February 3, 2023

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These are the Brewers' best traditions

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This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

If only the Brewers would start having some fun, right?

The “Ballplayer Bell” has been a lot of fun since it appeared at the end of the dugout in time for Rowdy Tellez to break the club record with eight RBIs in last week’s 18-run romp over the Reds. Willy Adames has already broken the bell twice. Equipment manager Jason Shawger was sure to pack it carefully for the trip to Atlanta.

It made me think about the other trinkets and traditions in Brewers history. Surely I’m forgetting some — drop me an email if I missed your favorite.

BERNIE’S SLIDE
The Brewers’ original home run celebration was inspired by a real person, Milt Mason, who lived atop the County Stadium scoreboard for 40 days in 1970 until the fledgling Brewers drew a crowd of 40,000 and he slid down a rope, rather badly burning his hands in the process. Starting in ‘73, mustachioed Bernie Brewer slid from his chalet atop the bleachers into a beer stein after every Brewers home run. For the record, the first slide celebrated a homer by infielder Pedro Garcia. In 1984, Bernie was evicted when the Brewers rebuilt the bleachers, but he returned by popular demand in 1993, the same year the Racing Sausages came to life.

THE CHEESEHEAD
According to Cheese Culture Magazine (I’m serious), the foam cheesehead hats were created in 1987 and took off in popularity after Brewers outfielder Rick Manning was photographed wearing one in the dugout. Manning took to “awarding” a cheesehead to any batter who struck out three times in a game — a hat trick, get it? — and forcing the recipient to wear it around the clubhouse for a day. That’s one way to encourage putting the ball in play.

GUMBY’S HELMET
Robin Yount and Paul Molitor were the stars, but in many ways Jim Gantner epitomized the heart of the Brewers’ teams in the 1980s. After Gantner suffered a season-ending knee injury on Yankee Marcus Lawton’s hard slide into second base in August 1989, the Brewers placed Gantner’s helmet on top of a Gatorade cooler in the dugout for the rest of the season to commemorate his loss, according to former front office official Mario Ziino.

GUS THE WONDER DOG
On top of a losing record in 1993, the Brewers were troubled by a flock of seagulls making itself at home on the field at County Stadium during games. They tried everything from blasting music through that glorious speaker tower in center field to enlisting the crowd to try to startle the birds, but to no avail. So, they called upon Alexander Augustus “Gus” III — a yellow lab who was a lucky charm from the start. The Brewers trounced the Yankees in the canine’s Major League debut and Bob Uecker gets credit for dubbing him, “Gus the Wonder Dog.”

THE RALLY RABBIT
Tough times call for … something. The Rally Rabbit was certainly something, starting as a scoreboard feature in the early days at Miller Park and then graduating to bona fide mascot status in 2003. There are shockingly few images on the Internet of Mr. Rabbit, so if you’re sitting on one at home, let’s see it. Here’s one.

BEAST MODE
Prince Fielder’s kids loved the animated film “Monsters, Inc.” featuring a fuzzy blue character named Sulley. A Sulley doll appeared in the clubhouse and traveled with the players, who took to raising their arms in the air to celebrate big hits in what outfielder Nyjer Morgan and others dubbed, “Beast Mode.” There have been several similar variations since, from Lorenzo Cain’s “Show Me Some Love” in 2018 to Manny Piña’s “Claws Up” in 2021.

THE GAUNTLET
The Brewers tied for the National League lead in home runs in 2017 and celebrated them with the “Home Run Gauntlet,” often featuring shortstop Orlando Arcia jumping in the air and bumping forearms with the man who’d just gone deep. So popular was the tradition that it achieved baseball’s highest form of honor the following season: A bobblehead giveaway.

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