Stars Over Milwaukee! The Brewers Hit the Big Time with the 1975 MLB All-Star Game
It’s All-Star week for the Brewers and Major League Baseball. The Miami Marlins will host this year’s game, the first time the game has ever been played in the state of Florida. The Marlins had to wait nearly a quarter century to host the game. The Milwaukee Brewers, however, had to wait just five seasons to play hosts to the baseball world. The year was 1975.
The Brewers were awarded the ’75 game in November of 1972. By the close of the Brewers’ third season, the team was a prime candidate for hosting duties. Only Philadelphia had gone longer among major league cities since last hosting a Mid-Summer Classic (they were due to get the game in 1976, the year of the Bicentennial) and an upcoming All-Star game could force the club the make much-needed updates to Milwaukee County Stadium. Despite hosting a young team, the venue was among the oldest in the league. In preparation for the game, the Brewers and Milwaukee County footed the bill for new lighting, press box improvements and two seating expansions.
But it was not just the hosting of the All-Star game that had Brewers fans buzzing in 1975. They had added home run king Henry Aaron in an off-season trade and the team burst out of the gate with a swagger that belied their string of five straight second-division finishes. They started the season 19-11, holding a four game lead on the division in mid-May. They fell out of first by the end of the month, but rebounded in June and held a first place as late as the Fourth of July. By the time of the break, they had slipped into third place, but still sat at a respectable 46-42. Two players, George Scott and Aaron, were chosen as American League all-stars. A third, 19-year-old Robin Yount, just missed the team, finishing second in fan voting to Bert Campanaris as the AL’s starting shortstop.
With Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial, both of whom (with Aaron) had played in the 1955 All-Star Game at County Stadium, serving as honorary captains, a total of 17 future Hall of Famers populated the two rosters that evening. During the pregame introductions, fans heartily booed Campanaris for getting Yount’s starting spot and gave Henry Aaron a prolonged standing ovation. Although, the Milwaukee Journal later noted, the loudest boos of the night were saved for Wisconsin Governor Pat Lucey, who sat in a special box beside Rep. Clement Zablocki and Mayor Henry Maier.
Henry Kissinger and Glen Campbell Were On Hand
Aaron might have been the famous person in the park that night, but the most powerful was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who was on hand to throw out the first ball. With Secret Service agents prowling the concourses and stadium roof, Kissinger sat in a Brewers cap with his wife and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, putting away three hot dogs and a pair of beers. The best-dressed man was probably Glen Campbell, who sang the National Anthem in a buckskin leisure suit.
With a crowd of more than 51,000 on hand, the largest ever in the stadium’s 22 year history (so large, in fact, that many concession stands sold out of beer), the NL jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on back-to-back homers from Steve Garvey and Jimmy Wynn. An inning later, St. Louis speedster Lou Brock went station-to-station, scoring on a Johnny Bench single. The Americans tied it in the sixth on a three-run homer by Carl Yastrzemski. The AL had lost 11 of the last 12 games and had visions of breaking the streak as they carried the 3-3 tie in the ninth inning. But the Nationals got to a pair of future Hall of Famers in their half of the frame, smacking two hits off of Catfish Hunter followed by a two-run single and sacrifice fly against Goose Gossage to put the score at 6-3. San Diego’s Randy Jones shut down the AL in the bottom of the inning to seal a 6-3 win.
Brewers president Bud Selig, who admitted beforehand that the team would probably lose money on the game (the gate take went into the league’s central fund), called the festivities “a storybook evening” and said the team was thrilled about the whole experience – even though their hometown heroes (Aaron and Scott combined to go 0-3) took the collar. Unfortunately, the young Brewers club could not ride their wave of enthusiasm into the second half. They went 22-52 after the break, leaving them with the second-worst record in the AL on the year. It would take 27 years, and a brand-new ballpark, before the game returned to Milwaukee.