Tag Archives: wisconsin ballparks

Fox Cities Stadium, Appleton, Wisconsin

Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium, Appleton, WISCONSIN

Number of states: 30
States to go:  20

Number of games: 1 (but was there for a cancelled game in 2006)
First game:  August 1, 2009 (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 11, Quad City River Bandits 3)

(Click on any picture to see a larger version.)


Make no mistake…we were ready.  We were set to dress in multiple layers.  We were going to sit in our front-row seat and hang there in the cold with my Baby Mariners.

Just as we were set

to climb into our long underwear at the hotel, I thought to call the team to see if they’d wimped out of the game.  They had…the game had been postponed.

What?  Come on!  What’s a little sub-zero windchill between friends?  Play ball!

We asked the question:  “Hey, we’re in from Seattle for the ballgame, and we’re not coming back.”  (This usually confuses people.)  Can we get a refund?  The answer:  No.  But they can trade it in for merchandise if we get to their store before it closes in 15 minutes.

Needless to say, we booked down to the store.  When we got there, the cashier was amazed…he said there was no way we could exchange the tickets for merchandise.  He hunted down the guy who told us we could, and I guess pummeled

him into submission, because he showed up, tails between his legs, and said “Well, we can get you a free cap from last night’s game.”  Well, it’s something.

While he spent 15 minutes looking for a cap (how could he have misplaced them so quickly?), we checked out the park.  I approached the beautiful “Wall of Fame” prepared for a look at Appleton baseball history and big moments.  Instead, in the central three panels of the display, all I saw was loads of hats, balls, and bats…honoring rich sponsors.  Ick.  (There was a little bit of baseball-related display, but only on the periphery of the display.)  But then, what can one expect from a place so

pimped out that its name is officially Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium?  Double ick.  I can’t judge the place since I didn’t see a game there, but I’m concerned it would have felt like San Jose:  baseball not as baseball, but as a promotions transference device.

Idea:  “Girls Gone Wild:  Appleton.”  We hang out outside Appleton-area bars and look for drunken hot college-aged women.  They sign releases and, while we film them, open up their overcoats to show us the parkas


15 minutes later, the guy found us…we had ducked out of the stinging cold and into the office.  He never found the hats…so he brought us baseballs.  Better than nothing, I suppose.  We donated our tickets to whatever charity they team up with–way, way better than our comically sad experience with Huntsville–and headed back to our warm hotel.

UPDATE 2009–We returned two and a half years later when a family gathering had us in Northern Michigan.  I am pleased to report that our concerns aboutan over-promotionalized ballpark were mostly unfounded.  We joined a packed house

on a Saturday night in what felt to me like a scaled-down major-league ballpark.  And, incredibly, I mean that as a compliment.

In general, I don’t care for it when ballparks try to act big when, in reality, everybody knows they’re small.  But Fox Cities Stadium has figured out that they can take the best factors of big ballparks and still have the intimacy and charm of a small ballpark.

Case in point:  television screens.  I know that small minor league squads don’t have their games televised.  But the Timber Rattlers

did very well to film the game and have it running live while waiting in line at the concession stands.  This is rarely seen at the minor league level, so it’s appreciated.  Additionally, the Timber Rattlers have a beautiful scoreboard, and they know how to use it.  Unlike too many ballparks who input stats before the game and leave it alone, the Rattlers update the stats with every at-bat, putting up the results of previous at-bats in the later innings.  I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever seen that at any level other than the major leagues.  And as far as a bar one can drink in while watching the game?  Fox Cities Stadium has one–a small-but-nice one.  I seldom, if ever, leave my seat during a game, but on a cold night like the one in 2006, I’d certainly be tempted.

There’s not a whole lot going for the ballpark as far as panorama goes.  Past left field, there are loads of trees; past center field, a pedestrian overpass; past right field, a small highway.  The natural surroundings don’t do much in the “is there any question where you are” test, but on the interior, there’s a fair amount of Wisconsin to be found.  Most impressively to me was the unquestionably Wisconsin accent of the promotions guy.  I kept wanting him to do more promotions

so I could here those bizarre short A’s.  And with plenty of beer and cheese curds around, there was no question as to where I was.

By the way, I had never seen a cheese curd, either on a menu or in person, before arriving at the concession stand at Fox Cities Stadium.  I think I confused the worker a little bit–a high-school aged kid–when I asked if I could see the cheese curds to take a picture of them.  I did not purchase them.  Doubling my cholesterol levels was not on the to-do list for this vacation.

I was quite impressed that the Timber Rattlers seemed to have filled up the ballpark on a random

Saturday night.  Sure, there were fireworks, and that might have increased the turnstile count a bit, but I don’t get the sense that these were fireworks fans merely enduring a baseball game to get to the pyrotechnics.  They were there to watch and enjoy some baseball.  The Timber Rattlers helped this atmosphere by letting the game take center stage.  Their promotions were not out of control–they limited them to between-innings shenanigans and announcements, although their goal was to pack as many as possible into those few minutes–but after Missoula, that was a refreshing, comparatively-sedate approach.  On a gorgeous night like this, the fine people of northwest Wisconsin seem to have figured out that they’ve got a good thing going.  Many wandered out to the right-field home run porch, where they squinted into the sun and hoped a home run ball came their way (anyone with a home-run-porch ticket who caught a home run on the fly won beer for a year).  Others settled in and cheered for the home team. It was a fine experience.

Appleton also served as my son’s fourth state in which he has seen a baseball game, after Oregon, Washington, and Montana.  It was close to his 12th or 13th game, and my wife and I had already learned something:  the scoreboard camerapeople find babies, especially cute ones like my son, very quickly and very easily.  Out of the dozen-or-so games the boy had attended at this point, this was the fourth or fifth time he found his way onto the scoreboard.  Alas, my camera couldn’t figure out whether I wanted to focus on the scoreboard or on the foul-ball net, but if you look closely, you can see that these blurry people are my wife and son.

Only one quick complaint:  the game operations folks need to be a little more sensitive to injuries.  After the Timber Rattlers’ Sean McCraw fouled a ball off of his foot and was writhing on the ground, the sound guy almost immediately–far too quickly–played “Mambo #5.”  Later, the River Bandits’ Frederick Panejo stayed down after a diving catch:  and before the trainer could get there, they played another song.  That felt a little disrespectful.  I’m not sure they should stay silent the entire time, but couldn’t they start with some PA announcements before having us boogie down?  I think so.

But on the whole, that’s a minor complaint about what was a fine night overall.  The Timber Rattlers provide a mini-major-league park rather than a minor-league park, and the experience is a fine one overall.  I’m glad we made it back for a warm night rather than a long-underwear experience.


Regional feel:  6.5/10
Pretty good.  There’s not much of a view, but there wasn’t any question that we were in Wisconsin.

Charm:  4/5
Sure.  A hair corporate, but still, sure.

Spectacle:  3.5/5
A hair overdone at times, but this is the low minors, so I can live with it.

Team mascot/name:  3/5

Here’s Fang.  I’m not sure whether this is a locally-appropriate name.  I’m ambivalent about it.

Aesthetics:  4/5
It’s a lovely ballpark in a hum-drum location.

Pavilion area:  4.5/5
Quite nice.  Lots to do, yet one is never outside the view of the ballgame.  I especially like the right-field area.

Scoreability:  4.5/5
I appreciate the updated scoreboard graphics.

Fans:  4.5/5
They packed the place and focused on the game.  I can’t ask for too much more.

Intangibles:  3.5/5
A fine night.  They’re docked a little bit for the confusion of our 2006 experience, but they mostly made up for it.

TOTAL:  38/50


Osvaldo Morales’ first-inning homer gives the River Bandits an early lead, but the Timber Rattlers come back, mostly thanks to lamentable relief pitching by the Quad Cities’ Nick McCully (six batters:  walk, walk, walk, single, single, single.)

Brock Kjeldgaard has three hits and scores three times.

Miller Park

Miller Park, Milwaukee, WI

Number of games:  3
First game:  April 17, 2002 (Pirates 3, Brewers 2)
Most recent game:  April 7, 2007 (Cubs 6, Brewers 3)

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

When I compare stadiums with retractable roofs, there’s no question that I’ve developed a preference (if there is to be a retractable roof…I still find it highly unnecessary).  The canopy-style roof at Safeco is far preferable to me.  That way spectators can still sit in the open air and see out of the ballpark.  However, I suppose that Seattle’s temperate climate lends itself to a canopy roof better than Milwaukee and Toronto’s cold spring/falls and Arizona and Houston’s oppressively hot summers.  But Milwaukee has a decent compromise.  Although it is entirely enclosed like Bank One Ballpark, at least Miller Park puts windows past its outfield bleachers so one can look out at Wisconsin’s weather.  There are no ads on those windows, so the eye has a place to go where it’s not assaulted by advertising.  Plus, during this particular April, I could look out at a

nasty Midwestern thunderstorm.

Not that I had to.  They brought the thunderstorm in to us.  The morning of my second game at Miller, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel featured a headline that there were structural defects in Miller Park’s roof.  Miller Park has been problematic from the start, as you’ll recall, most tragically because of the deaths of three workers during the construction of its roof.  (There’s a sculpture of three workers out in front of the building that’s a very sad and poignant reminder of the accident.  The plaque reads “TEAMWORK” and lists the three men’s names.)  And I got a first-hand look at Miller Park’s problems before my second game.  There was a rough Midwestern April thunderstorm, and the allegedly closed retractable roof…didn’t.  It leaked.  And I’m not talking about drip-drip, either.   I’m talking about an Angel Falls-style deluge through one of the cracks, bouncing off of the clock in right-center field and spraying all over two sections of seats.  It was incredible.

The ushers’ solution:  allow those with seats in those two sections to sit anywhere they wanted.

This wasn’t a problem because I went to Miller Park at a nadir in Brewers’ history.  The 3-12 club was incredibly awful, and they fired Davey Lopes between the two games I watched.  A losing team, a fired manager, a broken stadium built at taxpayer expense, and even a bench-clearing brawl…it was not a happy time, and these were not happy fans, nor were they numerous.

But the ballpark still wins points for all kinds of cool things.  First off,

it’s not square like other retractable-roof parks.  It’s shaped like a giant pizza wedge.  Somehow, that feels totally appropriate.  Second, there’s something vaguely sexual about the way the roof panels come together at an angle to close above the park.  Or maybe I just needed to get out more often (this roof is the closest I got to Erotic Love on the 2002 ELABST Milwaukee trip, as Michelle, the cool and awesome girlfriend, stayed at home).  Third, as stated above, the windows beyond the center-field stands beat the hell out of the advertising at Bank One Ballpark.

Perhaps most importantly, though, in spite of its corporate feel, the park still passes the “is there any question where you are” test, as the charming-but-outdated County Stadium did.  To wit:  the immense amount of room set aside in the parking lot for tailgaters, who were numerous even in a thunderstorm before their 3-12 team played.  There was even this nun wearing a Brewers cap over her habit:

Plus, it wins points for the Polish feel throughout.  We have the sausage race between the bratwurst, Italian sausage, Polish sausage, and hot dog.  They dash from the left field corner around home plate to the finish line just past first base.  It’s vaguely disturbing to see these giant weenies run, I think, and strange how passionate people get about the race (I’m certain money changed hands).  The Italian sausage had a stereotypical Italian handlebar mustache.  The bratwurst wore traditional German lederhosen.  The hot dog had giant white American teeth, and, if I recall, sunglasses.  What stereotypes did they use for the Polish sausage?  Well, none.  They didn’t want to go there.  (Perhaps they could have had him run the wrong way?)  For the record…Polish won the first game, hot dog the second.

So, all in all, a fine ballpark, although a depressing experience in some ways.  The taxpayers had paid a bazillion dollars and three people had lost their lives to build a ballpark to generate revenue to create a competitive team in the Bud Selig/Donald Fehr Economic World.  The result?  At least in 2002, it was a God-awful team, an impending strike, and a half-empty stadium that didn’t even work as designed, leaving a good number of people wet. Nonetheless, a thumbs-up.

APRIL 2007: I got to enjoy a full Miller Park!  The bad news is that most of the fans were Cubs fans.  Rather than the spirit-war atmosphere I’ve received in similar games, this felt like drunken impending danger.  We sat next in literally

the top row of the entire ballpark next to an already-toasted Brewer fan who seemed to want to get into it (just verbally…I think) with the many, many Cubs fans surrounding us.  He didn’t know what to make of me (Mariner hat) and my wife (Cardinal hat).  When I responded with an “Ooo!” to a great Cubs hit, he sort of threateningly said to me:  “I thought you said you weren’t rooting today!”  Thankfully, he left at the end of the third inning…probably to get more bratwurst.

It may have been the drunkest game I’ve ever experienced.  Everyone appeared toasted–and most of them had to drive back home to Chicago.  Scary thought, that.  The men’s room featured ridiculous waits, shouting frat-boy]style louts, and a possibility of a West-Side-Story rumble between Cubs fans and Brewers fans.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy seeing a new era in Miller Park history.  Some smart people (including me) have predicted the Brewers to win their division in

2007, so the place just didn’t seem as sad as it did in 2002.


My first bench-clearing brawl!  It all started when the Pirates’ David Williams hit the Brewers’ Geoff Jenkins in the second inning.  Jenkins walked very, very slowly to first base, jawing at Williams.  When the Brewers’ Ben Sheets plunked the Bucs’ Aramis Ramirez on the butt the next inning, it all got started.  Highlights included Ramirez chucking his helmet–hard–at Sheets as he approached, and Sheets responding with his glove (ouch!  that malleable leather must hurt just as bad as the hard helmet does!).  Then there was a giant pile, and Ramirez sprained his ankle.  As brawls go, this one was good, although I would have liked to have seen them resolve their differences in a non-violent manner instead.  Ramirez could have written his grievances on a paper and handed it to the catcher for delivery to Sheets.  (Ramirez was eventually suspended for 7 games, and he served the suspension while injured.)

Davey Lopes’ last game as Brewer manager, the 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh with the brawl.

Jerry Royster’s first game as interim Brewer manager, a 7-5 win over St. Louis.

Richie Sexson has all 7 Brewer RBI in the 7-5 win, with two home runs and a triple.  The NL record for most RBI that account for all of a team’s RBI in a game is 8, so that’s a heck of a game.

The Cardinals’ Darryl Kile gives up four runs in six innings and gets a no-decision about two months before his sudden and tragic death.

Carlos Zambrano shuts down the Brewers, in spite of a monstrous Geoff Jenkins home run.  Aramis Ramirez goes deep for Chicago, and Ryan Dempster picks up the save.

(Written April 2002.  Updated April 2007.)

Milwaukee County Stadium


From the -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-.

Milwaukee County Stadium, Milwaukee, WI

Number of games:  1
First and last game:  July 5, 1993 (Rangers 5, Brewers 4)

County Stadium was destroyed in 2001.

With the opening of Miller Park, Milwaukee may finally feel like it has made the big leagues, stadium-wise.  County Stadium’s small-town, not-quite-big-league feel was the source of its charm, however, and I can’t help but feel that something has been lost.

I attended the game with engaged friends Chris and Rebecca.  Rebecca is very Wisconsin, right down to the weird pronunciation of short “a” (as in “class”; those of you who know folks from between Chicago and Green Bay know exactly the sound I’m talking about).  Both are baseball fans–Rebecca talked about joining Safety Patrol during her childhood in Wauwatosa just so she could get the free Brewer tickets that were the major perk of the job, and Chris ably manned the scorebook duties when I went for a walk around the park.  We sat underneath the overhang, a little bit behind first base, to watch a bad Brewer team get beat in a close game.

Rebecca showed a little alarm at the kinds of things I would yell…back in my youth, when I was with friends, I sometimes would yell things at my least favorite ballplayers (anybody who doesn’t hustle or any power hitter hitting under .200, like, in this game, Tom Brunansky).  “I HAVE VERY LITTLE FAITH IN YOU,” I shouted when Bruno came to bat with the bases loaded…Texas had walked Greg Vaughn to get to him, and wouldn’t you too?  In the years since, I have decided that the price of admission does not give me license to verbally abuse people.  Even a .179-hitting cleanup hitter.  They’re people too.  Rebecca would give me a shocked look when I shouted, then laugh in spite of herself.

But then, I’ve spent most of my life saying inappropriate things to Rebecca.  It’s a nice arrangement:  I say something astonishingly inappropriate to Rebecca, and in exchange, Rebecca laughs very hard for a long, long time, often punctuating it with “Oh, man!”  I swear she’ll laugh at things I say that, if somebody else were saying them, she’d make a citizens’ arrest on them.  That, and Chris’s bemused looks at our behavior, form the basis for a pair of incredibly valued 10-year friendships.

I missed an inning to look for a guy who I think was named Wayne or Ray Zumwalt.  I was feeling all smug about what a stud I was for going to 11 ballparks that summer, when Wayne or Ray, who clearly has a whole lot of money, a month off, and a personal assistant, decided to go to all 30 ballparks…in thirty days.  We crossed paths in Milwaukee.  I know because they put his name on the scoreboard…but when I went out to look for him (asking ushers, mostly), I had no success.  Ray or Wayne…way to go.  If I ever find I have more money than I know what to do with, or if I can find a sponsor, and an understanding date to get on all those planes with me, I may follow in your footsteps.


Juan Gonzalez hits a game-winning eighth-inning home run off of James Austin.

Tom Brunansky pops out to short with two out and the bases loaded.

No Brewer home runs, so I didn’t get to see Bernie Brewer slide into the suds.

(Written August 2001.  Updated July 2005.)