Today’s the first day of the baseball season, and my once-beloved Milwaukee Brewers are playing inside against the Los Angeles Dodgers. All the tailgating will be taking place outside, as it should.
My passion for the Brewers was strong until 1984, when — just two years after reaching the World Series — they had the first in a long string of dreadful teams. That summer, because I worked nights at the paper, I got into watching the Chicago Cubs’ afternoon games on WGN.
That passion faded a little more in 1986, when I finally realized my childhood dream of going to Opening Day for the Brewers. Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. I sat outside on April 14 — in the rain and the cold — as the Texas Rangers beat the Brewers 10-1.
The flame went out in 1993, when the Brewers let Paul Molitor escape to the Toronto Blue Jays. I didn’t go to a game for years. My small protest.
Only in recent years, as our son has discovered baseball, have I rekindled that flame for the Brewers. Still, it doesn’t burn as intensely or as brightly as it once did. Sure, they have Secret Stadium Sauce to put on the brats at Miller Park, as they did at Milwaukee County Stadium, but it just isn’t the same. Yeah, County Stadium was a dump, but it was our dump.
And what, you ask, is Secret Stadium Sauce? Not quite ketchup, not quite barbecue sauce, not quite steak sauce, but red and tasty on just about anything, especially brats and hot dogs. Once available only at County Stadium, but now you also can get it here.
However, since 1984, the Cubs have provided the better memories.
The first game I ever saw at Wrigley Field — June 23, 1984 — was the famous Game of the Week in which the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 12-11 in 11 innings. Ryne Sandberg homered in the ninth to tie it at 9, then again in the 10th to tie it at 11. We’ve been back several times since, but you can’t top that.
The Cubs have better music, too.
Folk singer Steve Goodman was a Chicago native and one of the Cubs’ biggest fans. He didn’t live long enough to see the end of the Cubs’ magical run in 1984. He died of leukemia in September of that year, just a few days before the Cubs’ first playoff game since 1945.
Yet he left us the best baseball song ever.
“The Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request,” Steve Goodman, from “Affordable Art,” 1980.
I can’t hear the next song and not think about the 1984 Cubs. WGN used it as theme music for their Cubs broadcasts.
“Jump,” Van Halen, from “1984,” 1984.
Harry Caray never knew quite what to make of “Jump.” There was no middle ground with Harry. Some days, you couldn’t stand him. Some days, he was quite entertaining.
If you’re old enough, you’ll remember Marla Collins, the Cubs’ attractive ball girl from 1982 to 1986 (when she was fired in late July for posing for Playboy). She usually wore shorts, as you see below in this photo by Kasey Ignarski. One particular day in 1983, she wore something other than shorts. It didn’t quite come out the way Harry intended.
Marla Collins blooper, Harry Caray, 1983, widely available on the Web, but here you go.
Thanks to the fine folks at A Beef Sandwich w/Sweet and Hot Peppers for posting this last month. That reminded me I had it on a tribute CD put out by WGN radio after Harry died.
For the record, near as I can tell, Marla Collins turns 49 this year.