Is Miller Park cursed?
Is Miller Park cursed?
If you're a superstitious type, you might think so. Of course, the July 14, 1999, crane collapse, in which three workers were killed, will always stand out as the most tragic incident in park history.
Since then, a worker was slightly injured when a heater backfired over the winter. Since the park has opened, the roof has sprung some leaks, the elevators have stopped working at times, the infield sod never rooted and there have been some financial hassles with a couple sub-contractors.
Then, of course, there was last Friday night. During the national anthem, the microphones and scoreboard started to crash. Then, the lights on the third base side of the stadium went out.
What happened was a power outage that eventually suspended the game after one inning. It was resumed as a day game Saturday.
Scott Jenkins, head of operations at Miller Park, said the problem stemmed from the failure of a "bus duct," which transports electricity to different spots in the park, including the roof. If it had rained, the roof could not have been closed.
When that duct failed, a circuit breaker, not unlike those in our homes, blew. "The difference is that it's a very big circuit breaker," Jenkins said.
Electricians worked throughout the night. A part was flown in from Ohio on Saturday morning and installed to get the juice flowing again.
Certainly, it was unfortunate. Certainly, the publicity, especially nationally, was negative. ESPN reported the game had to be suspended because of an outage in "brand new Miller Park." Other media cast the story in terms of a flawed new ballpark.
You have to feel sorry for fans who traveled from afar, feeling assured of seeing a ballgame, only to take in one inning. The buzz could be heard: for what they spent on this place shouldn't it be perfect?
The answer to that question is no. Miller Park has had its problems, but I defy anybody to find a comparable-size construction project anywhere in the world that hasn't had its share of difficulties, especially in its first year.
The fact the Brewers, fans and others involved persist through these problems reinforces a theme I established in "Down in the Valley: The History of Milwaukee County Stadium." That old stadium, and Miller Park, stand as concrete symbols of intangibles like perseverance, love of the game and community, patience and other virtues that say positive things about Milwaukee.
Some people in the press box area could hear two "explosions" when the circuit breaker blew, and a worker standing near the scoreboard control room said you could see a slightly burned area in the ceiling.
An elevator operator and some fans also were stuck in a lift in the clock tower portion of the stadium. But, officials said nobody was injured and fans were not in danger.
Keeping Them Entertained
The Brewers tried just about everything possible to occupy the large crowd during the power outage delay. The fans sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," usually done during the 7th inning stretch, during the delay.
The Racing Sausages even suited up early and ran a race. T-shirts were tossed to the crowd -- not once but twice.
Even divine intervention was attempted. Sister Mary Zachary participated in the Northwest Airlines frisbee toss. She failed to qualify as a flying nun, or get the electricity to come back on
It shouldn't surprise anybody that the bizarre night happened when KC was in town. The Royals have been jinxes the last three times they visited Milwaukee. Four years ago, County Stadium flooded. Two years ago, the Royals were in town when the Big Blue crane fell on Miller Park.
More Bizarreness at the Ballpark
Adding to the bizarre element of Friday night was an attempted dump truck blockade by sympathizers of a woman, who claims she is being denied more than $70,000 for removal of asbestos from the County Stadium site.
Officials of the Miller Park stadium district say they have a dispute with the contractor who hired the woman's firm as a sub-contractor. Police turned away the dump trucks without any traffic problems.
One young female fan had her own personal dilemma. She tried to climb over the back of a seat during the delay and got her leg stuck in the seat. Crews had to take the seat apart before they could free her.
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A breakdown that might have a longer range effect on the Brewers was that of Jeff D'Amico's arm. Big Daddy had been scheduled to come off the DL and pitch Saturday, but suffered a relapse of his compressed nerve problem. He could face surgery.
The Brewers suffered their own power failure on Saturday, when they scored a combined total of three runs in two losses to the Royals. Devon White was the only player plugged in, as he connected for solo homers in both games.
On Sunday, eight of the first 10 Brewers struck out, but Richie Sexson homered in the fourth and suddenly the team had its power back. Sexson added a RBI double, Henry Blanco hit his first homer of the season and Ron Belliard had three hits, as the Brewers beat the Royals, 5-2, to climb back to .500 at 33-33.
The Brewers start a two-week road trip Monday in Cincinnati. The closest they get to home until June 29, is Wrigley Field where they play the Cubs next weekend.
Gregg Hoffmann publishes The Brew Crew Review column on Mondays and Fridays and maintains a special message board on OMC.
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