Author Chris Zantow On His Upcoming Milwaukee Brewers History Book
Madison writer Chris Zantow is in the final stages of writing a book on Bud Selig’s fight to bring baseball back to Milwaukee and the history of the team that was the result of his passions, tentatively titled Bud Selig and the Brewers. A technical writer and former radio announcer, Zantow has a deal in place with McFarland & Company to publish the book in late 2018 or early 2019, which sets it up to align with the Brewers 50th anniversary. Recently, Zantow took the time to talk with Around MKE about the book and his Brewers fandom. And, for all you creative types, he’s taking suggestions on the book’s subtitle.
First off, how did you first get into following the Brewers? What are some of your earliest Brewers memories?
I started following the team in the mid-1970’s mainly because other kids at school were talking about Hank Aaron being on the team. My dad took me to my first game in early 1978 and, despite freezing in the mezzanine, we both became lifelong fans after that. Dad also gave me the best present a kid could ask for when he took me to Game Three of the ALCS on my 14th birthday in 1982.
When did the idea for the book come about?
In early 2015 I had a routine meniscus surgery which allowed me some time to get caught up on a stack of baseball books and DVDs. One documentary I watched was The Seattle Pilots: Short Flight into History. When I finished the film I realized there was a lack of long form media about Bud Selig’s numerous attempts to bring a franchise to Milwaukee to fill the void the Braves left when they moved to Atlanta in 1965. I decided to tackle the subject and it evolved from what I originally thought could be a series of blog posts into a book.
Many fans (and writers) tend to focus the familiar in recounting team history - 1982, Yount, Molitor, etc - what are some of the lesser-remembered aspects of team history that you find most interesting?
I agree with the familiarity aspect, and while I feel I’m giving the ’82 team and big name players their due, some aspects I find interesting are the non-baseball years in Milwaukee between when the Braves moved and the Brewers arrived. I found oddball promotions in County stadium to be great fun to write about such as a cow-milking contest and witches casting a spell over the 1970 team.
You've interviewed a number of Brewers players and other associated people for the book and your blog, can you tell us a little about the process of tracking these people down?
I started out with
the 1970 team roster and created a spreadsheet with addresses that I found on
various autograph seeker sites. I added some names off the team photo card that
year – mainly personnel such as ball boys, bat boys, and others connected to
the team. I sent out questionnaires and got roughly half back. A few players
and stadium workers have also conversed with me on the phone or via email.
I imagine those interviews have added quite a bit to your narrative. Is there anything particularly interesting that you learned from an interview that otherwise would not have some to light?
I learned a lot
from players that were with the Seattle Pilots about the abrupt move to
Milwaukee and their reactions to the new Brewers franchise, city and fans. Most
have overwhelmingly positive things to say. I also gained a lot of insight to
the life of a ball/bat boy in the early 70’s. They cooked, cleaned,
chauffeured, polished shoes and even took food to Bernie Brewer (Milt Mason) to
his trailer atop the County Stadium scoreboard. One of the guys I talked to
said it was ten hours for ten bucks – but he met some great players as a bonus.
And, lastly, I'll ask the question that, as an author of a few books myself, I've always hated to get: does the book have a title yet?
The book has a working title of “Bud Selig and the Brewers” but I have yet to come up with a good subtitle. When I turn the manuscript over to McFarland & Company in late August we are going to brainstorm an appropriate subtitle. I’m also open to suggestions!