Bernie Brewer: Mascot, Cheerleader… Spy?

Jun. 27, 2016
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chalet

Bernie Brewer’s original County Stadium Chalet, where – according to one opposing manager – the mascot committed baseball espionage.

With a 7-3 win on July 8, 1973, the Brewers completed a resounding doubleheader sweep of the Texas Rangers and climbed above .500 at the latest point in any of their three seasons of existence. The Brewers were one of the AL’s surprise teams that year. They had opened June by winning 15 of 16 games and were now only four games behind the first-place Yankees as the all-star break neared. The Rangers lingered pathetically in last place, already 24 games below .500. The pounding of the Rangers by the Brewers, in this context, seemed nothing out of the norm. Texas manager Whitey Herzog, however, still felt that his team had been cheated. Suffering from either the strain of a miserable Rangers team or the 90-plus degree summer heat in Milwaukee that afternoon, Herzog unloaded in the clubhouse following the losses. It was not the Brewers hitters, he claimed, but their mascot, who had beaten him.

“Can you imagine a damn team that has to cheat to beat us?” Herzog howled to reporters after the game. Herzog went on to explain that during the second game of the doubleheader – the third in a row in which Milwaukee blasted Texas pitching – Rangers first base coach Jackie Moore noticed some strange activity in the centerfield bleacher chalet of mascot Bernie Brewer. The chalet, with its now-famous slide and giant beer mug, had been installed earlier that season as a promotional gimmick. The lederhosen-clad Bernie, played by Marquette University student Dan McCarthy, cheered on the home team while they were batting and slid into the mug after each home run. But Moore and Herzog soon noticed him doing something else. He clapped once – so the two claimed – before a Texas pitcher threw a curveball and not at all when the pitcher delivered a fastball.

Sign-stealing is an old (and somewhat accepted) practice in baseball. Tipping off a batter to a breaking pitch could give him an advantage. The Rangers also noticed what appeared to be a man, who appeared to have a set of binoculars, hiding in the chalet. If this man was spying on the catcher’s signs to the pitcher and then relaying those signs to the Brewers batters, so Herzog thought, it could explain the Brewers’ recent hit barrage. Convinced he was being had, Herzog sent pitcher Jim Bibby, who had been shelled in game one, to go investigate. According the Mike Shropshite’s Seasons in Hell, a recounting of the 1973-75 Rangers, Herzog said “I wanted to send Bibby up there to Bernie Brewer’s little house and kick his gooddamn ass.” Instead Herzog sent the pitcher on a recon mission. A team official prevent Bibby from going up to the chalet, but Bibby told Herzog he had seen two boxes and a telephone being removed from the house. “Watergate has nothing on Bernie’s chalet at County Stadium, to hear the Texas Rangers tell it,” the Milwaukee Sentinel observed.

Herzog took his complaints to the umpiring crew, screaming at them about the conspiracy. Mid-game, they ordered the second man out of the chalet and had McCarthy remove his white gloves – a part of the costume Herzog thought were used to better relay his clapping. The second man, the Brewers claimed, was an assistant who inflated the balloons that flew out of the mug after each home run. Herzog continued his rage after the game, blaming that “little asshole in the costume” for his pitching staff’s sour luck.

McCarthy, the “little asshole” in question, later denied any role in sign-stealing, “I played outfield in Little and Babe Ruth leagues and I can’t tell one sign from another. I wouldn’t know what to look for.” Brewers manager Del Crandall cheekily admitted the team did have a spy in Bernie’s roost and “revealed” the identity of the mysterious second man. “It’s Bud Selig,” he said with a laugh. “Who’d you think we’d send up there?”

If Bernie was stealing signs back in 1973, it didn’t do much good. The Brewers scored 10 fewer runs at home that season as they did on the road. And a week after the incident, they beat the Rangers three more times in a row – in Texas

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