July 16, 2010

True Grandma Tales

Before Miller Park graced the tiny suburb of Milwaukee known simply as West Milwaukee (where the standard church, bar, and four houses construe an official Wisconsin municipality), there was County Stadium. In a recent conversation with my friend Gabe, there was a certain character to County Stadium. Indeed, I myself constantly refer to Miller Park as 'stadium' despite people's best efforts to correct me. And I love Miller Park. But Gabe's right, the large, rusted steel girders and hellishly lit dim walkways of County Stadium created an otherworldly feeling as baseball demi-gods Robin Yount and Paul Molitor gave those early Brewer teams some credence.

And at a game in the late 1970s, sat my grandmother, who was a grandmother to me at the time even if I was too young to remember and only cognizant of eating, sleeping, and expunging whatever food actually made it into my mouth. That day, my grandmother had fairly good seats in between home and third about ten rows back behind the visitors dugout. No matter where she sits though, my grandmother had no problem sharing her thoughts on the opposing team.

I've witnessed this once before. At the ripe age of mid-to-late teens, my grandmother was gifted a Diamond Seat at County Stadium. Before the powers that be Selig built Miller Park, they outfitted one short row of seats right on the field, less than five feet away from the on deck circle. My grandmother posses a tiny frame, Betty White hair, and Tootsie sized glasses. For an 8th grade education the woman was keen. And on deck was a young slugger for the Oakland A's named Mark McGwire.

My grandmother booed him the entire time. Even then I think she knew something was in the water...or at least his water...

This previous date, ten rows back, in a mildly warm Indian Summer in September, had the Brewers playing the New York Yankees (yes, in addition to switching parks, they've switched leagues). This is when the Yanks and Brew Crew shared the same division. My grandmother was relentless:

"This team is full of crooks."
"Come on ump, don't give them that call."
"The owner is so corrupt he outta be in jail."

Non-stop she yelled this, and as the gamed continued she involved the gentleman sitting next to her. At this time she concentrated her comments squarely on the Yankees owner (my grandmother had a strange love for Billy Martin and often took his side in his multiple firings). Clearly uncomfortable with her bravado, the man didn't nod but kind of harumphed a half agreement at her. She continued her rants, and the man simply stirred in his seat and not much else. Round about the 7th inning, as everyone stretched their legs, the man asked my grandmothers name. After she told him, he simply said to her:

"It was a true experience to share this game with you."

And he left. A few minutes later, a fan behind her tapped her shoulder and asked if she knew him. My grandmother shook her head. Then the man said:

"That was George Steinbrenner."

I'm sure Mr. Steinbrenner has a few thousand folks to see in Heaven (and possibly one or two in Hell...at least according to a couple of BoSox fans) yet I'm certain he's gonna sit down with Eleanore Fischer and have a brandy/water with her, toasting to passionate sports fans everywhere.