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Milwaukee has had a long history of association with baseball, with organizations and clubs going back to just a few years after the (mythical) date of the game’s invention. The nature of Milwaukee’s industrial background gave rise to the naming of these longest-lived fore-runner teams: the Brewers. They played in the minors from the turn of the 20th century through to the early fifties, and though they folded as a going concern, their legacy was to pass on their nickname to their major-league successors.

Selig and Teams Inc.

There were, of course, the Milwaukee Braves, but after they had moved to Atlanta, the city was without major-league baseball. Bud Selig’s Teams Inc. had tried to stop the Braves from leaving but could not stop their exodus. Once the Braves were gone, Selig and Teams Inc. sought a replacement franchise to give the Milwaukee fan-base the sports spectacle they deserved. A 1967 exhibition match proved there was sufficient support in the city, and the search for a replacement franchise intensified.

The franchise now known as the Milwaukee Brewers began at the tail end of the 1960s as the Pilots, based in Seattle and playing in the AL following expansion. They spent a solitary season in Washington before taking flight to Wisconsin and taking the name of the Milwaukee Brewers. With their travels and switches, the franchise holds the distinction of being the only club to play in a quartet of divisions since ’69.

From Troubled Seasons to a Golden Age

The Seattle Pilots first season was not an easy one. After an initial win, team performance slumped and did not improve. In addition to poor play, there were issues with the stadium. A fine stadium for the minor-league, it was simply not good enough for the majors, and much urgent consultation and maneuvering resulted. The first season at Milwaukee was little better. In fact, they had a poor run until 1978, when a Golden Age (of sorts) began.

Dalton as General Manager and his signing of George Bamberger transformed the team into genuine contenders, fighting for pennants with serious intent and definite threat. The slugger style espoused by Bamberger gave rise to their nickname as ‘Bambi’s Bombers.’ This hard-hitting phase was succeeded in kind by the influence of coach Harvey Kuenn; almost inevitably the team became known as Harvey’s Wallbangers. As the Wallbangers they took the ALCS against the Angels, despite being a couple of games down at one point; they were the first team to achieve this particular (situational) feat.

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From this victory, the Brewers enjoyed their single World Series showing, and that was a while back: 1982. They fell to the Cardinals then and more recently, in 2011, the Cardinals again foiled their post-season by beating them to the NLCS win. Perhaps the fact that the Cardinals went on to win the World Series that year may have helped soothe the pain; perhaps not.

After that reversal of in the World Series, the Brewers lost much of the traction they had built up. The ’88 season was a decent showing, but by and large, they fell from general contention. In our next blog, we will track how the Brewers fought their way forwards, and take a look at their prospects for this season.

Also published on Medium.