Evolution of Milwaukee sports, baseball to bowling

Sports in Milwaukee have evolved.

That means glittering facilities like Fiserv Forum and American Family Field. It means microbrews and gourmet food at the games. And it means personal trainers and showcase tournaments, but part of sports in town also remains deeply rooted.

Before COVID-19 cut into attendance numbers and before the Brewers drew three million fans during a season, Milwaukee Braves baseball was an immediate hit.

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"It exceeded everyone's expectations," said Doug Schmidt.

The Braves arrived in 1953 to build upon a strong baseball history in town. Even after winning a World Series, the players were the heroes who lived next door, in many cases, all year round.

"They weren't making big salaries and stuff and they fit right in with the culture of Milwaukee," Schmidt said.

Basketball and even football were still trying to find a market to compete with baseball and bowling.

"With baseball and both sports, we were the home of the breweries," said Schmidt. "And beer became a big subculture of the sports environment here."

Schmidt has lived his entire life in the Milwaukee area and has written books about baseball and bowling. For many years, he published a bowling newspaper. According to Schmidt, a man named Abraham Lincoln Langtry is the father of bowling in Milwaukee.

"The secretary was actually the whole organization of the ABC back then," Schmidt said. "So wherever the secretary lived became the headquarters of the bowling congress. So in 1907, Langtry won the bid to become secretary. By the time he left office, they had permanent headquarters established in Milwaukee."

That's when the ABC moved its headquarters to Texas.

"Bowling continued to grow but Milwaukee remained the home up until 2006."

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In 1980, there were over one hundred thousand sanctioned men and women league bowlers in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, which had a population of around one million people. In other words, quite a per capita rate of interest.

That number has fallen since, but it is still quite easy to find evidence of the four B's that have long made up the local sports scene: beer, brats, baseball, and bowling. A lifestyle that leaves nothing to spare.