They are doing something different and lasting, something educational and celebratory, something that, perhaps and perchance, goes a tad overboard, but only because it’s something so heartfelt.
And yet, to understand the whys and hows, first you must navigate through the sea of snark. Because whenever Bud Selig is involved, everyone’s a comedian.
So once the Milwaukee Brewers announced plans for their Selig Experience, Twitter turned into a Jay Leno monologue flashback, with cue cards for steroids and All-Star games and everything in between. National guys like Craig Calcaterra and Keith Olbermann couldn’t resist jumping on board, either, Olbermann for two days straight.
None of this is surprising, of course. It happens whenever locals celebrate Selig’s Milwaukee legacy, be it through a statue or jersey retirement or whatever. Such gestures are almost universally viewed through the prism of Commissioner Selig, and lightning-rod jobs draw lightning bolts. And jokes.
But seemingly forgotten from afar is that long before Selig was baseball’s lightning rod in chief, he was Milwaukee’s lone hope for major league baseball after the Braves left town. And it’s because that hope paid off, against such inconceivable odds, that Milwaukee isn’t just a minor-league bypass for America’s pastime.
The Brewers, quite simply, came here because of Selig, and then stayed here because of him. And that statement doesn’t slight the countless others who also helped make Milwaukee a big-league city again, or who manned the Miller Park battle lines, or who revived the city’s baseball fortunes once Selig became commissioner, or who support the club through cash and cheers. But Selig, however you may feel about him, is the indispensible ingredient in all of it.
So of course it’s appropriate for a club to honor its founding father. And sure, the Brewers could have stopped with the statue and satisfied most folks. But how much history can you fit on a plaque? And do the Packers celebrate Lambeau and Lombardi too much? Selig saved baseball in Milwaukee every bit as much as they saved football in Green Bay.
The details of how it happened are worth remembering, which means telling them in a memorable way, from the time Selig was just another kid in the stands to his modest and leaky office at County Stadium. That’s why the Brewers hired BRC Imagination Arts, perhaps best known for crafting the experience at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, though the request surprised even them.
“It’s not very often,” said BRC creative director Brad Shelton, “someone calls and says, ‘I want to make a hologram of Bud Selig.’”
But like most people who see and hear how BRC told Lincoln’s tale, Brewers Chief Operating Officer Rick Schlesinger came away “mesmerized and wanted Selig’s story to be told with such impact. Yes, holograms and all. And just because the technological inspiration came from the Lincoln Museum doesn’t mean the Brewers are equating Selig to Lincoln. Just as using statue technology to emulate both Bob Uecker and Hank Aaron doesn’t mean the Brewers are equating their home run swings.
All it means is the Brewers recognize just how significant is the strand of baseball history that winds through Milwaukee, and how significant Selig was to tying it all together. It means they’re committed to making sure nobody forgets it, now and a generation from now, long after the jokes have faded.