Brewers proud to usher in new era
Team respects '82 AL champs, but forging own identity
MILWAUKEE -- Bob Uecker, the Brewers' popular radio voice, will throw the ceremonial first pitch before Saturday's Game 3 of the National League Division Series, Milwaukee's first home playoff game in 26 years.Uecker is a fitting tie between the 1982 American League champion Brewers and the 2008 NL Wild Card winners, who are trying to build their own legacy in a city still crazy about '82. "I saw the same thing in Kansas City, where you heard all the time about '85," said Brewers right-hander Jeff Suppan, who would start a Game 4 if the Brewers can rebound from their 0-2 start to the best-of-five NLDS. "It was the same when I came up in Boston, too, when you heard about 1918.
"Fans do that," Suppan said. "But 1982 was a great year for this city and this organization. I don't have a crystal ball, so I don't know if they will think the same way about us. If they do, that's great."One of the '82 Brewers believes that will be the case. "I think they've already made their mark," said Hall of Famer Robin Yount, the '82 American League MVP and now Milwaukee's bench coach. "What we did then was a lot of fun, but that was a long time ago now. This is a new team." It was no accident, then, that the Brewers emerged from the dugout behind Suppan on the final Friday of the regular season wearing their home whites. Usually it would have been a "Retro Friday," and they would have donned the pinstripes that adorned Milwaukee's last playoff team in 1982. It would have given Suppan an opportunity to utter his favorite Friday rally cry: "Let's do it for '82!" But the 2008 Brewers had won four games in a row entering their final Friday game against the Cubs. After batting practice, several players approached clubhouse manager Tony Migliaccio about wearing the usual white home uniform tops. Suppan was already dressed in his pinstripes but he agreed, so Migliaccio got clearance from executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger -- just in case there was a sponsorship of the retro uniforms in place -- and then from general manager Doug Melvin. Principal owner Mark Attanasio also agreed. "The consensus seemed to be, 'If it helps them win, let them go out in their underwear,'" Migliaccio joked. "It's a balance, because fans in this community still cherish 1982," Attanasio said. "Even when we're on the road, it seems to me that two-thirds to three-quarters of the apparel people wear is that 'retro' logo. But going back to the first year I was here -- 2005 -- the players wanted to make their own tradition." Attanasio learned as much that first season, when the team considered ways to re-incorporate the Brewers' old "ball and glove" logo. One of the options was simply to revert full-time to that look. "I wanted to respond to the fans, and frankly, from a merchandising standpoint, it made some sense," Attanasio said. "Major League Baseball might not have been keen on that because the Brewers had just introduced a new logo [in 2000], but I think they also have been supportive of new owners doing that sort of thing." Attanasio conducted a straw poll of veteran players, including Ben Sheets and Geoff Jenkins. The unanimous response, according to Attanasio, "was that they had no interest in that." Instead, the idea of "Retro Sundays" was introduced in 2006. It was moved to a Friday event in 2007. Who knows whether the home whites had anything to do with Suppan and the Brewers winning on that final Friday? Two days later, they beat the Cubs again and clinched the NL Wild Card. Several players have said since that they hope now to hear a bit more about 2008 and a bit less about 1982. "You would think so, yeah," first baseman Prince Fielder said. "We get a little tired of it every now and then. We like the throwback uniforms, but we don't like wearing them all the time. "They were a good team, so we respect that. But hopefully people will start talking about the new Brewers now." Manager Dale Sveum knows the feeling. He was the Brewers' first-round Draft pick in 1982 and was elevated to the big leagues in 1986. "But that's what fans do, though, they revert back to the 'good old days,'" Sveum said. "I know everyone in that locker room now respects all of the players that they know and that are around -- Robin and Gumby [Jim Gantner] and Gorman [Thomas] and Augie [Jerry Augustine]. I'm sure they get tired of it, the guys who have been here for three, four, five years. The fact of the matter is, they made their own identity on Sunday. Now we have to take it to the next level, but we got that monkey off our back." The Brewers will try to honor their past while celebrating the present in Game 3. All fans in attendance will receive a voucher redeemable for a 2008 Milwaukee Brewers Special Edition DVD, which will include approximately 30 minutes of season highlights, plus game action and the postgame celebration from the Sept. 28 clincher at Miller Park. Attanasio's father, Joe, will sing the national anthem. Joe Attanasio has performed on Opening Day in each of the last two seasons. The Brewers are hoping for a boost from a friendly crowd. The team is 100-62 at Miller Park over the last two seasons. "It's easier playing these games at home," said Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, who pointed to the epic at-bats by Phillies pitcher Brett Myers in Citizens Bank Park in Game 2 as evidence. "I haven't seen Brett Myers' at-bats throughout his career, but his numbers are not very pretty," Counsell said. "I think it's one of those situations. You're a player, but that was cool. I thought what the fans did was really cool. They really got behind him. "I think the fans helped him. And I think the fans will help us. I really do. I think they will be loud. I think if we can get some rallies going, they [will be loud] and give us some confidence." ∗∗∗The Brewers are urging fans to check their tickets before attending Saturday's game. The correct tickets are labeled "NLDS Home Game 1." Tickets labeled, "NLDS Home Game 3" will not be valid for games Saturday or Sunday at Miller Park.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.