Bob Busser started taking ballpark photographs with a brownie camera at Dodger stadium in 1967. He’s visited close to 800 venues over the years and has captured a staggering 75,000 images. Some of the stadiums have since been demolished, such as Comiskey Park, Tiger Stadium, Candlestick Park, and Milwaukee County Stadium. Bob chatted with me recently about how he got started photographing ballparks and shared some memories and photos of Milwaukee County Stadium.
Bob listened to Vin Scully paint pictures of Connie Mack Stadium and Forbes Field in the 1960’s. His first “road trip” happened in the summer of 1976 after he graduated from high school. Bob’s mom was born in Lowell, Mass, so the family headed east. When they got to Boston, the family split up. Bob went to Fenway Park while the rest of the family went to see a Bicentennial parade featuring the Queen of England.
Busser said, “I won! Having my camera and walking around Fenway, the dream was born.”
Milwaukee County Stadium
But Fenway wasn’t the only ballpark that Bob would get to photograph on the trip. As the family traveled home, he captured Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Comiskey Park in Chicago, and finally, Milwaukee County Stadium. The Brewers were out of town at the time.
“The gate was open (mind you this is 1976) and I took several photos,” Busser said. “I did the same thing in Cleveland and Chicago.”
Once Bob started visiting stadiums, arenas, and ballparks on a regular basis, he’d talk to the front office and usually they’d just let him in. He returned to County Stadium in 1987, 1991, 1994, and 2000.
“If you never saw a game at County Stadium, you were missing out,” Busser commented. “Yes it had problems, as most older parks and arenas had. But it had the charisma that is hard to duplicate. I just loved the overall feel of County Stadium. It brought you back to the 50’s.”
When County Stadium opened in 1953, it had just over 28,000 seats, but expansions raised the eventual capacity to 53,192. Bob says that if you look closely in his photos you can see where the add ons were. He also captured the concession stands in the bleachers which were much newer than the ones in the stadium.
As fans know, not everything was perfect with older ballparks. Bob pointed out that poles, obstructed views, and narrow aisles were often the norm – and this of course included County Stadium. He’s a tall guy at 6-foot-5, so getting into a seat in an older park could be a bit of a stretch. But according to Bob, County Stadium did have one of the wider concourses of the older parks he visited.
Despite the issues, Busser said, “County Stadium along with all the others that are gone, to me, are sacred grounds.”
The End of an Era
Bob returned to County Stadium in August, 2000. He said the final visit was bittersweet, knowing the team needed a new park, but it meant leaving behind so much history and its own special charm.
Bob mentioned so many things that Packers, Braves and Brewers fans can relate to – closing your eyes and seeing great players from the past like Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, Robin Yount, Gorman Thomas, and Paul Molitor. He loved the tailgating and the smell of the brats, and the taste of the ones with secret stadium sauce from the concession stand.
“I loved Bernie Brewer and his house and slide,” Busser said. “I also saw both scoreboards and liked both. The original one reminded me of the board at Connie Mack Stadium.”
But County Stadium was well past its usefulness, and Miller Park rose in the background, ready to take over. The final baseball game was played at County Stadium on September 28, 2000, and the stadium was demolished in 2001.
County Stadium Lives On
Milwaukee County Stadium lives on in our memories and in Bob’s photographs. Bob has a photo in my book Building the Brewers: Bud Selig and the Return of Major League Baseball to Milwaukee. It’s available to be ordered on the McFarland website.
About Bob Busser
Bob is a professional photographer with work on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. He has logged countless miles in an over 40-year career, capturing images of both old and new stadiums and arenas. You can see Bob’s photographs on www.ballparks.smugmug.com
Bob started a Facebook group called Ballparks, Stadiums and Arenas of the past and present and you can also find him on Twitter: @BobBusser
You can also read about Bob’s visits to Tiger Stadium in Detroit on the 80’s Baseball site here.