As they advance through the baseball playoffs, the Brewers have become
They may be the Milwaukee Brewers, but as they compete in the National League Championship Series, it’s clear this is Wisconsin’s team.
From tiny hamlets in the forested north to the farm towns west and central, even to the streets surrounding Lambeau Field in Green Bay, the Brewers’ dizzying run to the National League Central Division crown and sweep of the NLDS have captured the collective heart and imagination of the Badger State.
Forget about Milwaukee being the smallest market in Major League Baseball. Talk to folks seemingly anywhere in Wisconsin and you realize a good chunk of the 5.8 million people in the state are smitten with this team.
“Most of our customers, our regulars, are Brewers fans. They’re here every game,” said Holly Schuldt, food manager at 7 Brothers Bar & Grill in the Polk County community of Clayton, population 450. “They are super-excited.
“We have six TVs and every one of them will be on the Brewers for the playoff games,” Schuldt added. “We turn our jukebox off when we have the Brewers on.”
At the 3-Mile Corner Bar & Grill on Highway 13 in Phillips, if the Brewers are playing, the place is hopping — even if the bar otherwise would be closed, said bar manager Jennifer Benkowski.
“We open on days we’re not even normally open,” if the Brewers are playing, she
said. “We have done it ever since they started the playoffs. The crowd just gets bigger and bigger.”
Speaking of crowds, the Brewers are generating them, said Jerry Watson, owner of the Stadium View Bar & Grille about a block away from Lambeau Field in Ashwaubenon.
He also owns the 5th Quarter Bar and Banquet Hall in Little Chute, about 30 miles south of Green Bay.
In Little Chute, “We had triple the crowd for the Brewers games that we had for the Packers game, and the bar crowd at the Stadium View was at least as big for the Brewers as it was for the Packers,” Watson said.
The Green Bay Packers are about as close to a religion in Wisconsin as a professional sports team can get without actually holding church services. For the state’s baseball team to even come close to matching that level of interest, well, “That’s saying quite a bit” about the popularity of the Brewers, Watson said.
“It’s as close to a Super Bowl frenzy as you are going to find, and I am very, very serious about that,” Watson added.
Part of that has to do with the makeup of the Brewers and the way they play the game.
“They are a fun group of players to watch,” said Shonda Waller, bar manager at American Legion Post 100 in Sparta. “I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I like watching them lately because they are young and fun and enthusiastic. It’s just a good team to watch.”
She expects a packed house at the Legion Post for the Brewers’ games this weekend.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” Waller said. “It’s really good for business.
“My distributor just walked in and I told him to up (the usual order by) a case of everything,” Waller said. “It does get kind of crazy busy.”
For sure, there is likely some bandwagon-jumping. But up at 7 Brothers, this has been going on all season.
“We have a faithful crowd that comes in every game and will watch it,” Schuldt said.
Meanwhile, as sports weekends go, they don’t get much bigger than this one for the state of Wisconsin. The Brewers and Dodgers kicked off this weekend with the opening game of the NLCS Friday night, when the Milwaukee Bucks also played their final preseason game at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
The Brewers and Dodgers will tangle in the second game of the NLCS at 3:09 p.m. Saturday at Miller Park.
The University of Wisconsin Badgers will play a football game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Then, the Packers play the San Francisco 49ers in a Monday Night Football game at Lambeau Field, while the Brewers are set to play Game 3 of the NLCS against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
“For me and the (Stadium View), it’s going to be huge,” Watson said. “The Brewers are playing. The Badgers are playing. The Packers are playing.
“My income from a normal Friday, Saturday, I’m going to say it’s going to be triple, maybe quadruple,” Watson said.
He has told his beer suppliers to be ready all weekend to bring in fresh supplies when his bars need them. “They are going to be bringing me beer at least twice this weekend,” he said.
And, up at 7 Brothers, has Schuldt ordered extra food for the weekend? “Well heck yeah,” she said.
At the Stadium View and the 5th Quarter on Monday night, half the TVs will be on the Packers, half will be on Brewers, Watson said.
Even with the Packers on Monday Night Football, “You can bet your booty they (fans) are going to want to watch that (Brewers) game,” he added.
In Sparta, the folks at the Legion Post will be ready.
“I can’t wait,” Waller said.
Shawn Tucker wears a keg hat and Dan Davis dons a Fond du Lac Dock Spiders hat — a Northwoods League team based in Fond du Lac where both men are from. They were tailgating Friday before Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 win at Miller Park. More coverage in Sports and jsonline.com.
Tom Wolfe of Fountain City (left) and his daughter Briana Wolfe of Black River Falls tailgate before the game. They said they forgot to load chairs into the truck.
Lea and Jim “Yogi” Vandenberg sit at the 5th Quarter sports bar Thursday in Little Chute. “We had triple the crowd for the Brewers games that we had for the Packers game,” says owner Jerry Watson.
Stadium View Sports Bar & Grille on Holmgren Way in Ashwaubenon.