Friday, March 6, 2009

The Beer Barrel Man returns....

This was originally posted on my Packers Uniforms blog, but I thought seeing as how I'm starting a Borchert Field memorial, it could stand to be repeated here.

On July 6th, 2008, the Brewers ran a stadium give-away promotion for their game against Pittsburgh. All fans received "a collectible Brewers bobblehead doll, featuring the Brewers Barrel Man, which was the logo of the Brewers from 1970-1977."

I was pretty excited when I first read mention of this, because I've long been a fan of the Beer Barrel Man logo. In the 1980s, when all my friends were Ball-and-Glove mad, I brought my tattered 1970s pennant to County Stadium.

Heck, my very first tentative step into the InterWeb was a fan page for the guy, extolling his virtues (painful to look at now, but I haven't the heart to take it down, even if I still had the account password). I taught myself Illustrator by tracing a vector version of the BBM and updating him for the 1990s(!), swapping his 1940s striped socks for proper stirrups and giving him the modern navy and gold color scheme. Note the final thought:
"Could we someday see the Brewers take the field wearing him on their sleeves?"
I sure hoped so. I had written to the Brewers to bring the Beer Barrel Man back as a sleeve patch on a couple occassions, once right after the announcement that the Brewers would be moving to the National League (no reply to my letter), and once in 2003 to Ulice Payne himself (right before they sent him packing, so no great surprise that one went similarly unanswered).

The BBM had been sadly neglected in the retro craze. On the one hand, I can understand this because the Ball-and-Glove is so iconic in the city, and to most fans the BBM stands for the first few years of the team, and some pretty lousy baseball at that. But what most fans don't seem to realize is that the BBM goes back farther than that - decades, to minor league ball (pretty good baseball, even), Casey Stengel, Bill Veeck, Borchert Field, back when his name was Owgust and he not only batted but was seen playing every position on the field.

When Bud Selig needed a symbol for his quest to bring Milwaukee back into the bigs after the Braves left in 1966, he chose the Beer Barrel Man. He was the logo when Hank Aaron came back from his Georgian exile. Robin Yount, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper and Jim Ganter's names were first published in Brewer programs with the Beer Barrel Man on the cover. But memories are sadly short at times. You can't buy a t-shirt with the BBM on it, so he never really existed.

So, as you might realize by now, I'm kinda the natural audience for this promotion. Just as my Packers collection stops after 1949, my Brewers collection skews very heavily to pre-1978 (if not pre-1953).

Now, I haven't lived in Milwaukee for over a decade. I wasn't able to get to the game either to watch the Brewers pound the Pirates or to collect my bobblehead, but through the miracle of eBay I was able to secure one for my shelf.

What stunned me when I opened my eBay shipment was not the whimsical and wonderful bobble, but the box. That's my graphic!

Somebody in the Brewers' design office had obviously stumbled upon my site, and rather than make a bobble head doll faithful to the Beer Barrel Man logo actually used from 1970-1977, they made one based on my update. Extremely cool.

Now, this isn't just my ego looking for similarities I know that's my Illustrator graphic for one simple reason - I put his stirrups on backwards. Rose goes in the front, big guy, and when wearing stirrups the large hole goes over the heel. Paul Lukas, I'm so ashamed.

So, if anyone has any connections with the Brewers' graphic department, let me know. I'd rather they used my updated update next time:

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