The most cheerful thing about last week's All-Star Game in Milwaukee was the city of Milwaukee itself. The city named each year as the site of baseball's big game is chosen according to a rather ramshackle order of succession and not, usually, for any particular merit in the actual year of selection. Baseball players are chosen that way, but not cities. Nevertheless, Milwaukee managed to convey the impression that it was picked as host for this year's All-Star Game because it was, on its record, the best of all possible choices for the honor.
For Milwaukee is a baseball town, by far the best in the major leagues. Baseball there is part of the civic personality, just as theaters are in New York, and motion pictures are in Los Angeles and culture used to be in Boston. It's as personal a part of the town as beer, and the Milwaukee Braves are, with the breweries, part of Milwaukee's civic pride.
Milwaukeeans don't really act foolish about the Braves. But they are fond of them. And there are some things that ring of midsummer madness: a fan or two with a clanking cowbell or a shrieking siren, an occasional automobile with " Milwaukee Braves" written in reflecting tape across the bumper, an advertisement in a gasoline station with a postscript: "Go get 'em, Braves!" There is also at least one big welcome-to-the-city sign that refers to Milwaukee as "the land of the free and the home of the Braves."
But this is just fun. Under it and over it and beyond it is the impressive fact that everywhere you go people talk baseball. Baseball, like the weather, is part of the atmosphere. It serves to make going to a baseball game a real pleasure.
You could feel this in County Stadium during the All-Star Game. There was red-white-and-blue bunting on the fences, and a band playing, and hundreds of reporters and photographers assembled from all over the country. Here and there were celebrities hanging on the fringe of the crowd. It was just like the first game of a World Series, but with one major exception: the crowd knew its baseball.
You know how a World Series crowd is. Tickets seem to find their way into special hands. Many of the people who end up at the game are pleasant enough, but they tend to be sedate and neither knowing nor excited. They act as if all this were interesting and probably important, but they never seem quite sure what to cheer for.
Well, at Milwaukee last week the crowd was pleasant enough too, but it was not sedate (it was loudly pro-National League and anti-Baseball Writer, particularly those writers who were blocking the view of home plate during batting practice). It knew precisely what to cheer for and did so vigorously. You've probably heard that Milwaukee crowds are "Ladies Day crowds," meaning that they'll cheer wildly and indiscriminately at anything, even foul balls. Don't be misled. This crowd yelled with unrestrained enthusiasm but, except for some disproportionately loud cheers for the Milwaukee players, they yelled at the right places and for the right things. It was a knowing, enthusiastic baseball crowd and it certainly helped to make the game the success it was.
Perhaps it was the crowd that was responsible for another cheerful thing: the fun the players themselves seemed to get out of the game. Many respected authorities, including our own Red Smith (SI, July 11), hold to a theory that the All-Star Game is a dreary duty for everybody but the fans, that the ballplayers just go through the motions and can't wait for the thing to be over. This has been true in the past and may be true again in the future, but it wasn't last week.
"I tell you, they were like college kids," Leo Durocher said in the clubhouse after the game. "Yelling and jumping up and down the bench. They wanted to win. They weren't fooling around." He spoke for the National League, but the American League was equally keyed up.