When I first started thinking I’d like to write a book about the Milwaukee Brewers franchise moving from Seattle in 1970, I kept coming back to a simple question: Who were the players, coaches, executives, and stadium workers? Not just their names, but who were they personally and what did they experience when the Brewers were in their infancy.
I started by looking at names and faces on the 1970 team photo card and decided to pursue interviewing as many of these guys as possible. Many of the interviews have been turned into player profiles that were posted to the blog. About a year ago I was fortunate to speak separately with batboy Pat McBride and ballboy Rick Napholz. I previously posted a portion of their interviews here in case you missed it.
Both guys were original 1970 team employees and were great in answering all my questions about working for the Brewers in the early years, so let’s get to it…
Pat McBride started working for the in 1969 after answering a batboy/ballboy 25 word essay contest for anyone between 13 and 17 years of age. Pat said, “I wrote, ‘I would like to be a bat boy because I would be doing a small part toward bringing baseball back to Milwaukee. I would hope the spirit I would show would be contagious.’ I knew this would resonate with the whole team and what Bud Selig was trying to do. So I won the contest and was one of the bat boys for the 14 games.”
The 14 games Pat refers to were the Chicago White Sox select “home games” at Milwaukee County Stadium. Future Brewers owner Bud Selig was trying to prove that major league baseball was still a viable sport for the city of Milwaukee in an attempt to acquire a franchise.
Pat explains, “I think the prior history of Bud Selig trying to get a franchise is a critical piece of what happened in 1970. He was trying to prove that Milwaukee would support a franchise. When the Braves left in 1965, they left because they could get a huge TV market in Atlanta. They could be the team of the South. Even though Milwaukee was drawing usually 2 million people a year to games and Chicago also had a good market, they could move to Atlanta for the TV market.
Along comes Bud Selig, a local used car dealer. In ’68 and ’69 he was able to bring the Chicago White Sox to town to continue to show that Milwaukee was still interested in baseball. He was trying to get a franchise and when baseball expanded to Seattle in ’69 he was pretty heartbroken. He was sure that Milwaukee should have gotten one of the new franchises. But then Seattle didn’t support the Pilots.”
Fans didn’t exactly support the Brewers right away either. They drew just shy of 1,000,000 fans in 1970. Rick says, “I was there in the beginning when things were really rough. We barely had 10,000 people at some of the games. But little by little things got better.”
Rick told me that he was 15 years old in 1970 and the Brewers were one ballboy short for Opening Day. “I went to the game and my friend Pat McBride who was the batboy for the visiting team ended up getting me an interview before the second game. I went down and got hired, so I wound up there for the season – a total of 80 games behind the net as the ballboy. Back then they’d put the ball boy right behind the net.”
The hours were long and the work had a lot of different responsibilities, as was detailed in Part I of this interview. Yet both men gained more than just a work ethic – they had a really cool position and got to be around ballplayers and work in a stadium.
Rick says, “We put a lot of hours in. I’d get done with school at 3:30 p.m. and be to County Stadium by 4:00 p.m. I wouldn’t leave until midnight. After the game got over I’d have to clean the clubhouse and get ready for the next day. The next day I’d have to be up around 6:30 a.m. to go to school. Somewhere in there I’d have to find time to do my homework. In the summer it was not as big of a deal, but tougher during April, May and September when school was in session.”
Pat recalls, “It was a lot of fun and guys were great to us kids. It was a rare occasion in those days if a player wasn’t nice. The guys with the Brewers were terrific – I think many of them were grateful to be players. They were very good to the clubhouse guys because we worked hard for them. Being a clubhouse guy is a ton of work for not very much pay. The reward is being there – on the field and around the athletes. That was a blast, but you worked your tail off.”
As for County Stadium, Pat remembers it wasn’t perfect. He explains, “The stadium was a cool place, but the depths of the stadium weren’t so good. Everything like the locker rooms and press box were quite old. The field was nice but the clubhouses were small – they hadn’t changed it at all. It was built in the 50’s but wasn’t meant for the 70’s and beyond.
When the Packers played there we’d have to try to fit full teams with 70 guys into the clubhouse. We’d work all five Packer games too, and the clubhouse was built with baseball in mind – not football. There were all these big football players with their pads and it was just terrible. Cleaning up after football games was a nightmare. If someone got hurt they’d be dragged off the field, through the dugout, and up into the clubhouse. So it was much tougher to deal with the football games – I thought I’d love it but it was tough. Baseball was a lot more fun.”
Rick agrees, saying “Over the course of eight years and spending the entire season working, I got to know pretty much every player well. I respected them, but I did treat them like they were a friend – a normal guy. Everything was just so relaxed back then. If you wanted to have a beer in the locker room you could have one – or having a beer in a bar after the game wasn’t frowned on. A lot of times I’d join them – there was just a lot of camaraderie and friendship then.”
Both Rick and Pat have memories of many players both on the Brewers teams of the early 1970’s and opposing players. Pat had the following observations of some of the 1970 Brewers team:
“Danny Walton was an especially nice guy. Phil Roof was a really interesting character with the 1970 Brewers because he had played for the Milwaukee Braves. He was a nice man and had a good history in Milwaukee, so he was quite popular and a good catcher.
Marty Pattin was quite funny and he was very good to us. He was quite a good pitcher. He would do Donald Duck imitations and kept the club house quite loose. He was a lot of fun to be around.
Lew Krausse was also a nice guy and an excellent pitcher. They had quite a good pitching staff that year and surprisingly did very well. It was a pretty good year for an expansion team only in their second year. Tommy Harper brought quite a bit of power to the plate and Danny Walton did very well hitting with a breakout year (until he was injured). They did have some good older players too, like Russ Snyder and Phil Roof. But I think if people look at some of the pitching from that year they’d be surprised at how good it was compared to today’s pitching. There was some solid starting pitching – and good relief as well.
Dave Bristol, the manager, was a great guy. Very nice but also very serious. Another guy that was really fun to be around was a coach – Jackie Moore. He was hilarious and a really solid coach. He was a riot and kept the club house quite loose. Bristol was a very serious guy and Moore balanced it out.”
Rick notes, “Since the team came over from Seattle there were a lot of names that no one really knew. Some of the players were considered ‘has beens’, but it was a really great group of guys. It was really a fun time for me.
I got to know all of the guys as Clubhouse Manager. I was basically in charge of taking care of all of them. Then when I was Assistant Equipment Manager I was pretty much their right-hand guy. So I was there when guys like Jim Gantner made the team. I remember he played at Oshkosh and I played at UWM baseball – so I kind of knew him a little bit. So when I stopped playing at UWM, he got a tryout for the Brewers. I remember him not making the team the first year. He had tears in his eyes and I had to take him to the minor league camp. Then the next year he tried out for the team again and made the team.
I also had the pleasure of knowing Robin Yount. He and I were good friends back then because we both had blonde hair and blue eyes and kind of looked alike. Bob Coluccio played for the team later (in 1973), and he gave me some bats to use when I played ball in college. I really liked his bats, and he was another nice guy.”
Pat and Rick both moved on to successful careers outside baseball – Rick in financial planning and Pat in the medical field.
Pat summarizes, “I thought I’d like to go on and become a doctor that the general population and not these rich and famous athletes. I’ve done my fill of that. It was cool, but it was kind of overdone. One athletic trainer worked with told me that I was going to have a better life ahead when I went to medical school. I thought about it for a while, and I knew he was right.”
He adds, “Milwaukee is a great baseball town. There’s that link between the Braves and the Brewers that is pretty special. They’re still bringing in good crowds even when there isn’t a winning product on the field and that’s a real tribute – Milwaukee is just a great baseball town.
Rick concludes, “I have a good financial planning franchise, but I will say I learned a lot from being around the players and what it takes to be successful. When I look back I see a lot of ball and bat boys that have done that for a while, plus a lot of equipment men like me – and many turned out successful because they had a lot of role models to look up to.”
I wish to thank Pat and Rick for their time and memories – and what I posted today is just the tip of the iceberg. Much of what they told me has been very instrumental in shaping my research for my Brewers book. I know Pat has talked about writing a book about his experiences in previous interviews, and I hope to see it happen someday.