Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Former Borchert Field Usher Passes Away

Following right on the heels of George Crowe's passing, we learn that another witness to Milwaukee's baseball history has left us.

Marv Pfennig had his own sign in 1999 as wardrobe chief
for Milwaukee Brewers ushers at County Stadium.
Pfennig worked 3,665 games for Braves, Brewers

By Amy Rabideau Silvers of the Journal Sentinel

When it comes to baseball records, Marv Pfennig may have just about everybody beat.

Pfennig began as an usher in 1951 for the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers at Borchert Field. He was an usher for the Milwaukee Braves when County Stadium opened in 1953. Later came the major-league Brewers and later still Miller Park.

Altogether, Pfennig worked 3,665 major-league ballgames, the first 19 years as an usher and then more than 30 years as wardrobe manager for the stadium's team of ushers. He finally retired in 2004.

He also kept his own record of each game, including starting pitchers and who won.

"I just like being a part of it," he said in one interview, back when the goal was to make his 3,000th game and see Miller Park full of fans.

Marvin E. Pfennig died of pneumonia Saturday. He was 90.

He grew up on the west side, often walking to see baseball as a young man.

"I'd take a shortcut through the (VA) cemetery," Pfennig said. "That's all fenced in now. A lot of things have changed in 50 years."

An employee at Cutler-Hammer, he found himself in the U.S. Air Forces in 1942, serving as an aircraft mechanic in England during World War II. Decades later, he talked about the scene as D-Day began.

"My most vivid memory was looking to the sky and seeing all the aircraft fighter planes and bombers, both U.S. and British - just wave after wave of aircraft, a sight I will never forget," he said.

In a roundabout way, the war brought him together with his wife.

Charlotte Besecke picked his name off a Cutler-Hammer bulletin board and began writing. They married in 1946, and her name changed to Charlotte Pfennig.

He returned to work at the company - making sure to take off for any day games - until official retirement in 1982. He expected to be at the ballpark unless there was a very good reason not to be. For the record, he did attend his daughters' weddings.

"At that time I said, 'Don't you look at baseball schedules when you arrange these things?" he had said, joking.

It's worth explaining that while Pfennig may have been at the stadium, he didn't usually see the games. His office as wardrobe manager for ushers "and usherettes," as he liked to say, was deep in a basement level.

There, he listened to the games on a radio, unless the Brewers "got a situation going," Pfennig-speak for something too good to miss.

Robin Yount's 3,000th hit was one such situation.

"I was out there every time he came to bat," Pfennig had said.

There were plenty of other beautiful baseball moments. He talked about some of his favorites in interviews with Journal Sentinel columnists William Janz and Jim Stingl and other writers including Brewers sportswriter Tom Haudricourt.

"I want to tell you about the greatest ball game I ever saw," he once said. "It was May 26, 1959  . . .  when Harvey Haddix pitching for Pittsburgh had a no-hitter for 12 innings. Joe Adcock won the ball game for us with a home run in the 13th inning. That was the first hit off Haddix."

Then another moment came to mind.

"My biggest thrill was when (Hank) Aaron hit the home run that clinched our first pennant in 1957," he said. "I remember myself dancing out there."

Ushers sometimes had other duties, too, including keeping order on the field after that victory. In the early Brewers days at Borchert Field, ushers even helped with injured players.

"Only 12 ushers then," Pfennig had said. "If there was a player injured on the field, a stretcher case, we'd have to carry 'em off."

One of his most special memories came after someone invited him to Warren Spahn's house the night of the ballplayer's first no-hitter in 1960.

"I still had my usher's pants on," he said. At Spahn's house, Pfennig found a little party with only 12 people. When the last people were going, Pfennig got up to leave, too.

"Stick around, stick around," Spahn said. "Have another beer."

He stayed and they talked baseball.

Pfennig also had one quiet tradition of his own. At every game, he would take a practice ball - nothing fancy or signed - and hand it to some child at the stadium, daughter Diane Konicki said.

Pfennig's longevity was recognized in sometimes fun ways.

"He got a bobble head in his image that was made special just for him," she said.

"When he worked his 3,000th game, they had a uniform made for him special," she said. "It had his name on it and the number was 3,000. And he got to throw out the first pitch."

After retiring from official stadium duties, he still liked to go to games whenever he could.

"He had friends who worked as ushers and they would pick him up in his wheelchair and take him to games," his daughter said.

There was one other special trip worth mentioning. The mechanic whose heart soared to see the waves of D-Day fighters overhead got to take an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., with other World War II veterans.

Other survivors include his wife; daughter Sharon Pfennig; grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Roberta, died earlier.

The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Union Grove.
Thanks for the memories, Mr. Pfennig.

No comments:

Post a Comment