Milwaukee County Stadium (locally known as just County Stadium) was a ballpark in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1953 to 2000. It was primarily used as a baseball stadium for the Milwaukee Braves and Brewers, but was also utilized for football games, ice skating, religious services, concerts and other large events. It was replaced by Miller Park.
- 1 Construction
- 2 In the Majors - Baseball at County Stadium
- 3 Other Uses
- 4 Unique Features
- 5 Notable Games
- 6 Capacity
- 7 Dimensions
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Construction[edit | edit source]
Several locations around the city were considered before the city settled on Story Quarry, on the west side of Milwaukee.
The city of Milwaukee also hoped to use the new facility to attract a Major League Baseball franchise (the city had been considered a potential relocation target for years), and in this respect their efforts was immediately successful. The minor league Brewers would never get a chance to play at the new stadium.
In the Majors - Baseball at County Stadium[edit | edit source]
Home of the Braves, 1953-1965[edit | edit source]
Even before it was completed, the new "Milwaukee County Municipal Stadium" drew the interest of major league clubs. The St. Louis Browns, who had played in Milwaukee in 1901, the inaugural season of the American League, applied for permission to relocate back to the city they had left half a century before. The Boston Braves, the parent club of the Brewers, blocked the proposed move. The Braves had long been struggling at the gate in Boston, and rumors of them relocating had been floating for some time. The move to keep Milwaukee available as a new home indicated to many observers that the Braves would move to Milwaukee themselves.
Three weeks before the beginning of the 1953 season, and right before the new stadium was ready to open, the Braves made it official, and applied for permission to relocate. The other National League owners agreed, and the Milwaukee Braves were born. The Braves' first home game, on April 6, 1953 was an exhibition contest against the Boston Red Sox. In their first season in Milwaukee, the Braves set the National League attendance record of 1.8 Million. The first published issue of Sports Illustrated on August 16, 1954, featured County Stadium and batter Eddie Mathews on its cover.
The stadium continued to be the National League's top draw until 1959 when the Dodgers, who had moved to Los Angeles two years before, overtook the Braves (both in the stands and on the field). In the early 1960s attendance fell, along with the Braves' standings, amid an unstable ownership situation. The Milwaukee Braves used the stadium until 1966, when the franchise moved to Atlanta.
The Milwaukee White Sox?[edit | edit source]
In an effort to return Major League Baseball to Milwaukee after the departure of the Braves, local businessman and minority Braves owner Bud Selig brought other teams to play at County Stadium, beginning with a 1967 exhibition game between the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. The exhibition game attracted more than 51,000 spectators, so Selig's group contracted with Sox owner Arthur Allyn to host nine Chicago White Sox home games at County Stadium in 1968.
Selig's experiment was staggeringly successful - those nine games drew 264,297 fans. In Chicago that season, the Sox drew 539,478 fans to their remaining 58 home games. In just a handful of games, the Milwaukee crowds accounted for nearly one-third of the total attendance at White Sox games. In light of this success, Selig and Allyn agreed that County Stadium would host Sox home games again the next season.
In 1969, the Sox schedule in Milwaukee was expanded to include 11 home games (one against every other franchise in the American League at the time). Although those games were attended by slightly fewer fans (198,211 fans, for an average of 18,019) they represented a greater percentage of the total White Sox attendance than the previous year - over one-third of the fans who went to Sox home games in 1969 did so at County Stadium (in the remaining 59 home dates in Chicago, the Sox drew 391,335 for an average of 6,632 per game).
Selig was unable to gain a major league franchise for Milwaukee through expansion, so he purchased the "Pale Hose" from Allyn with the intention of moving them north to County Stadium. But unwilling to concede Chicago to the National League, the American League vetoed the sale.
Finally, the Brewers[edit | edit source]
Not discouraged, Selig instead bought the struggling Seattle Pilots out of bankruptcy court. In the spring of 1970 Milwaukee had baseball again, and County Stadium had a new tenant.
The new Milwaukee Brewers, named for the American Association club for which County Stadium was originally built over twenty years earlier, called it home from 1970 to 2000. The sale occurred during spring training for 1970, and happened so fast that Selig could not get new uniforms made. Instead, they ripped the Pilots insignia off of the pre-existing uniforms, and the Brewers adopted the Pilots' blue, white and yellow instead of the red and navy blue Selig originally wanted for Brewers uniforms.
On July 15, 1975, County Stadium saw its second All-Star Game. As in 1955, the National League beat the American League by a score of 6-5. The game was attended by 51,480 fans, the largest crowd at the stadium at that time. . The Brewers were represented by George Scott and Hank Aaron, who had recently returned to Milwaukee in a trade with the Braves.
Aaron would spend the last two years of his career in Milwaukee and in the American League, where the designated hitter position would allow him to extend his playing days. Aaron would hit his final home run, giving him a career record 755, which is the second most career home runs of all time only under Barry Bonds' 756 home runs. Aaron's final home run took place in the 7th inning with a solo shot off of California Angels right-hander Dick Drago on July 20, 1976, a game that the Brewers would win 6-2. 
Replacement and Demolition[edit | edit source]
By the 1990s, County Stadium was considered outdated, lacking the amenities (most notably luxury boxes) that generated additional revenue for teams. On July 11, 1992, Selig announced plans for a publicly-financed replacement to be built adjacent to County Stadium, opening in time for the 1994 season.
The new stadium funding plan proved to be extremely controversial, and it was not until 1996 that groundbreaking began on the new stadium, by now named Miller Park as part of a sponsorship deal with nearby Miller Brewing Company. Miller Park's most distinctive new feature was a retractable roof, deemed essential to drawing fans during the cool and unpredictable Wisconsin spring. At the time of the groundbreaking, Miller Park was scheduled to open in 2000, making 1999 the final season in County Stadium.
The Brewers opened the 1999 season intending to bid farewell to their old park. On July 14, three construction workers at the Miller Park site were killed in a crane collapse while attempting to install 400-ton roof panel. A good part of the construction site was also damaged as a result. Cleanup and an investigation delayed the closing of County Stadium to the 2000 season
County Stadium was demolished on February 21, 2001. Although most of the stadium site is now covered with parking for Miller Park, the site of the old infield was converted into a Little League park, and is now called Helfaer Field.
Other Uses[edit | edit source]
Due to the large seating capacity, County Stadium was home to more than just baseball. In July of 1953, the new stadium hosted the Ice Capades for nine consecutive nights.
Football[edit | edit source]
The National Football League's Green Bay Packers played two or three home games per year at County Stadium from 1953 to 1994. The Packers' final game in County Stadium was a 21-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on December 18, 1994. The last touchdown was scored by quarterback Brett Favre, ironically, against the team that drafted Favre before trading him to Green Bay after only one season in Atlanta.
Traditionally, the Packers would host at least one team from NFC Central division at County Stadium each season. Only once did the Packers play their ancient archrivals, the Chicago Bears in Milwaukee, defeating the Bears in 1974. The Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings were the Packers' most frequent foes at County Stadium.
Unlike most stadiums built by city or county governments in the last half of the 20th century, County Stadium was built for baseball. It was thus somewhat problematic for football. The playing surface was just barely large enough to fit a football field, with both end zones spilling over onto the warning track. The football field itself ran parallel with the first base line, and both teams occupied the east sideline, on the outfield side. It only seated 56,000 for football, and many seats had obstructed views.
Soccer[edit | edit source]
Concert Venue[edit | edit source]
County Stadium was also a popular home for concerts throughout its history. Bob Hope performed for fans during a Braves doubleheader in 1960.
County Stadium also hosted the Kool Jazz Festival every year from 1976 through 1980.
In 1975, the Rolling Stones played a concert with the Eagles and Rufus. Following the concert, the Brewers complained that the fans destroyed the field. The damage was, in fact, less than that incurred during Green Bay Packers football games.
Also in 1975, Pink Floyd performed at County Stadium. An urban legend has sprung up around this show - according to legend, the dark and brooding clouds parted and revealed a brilliant moon just as the band was launching into the line "I'll see you on the dark side of the moon." (Eyewitnesses can confirm that this actually happened, after the show had been interrupted several times by rain.) Pink Floyd returned to County Stadium in 1977, drawing an estimated 60,000. For a third and final time, the band returned on 30th September 1987 on the "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" Tour.
Other musical stars to perform at County Stadium included Simon and Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, B.B. King, Emmylou Harris, Nancy Wilson, the Staple Singers, Archie Bell and the Drells, Frankie Avalon, the Hollywood Argyles, Johnny and the Hurricanes, James Brown, the Famous Flames, Lobo, Bread, Andy Kim, Gary Puckett, Rare Earth and the Honeycombs.
Religious Services[edit | edit source]
Movie Location[edit | edit source]
The movie Major League was shot at County Stadium during the summer of 1988. Even though the movie was about the Cleveland Indians, they did use Milwaukee Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker in the movie, with signage for local channels WTMJ (Channel 4) and WCGV (Channel 24) not covered up and visible in the film. Announcements were made on local television news programs about the number of extras required for the day's shooting, and capacity crowds turned out for the shooting of the final scenes, which involved the Indians in the final games of a pennant race.
Wrestling[edit | edit source]
Unique Features[edit | edit source]
There was a chalet and giant beer mug, originally at right-center field and later at left, where mascot Bernie Brewer would "dunk" himself whenever a Brewers player hit a home run. County Stadium also gave rise to the Sausage Race, during which several anthropomorphized sausages participate in a fictional race to home plate between the sixth and seventh innings. Whoever finished first was the "wiener" and whoever finished last was the "wurst".
Notable Games[edit | edit source]
County Stadium has hosted two Baseball All-Star Games, in 1955, when the National League Braves played host (and won 6-5 in 12 Innings), and in 1975, when the then American League Brewers played host, and lost, 6-3. It also hosted the World Series in 1957, 1958 and 1982, as well as a league playoff in 1959 and a Packers playoff game in 1967.
The final game at County Stadium took place on September 28, 2000. In a closing ceremony led by legendary announcer Bob Uecker, greats from the Milwaukee Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, and Green Bay Packers were introduced. Familiar faces such as Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Frank Torre, and Bob Buhl represented the Braves. Willie Wood and Fuzzy Thurston were some of the notable Packers. Brewers greats that came back to salute the fans and the stadium included Paul Molitor, Jim Gantner, Rollie Fingers, and the widow of 1982 manager Harvey Kuenn. When Bob Uecker announced what would be the final player introduction in the stadium, he began, "his name is synonymous with the Brewers..." Robin Yount then appeared from the left field fence on his Milwaukee-made Harley-Davidson motorcycle to the delight of the 56,000+ nostalgic teary-eyed fans.
Capacity[edit | edit source]
When it opened in 1953 it had 28,111 permanent seats and could hold up to 36,011 people. After an expansion one year later the seating capacity was increased to 43,394. Subsequent expansions raised the capacity to 53,192 in 1975 until the final game was played on September 28, 2000.
Dimensions[edit | edit source]
- Left Field - 315 ft
- Shallow L.C. - 362 ft
- True L.C. - 382 ft (unposted)
- Deep L.C. - 392 ft
- Center Field - 402 ft
- Deep R.C. - 392 ft
- True R.C. - 382 ft (unposted)
- Shallow R.C. - 362 ft
- Right Field - 315 ft
References[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- Visit to County Stadium
- USGS aerial of old park and new construction
- County Stadium at Ballparks.com
- Information on Helfaer Field. (Little League field on site of County Stadium)
- Guide to County Stadium seating configuration - original, 1973 renovation and for football
- History of non-sports events at County Stadium from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
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Green Bay Packers
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Three Rivers Stadium
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