Fans give Brewers a rousing send-off at pep rally
Wearing everything from throwback jerseys to wild-card T-shirts while waving white towels and chanting, “Let’s go, Brewers,” fans jammed the Miller Lite Oasis at the Summerfest grounds to cheer on the Crew before the team left for Philadelphia, bound for a first-round matchup with the Phillies that begins Wednesday afternoon.
The Brewers said 14,188 people attended the rally.
The crowd roared as the Brewers took the stage about 5:15 p.m., the fans releasing 26 years of pent-up frustration capped by one final month of nerve-rattling baseball.
“We know it took a long time to get here, and we don’t want to wait this long again,” said Doug Melvin, the team’s general manager, just before the players took turns addressing the fans.
The fans reserved their loudest cheers for -- surprise, surprise -- CC Sabathia and Ryan Braun.
As Braun took the microphone, fans chanted, “MVP, MVP.”
They got even louder when Sabathia said he would start Game 2 on Thursday.
Brewers closer Salomon Torres continued working the crowd into a frenzy when he took his turn at the microphone.
“What’s up, Milwaukee?” he yelled. “I said, what’s up Milwaukee? Twenty-six years you’ve been waiting. Twenty-six years! You can wait no more!”
After thanking Brewers fans for their support, Torres acknowledged that the road to the playoffs wasn’t a smooth one.
“I know it’s been a very, very hard season for all of us,” he said. “At times, a lot of people thought, ’We’re not going to make it.’ ”
Torres paused. The crowd rumbled.
“But we’re here!” he yelled. The crowd erupted.
“We’re going all the way,” said Joe Roamer, 43, of Milwaukee, who was a senior at Mukwonago High School in 1982, the last time the Brewers made the playoffs. “We’re peaking at the right time. There’s a reason it came down to the wire. It’s destiny.”
The rally had the feel of a giant tailgate party. Many fans stocked up on Brewers playoff gear, while others tossed baseballs to Melvin and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, who signed the balls and tossed them back from their perch on a pavilion above the crowd before joining the team onstage.
Three former Brewers from the 1982 team -- Jerry Augustine, Jim Gantner and Gorman Thomas -- got big cheers when they were introduced, and Robin Yount received an ovation as he waved from a TV tent. The fans saluted Bob Uecker with a long, low call: “Y-o-o-o-o-k.”
The crowd wasn’t as excited to see Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett or Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.
Cal Levaughn, 48, a lifelong Brewers fan, said he was thrilled with the turnout for the rally.
“I didn’t expect (this many people). I really didn’t,” he said. “The fan appreciation is awesome.”
While he spoke, his 5-year-old grandson, Jacques, high-fived passers-by with his left hand.
“He’s a lefty,” his grandfather said. “Like CC.”
Dan Mikolajczak took his sons home after school to grab their Brewers hats, but the boys didn’t even have time to change out of their school uniforms before going to the rally. His 9-year-old son, Kyle, tried to do his math homework at a picnic table after the team left the rally but before the fireworks show began.
“We wanted to see the Brewers because they’re not going to do this every year,” Mikolajczak said before immediately reconsidering his statement. “But hopefully they do.”