsburgh (2:40 PM) to get back to Port Authority by 11:55 PM. Round-trip fare is $398, although CA .drop to as low as $302 with advanced purchase.
Milwaukee Intermodal Station

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Station at 225 South Canal Street in Chicago at 9:45 (Central Time) every morning. From there, you have to wait until 1:05 PM to get on Hiawatha Service, which will bring you to Milwaukee at 2:34. That's 23 hours, 49 minutes.

If you start this trip on Wednesday afternoon in order to see the entire 4-game series, you can leave Milwaukee by Amtrak on 5:45 on Sunday afternoon, be in Chicago at 7:14, and leave Chicago on the Lake Shore Limited at 9:30 and arrive back at Penn Station at 6:23 PM on Monday. Round-trip fare is $359.

If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping.  You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won't need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is the key, until it merges with Interstate 94, which will merge with Interstate 43, but you have to worry only about I-94.

I-94 will split off from I-43 at downtown Milwaukee, and then "turn left," becoming the East-West Freeway. Take Exit 308A for Mitchell Blvd., then turn right on Frederick Miller Way (named for the founder of Miller Beer; a left turn will get you onto Selig Drive, named for the Commissioner and former Brewer owner). The ballpark will be on your left.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, and just under an hour in Wisconsin. That's about 15 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 20 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Once In the City. As Alice Cooper taught us in the film version of Wayne's World, Milwaukee gets its name from a Native American word meaning "the good land." But this may not be correct: Another version says the name comes a word meaning "Gathering place by the water." Either way, it's true: The land of Wisconsin is good for farming, and Milwaukee is based on a confluence of 3 rivers that flow into Lake Michigan: The Milwaukee, the Menomonee, and the Kinnickinnic; so there's plenty of water. The Milwaukee River separates the city's streets into North and South, and the other 2 rivers separate them into East and West.

Founded in 1846, the city has about 600,000 people, making the 3rd-largest in the Great Lakes region behind Chicago and Detroit. But the metropolitan area has only about 2 million, making it dead last among the 30 MLB teams, about 400,000 less than Number 29, Kansas City. But the construction of modern Miller Park means that the Brewers, unlike the Braves to Atlanta in 1965, won't be moving out of Milwaukee in the foreseeable future.

Wisconsin's sales tax is 5 percent, but inside Milwaukee County, it's 5.6 percent. Which is still lower than those of the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut even before local taxes are added on. The Milwaukee County Transit System has buses only, no subway or light rail, and has a fare of $2.25.

ZIP Codes in Wisconsin start with the digits 53 and 54, and for the Milwaukee area, 530, 531 and 532. The Area Code is 414 for the city and 262 for the suburbs. Milwaukee does not have a "beltway."

Going In. Getting from downtown to Miller Park by public transportation is a little tricky. The Number 10 bus goes down Wisconsin Avenue, but its closest point is a little over a mile from the stadium. You'd need to get off at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and 45th Street, make a left on Story Parkway and a left at the fork onto Yount Drive.
Helfaer Field, with Miller Park beyond right field

You'll walk under I-94, and on your right will be Helfaer Field, a baseball field on the site of Milwaukee County Stadium. Miller Park, named for the city's brewing giant, will be straight ahead.
Milwaukee has its bad neighborhoods, but like County Stadium, Miller Park is an island in a sea of parking, so regardless of whether you took a bus or drove, you should be safe. The stadium points southeast, as did County Stadium before it, but that doesn't matter a whole lot, since you're 4 miles west of downtown and Milwaukee doesn't exactly provide a great view of skyscrapers. The official address for "The Keg" is 1 Brewers Way. Parking at Miller Park is $25.
Outside the ballpark, there is a sculpture titled "Teamwork," in memory of the 3 construction workers killed in the collapse of a crane in 1999: William DeGrave, Jerome Starr and Jeffrey Wischer. The collapse not only killed those men, but damaged the unfinished stadium so badly that its opening date had to be pushed back from April 2000 to April 2001.
As I said, Miller Park has a retractable roof. At this time of year, the roof is likely to be open, unless it gets hot -- and, as I said when citing the forecast, it probably won't get hot (but rain may be a factor). The park is not symmetrical: Left field is 344 feet from home plate, left-center is 371, center is 400, right-center is 374, and right is 345. It's better for hitters with the roof closed, better for pitchers with the roof open. The field is natural grass, and points southeast.
Russell Branyan hit the longest home run at Miller Park so far, a 480-foot shot in 2004. I can't find a definitive answer as to who hit the longest homer at County Stadium. But, despite the presence on the home teams of such longball artists as Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, Gorman Thomas and Rob Deer, although the only player who appears to have hit one all the way out of it was Cecil Fielder, with a 1991 drive that went 502 feet.

Oddly, his son Prince Fielder would later play for the Brewers, but he didn't hit the longest at Miller Park before going to the American League and playing for his father's team, the Detroit Tigers.
For all the home runs hit by sluggers such as Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, Gorman Thomas and Rob Deer while County Stadium was their home park, I can find no record of any of them hitting one there that was longer than Cecil's 502-footer.

Miller Park hasn't yet hosted pro football, but it's hosted "futbol." During the 2014 All-Star Break, Swansea City of Wales and Chivas of Guadalajara, Mexico played to a 1-1 draw. During the 2015 All-Star Break, it was Britain vs. Mexico again: Atlas defeated Newcastle United 2-1. The ballpark has also hosted concerts, including Bruce Springsteen in 2003, Paul McCartney in 2013 and One Direction in 2015.

Food. In Big Ten Country, where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Milwaukee ballpark to have lots of good options. With Wisconsin's German heritage in mind, there are Beer Carts and Brat Boys stands all over the place, and a Friday's Beer Garden at the Left Field Gate. A "bratwurst with red sauce" has been one of Major League Baseball's most-honored culinary delights since the Braves were in town. The Brewers also serve various other sausages, many of them of ethnic varieties, as reflected in the Sausage Race.

Like Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, Boog Powell in Baltimore, and a few others, Milwaukee has a barbecue stand operated by a club legend, in this case "Stormin' Gorman" Thomas. Gorman's Corner is behind Section 103 in right field. There's a Fry Bar at Section 106, baked potato stands at 125 and 214, and "Hot Cheese" at 208. (Hot cheese? Yes, they serve grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese fries.) Big B's Diner has locations at 110 and 126, and Bernie's Clubhouse, named for Bernie Brewer, at 422. Friday's Front Row Sports Grille -- named after a line from a Miller Lite commercial that Bob Uecker did back in the day -- is in left field.

According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each big-league ballpark, the best thing to eat at Miller Park is "Bratchos on a stick." What-chos on a stick? It's a fried wad of cheese, seasoned ground beef (that would be the "brat" part), crushed Doritos (that would be the "chos" part) and sour cream on a 6-inch toothpick. I think if you can eat three without having a heart attack, you should get the next one free. It's available all over the stadium.

Fortunately, the ballpark has several ice cream stands. Unfortunately, the ice cream is Blue Bunny, which I suggest staying away from. Blue Bunny is so bad (How bad is it?), it makes Turkey Hill taste like Breyer's. But there are also Dippin' Dots stands.

Team History Displays. In addition to "Teamwork," Miller Park has statue honors for 4 significant figures from Milwaukee's baseball history: Hank Aaron of the Braves (who also played his last 2 years with the Brewers), Brewers founding owner Allan H. "Bud" Selig (now the Commissioner), shortstop Robin Yount, and Bob Uecker, who was the 1st Milwaukee (or even Wisconsin) native to play for the Braves, and now longtime broadcaster for the Brewers.
Aaron, Selig and Yount at the dedication for Selig's statue

It was because Major League was filmed in Milwaukee, rather than Cleveland, that Ueck was hired to play the Indians' acerbic, hard-drinking broadcaster Harry Doyle -- a man much closer in personality to Harry Caray than to the real Ueck.
I don't think Ueck's statue looks much like him.

The Brewers' retired numbers are high above center field: 1, Bud Selig, owner 1970-98 (never worn by him, obviously); 4, Paul Molitor, 3rd baseman and designated hitter 1978-92; 19, Robin Yount, shortstop-center field 1973-93; 34, Rollie Fingers, pitcher 1981-85; 44, Hank Aaron, designated hitter 1975-76; and the universally-retired 42 of Jackie Robinson.
The Brewers have also not reissued, though not also retired, the Number 17 of Wisconsin native Jim Gantner, 2nd baseman 1976-92. They have also honored Uecker with a not-retired, still-in-circulation Number 50, which hangs with the retired numbers in honor of Uecker's 1st 50 years in pro baseball.

If you saw Mr. 3000, sorry, but Stan Ross (1st base, 1978-95 & 2004 -- taking the place of Cecil Cooper for a few years) is fictional, and his Number 21 has not been retired: It is currently worn by 3rd baseman Travis Shaw.

The Brewers have a team Wall of Honor, with a whopping 60 members:

* Straddling the eras: Selig and Uecker.

* From the 1970s, but not making it into the team's 1st era of contention: Aaron; pitchers Ken Sanders and Jim Colborn; outfielders Dave May and Johnny Briggs; catcher Darrell Porter; and 1st baseman George Scott.

* From the 1978 team that was the 1st Brewer squad to make it into a Pennant race, but not making it to the 1982 Pennant: Pitchers Bill Castro and Bill Travers, outfielder Sixto Lezcano and 3rd baseman Sal Bando.

* From the 1982 Pennant winners: Yount, Molitor, Fingers, Gantner, Sutton, Thomas; manager Harvey Kuenn (a Milwaukee native who had once played for the Braves); pitchers Jim Slaton, Jerry Augustine, Moose Haas, Mike Caldwell, Bob McClure and Pete Vukovich; catcher Ted Simmons, 1st baseman Cecil Cooper, 3rd baseman Don Money, left fielder Ben Oglivie and right fielder Charlie Moore.

* From the close calls of 1987 and 1988, but joining after the 1982 Pennant: Pitchers Teddy Higuera, Bill Wegman, Chris Bosio, Dan Plesac and Chuck Crim; catcher Bill Schroeder (now a Brewers broadcaster), and outfielders Rob Deer, B.J. Surhoff and Darryl Hamilton.

* From the 1990s: Pitchers Jaime Navarro, Cal Eldred, Mike Fetters and Bob Wickman; catcher Dave Nilsson, 1st baseman John Jaha, 2nd basemen Fernando Viña and Mark Loretta, shortstops Pat Listach and José Valentín, 3rd basemen Kevin Seitzer and Jeff Cirillo; and outfielders Greg Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz.

* From the 2000s, but not making it to 2008: 1st baseman Richie Sexson and outfielder Geoff Jenkins.

* From the 2008 Wild Card team: Pitcher Ben Sheets, infielders Bill Hall and Craig Counsell, and right fielder Corey Hart. Counsell, now the Brewers' manager, and Hart are the only players thus far honored from the Brewers' 2011 NL Central Division Champions. Hart should not be confused with the Canadian singer of the same name, although if the roof at Miller Park is closed, with all the lights, he may just wear his sunglasses at night

The Brewers also have a Milwaukee Baseball Walk of Fame, honoring greats from both teams. In addition to Selig, Kuenn, Uecker, Aaron, Yount, Molitor, Fingers, Money, Thomas, Cooer, Gantner, and Higuera, it honors former general manager Harry Dalton. From the Braves, it honors Aaron, Kuenn, pitchers Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, 3rd baseman Eddie Mathews, 1st baseman Joe Adcock, shortstop Johnny Logan and general manager John Quinn.

In addition to Aaron, Spahn, Mathews, Yount, Molitor, Thomas, Gantner, Kuenn, Cooper, Selig and Uecker, the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame has honored Braves broadcaster Earl Gillespie; minor-league Brewers stars Charlie Grimm and Joe Hauser, and Wisconsin-born baseball stars Kid Nichols, Ginger Beaumont, Davy Jones, Addie Joss, Billy Sullivan, George McBride, Fred Luderus, Pants Rowland, Ed Konetchy, Burleigh Grimes, Al Simmons, Ray Berres and Ken Keltner. Nichols, Joss, Grimes and Simmons are in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Aaron and Spahn were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. That same year, The Sporting News named Aaron, Spahn, Mathews, Fingers and Molitor to their 100 Greatest Baseball Players.

In the TV special that NBC did for the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, John Rawlings, then TSN's editor, admitted that, despite being a Hall-of-Famer, a member of the 3,000 Hit Club and an MVP at 2 different positions, Yount was one of the last players cut. Yount was, however, honored by Brewer fans as their team's entry in the 2006 DHL Hometown Heroes poll.

The Brewers hang their notations for their 1981 American League Division Series appearance, their 1982 AL Pennant, their 2008 National League Wild Card berth, and their 2011 NL Central Division title over the left-field fence, over the Front Row Sports Grille. There is also a Braves Monument at Miller Park. But there is no mention of the Braves' 1957 World Championship or 1958 NL Pennant, or the 8 American Association Pennants won by the Triple-A version of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1913, 1914, 1936, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1951 and 1952.
There is no trophy for the winner of the season series between the Brewers and the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs lead that rivalry 173-162.

Stuff. The Brewers Team Stores are located at the Home Plate and Left Field Gates. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there.

The Brewers have been around for over 40 years now, but because Milwaukee, as a city, gets lost in the shadows not only of Chicago, 90 miles to the south, but the smaller yet higher-profile city of Green Bay, 115 miles to the north, the Brewers tend to get forgotten. They trail not only the Packers, but also the football team at the University of Wisconsin in popularity among Badger State teams. (They may even trail that school's very successful hockey program, even though Milwaukee doesn't have an NHL team.)

Their recent success has moved them ahead of the NBA's Bucks, though: While the Bucks are usually good, they haven't reached the NBA Finals in almost 40 years, and their 1971 title seems so far back that it might as well have been won by a team that moved away and has since been replaced, as with Minneapolis and the Lakers. Or with the Braves and Brewers, if you prefer.

As a result of this, there aren't many good books about the Brew Crew. Todd Mishler wrote Baseball in Brewtown: America's Pastime in Milwaukee. It covers not just the Brewers, but their preceding Triple-A namesake, and the Braves, and the teams that called the city home in the 19th Century. But it was published in 2005, and doesn't cover the recent renaissance that saw the Brewers win the NL's Wild Card in 2008 and the NL Central in 2011.

Milwaukee's greatest baseball moment -- their only World Championship in the sport to date -- came when the Yankees, finding the much smaller city's over-the-top reaction to the Brewers to be comical, called Milwaukee "Bushville" (as in "bush league"), and came to regret it. This story is told in John Klima's book Bushville Wins! The Wild Saga of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the Screwballs, Sluggers, and Beer Swiggers Who Canned the New York Yankees and Changed Baseball. The title is longer than the Series was -- and both the '57 and the '58 Series went the full 7.

The 1957 World Series' official highlight film seems not to be in an official package sold at either Brewers or Braves games. The Brewers do have a DVD honoring their lone Pennant: Harvey's Wallbangers: The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers. Uecker narrates this story about Kuenn and his leadership of a club that had been terrible until 1977, then became a "close but no cigar" team under George Bamberger, before Bambi was fired and Kuenn was brought in, turning "Bambi's Bombers" into "Harvey's Wallbangers."

There is also a DVD titled The Essential Games of the Milwaukee Brewers. While there are a few bonus features, there are only 4 games on it, as opposed to the standard 6: 1982 AL Championship Series Game 5, in which the Brew Crew won what is still their only Pennant; 1982 World Series Game 4, a come-from-behind victory in a Series they went on to lose in 7; September 28, 2008, a date which lives in Met infamy but in Brewer legend as they clinched the Wild Card berth by beating their arch-rivals, the Cubs; and 2011 NL Division Series Game 5, in which they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks to win a postseason series for the 1st time in 29 years (and only the 2nd time in their 1st 43 years of play).

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked Brewer fans 30th. Dead last. In other words, they were judged to be the most tolerable: "You'd be hard-pressed to find a more affable fanbase than Brewers fans. They just kind of roll with things."

Brewer fans, as you might expect in America's foremost brewing city, like to drink. If this were a Packer game and you were wearing Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings gear, you might be in trouble. If this were a UW game and you were wearing University of Minnesota gear, you might be in trouble. If this were a Bucks game and you were wearing Chicago Bulls gear, you'd probably be safe. If this were a Brewers-Cubs game, and you were wearing Cubs gear, you might be in trouble. But it's a Brewers-Mets game, so if you don't start anything, they won't continue anything. Wisconsans are good people.
Apparently, the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry
doesn't extend to the mascots. Bernie Brewer poses
with the Twins' T.C. Bear at the Twins' Target Field.

All 4 games of these series feature promotions. Thursday is Bark at the Park Night, so, if you are afraid of, or allergic to, dogs, that's not the game to see. Friday is Flat Bill Snapback Hat Night, featuring the Brewers' 1978-93 "MB" or "Glove" logo. Saturday is Brewers Coupon Book Night: The 1st 25,000 fans age 18 and over receive a Brewers coupon book -- probably for places you may never get another chance to visit, since you don't live in Wisconsin. Sunday is Travis Shaw "Mayor of Ding-Dong City" Bobblehead Day, and Kids Run the Bases.

Since 1973, the Brewers have had a mascot, Bernie Brewer. At County Stadium, there was a giant keg and beer stein behind center field, with a chalet next to it. Upon each Brewer home run, Bernie, a man in a costume whose big foam head had a big blond mustache, would slide down a chute from the chalet into the mug, releasing balloons.
Bernie's Chalet at County Stadium

The setup was removed in 1984, but restored in 1993. A new version was installed in left field when Miller Park opened in 2001.
Bernie's slide at Miller Park

The Sausage Race began in in 1992, as a cartoon show on the scoreboard. Live races by men (sometimes women) in 7-foot-3 sausage suits began the next season: They would come out of the left field gate and run toward home plate.

The original sausages are #1, Brett Wurst (a bratwurst in lederhosen, representing the city's German heritage); #2, Stosh Jonjak (a guy in a rugby-style shirt, cap and sunglasses, representing a Polish sausage), and #3, Guido (no last name, wearing a chef's outfit and having a long, thin mustache, representing an Italian sausage).

#4, Frankie Furter (a guy in a baseball uniform and wearing eye-black, representing standard hot dogs) was added in 1995; and #5, Cinco (a sombrero-wearing Chorizo, a nod to Latino fans) was added in 2006.
The original cartoon version was inspired by the "Dot Race" that used to appear on the scoreboard at Texas Rangers games, which also inspired the Airplane Race on the DiamondVision board at Mets games and The Great City Subway Race at Yankee games. Since then, the Rangers have returned the favor, having made the Dot Race live-action, but they are designed to resemble Texas pioneers Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Sam Houston.

In addition, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the Great Pierogi Race, the Washington Nationals have the Racing Presidents, and several other teams have mascot races involving their various sponsors.

The Brewers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. In the 7th inning stretch, after playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the Brewers play "The Beer Barrel Polka": "Roll out the barrel, we'll have a barrel of fun... " Their postgame victory song is "Best Day of My Life" by the American Authors.

After the Game. As Miller Park is separated from the city by parking, safety should not be an issue. Although Milwaukeeans like to drink, this is not a Packers or Badgers game, so you should be fine. Unfortunately, this same distance from, well, anything means that there's no good places to get a postgame meal or drink within walking distance.

The difference between the Brewers' ballpark (past and present) and the Bucks' arena (past, present and future) could not be more stark. At 340 W. Kilbourn Avenue, across 4th Street from the MECCA and a block from the Bradley Center is "Milwaukee's Sports Headquarters," one of the most famous sports bars in the country, Major Goolsby. "The Major's" has been catering to Wisconsin sports fans since 1971. That was when the Bucks won the NBA title... and they haven't won it since. Hmmmm... Curse of Major Goolsby, anyone?
Unfortunately, I can find no reference to any Milwaukee bar or restaurant that caters to New York expatriates.

If you visit Milwaukee during the European soccer season (which is now over, and will start up again in mid-August), the best place to watch your favorite club is the Highbury Pub, at 2322 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue at Lincoln Avenue, about 3 miles south of downtown. Bus 15. Named for the former stadium of Arsenal Football Club, which was named for the North London neighborhood it was in, there is also a bar by that name in Brooklyn.

Sidelights. Milwaukee's sports history is long, but not especially successful, especially when you consider the 119-mile distance between the city and the State's most successful sports team, the Green Bay Packers. Milwaukee County Stadium was located behind the home plate entrance to Miller Park (which was built across center field from its predecessor).
County Stadium during the 1957 World Series

The Braves played there from 1953 to 1965, the Brewers from 1970 to 2000, and the Packers played several home games there from 1953 to 1994, first 2 out of their 6 (when the NFL had a 12-game schedule), then 2 of their 7 (14), and finally 3 of their 8 (16), plus a preseason game (an another preseason game at the University of Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium). The Packers played a Playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams at County Stadium in 1967, before winning the NFL Championship against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on New Year's Eve, the famed Ice Bowl.
County Stadium in the Brewers' glory days of the 1980s

County Stadium hosted the only game, to date, played by the U.S. national soccer team in Wisconsin. It was on July 28, 1990, against East Germany, in one of that foul country's last games before being reunited with their Federal Republic (West German) brothers. We lost.

* Borchert Field. The minor-league Milwaukee Brewers played here from 1888 to 1952, at a wooden park originally named Athletic Park, and renamed in 1928 for the late former owner Otto Borchert. These Brewers were the 1st pro baseball team owned by Bill Veeck, from 1941 to 1945, before he moved on to the major leagues.

It was at "Borchert's Orchard" that he first tried his promotional stunts, and it made Milwaukee one of the most successful minor-league markets, not just on the field but at the box office.

The Brewers won 8 American Association Pennants there: 1913, 1914, 1936, 1943, 1944, 1945 (that's 3 straight under Veeck's ownership), 1951 and 1952 (in their last 2 seasons of existence before the Braves came in).
The best-known photo of Borchert Field, showing its
Polo Grounds-like dimensions. No, I don't know
why the area behind the foul lines looks dug-up.

The Milwaukee Bears of the Negro Leagues also played here, as did the Milwaukee Badgers of the NFL from 1922 to 1926, and the Packers played the occasional Milwaukee game here from 1933 to 1952.

Actually, the place was better for football than for baseball: Like the Polo Grounds, it had a distant center field but foul poles that were much too close, 267 feet. An overhanging roof that covered the infield stands didn't help matters. As Veeck himself put it, "Borchert Field, an architectural monstrosity, was so constructed that the fans on the first-base side of the grandstand couldn't see the right fielder, which seemed perfectly fair in that the fans on the third-base side couldn't see the left fielder. 'Listen,' I told them. 'This way you'll have to come back twice to see the whole team.'" 
A rare color photo of Borchert Field.
I didn't even know that this photo existed
until I did the 2017 edition of this post.

Borchert stood between North 7th & 8th Streets, and Burleigh & Chambers Streets. The entire land area is now occupied by Interstate 43, the North-South Freeway, and entrance-and-exit ramps. It's in a bit of a rough neighborhood, so unless you're just that into baseball history, if you have to cross one item off your list, this is the one. Number 50 bus to Holton & Burleigh, then Number 60 bus, or walk 12 blocks west.

* Milwaukee Mile. This racetrack, on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair in suburban West Allis, is the oldest continuously-operating auto racetrack in the world. "But Mike," you say, "auto racing is not a sport. Why are you talking about it?" Because the track's infield was used as the Packers' main Milwaukee-area home from 1934 to 1951.

Seating 45,000, the stadium was nicknamed the Dairy Bowl for Packer games, including the 1939 NFL Championship Game, in which the Packers beat the Giants, 27-0. The Milwaukee Chiefs of the 1940-41 version of the American Football League also played here.
I don't know if this is the earliest remaining stadium to have hosted an NFL game (1933), but it's almost certainly the oldest site (racing began there in to 1903). 7722 W. Greenfield Avenue at 77th Street. Number 60 bus to 60th & Vliet Streets, then transfer to Number 76 bus.

* Bucks arenas. The Milwaukee arenas, across State Street from each other at 4th Street, are loaded with history. The old one, built in 1951, now known as the U.S. Cellular Arena, was originally known as the Milwaukee Arena, then from 1974 to 1995 as the Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center and Arena (or MECCA). Two NBA teams called it home: The Milwaukee Hawks from 1951 to 1955, before moving to St. Louis (and later to Atlanta); and the Milwaukee Bucks from their debut in 1968 until 1988.

The Bucks played their 1971 NBA Championship season, their only title, there, although they clinched on the road in Baltimore. The Milwaukee Admirals, a minor-league hockey team, played here from 1973 to 1988, and won the 1976 United States Hockey League title.

Elvis Presley sang here on June 28, 1974 and April 27, 1977. The Beatles played here on September 4, 1964. The inductees to the previously mentioned Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame are honored here in a Wisconsin Athletic Walk of Fame, which also includes Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks, Wisconsin Badgers, and State natives who made it big elsewhere.
The MECCA, with the Bradley Center behind it

The BMO Harris Bradley Center, was the Bucks' home from 1988 until this past season. While they've usually been good, they haven't reached the NBA Finals since 1974 (at the MECCA) or even the Conference Finals since 2001 (at the Bradley Center). The Admirals also call the Bradley Center home, and won the 2004 Calder Cup here. Marquette University, which reach the 1974 NCAA National Championship and won it in 1977, also played at the Bradley Center, after having played at the MECCA, and before that at the site I'm about to mention.

The University of Wisconsin, in Madison, is the only other Wisconsin school to reach the Final Four, and that was all the way back in 1941, although they've reached hockey's version, the Frozen Four, many times.

The Bradley Center, like a lot of NBA and NHL arenas that have recently been replaced or are about to be, opened right before Baltimore's ballpark, Camden Yards, rewrote the rules for stadium and arena construction. As a result, while the Bradley Center was in good shape and has good sight lines, it does not have lots of revenue-generation luxury boxes. And, with Milwaukee being a small market (only the Packers' special status keeps Wisconsin capable of supporting an NFL team, and the Brewers were in serious trouble in the 1990s before Miller Park opened), the Bucks need those luxury boxes.

For that reason, an arena tentatively named the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center will open this coming October, just to the northwest of the Bradley Center, at 5th Street & Highland Avenue. The Bucks and Marquette basketball will move in for the 2018-19 season. The Bradley Center will be demolished, probably near the end of 2018, while the MECCA will remain standing due to its historical significance.
The new arena, nearing completion,
with the Bradley Center and the MECCA to the right,
and the Milwaukee skyline in the background.

The nearest NHL team is the Chicago Blackhawks, 93 miles away. If Milwaukee had an NHL team, it would rank 25th in population among NHL markets. The nearest MLS team is the Chicago Fire, 104 miles away. Wisconsin's highest-ranking soccer team is Milwaukee Bavarian FC, which is only at the 5th level of the U.S. soccer pyramid, although they have been in business since 1929. They play at the 2,000-seat Heartland Value Fund Stadium. 700 W. Lexington Blvd. in Glendale, 6 miles north of downtown. Bus 15.

Horlick Field opened in 1907, and hosted the Racine Legion from 1919 to 1924 (including 1922 to '24 in the NFL), the NFL's Racine Tornadoes in 1926, and the Racine Belles of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 to 1950. The current 8,500-seat stadium on the site hosts high school sports. 1648 N. Memorial Drive in Racine, Wisconsin, 29 miles south of downtown Milwaukee, and 70 miles north of Chicago's Loop. Amtrak from either to Sturtevant, then Bus 8.

The Kenosha Maroons played in the NFL in 1924, at Nash Field. The 5,000-seat stadium also hosts high school sports. 5909 56th Street in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Even though it's closer to Milwaukee (34 miles as opposed to 60), it can only be reached by public transportation from Chicago, riding the train from the Ogilvie Transportation Center (the former Northwestern Station) to Kenosha, then Bus 2.

The Sheboygan Red Skins played pro basketball from 1933 to 1952, winning the National Basketball League title in 1943 (making them, technically, if not officially recognized by the NBA, World Champions in the sport), and were merged into the NBA for the 1949-50 season.

Due to Sheboygan's small size (about 50,000 people, smaller even than since-abandoned NBA cities Syracuse, Rochester and Fort Wayne), the rest of the league wanted them out, and got their wish. They lasted only 2 years in their new league, and folded. But they are still winners of a World Championship. They played at the 3,974-seat Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory, 58 miles north of Milwaukee (Bus 916) and 67 miles south of Green Bay.

Wisconsin, let alone Milwaukee, has never produced a President -- although, in 2012, Congressman Paul Ryan was the Republican nominee for Vice President, and he's now the Speaker of the House, and still fairly young by political standards, so he could run for President in the future.

But the Milwaukee Auditorium, built in 1909 at 500 W. Kilbourn Avenue downtown (across from the MECCA), has been one of the city's most historic sites. It's where Theodore Roosevelt, running to return to the Presidency on the Progressive Party ticket in 1912, gave a speech on October 14. For an hour and a half. After having been shot.

The shooting happened a block away, at the Hotel Gilpatrick. The Hyatt was built on the site, at 333 W. Kilbourn. TR recovered, and finished 2nd to Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson, but ahead of incumbent Republican William Howard Taft.

Other Presidents, and men who tried to be, spoke at the 4,000-seat building now named the Milwaukee Theatre: Taft in 1911, Wilson in 1916, Wendell Willkie in 1944, John F. Kennedy in 1960, Michael Dukakis in 1988, and the George Bushes, the father in 1991 and the son in 2000. Martin Luther King gave a noted speech there in 1964.

Elvis sang there on June 14, and 15, 1972, even though the MECCA was already an established arena. Other Wisconsin arenas to have been played by Elvis were the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium in La Crosse on May 14, 1956; the Dane County Coliseum in Madison on October 19, 1976 and June 24, 1977; and the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena in Green Bay on April 28, 1977.

* Happy Days. Airing from 1974 to 1984 but taking place in Milwaukee from 1955 to 1965, this ABC sitcom did as much to make Milwaukee famous as beer and the Braves did. A statue of Henry Winkler as Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli -- a.k.a. The Bronze Fonz -- is at 117 E. Wells Street, on the Riverwalk, across from the 1895-built, 353-foot-high City Hall, which will be recognized by fans of Happy Days' spinoff series, Laverne & Shirley, although the sign saying, "WELCOME MILWAUKEE VISITORS" is long-gone.
The Cunningham house was said to be at 565 North Clinton Drive, an address which does not actually exist in the Milwaukee area. The exterior was shot in Los Angeles, near the Paramount Pictures studios. Both the original building used as the exterior for Arnold's, in the Milwaukee suburbs, and its replacement, in Los Angeles, have been demolished. The exterior shot for Richie and Joanie's alma mater, Jefferson High School, was filmed at Milwaukee's Washington High at 2525 N. Sherman Blvd.

Milwaukee doesn't have museums on the level of New York, Philadelphia or Chicago, but of note is the Milwaukee Public Museum, at 800 W. Wells Street, at 8th Street downtown. The Milwaukee Art Museum is on the lake, at 700 N. Art Museum Drive, off E. Mason Street. If you're a motorcycle enthusiast, the Harley-Davidson Museum -- Brewtown is also Harley's headquarters, and also that of lawnmower and farm equipment manufacturer Briggs & Stratton -- is at 400 W. Canal Street, right about where the city's 3 rivers meet. Number 80 bus gets the closest.

The tallest building in Wisconsin is the U.S. Bank Center, formerly the First Wisconsin Center, at 777 E. Wisconsin Avenue & N. Van Buren Street. Opening in 1973, it is 601 feet high.  It's not much to look at, unlike the building it replaced as such, City Hall.

If you want to go on a brewery tour, be my guest -- or, rather, put your money down and be their
guest. But I have no interest in it, so you'll have to look up your own info.

*

Milwaukee may not be one of America's biggest cities, but it's one of the most fun.  And sports, including baseball, is a big part of it. A Brewers game is a good time, whether the team is good or not.