In a recent blog post I reviewed Jim Ksicinski’s “Jocks and Socks” book about life in the Brewers clubhouse. He initially came to my attention when I interviewed Pat McBride for my book project this past May. Pat was fascinating to talk to and has lived a very interesting life. I plan on covering his interview at a later date, but the short version is Pat was a Bat Boy for the first Brewers team in 1970. He worked for Jim through high school and college before leaving to attend medical school. Today Pat co-directs a clinical cardiology program at UW Health and has accomplished many things in the medical field, and has been the recipient of numerous awards in the process. He spent 11 years as the Associate Dean of Students at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
In my interview with Jim, we talked about Pat McBride and some of the other “kids” that worked for the Brewers back in the early days of the team. Jim told me that many of the younger workers really just enjoyed working at the ballpark and being around the players, and probably would have worked for free:
“This kind of a work situation really helped these young men become successful later on, and it wasn’t just the ones working in Milwaukee, but really everywhere in baseball. I think being around what are considered Big People set them up to be successful in business or whatever they went after in life.”
Jim said he has always considered himself pro-education. He told the young men working for him to make sure they kept a balance between work and school:
“I told them not to let their grades slip or I would need to talk to their parents. So if they wanted to keep the job they needed to learn to balance everything. I let them know right away that the hours were tough but if they got their discipline in order it would help them later in life. At a certain age many of these young men made a wise decision not to stick around. Some that stayed wanted to move up but there was a lot of competition and those higher up didn’t often leave until retirement, like I did.”
I asked Jim how he got started working in baseball, and he talked about starting out as a bat boy and clubhouse worker in 1963 with the Milwaukee Braves. He recalled, “As a young man when I started with the Braves, I was in awe being around the players early on. You’re suddenly meeting big stars and future Hall of Famers. It was exciting to go home and tell people ‘I met so and so and he talked to me.’ This also happened to the kids that worked for me with the Brewers. But after a while you weren’t in awe – you were busy doing your job. You realized the players put on their pants the same way you did and they were peers. They just had different talents.”
The person who ran the visiting team’s clubhouse eventually left the position, and the Braves moved to Atlanta. During the years that Milwaukee didn’t have a major league team (late 1965-early 1970), Jim stepped in and worked all the events at County Stadium, such as concerts, conventions, and Green Bay Packers games. The Chicago White Sox also played an exhibition game at County Stadium in 1967 and then a few “home games” there in 1968-69. In the process Jim got to know Bud Selig, who had an office at the stadium. Selig was on a mission to bring major league baseball back to Milwaukee. When the Brewers came to town, Bud Selig and his contingent had a press conference scheduled at the Pfister hotel. As soon as it was over and Selig came down from the podium, Jim asked him if he could have a job with the team. Selig said he would need to talk the general manager, and that led to Jim being hired.
Jim told me the first season went off with very few hitches, even though the sale of the team to Selig’s ownership group and moving to Milwaukee was only a week’s turnaround. He said, “Many of the employees that were hired for various jobs with the team were leftover Braves employees or had worked the County Stadium events like I did. So it wasn’t like they were hiring from top to bottom and training a lot of new people. The season progressed with minimal problems. We mainly did what we had to do without patting ourselves on the back. Many of those workers were just happy that baseball came back and weren’t doing it for the money.”
In reading Jim’s book I gathered that he never got to know any Brewers players due to working in the visitor’s clubhouse. I asked him about this and he said that was a correct assessment – he generally didn’t know them too well. Jim did sell real estate besides working for the Brewers, and did sell some properties to players. He said, “When Paul Molitor came to Milwaukee and knew he was going to be there a while, he bought a condo from me. But it took him playing later with the Twins and Blue Jays and coming to town for a couple series a year for me to get to know him better.”
Jim retired after the 1998 season and went on to write the aforementioned “Jocks and Socks” book. He offered some great advice to me regarding the whole process of writing and publishing. I won’t share that here, but will say one thing I admired was Jim sticking to his principles in producing a “clean” book rather than a laundry list “tell all” of every off color moment in his clubhouse. He was a great person to talk to – very articulate and an excellent source for behind the scenes baseball information that many fans take for granted. There is so much more I could share from our conversation, but for now I’ll leave it at that. I’m looking forward to weaving Jim Ksicinski’s memories into my book project!