First Brewers battery returns for anniversary
Krausse, McNertney help kick off 40th year in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- As he put on his honorary No. 24 Milwaukee Brewers uniform Monday, former pitcher Lew Krausse remarked that the uniforms were not quite as nice when he joined the team in 1970.
His battery mate that season, catcher Jerry McNertney, later recalled that they were not even sure if they would have uniforms in time for the Brewers' inaugural Opening Day.
That concern for the Brewers came as a result of the team's unexpected move from Seattle to Milwaukee just days before the beginning of the season. McNertney, who was with the Pilots for their first season in 1969, admitted he did not hear anything about the move until rumors arose during Spring Training.
"I had left all my stuff in Seattle and really had no idea the club was really in trouble," McNertney said. "It was really a shock."
Krausse, 66, and McNertney, 73, the Brewers' first Opening Day pitcher and catcher, returned to Milwaukee on Monday as the club celebrated the start of its 40th anniversary season. In that first game at County Stadium, the Brewers lost to the California Angels, 12-0.
They were hoping for more success Monday as they teamed for the ceremonial first pitch before the Brewers and Rockies opened the season.
Krausse was more worried about embarrassing his son than himself.
"He said, 'You can't bounce it up there,' Krausse said. "'You've got to throw it all the way in the air.'"
The reunion kick-started a season-long 40th anniversary celebration. The Brewers have set aside four "retro weekends" this summer to commemorate each decade of their existence, beginning with the 1970s on May 14-16.
Krausse, who had been recently married before the 1970 season, had a lot more to deal with 40 years ago. With it being his first year with the club, Krausse was not yet settled in Seattle and had sent many of his belongings ahead of him to the city.
Krausse thought he was "getting ahead of the game." However, when the Brewers found out they were headed to Milwaukee, it was a scramble for the players and their families.
"They said, 'Well, you're going to Milwaukee,'" Krausse recalled. "It was just really hectic. We came up here, flew the whole families on charter planes and stayed in hotels for 4-5 days; and with kids it was mess."
When asked about the differences between the club in its inaugural season and today, Krausse and McNertney both pointed to the comparison between County Stadium and Miller Park.
"When Lew and I were here, I think it was 34 degrees," McNertney said. "So, it was really nice to see this stadium where they can close that roof and you can play in whatever kind of weather."
Another comparison they made between the two eras was in the size and conditioning of the athletes. McNertney noted they used to frown upon lifting weights during their time, while today it's just the opposite, resulting in players that are much bigger today.
Krausse also pointed to the rise in players' salaries over the last 40 years.
"In 1970, I made $38,000," he said. "I had just gotten traded from Oakland and had a good year in Oakland. So, I came over here and I think I asked for eight and settled on a $6,000 raise. I thought I was on top of the world then; today, that's chump change.
"That's what their per diem is probably for the year."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.