Fans help Indians feel right at home
Milwaukee's finest turn out to support baseball at Miller Park
MILWAUKEE -- John Adams was beating the drum for his beloved Tribe from the outfield bleachers, just as he does for every Indians home game.Only this time he was worried the bass drum wasn't reverberating loud enough under the roof of Miller Park. "There's a little more echo in here," he said with a laugh. OK, so it wasn't Jacobs Field. But considering the circumstances, it was pretty darned close. Some speculated the Indians' three-game, home-away-from-home series against the Angels would be played in front of empty seats and lonely concession workers. But that couldn't be further from the truth. By 6 p.m. ET Tuesday, an hour before game time, nearly 12,000 tickets were sold for the series opener. By the third inning, more than 18,000 had been sold and fans were still pouring in. The final attendance was 19,031, and a similar crowd was expected for Wednesday night. "I think it's tremendous," said Rick Schlesinger, the Brewers' executive vice president for business operations. "It says a lot about the people of Milwaukee, that they would come out and support these games." One fan the Indians knew they'd have in attendance ahead of time was Adams, who has lugged his drum to the ballpark and banged away on it in the bleachers at more than 2,000 Tribe home games over the last 34 years. When the decision was made to move this series to Milwaukee as a result of a spring snow storm back home, the Indians didn't waste much time placing a call to Adams and inviting him and his wife, Kathleen, to make the trip, all expenses paid. "It's incredible," Adams said. "Twenty-four hours later, I'm sitting here. It's like, 'What happened?'" He wasn't the only one caught off guard by the sudden change in schedule. Members of the Brew City Browns Backers, a Milwaukee-based group that gathers to watch Browns games, were downright stunned to hear their beloved Indians would actually report to Miller Park as the home club. "When someone told me that," said Brian Shadix, the president of the Browns Backers, "I said, 'You're full of it. There's no way. But ever since they confirmed it, it's been crazy." Two sections down from Shadix and his crew was Ross Salchow, a native Milwaukeean who grew up rooting for the Indians. "That was my first rebellion," Salchow said of his rooting interests. "They were my favorite American League team, but I wasn't allowed to cheer for them until the Brewers moved to the [National League]." To properly root for the Tribe on this day, Salchow, who owns a T-shirt printing business named Insomniac Ink, had on a navy blue shirt that read, "Milwaukee Indians, est. 1989, re-established 2007." The first year listed was in reference, of course, to the year of release for the movie "Major League," which was based in Cleveland but shot in Milwaukee County Stadium. Of course, the $10 ticket sales weren't limited solely to Indians and Angels fans. It was an eclectic crowd that gathered outside the park before the game. Mike Chase, who lives about an hour west of Milwaukee in Oconomowoc, brought a group of four special needs kids to the game on Tuesday and already had tickets for Thursday's game. He wore a Brewers sweatshirt and an Angels cap, but didn't plan to root for either team in the series opener. "I pretty much have a hat from every team, and this one was closer to the top of the pile," he said. "I'm just a baseball fanatic, so I think this is great. I get to see some teams I haven't seen since I was in high school watching the American League Brewers." Andrew Hanna and Bill Iwaskiewicz are seniors at Muskego High School in suburban Milwaukee and were on spring break this week. They tailgated outside Miller Park before the Brewers' Opening Day game against the Dodgers but didn't have tickets, so Tuesday was their first chance to get inside the stadium. They purchased tickets while three other friends got the grill going. "This is where tailgating started, so we had to come out and do it," said Hanna. "Usually, you have to pay $40 for the tickets we just got for $10. And, honestly, we didn't really have anything better to do." Said Iwaskiewicz: "It's a reason to eat, basically. It's kind of like going to an All-Star Game with fewer All-Stars. You can't get mad about who wins or loses." Brewers fans who wanted to check in on their home club's road game with the Marlins had the chance to do so on the in-house monitors. And, interestingly enough, that game was delayed by rain. But while many of those in attendance Tuesday were impartial to the action on the field, they didn't act like it. When Tribe catcher Kelly Shoppach swung at a 2-2 pitch from Ervin Santana and sent it hurtling over the right-center field wall in the second inning, the place went crazy, and Adams pounded his drum in celebration. For the Indians, it was just like being home.