Today marks 30 years of the loss of University of Wisconsin–Madison Baseball after the program was officially ended over a $1.9 million athletic department debt.
As a Milwaukee Brewers author and historian, I immediately think of successful former UW players who went on to play in the major leagues such as Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn, Lance Painter (Brewers in 2001) and Canadian born 14 year MLB veteran Paul Quantrill.
Beyond the team history, now there have been 30 years of varsity players missing out on an opportunity to play America’s pastime at UW-Madison. The UW-Madison Club Baseball Program was started in 1999 to fill the void, and Jeff Block is the current head coach.
The Fight for UW Badger Baseball
Block is the also the main driver of a plan to bring UW baseball back. He has written a proposal and a key element is using endowments from UW Alumni and boosters. He already has many backers, but can use as much support as possible in this fight.
Another of Block’s ideas is to play games at Warner Park due to the season being before the Mallards start. This would eliminate the need to build a the ballpark – and have the team play at a park that Madison baseball fans know and love.
Title XI is the biggest obstacle, but not insurmountable. Wisconsin has been compliant in the past in terms of having more women participants than men. There is no hard and fast “rule” keeping the UW from adding baseball. If this is a concern, then a new women’s sport such as rugby, field hockey or lacrosse could be added. This would open up even more opportunities for women’s athletic participation.
UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez says Block’s 14 page proposal and growing number of supporters won’t change his mind because baseball will operate at a loss. It operates that way at other Big Ten Schools – but the money is more than made up for through other sports. For these schools it’s about giving students an opportunity to play a sport they love and supporters to enjoy the games.
Alvarez also points to the final forty years of the program without a championship team. He conveniently forgets the 31 years between Rose Bowls for the football team during the same era – the futile era his own team ended.
Sign a Petition to Bring Back UW Varsity Baseball
If you think that students and community would benefit from UW Baseball, visit the Bringing Back Varsity Baseball page to sign their petition. You can read the complete proposal to bring varsity baseball back on the page as well.
My book Building the Brewers: Bud Selig and the Return of Major League Baseball to Milwaukee is available to be ordered on the McFarland website.