A Discussion with Sean Kane

Your average fan uses a baseball glove to, you know, catch baseballs. Sean Kane uses them to create amazing pieces of art.

For more than fifteen years, Sean Kane has been creating one-of-a-kind painted glove pieces that have earned him national recognition and a sizable following which includes many of the players he features. It all started in 2001 with a trip to spring training.

“The first glove had bright, playful images on it: a guy eating a giant ballpark hot dog, a pennant with ‘Play Ball’ on it, a ‘Hit it Here’ target and on the inside, a ball diamond scene with players and stadium,” Kane said.

“I left one painted finger on the glove blank where I hoped to get Tony Gwynn’s autograph. As luck would have it, I wasn’t there 5 minutes, walked up to a batting cage, and there was Tony talking to fans. I showed the glove to him, he laughed and said it was cool and he signed right where I imagined he would.”

From there, Kane began creating pieces that showcased his love of baseball stories, baseball graphics, and old baseball gloves. The process can be tedious and time-consuming, but the results are well worth the effort, both for Sean and his patrons. The first step is to acquire the appropriate glove.

Sean Kane Baseball Artist“I aim for gloves from the era to be represented, for the position the player played and for the hand they wore their glove on,” says Kane. “For my recent painting of Lou Gehrig, it took a few years to find a 1920s/30s first base mitt for a lefty, similar to a buckle-back glove I’ve seen a picture of him wearing. The glove is my little time machine, adding another layer to the story being told.”

“I then stare at the glove for what seems ages, looking for the spots where I can apply design and portrait elements. Each glove is unique in this way, with various creases to be avoided and sweet spots for portraits, etc., which complicates the creative process compared to working on a traditional canvas but also adds to my excitement at the possibilities.”


Kane spends hours poring over old photos, statistics, and career highlights, looking for just the right things to include. With limited space on each glove, sometimes deciding what to cut out is the most difficult part.

“I don’t always succeed with the ‘less is more’ approach –I’ve done some which seem like the back of a baseball card crammed with info. The editing process is a big part of the design decision-making, for sure,” says Kane.  “I try to highlight just enough info about the player to tell a simple story — enough meat on the bone for the casual fan to be interested and the big fan to have a jumping off point for their own stories about the player.”

Sean Kane Baseball ArtistThat’s the key to Kane’s work. Because the gloves often don’t depict a specific moment in time, viewing them on display can mean different things to different people. His Hank Aaron glove may elicit memories of the 1957 World Series to one person and memories of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record or getting an autograph as a kid to another. There are notable exceptions. Last fall, Sean unveiled a two-glove set to commemorate Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. But many of his pieces are celebrations of the player or players depicted. Sometimes it’s an entire team, and that can present its own issues.

Sean Kane Baseball Art“The painting featuring the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers was probably my most challenging,” Kane says. “Since it was featuring an entire team, I wanted to include the entire team, at least by name. Doing so in a way that wouldn’t be a total visual mess was tough and the five portraits wearing pinstripes were very tiny and difficult to paint. I’m pretty proud of that one.”

In the future, Sean will continue to do commissioned work, but he’s also researching stories and acquiring gloves for two different projects. One focuses on Indiana-related baseball history for an upcoming exhibit, and the other will feature Japanese ball players who have made a recent impact on the game in the U.S.

About Sean:

Sean’s paintings have been featured on ESPN. com, NBC Sports. com and MLB Network Radio and reside in the permanent collection of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, The National Pastime Museum, and private collections across the U.S. His paintings have been commissioned by the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Camp and have assisted in fundraising efforts for several charities. Glove paintings have been exhibited at The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and West Virginia University.

Sean Kane Baseball ArtistSean has been a professional artist for over 20 years, creating art for big hitters in the publishing and corporate worlds including The New York Times, Amazon. com, The Wall Street Journal, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Charles Schwab, and Target Stores, among others. He’s a Chicago native now residing near Toronto with his wife and two Little Leaguers. He is a graduate of Butler University and attended Herron School of Art.

Sean was recognized as an ‘Artist of the Month’ by the National Art Museum of Sport in 2016.

For more information, including a look at more of his work, please visit SeanKaneBaseballArt.com

(Mark) Clear as Mud

Not many guys can go from getting seriously knocked around in the Appy League to becoming a Major League All-Star in less than five years, but that’s exactly what Mark Clear did.

Clear was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 8th round in 1974 and spent his first professional summer with the Pulaski Phillies of the Appalachian League. To say it didn’t go well would be a gross understatement.

The 1974 Pulaski Phillies were, to be blunt, terrible. They finished the season with an 18-50 record, led the league in errors and passed balls and their team E.R.A. was 6.07, nearly a run-and-a-half higher than the next closest team.

The manager of this crew was a man named Frank Wren, who had recently left a very successful career as a college coach at Ohio University, where he had helped Mike Schmidt become an All-American. He had to be wondering what he had gotten himself into.

A Clear Problem

If the Pulaski had the worst pitching staff in the Appy League that season, Mark Clear was one of the reasons why. In fourteen appearances, Clear went 0-7 with an 8.65 ERA. He gave up 69 runs (49 earned) in 51 innings while allowing 71 hits, 43 walks and hitting 11 batters. He also threw six wild pitches. He was just 18 at the time, but it wasn’t a great way to begin your professional baseball career. The Phillies felt so too, and on April 2nd, 1975, less than a year after he was drafted, they released him.

Like a Phoenix

Mark ClearBut the California Angels saw something they thought they could work with, signed Clear as a free-agent in June and moved him to the bullpen. It worked. In the rookie Pioneer League, Mark Clear shaved more the six runs off his E.R.A. in 13 appearances. There were still a few rough patches on his ascent, but on April 4th, 1979, four years and two days after being released by the Phillies, Clear made his major league debut and threw two and one-third scoreless innings against the Seattle Mariners. Four days later, he got his first win. He would win eleven games in 1979, make the All-Star team, and finish third in the Rookie of the Year balloting behind John Castino and Alfredo Griffin.

Eleven Seasons

Mark Clear ended up spending eleven seasons in the major leagues with California, Boston and Milwaukee, compiling a 71-49 record and winning a career-high 14 games with the Red Sox in 1982. He’s a reminder to athletes to never give up and a reminder to teams not to give up too soon on athletes.



Cecil Cooper and the Forgotten Summer of 1980

Like the character in the movie Airplane!, who picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Cecil Cooper picked the wrong season to have a career year.

Like Jan exclaiming, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” on The Brady Bunch, Cooper was well within his rights to exclaim, “Brett, Brett, Brett!” That’s what happens when you have the best season of your career in the same summer someone else has one of the best seasons ever.


Cecil Cooper
Coop got not respect

George Brett’s 1980 season was simply amazing, but Cecil Cooper put up numbers that likely would have won him the MVP in any other year. While Brett, and some of his teammates, were complaining about all the attention he was getting, Cooper was getting frustrated by the lack of attention he was getting.

“It’s my tough luck that the man’s having a hellacious year,” Cooper said. “But what can I do? All I can do is go out there and keep doing what I’m doing.”

What he was doing was very impressive. On September 1st, while newspapers across the country were running daily updates on Brett’s chase for .400, Cooper was quietly batting .359. The Royals hosted the Brewers for a three-game series at the beginning of the month and Cooper outhit Brett, going 5-12 in a Brewers sweep while Brett went 3-9. But the numbers that mattered were the batting averages and Brett finished the series at .401 to Cooper’s .360.

What Does a Guy Have to Do?

Cooper wasn’t bitter, nor was he jealous. “I wish George every ounce of luck,” he said. “The guy is hitting more than .400 and that’s terrific.” It just seemed that no matter what he did, George Brett was the story.

“I read the paper, ‘Ah, Coop got two hits and it’s no big deal,” he said. “As if to say I’m supposed to do that, I’m expected to do that. It just seems like nobody gives a (bleep), you know?”

“I’m not complaining. I’m obligated to go out and play, but it does bother me a bit. I mean, if I was in L.A. and having this kind of year, I’d be a celebrity. But then maybe I couldn’t handle that either. As long as my teammates and the fans here know what kind of year I’m having, I have to take satisfaction in that and keep doing my job.”

The Final Tally

Cecil CooperCecil Cooper finished the 1980 season with a .352 batting average, good for 2nd overall in the major leagues. He was 2nd in hits (219) and total bases (335). He led the big leagues in RBI with 122, won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award. His .352 average would have been tops in the major leagues in 12 of the previous 20 seasons. He finished 5th in the A.L. MVP voting.

“If I put the stats together, it’ll come,” he said. “It might come two years later than you expect it, but it’ll come.”


Brewer Bombers

It took the Milwaukee Brewers all of 11 innings to assert themselves as one of the top offensive teams of the early 1980s. After beating the Boston Red Sox 9-5 on Opening Day of the 1980 season, they treated their fans to an offensive explosion in the second game of the new decade.

When Mike Torrez took the mound in the bottom of the 2nd inning on April 12th he was trailing 2-0 and he had only himself to blame. His two first-inning errors were key in Milwaukee grabbing an early lead, but what happened next was the stuff of nightmares.

The Carnage Begins

Robin Yount led off the inning with a single and then stole 2nd. Catcher Buck Martinez walked and Paul Molitor laid down a bunt single down the third base line. The fact that there were no outs in the 2nd inning and Molitor had already reached base twice in the game was a sure sign it wasn’t going to be Torrez’s day.

Cecil Cooper stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and unloaded on a Torrez offering. His grand slam gave the Brewers a 6-0 lead and ended Torrez’s afternoon.

His line:


Then it got worse.

Chuck Rainey relieved Torrez and walked Larry Hisle. Ben Oglivie doubled and Gorman Thomas struck out. Milwaukee had two on with one out and Sixto Lezcano at the plate, whose sac fly in the 1st inning gave the Brewers their second run. Boston manager Don Zimmer decided to walk the left-handed-hitting Lezcano to set up a righty/righty matchup with Don Money with the bases loaded. A ground ball would get the Red Sox out of the inning with minimal damage.

But instead, Money hit the 2nd grand slam of the inning and the Brewers had a 10-0 lead. They also weren’t finished. Four pitches later, Yount homered off Rainey to make it a nine-run inning.

“My first granny and my first back-to-back jobs in the majors,” Rainey told the Boston Globe after the game. “I’d rather it be in a 6-0 cause than a close game, but I still don’t like it.”

The Carnage Continues

Milwaukee scored two more in the 5th inning off Rainey and an early-season blowout seemed like a good time for the big league debut of Boston’s top pitching prospect Bruce Hurst. The Brewers proved to be rude hosts once again. Yount walked to lead off the inning and Martinez flew out to center. Then Molitor singled to bring up Cooper with two on. In what would be his finest season, Cooper came through again, doubling to right field to score Molitor. Two batters later, Oglivie singled to score Molitor and Cooper before Gorman Thomas capped the afternoon with a two-run homer to make the score 18-1.

Zimmer called the loss an embarrassment but Fred Lynn took it in stride. “We’ve got to shore up our defensive secondary,” joked Lynn. “They’re bombing us.”

After two games, the Brewers were on pace to hit 729 homers and 243 grand slams while the Red Sox were on pace to allow 2,187 runs. The numbers didn’t quite hold up, but Milwaukee did lead all of baseball with 203 longballs in 1980.

“I’d always said that I’d never seen a team as awesome offensively as the one we had in Boston in ’77,” said Boston pitcher Reggie Cleveland. “But I’ve changed my mind. This team is.”




Gorman Texas Ranger

“They know when to cheer and they know when to boo. And then know when to drink beer. They do it all the time.” –Gorman Thomas on Brewers fans

There are players who will always be associated with certain franchises. Gorman Thomas is one of those players. He spent time in Cleveland and Seattle, but Gorman will always be a Brewer.

One thing I didn’t realize until recently is that, for a brief time, Gorman Thomas was a Texas Ranger.

Thomas was a first-round draft pick in 1969 but he hadn’t been able to put it together at the major league level. He struggled in his first four seasons, hitting just .193 in 668 at-bats. By 1977, there were indications that Thomas may be the classic AAAA player. Too good for AAA but not good enough for the big leagues. He spent the entire season at AAA Spokane, where he hit .322 with 36 homers and 114 RBI. No one doubted his power but there were questions about his batting average and his propensity to strike out a lot. Then something strange happend.

On August 20th of 1977, the Texas Rangers were in a pennant race and needed to clear a roster spot to call up pitcher Len Barker, so they swapped Ed Kirkpatrick to the Brewers for a player to be named later.

Kirkpatrick served the Brewers well, batting .273 in 29 games but the timing of the move was odd. Why would the Brewers acquire a 16-year vet with a .188 batting average when they were 21 games off the pace? It wasn’t the kind of deal a team makes with an eye on the future.

Player to Be Named Later

“The Milwaukee Brewers officially gave up on Gorman Thomas Tuesday when they sent the once highly promising outfielder to the Texas Rangers.”

-Green Bay Press-Gazette ·  Oct 26, 1977

If trading for Ed Kirkpatrick in August en route to a 95 loss season didn’t make much sense, then sending a prospect, albeit struggling one, to complete the deal made even less sense.

Adding to the intrigue was that Thomas didn’t ever hear from the Rangers until December. “You always hear these stories about being traded. It was my first time and I didn’t hear a thing,” he said. “No ‘Good-Bye, it’s been nice knowing you’ or ‘Hello, it’s nice to see you.’ I felt like a batboy being switched around.”

Be that as it may, the Rangers had to be excited to get a young player with so much potential. Thomas was poised to put up big numbers in the Texas outfield for years to come. The Rangers were so happy to have Thomas that they went out and traded for Al Oliver, Bobby Bonds and Richie Zisk. By the beginning of February, the Rangers roster boasted eleven outfielders. Something was fishy.

No Place Like Home

As it turned out, Thomas’ stay in Texas was a short one. In February of 1978, the Rangers sold him back to Milwaukee. Immediately there were rumors of a side deal which were denied by both sides.

“I heard from (Texas general manager) Dan O’Brien that the Rangers were having trouble signing him and that their outfield situation had changed, ” said Brewers GM Harry Dalton, who wasn’t with Milwaukee when the original deal was made. “I don’t know anything about any arrangements when Thomas went to Texas.”

Gorman Thomas
Once a Brewer, always a Brewer

Back in Milwaukee, Gorman Thomas was a changed man. A Sporting News feature in spring training of 1978 noted that he was a lot more serious. He got married to a Milwaukee girl and had settled down.

Maybe it was the trade, maybe it was getting married or maybe it was maturing. Whatever it was, Thomas finally broke through.  After hitting .193 with 22 homers in his first four seasons with the Brewers, Thomas hit .246 with 32 homers in 1978.  He followed that up by becoming one of the top power hitters in the American League.



That Time I Wrote George Bamberger

Note: This is a guest post from Christopher Zantow

I grew up in Wisconsin as a Milwaukee Brewers fan, but when I first started following the team in the mid-70’s, they were nothing to write home about.  I probably started paying attention when Hank Aaron decided to do his two-year farewell tour with the Brewers.  Beyond Hammerin’ Hank, they had a young kid named Robin Yount that didn’t quite look like he was ready for prime time just yet.

But everything changed in late 1977 when Bud Selig stepped in and cleaned house.  Newspapers called his actions “The Saturday Night Massacre.”  It sounded like a horror flick – but after all, he did axe the general manager, manager, and the entire coaching staff.  Selig hired Harry Dalton as GM, and in turn, Dalton hired George Bamberger to manage the club.  Suddenly fans had hope for something resembling a .500 team in 1978.  We were all about to be pleasantly surprised at what Dalton and Bamberger could do with our Brew Crew.

George Bamberger watches <a rel=

George Bamberger was different than previous managers and had higher aspirations than finishing 81-81.  Guys who came before him like Alex Grammas and Del Crandall also had long baseball careers, but Bambi was the pitching coach of the Baltimore Orioles for 10 years.  Yup – for the team that won a hatful of pennants and the 1970 World Series.  He turned the Milwaukee pitching staff around and it helped that his hitters started slugging homers and driving in runs like crazy.

You can well imagine the state of Wisconsin went nuts for “Bambi’s Bombers” after years of baseball futility.  My friends and I dug the team and got a huge kick out of watching Bamberger run things with that huge smile.  He fit in with Brewers fans too – especially since he was known to stop off at post-game tailgate parties in the County Stadium parking lot.

Spring Heart Attack

After proving the Crew could contend in the tough AL East with 95 wins in 1979, we all got ready for another great year in 1980.  Bamberger had a heart attack in spring training that March and wasn’t going to be around for the season opener.  He had a bypass surgery, was going to be hospitalized for a while, and it was expected he wouldn’t make it back into the dugout until June.

bambiLocal newspapers published where fans could write and wish Bamberger well.  I kept a Brewers scrapbook in 1979-80 that somehow survives to this day, and I was able to locate that article plus some updates as Bamberger recovered.  I remember asking my parents if I should write Bamberger, even though I figured he’d never see my letter.  But they said that I should write and help cheer Bambi up (although they probably thought he’d never see the letter either).

I have no idea exactly what I wrote, but I’m sure I wished Bambi well in recovering and coming back to the team.  I know for sure I didn’t ask for an autograph, so I was absolutely shocked a few weeks later when a photo arrived in the mail, complete with a message and signature.

bambi-photoBamberger thanked the “thousands of fans that wrote me” after his hospital release.  He also joked that “I’ve been cleared to drink all the beer I want.”  He went on to say that it wasn’t so much the beer itself that was a problem – it was the calories in the beer!

The eleven-year-old me learned that George Bamberger truly was a class act, and I’ve treasured that photo and memory ever since.


ABOUT CHRISTOPHER ZANTOW: By day, Chris is a writer of training and resource materials.  By night he’s finishing edits on a historical book about the Milwaukee Brewers. The book covers the backstory of eventsthat led to the Braves moving to Atlanta, and Bud Selig’s fight to bring baseball back to Milwaukee through numerous setbacks and disappointments and the early years of the new Milwaukee franchise. He blogs about the Brewers and can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

That Time I Met Sixto Lezcano

Note: This is a guest post from Christopher Zantow

I grew up watching Sixto Lezcano patrol the outfield for the Milwaukee Brewers in the late 1970’s.  My Dad started to take me to games at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1978 and liked to sit along the first base line, so we often got to see Sixto make a great defensive play close up.  He quickly became my favorite player on a team of stars.  I really wanted to meet him and get an autograph, but as a child it never happened, despite me trying to get into the front row of the box seats where he’d occasionally sign stuff before games.

My Dad took me to the concession stand at one of the games we attended and told me to pick out a souvenir.  I really wanted a Sixto Lezcano poster, and that notion totally shocked Dad.  I think he assumed I’d get either the Paul Molitor or Robin Yount poster.  Sixto’s poster did have the pre-signed stamped autograph at the bottom, so it did look reasonably legit.  He graced my wall for a few years until I got “too cool” for that sort of thing and rock band posters went up in his place.

Lezcano and Cooper
Sixto won a Gold Glove in 1979

Most kids try to imitate their baseball heroes at bat.  I didn’t try to imitate Sixto at the plate.  Instead, I did my best to play like him in the outfield.  It was hard to hold a candle to his energy though.  The one thing I could imitate was Brewers PA announcer Bob Betts when Sixto came to bat: “Right fielder Sixxxxxxtooooooo Lezcaaaannnnoooooooo!!!”

Hitting grand slams on Opening Day is the stuff of legend, and Sixto did it in 1978 and 1980 to set a major league record.  He had already hit a homer earlier in the 1980 opener before he delivered the walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning.  The image of him on TV circling the bases with his arms outstretched over his head is etched forever in my mind.  I often think of that moment when I hear today’s players brag about how hard they play the game.  It just seemed like a natural thing for Sixto Lezcano, and not something he talked about too much.  If you don’t remember how good he could be, go back and look at his 1979 stats when he finished in the top ten of a lot of offensive categories and won a gold glove.  Hard to argue with 28 homers, 101 RBI’s, and a .321 batting average.

Sixto Lezcano
Lezcano spent his first 7 years in the big leagues with the Brewers

Naturally I was bummed when Sixto was traded after the 1980 season, but couldn’t complain when the package brought Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich, and Rollie Fingers to Milwaukee.  Sixto became one of the few ex-Brewers that I followed and continued to root for throughout his career.  Unfortunately, the injuries that started up in Milwaukee before he was traded continued to plague him for the remainder of his time in the big leagues.  After his playing days ended I lost track of him (it was the pre-internet age) but always figured he’d make a good coach.  Later on when I had internet and could look him up, I found out he had in fact gone into coaching.  But I never gave meeting him a second thought – at least until 2007 when he came to Miller Park for “Cerveceros Day.”

The Brewers had started the special Hispanic heritage day a couple seasons earlier, and usually brought a former player to Miller Park that could be part of the celebration.  The team wears their alternate Cerveceros (Brewers in Spanish) jerseys for the game and there is often a promotional giveaway.  It just so happened to be a Chorizo (racing sausage) Bobblehead giveaway to tie in with the heritage day.  By chance I had tickets for the game that I purchased well before the promotional schedule came out.   I actually didn’t find out Sixto was the guest of honor until the day of the game, so I had no time to get his poster out of storage (yup – still have it to this day!) and try to get a “real” signature on it.

I made sure to be there in time to see Sixto participate in the pre-game ceremony on the field.  He was available in the lower level concourse after that for free autographs through the end of the first inning.  I saw the line earlier when I headed to my seat and decided to wait it out and watch the first half inning, hoping the line would go down.

Sixto Lezcano autographBy the time I got out to the autograph table the line had really gone down – and most of the inning had been played.  Some of the security people were trying to move things along and were prompting Sixto to wrap things up.  I had a ball for him to sign but instead wound up with a player card, which was fine and still made my day.  I at least got to tell Sixto thanks for a lot of great memories and snapped a photo of him before one of the security people blocked me out.  The person behind me got the last autograph.  Security led Sixto away and headed upstairs.  I assumed he was going to spend the second inning on the air with Bob Uecker – which is pretty much a given anytime an old school player returns to Milwaukee.

Despite the themed day, the Chorizo did not win the sausage race.  The Brew Crew won the game by a 4-3 score and had a 51-40 record after the victory.  The pennant race was heating up and the Brewers found themselves in first place at that point of the season.  All of that was secondary to me as I finally got to meet the first baseball player I really looked up to – Sixto Lezcano.

Have you met one of your baseball heroes from the 1980s? I want to hear about it! Click here for details and tell me your story.

ABOUT CHRISTOPHER ZANTOW: By day, Chris is a writer of training and resource materials.  By night he’s finishing edits on a historical book about the Milwaukee Brewers. The book covers the backstory of events that led to the Braves moving to Atlanta, and Bud Selig’s fight to bring baseball back to Milwaukee through numerous setbacks and disappointments and the early years of the new Milwaukee franchise. He blogs about the Brewers and can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

That Time I Met Robin Yount

Note: This is a guest post from Christopher Zantow

I feel fortunate to have grown up in what many consider to be the greatest era of Milwaukee Brewers baseball:  1978-82.  My Dad first started taking me to games in 1978 and loved to sit along the first base side of Milwaukee County Stadium in the lower box seats.  From there I could try to rush to the front of the railing in an attempt to get autographs before the games.

In the late 70’s Ray Fosse and Jerry Augustine signed baseballs for me.  Unfortunately both autographs have been lost to time, having been signed with a blue pen!  I pretty much freaked out when I met Fosse and Augie on the railing, not knowing what to say.  I just remember blurting out, “Thanks Mister Fosse!  Thanks Mister Augustine!”  At least I was polite.

As time went on and the team got better and ultimately wound up in the ’82 World Series, the more difficult it became to meet any players along the railing.  Crowds were huge and kids had a harder time getting around adults that shoved their way to the front.  I was left simply dreaming of meeting my favorite players such as Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Rollie Fingers, Pete Vuckovich, Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Don Sutton, and Ben Oglivie (and pretty much the rest of the team).

I grew up and little by little all those players retired from the game.  I’d occasionally see a public appearance listed somewhere, but most of the time something got in the way of me attending the event.  Somehow I managed to miss finding out about the 1982 25th anniversary player meet and greet in Milwaukee until it was too late.  Argh!

Time Goes By

In early 2009 I was dating my now wife and she lived close to the Wisconsin/Illinois border.  There is a huge mall in northern Illinois called Gurnee Mills.  We were there shopping and I found out about an upcoming appearance by Robin Yount.   A sports memorabilia shop called Legends of the Field was hosting the event, so it was buy a ticket based on the amount of the souvenir you wanted Robin to sign.  I’ve never been one to go that route but thought I should go for it because other opportunities to meet him had been slim.

It was a winter event and of course in the Midwest that means not much thought is given to baseball.  The line was long and I remember being split into levels of how much money you spent on the souvenir.  I had a hard time deciding what to buy but chose the Sports Illustrated cover with Robin on it from the 1982 World Series.  It was another piece of baseball history that I once owned that had since been lost to time – probably misplaced during one of several moves in my adult life.

Rockin Robin

Robin came out looking fit as ever, and probably could have suited up for the Brew Crew that season.  He was in his mid-50’s at the time, but you’d never have known it.  Robin’s “The Kid” nickname was still appropriate as he still flashed the big grin and had the gleam in his eyes from his playing days.

Robin Yount and Christopher Zantow
Robin Yount looks like he could still go 3-4

Even though my future wife wasn’t getting anything signed, the Legends staff was nice enough to let her go through the line with me and snap a photo of me shaking Robin’s hand.  When it was my turn with “The Kid” I kept it pretty simple, and just thanked him for a lot of baseball memories while I was growing up.  I asked for a photo and he said he’d love to do that, so we shook hands across the table.  He was even nice enough to ask afterward if the photo turned out or if we needed to take another one.   I managed to keep my composure and didn’t blurt out “Thanks Mister Yount” like I was a kid again.

1982 All Over Again

But where I was a kid again was in that moment, as it took me back to when I just turned 14 and the Brewers were driving to the World Series.  Meeting Robin Yount was a special time that helped bring all those childhood memories back for me.  Rockin’ Robin was kind and cordial just like everyone always claimed.

Robin Yount autographGetting a certificate of authenticity afterward was nice, but I don’t really need it.  This autograph won’t be lost to time like the others, plus I now have a great memory of meeting the guy who brought so much happiness to thousands of Brewers fans.  I grinned just like “The Kid” for days after meeting him.

Have you met one of your baseball heroes from the 1980s? I want to hear about it! Click here for details and tell me your story.


ABOUT CHRISTOPHER ZANTOW: By day, Chris is a writer of training and resource materials.  By night he’s finishing edits on a historical book about the Milwaukee Brewers. The book covers the backstory of events that led to the Braves moving to Atlanta, and Bud Selig’s fight to bring baseball back to Milwaukee through numerous setbacks and disappointments and the early years of the new Milwaukee franchise. He blogs about the Brewers and can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Tinker Tailor Pitcher Spy

George Bamberger took over as the Brewers manager prior to the 1978 season after serving as a pitching coach under Earl Weaver in Baltimore from 1968 through 1977. A baseball lifer, “Bambi” won 213 games in the minor leagues between 1946 and 1963, which included an impressive 1958 streak of 68 and 2/3 consecutive innings without issuing a walk while a member of the Vancouver Mounties.

Perhaps his most memorable outing as a Mountie came in a 1962 game against the Tacoma Giants when his uniform was fitted with a small radio receiver. While he was on the mound, Vancouver manager Jack McKeon gave Bamberger instructions, including pitch location and when to throw to first base for pickoffs. The experiment proved unsuccessful, in part because the signal from a local radio station bled through and at times instead of hearing McKeon, Bamberger heard Connie Francis tunes. On another occasion, McKeon gave Bamberger instructions to throw to first for a pickoff. But since he hadn’t been looking at the runner, the first baseman wasn’t ready and the throw hit him in the chest.

George Bamber
Cartoon from Montreal Gazette

Seemingly an act of baseball espionage, the radio incident was undertaken with the knowledge and blessing of the Pacific Coast League as part of a plan to speed up games by eliminating trips to the mound.  The PCL may have known about the radio, but the Giants didn’t. Manager Red Davis didn’t find out about until he read about it in the newspaper.

“I never suspected a thing, and neither did my boys,” said Davis. “A lot of runs will always win a baseball game, but this gimmick will be nice to try.”