Former Milwaukee Braves And A Local Historian Look Back At Unusual 1957 World Series Celebration
For this week’s Bubbler Talk, listener Marion Etzel asked us for more information about how the area celebrated the Milwaukee Braves winning baseball's World Series in 1957.
Etzel, part of a well-known religious team known as Sisters of the Divine Savior, said there's more to the city's baseball success than the Brewers doing well in recent years and making it to the World Series in 1982.
"Why do people in the press stop at 1982 when they're talking about the Milwaukee baseball teams as being champions?" she asked when explaining her question to WUWM.
Part of it might be that the Braves' owners hauled the team to Atlanta after the 1965 season, angering many fans then and older residents still today.
But many fondly remember the unusual celebrations that followed the final play of the Braves Game 7 win over the New York Yankees in 1957.
The announcer's call went this way: "Swung on, liner grabbed by Matthews, who steps on third, and the World Series is over, and the Milwaukee Braves are the new world champions of baseball!"
The game was played in New York, ending in the late afternoon.
But just like when the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title this summer against Phoenix, people went to the streets of Milwaukee to celebrate.
Local Braves historian, Bob Buege, remembered: "As soon as the game ended, they headed for downtown. Or, if they were already downtown, they were probably in bars, watching this, they all rushed out. It was all over. It wasn't just the main part of the city. People celebrated wherever they were."
Buege said he was too young to be in taverns. So instead, he watched the game on a TV that was rolled into his classroom and later followed the festivities on the radio.
Incredibly, Buege, who has written two books about the Milwaukee Braves, said there was not a day and a half wait for an organized Milwaukee celebration, as with the Bucks this year.
He said with all the excitement for the Braves in the 1950s and some of the players' desire to quickly return to their homes across North America, the baseball team flew back home after Game 7 for a Milwaukee parade and other gatherings that same night.
But things did not go according to plan.
Thousands of fans greeted the team's plane at Mitchell Field. John DeMerit, a West Bend native, a young reserve outfielder, and pinch-runner on the '57 Braves, said he was awestruck.
"As a 21 year-old kid. I didn't know what to think," he said, laughing. "I didn't know what to expect. And I think half the ball club had never been through that either," DeMerit told WUWM.
But DeMerit said the throng prevented some players from getting into cars for the drive into downtown, where a parade of vehicles was supposed to lead to Milwaukee County Stadium for speeches.
Another former Brave, second baseman Felix Mantilla, did make it into the parade.
"From the airport, all the way to downtown, on Wisconsin Avenue, packed on both sides of the street," he said, laughing. "I was thinking, 'I have never seen anything like it,'" Mantilla told WUWM.
Historian Buege said things were so crowded, the parade route had to be changed during the parade.
"They had an estimated 250,000 who were all set along the parade route, and then they never came that way," Buege said.
DeMerit said he eventually caught up with his teammates for a gathering of about 200 people at the Wisconsin Club downtown.
"A lot of toasting," he said, laughing, "a lot of patting people on the back and telling people how great it was. And it was."
Mantilla also remembered the Wisconsin Club party and the drinks.
"I had a few, I would say," he said, laughing, "how many, I can't remember."
After being reminded they had just become World Series Champions, Mantilla replied, "That's right. We had a great year. From the beginning to the end."
Now, as the Milwaukee Brewers head back to the postseason this year with one of the best records in baseball, some fans are even mentioning another World Series.
Mantilla said he loves the talk. "It's great, the optimism. So, that's great," Mantilla said.
DeMerit said he hopes the Brewers would enjoy the fans' enthusiasm. "They just witnessed what (the Bucks) went through with basketball. My god," DeMerit said.
Buege said the city would again go crazy with another World Series win. "But I don't think it would match the intensity that they gave it in the '50s. We're more sophisticated now."
Maybe so, but count Bubbler Talk questioner Marion Etzel in on any downtown celebration. "Absolutely. As soon as I can get off work, I'm heading down."
This autumn, or one of these autumns, as the Brewers try to match the '57 Braves with a World Series win.