Saturday, October 22, 2016

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Milwaukee -- 2016-17 Edition

The Brooklyn Nets will visit the Milwaukee Bucks next Saturday night, and again on December 3, both Saturdays. The Knicks will do so on Friday, January 6, 2017.

Before You Go. Milwaukee is on Lake Michigan. It's not Green Bay, but it is still Wisconsin. It gets chilly in the autumn, let alone in the winter. Since this will be late October, the weather could be an issue. Although the game will be indoors, you still have to get to it.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website is predicting low 60s for Saturday afternoon, and low 50s for the evening, plus rain. You should bring a light jacket and an umbrella, although you won't be allowed to take the umbrella into the arena, so a jacket with a hood will help.

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

Tickets. After nearly 2 full generations of sustained contention, the Bucks have fallen on hard times, and this is reflected in their attendance. Last season, they averaged just 15,135 fans per game, 26th out of the 30 NBA teams, less than 81 percent of capacity. In 2013-14, they were even worse: 13,487 per game, dead last in the 30-team NBA. While the deal to build a new arena means that the Bucks won't have to move within the next few years, getting tickets won't be a problem.

In the Lower Level, the 200 sections, they have seats for $30 to $159; and, in the Upper Level, the 400 sections, seats from $10 to $32.

Getting There. Downtown Milwaukee is 892 land miles from Times Square. 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. Most airlines can fly you there for around, or even under, $500 round-trip. However, there is a catch: There are few non-stops between any of the New York area airports and General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. You will almost certainly have to change planes, 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 and an early advocate for air power.)

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. Two require 2 changeovers. The one that only requires 1 leaves Port Authority at 10:15 PM, and includes rest stops at Milesburg, Pennsylvania; Cleveland, and Elkhart, Indiana, before arriving in Chicago at 2:30 the next afternoon (Central Time). There's an hour's wait before leaving Chicago at 3:30 and arriving in Milwaukee at 5:35. That's 20 hours and 20 minutes, counting the time change. Round-trip fare is $356, but you can get it for $300 if you get a Web-Only Fare.
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. Round-trip fare is $318 -- possibly cheaper than Greyhound.

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. Stay on I-43 after I-94 splits off south of downtown. Take Exit 73A onto Wisconsin Route 145, which will become N. 6th Street. Take that to State Street, and the Bradley Center will be on the 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 true: Another version says the name comes a word meaning "Gathering place by the water."

Whichever version is true, both descriptions are accurate: 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.
Milwaukee's historic City Hall

Founded in 1846, the city has about 600,000 people, making it the 3rd-largest in the Great Lakes region behind Chicago and Detroit. But the metropolitan area has only about 2 million, making it 26th among the 30 NBA teams, ahead of only Memphis, Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Salt Lake City. It's worth noting that, except for New Orleans, these are all single-team metro areas, unless you count Salt Lake having teams in the WNBA and MLS.

Milwaukee doesn't have a subway. The Milwaukee County Transit System has a fare of $2.25 for its buses. 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.

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.

Going In. The official address of the BMO Harris Bradley Center is 1001 N. 4th Street. It's bounded by 4th, 6th and State Streets and Highland Avenue. Parking is $11.
The arena was paid for by funds donated by Jane Bradley Pettit and her husband Lloyd Pettit, in memory of her father, factory-equipment magnate Harry Bradley. Lloyd Pettit was the Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Chicago Blackhawks, and the owner of the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.

Ironically, Harry Bradley was a big donor to conservative causes, but, for most of the arena's existence, its main tenant, the Bucks, were owned by Herb Kohl, a very liberal U.S. Senator. BMO Harris Bank bought naming rights in 2012.

It has been home to the Bucks, the Admirals, and Marquette University basketball since 1988. Milwaukee might be able to support an NHL team, as its metropolitan area population, even without adding Green Bay and Madison to its "market," would rank 25th in the NHL. But support for the Bucks is dropping, so it's unlikely that it can support an NBA team and an NHL team.

It's also hosted arena football's Milwaukee Mustangs and indoor soccer's Milwaukee Wave. Although Milwaukee has never had a major league hockey team (not in the NHL or in the WHA), the NCAA has used it as the site of its National Championships, the Frozen Four, in 1993, 1997 and 2006. It's also hosted NCAA Tournament basketball games in the rounds of 64 & 32, and 16 & 8, including the 2013-14 season.

The court is laid out east-to-west. Although it's modern in most senses, one big complaint is that it doesn't have enough luxury suites -- and that, as much as Milwaukee being a small market and the decline in attendance among non-corporate guests, led to the new owners successfully lobbying for a new arena. Ground was broken this past June, and it will open just to the northwest, at 5th Street & Highland Avenue, in 2017 or 2018. This should end up securing the team's future in Milwaukee. Naming rights have not yet been sold.
An artist's depiction. Were they trying
to make it look like a beer barrel?

Across State Street, at 400 W. Kilbourn Avenue, is the previous home of the Bucks, the Admirals, and Marquette (back then, they were known as the Warriors, not the Golden Eagles). Built in 1950 as the Milwaukee Arena, it became part of a complex known as the Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center & Arena, or MECCA.
The old Arena, then using the name U.S. Cellular Arena.
Behind it to the left, the Milwaukee Auditorium.
Behind it to the right, the Bradley Center.

The Bucks had to move out, as it seated only 10,783 and had no luxury boxes at all. Now known as the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, it holds 12,700 fans, and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee plays its home basketball games there. Before the Bucks played there from 1968 to 1988, it was home to the Milwaukee Hawks from 1951 to 1955, when they moved to St. Louis, and then in 1968 to Atlanta.
Overhead shot. Top: Bradley Center.
Bottom: Milwaukee Theatre and MECCA.

Elvis Presley sang at the old arena on June 28, 1974 and April 27, 1977. The Beatles played there on September 4, 1964. The inductees to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame are honored there in a Wisconsin Athletic Walk of Fame, which includes stars from the Bucks, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Green Bay Packers, the University of Wisconsin Badgers, and State natives who made it big elsewhere.

Food. In Big Ten Country, where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Milwaukee arena to have lots of good options. It certainly does. Levy Restaurants runs the concessions.

According to the BMO Harris Bradley Center's website, "No matter where your seats are, The Carvery featuring Jake's Deli and the TapHouse are the place to go for a fresh-cut sandwiches and the largest selection of premium craft brews at the BMOHBC. Located outside Section 207, The Carvery and the TapHouse are the first premium club-like experiences open to all BMOHBC guests."

The 200 Level has a Grill Stand and Usinger's. Usinger's alone features:

* The Oktoberfest: Footlong bratwurst, whole grain mustard, Bavarian kraut, caramelized onions, pretzel bun.

* Milwaukee's Best: Cheddar jalapeno bratwurst with cheese sauce, and chili crispy jalapenos.

* The Fowl: Chicken bratwurst with blue cheese coleslaw and crispy bacon.

* Beer Deli Sammy: Salami and beer mustard sandwich served on a pretzel hoagie.

* Sausage Smasher: Summer sausage, Swiss cheese, sweet onion and warm apple jam.

* Po' Boy: Polish sausage, hot sauce, crispy potatoes. (What happens when you mix Polish sausage and Louisana hot sauce, I am not about to find out.)

* Fred's Original Liverwurst: Liverwurst on rye with red onion and yellow mustard.

* Kraut Dog: Bavarian wiener with yellow mustard, Bavarian sauerkraut, crispy onions.

* Bavarian pretzel.

* Usinger's sausage and cheese plate.

* Beer battered cheese curds.

In other words, check with your doctor before going on a roadtrip to Milwaukee, to see if your heart is healthy enough to eat there.

The Leinenkugel Leinie Lodge is outside Section 205, with as many beer selections as you would imagine that the town that beer made famous would have. There's a gluten-free stand outside Section 217. Section 225: Saz's Barbecue. Section 211: Wisconsin Cheesesteaks. Section 204: A Qdoba stand. Section 203: ColdStone Creamery. Section 224: Cedar Crest Ice Cream. Sections 204, 218 and 425: Dippin Dots.

And you thought the TV show set in Milwaukee was called Happy Days because it was set during the 1950s? Nope: It was because of the food! Why do you think they all hung out at Arnold's?

Team History Displays. While the Bucks have 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).

However, the Bucks have enough banners to surround the center scoreboard. This included the 1971 and 1974 Western Conference titles, and Division titles in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 2001.
Their 1971 World Championship banner is surrounded by 4 retired number banners: 1, guard Oscar Robertson; 4, guard Sidney Moncrief; 33, center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was still using his birth name of Lew Alcindor when the Bucks won their 1971 title; and 14, guard and now broadcaster Jon McGlocklin. The other retired numbers are: 2, forward Ulysses "Junior" Bridgman; 10, forward Bob Dandridge; 16, center Bob Lanier; and 32, guard Brian Winters.
Oscar, Kareem and Lanier were elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996. Kareem was also named to the NBA's 35th Anniversary All-Time Teamin 1980. Oscar, Jon, Kareem and Bob Dandridge played on the title team; Junior, Sid, Brian and Bob Lanier came afterward. However, there are no honorees who played for the team after 1990 (Moncrief). That should show you how it's gone for this team in the last quarter-century.

It's almost the exact opposite of what you would expect from an expansion team: After a weak 1st season, 1968-69, they won the coin flip with the Phoenix Suns for the 1st pick in the Draft, selected Alcindor, and got a title out of it in just 2 seasons; they were a very good team for the next 20 years, but not so much in the last 25. In contrast, the Suns, who also started play in the fall of 1968, have been a respectable team for most of their history, but have never won a title, the difference between their zero and the Bucks' one being a lot bigger than the Bucks' one and, say, the Philadelphia 76ers' two.

Originally, the retired numbers' banner was patterned after the Boston Celtics' retired banners, with 7 numbers (at the time, with room for 1 more) placed in 1 banner. During the team's 40th Anniversary celebrations in 2008, that banner was replaced by individual player banners, designed to the style of the Bucks jerseys they wore during their playing careers. In the ceremonies, the players' numbers were retired again to the rafters, and in the process were given framed Bucks jerseys in the current uniform design.

Robertson, Bridgman, McGlocklin, Moncrief and Herb Kohl, former Bucks owner and former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, have been honored in the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. As I said, it's across the street at the MECCA.

The Admirals hang banners for their 1976 U.S. Hockey League title; their International Hockey League regular season titles of 1983, 1993, 1995 and 1996; their 2004 and 2006 AHL Conference Championships; and their 2004 AHL regular season and Calder Cup titles.

They also hang 7 retired number banners, including 2 retired for 2 players each: 9, 1970s center Phil Wittliff; 14, 1980s center Fred Berry and 1990s center Mike McNeill; 26, 1990s-2000s center Tony Hrkac; 27, 1970s-80s left wing Danny Lecours; and 27, 1980s defenseman Kevin Willison and 1990s center Gino Cavallini. Aside from Cavallini, none of them made much of an impact in the NHL.

Marquette also hangs banners at the Bradley Center: Their 1977 National Championship; their Final Four berths of 1974, 1977 and 2003; their regular-season conference titles of 1994, 2003 and 2013; and their 1997 conference tournament win. The 1974 and 1977 achievements were won while their home court was the MECCA; from 1988 onward, the Bradley Center.

Marquette has retired the numbers of 8 players: 3, Dwyane Wade; 14, former Knick Dean Meminger; 15, former Knick Butch Lee; 20, Maurice Lucas; 24, George Thompson; 31, for both former Knick Doc Rivers and Bo Ellis; and 43, Earl Tatum. They've also retired 11 in honor of the Apollo 11 crew (even though Milwaukee native Jim Lovell flew on Apollo 8 and Apollo 13 and has a street renamed for him), 38 for trainer Bob Weingart, and 77 for coach Al McGuire for the 1977 title. Al, of course, grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, as did his brother Dick, and both played for the Knicks in the 1950s; Dick is in the Hall as a Knick player, Al as Marquette coach.

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, including 6 National Championships: 1973, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1990 and 2006.

Stuff. The Milwaukee Pro Shop, selling both Bucks and Admirals items, has 4 permanent stores inside the Bradley Center, located oustide of Sections 200, 214, 400, and 422. Jersey Junction, a custom pro-jersey shop, is located outside of Section 206. And there are several portable kiosks, with locations varying by event.

The Bucks have been around for over 40 years now, but because Milwaukee, as a city, gets lost in the shadows not only of Chicago, with the far more noteworthy Bulls 90 miles to the south, but the smaller yet higher-profile city of Green Bay, with the legendary Packers 115 miles to the north, the Bucks 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.) They they haven't reached the NBA Finals in 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.

As a result of this, there aren't many good books about the Bucks. As part of the NBA's A History of Hoops series, Nate Leboutillier wrote The Story of the Milwaukee Bucks in 2006; Shane Frederick wrote an update that was published this past January. Back in 1978, Marv Fishman and Tracy Dodds wrote Bucking the Odds: The Birth of the Milwaukee Bucks, chronicling their rather successful early years. Forget about DVDs: There is no collection showing the 1971 Finals or a "Greatest Games" series.

During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Bucks' fans in 20th place. This is meant to suggest not that they are unpleasant, but that they are disengaged, that not enough show up, and that not enough of those who do generate much of an atmosphere.

Bucks 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 Brewers-Cubs game, and you were wearing Cubs gear, you might be in trouble. But this is a Bucks game, and even if you were wearing Chicago Bulls or Minnesota Timberwolves gear, you'd probably be safe.

Saturday's game against the Nets will be Halloween-themed. The Bucks will wear "NBA Hardwood Classics" (a.k.a. "throwback") uniforms on "Fear the Deer Nights," 4 times this season, including against the Knicks on January 6.

Former Nets star, and head coach in their 1st season in Brooklyn, Jason Kidd is now the Bucks' head coach. And... that's about the most interesting thing about the Bucks these days.

The Bucks' official mascot is Bango the Buck, presently performed by Kevin Vanderkolk. The word "Bango" was originally coined by Eddie Doucette, the the longtime play-by-play announcer for the Bucks. Doucette used the word whenever a Bucks player connected on a long-range basket, much like old-time Knicks announcer Marty Glickman used "Swish" for a shot that was nothing but net. It was often used for sharpshooter Jon McGlocklin. When it came time for the Bucks to choose a name for their new mascot, the name "Bango" won the contest.
Bango has been the Bucks' official mascot for more than 36 years. He made his official debut on October 18, 1977, which was Milwaukee's home opener of the 1977-78 season. (Those of you who are Yankee Fans will recognize the date as the night that Reggie Jackson hit 3 home runs in Game 6 to clinch the World Series.) In addition to the date being Bango's home debut, the game itself pitted Milwaukee against former Bucks center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his Los Angeles Lakers at the MECCA. The Bucks won, 117-112.

Bango has worked hard to become popular with Bucks fans all throughout the State of Wisconsin over the years, appearing at schools, parades, and festivals as a goodwill ambassador for the team. His high-flying acrobatic layups, daring rebounds, and other entertaining antics still play an important role in energizing Bucks fans at the Bradley Center.

Since 2001, Bango has also made perennial appearances at the NBA All-Star Game, although he tore an ACL during a stunt at the 2009 All-Star Weekend in Phoenix, and missed the rest of the season. He bounced back, and in 2010 was named NBA Mascot of the Year.

The Bucks do not have a regular National Anthem singer. Instead, they hold auditions. They've replaced their 1977 theme song "Green and Growing (The Bucks Don't Stop Here)" with a 2013 theme, "King of the Court." As far as I can tell, there are no traditional chants at Bucks games. Nor does there appear to be a postgame victory song.

After the Game. Milwaukee has some rough neighborhoods, but downtown is safe. Although Milwaukeeans like to drink, this is not a Packers or Badgers game, so you should be fine on your way out.

Unfortunately, I can find no reference to any Milwaukee bar or restaurant that caters to New York expatriates. However, downtown has plenty of places to get a postgame meal, or just a pint. Major Goolsby's, at 340 W. Kilbourn, across 4th from the MECCA, is one of the most famous sports bars in the country. Across 4th from the Bradley Center is Turner Hall, and Usinger's, the source for all that good stuff in the arena, is 1030 N. 3rd Street, a block east of the arena on the Milwaukee River.

If you visit Milwaukee during the European soccer season (which we are now in), 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 distance between the city and the State's most successful sports team, the Green Bay Packers.

* Miller Park and site of Milwaukee County Stadium. The old ballpark was located behind the home plate entrance to the new one, which was built across center field from its predecessor. The Braves played at County Stadium 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 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.

The address of Miller Park is 1 Brewers Way. 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 44th Street, under I-94, to Selig Drive. You'd make a right on Selig, and on your left will be Miller Park, and on your right is a baseball field on the site of its predecessor, Milwaukee County Stadium.  Make a left on Brewers Way and proceed to the home plate gate.

Lambeau Field in Green Bay is 116 miles from downtown Milwaukee. But the Packers' arch-rivals, the Chicago Bears, are actually closer: Soldier Field is 96 miles away. The Chicago Blackhawks are the closest NHL team, 91 miles. The University of Wisconsin is in the State capital of Madison, 80 miles away.

The closest Major League Soccer team is the Chicago Fire, 101 miles away. Wisconsin's highest-ranking soccer team is Milwaukee Bavarians, 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.

* Borchert Field. The minor-league Milwaukee Brewers played here from 1888 to 1952, at a wooden park originally named Athletic Park and renamed for former owner Otto Borchert. These Brewers were the first 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 Pennants there, including 3 straight under Veeck, and in their last 2 seasons of existence before the Braves came in.

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.'" 

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.

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.

The Oshkosh All-Stars began in 1929, entered the NBL in 1937, and won 2 NBL titles, in 1941 and 1942. But they folded in 1949. Unlike the Red Skins, they weren't even welcomed into the merged NBA, despite coming from a larger city (66,000). At least the Red Skins had a decent venue by the standards of the time. The All-Stars played at the Recreation Gym. 425 Division Street, 88 miles northwest of Milwaukee, and 51 miles southwest 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 pretty young by political standards, so he could run for President in the future. But the Milwaukee Theatre, formerly, 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, now the Hyatt, at 333 W. Kilbourn. He 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 tallest building in Wisconsin is the U.S. Bank Center, formerly the First Wisconsin Center, at 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 the tallest in town, 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 basketball, is a big part of it. A Bucks game is a good time, and a tasty time, whether the team is good or not.

No comments: