It was one of those games that no one would remember. July 18, 1985: an evening tilt between the Brewers and the Seattle Mariners – two moribund teams settling into the second half of a meaningless season. The Brewers would lose 90 games that year, but their lineup was still largely intact from their 1982 pennant-winner: Yount, Molitor, Cooper, Oglivie, Gantner, Moore. Local heroes, all, but the Brewers were badly in need of new blood, a new hero.
And after Cecil Cooper popped out to end the first, he arrived.
“This is one of those ‘pain in the neck messages’ the Brewers are truly sorry to bring you,” a gentle voice sounded from the centerfield speaker tower as the sepia-toned scoreboard panned across a segment of cartoon Brewers fans before settling on a stooped figure, belly hanging below his tank top, bubbles circling his head. “We hope there isn’t a single fan at County Stadium who is having a problem with the obnoxious guy we call … the Two-Fisted Slopper.”
Of course, the Slopper was supposed to be a villain. When the Brewers finally broke through in the late 1970s, attendance at County Stadium boomed. And so did problems with drunken fans. “Friday or Saturday night, big crowd, big groups sitting near each other, came in on a bus, already smashed when the game starts,” recalls Walt Remondini, an usher at County Stadium from 1978 to 2000. “[Someone] starts spilling beers all over the place, or stumbles and falls right on top of somebody or says something about some guy’s girlfriend.” There would be shoving, then fists, all while Remondini and other ushers tried to keep others from joining the fray until one of the few police officers assigned to the stadium could reach the scene.
By 1985, the Brewers retrained stadium employees on how to deal with over-consumption and bad behavior, and increased law enforcement presence at games. They also called on local firm Animagination, which had been producing scoreboard animations for the team since 1982, to create the artwork for a humorous PSA warning against over-indulgence. They settled on using a single fan as the trouble-making archetype. “We just created the most ridiculous-looking Midwesterner we could imagine,” says Karen Johnson, co-founder of Animagination. “If you look in the stands, probably every other person looked like that.”
Trouble with drunken fans did seem to decrease after the introduction of the Slopper, but Remondini cites the increase in law enforcement and a dip in attendance as more likely causes.
Johnson says that after everything her firm created – animations for nearly every major league sports team in the nation and the Olympics – it’s the Slopper that she’s most often asked about. When Paul Molitor left the Brewers for the Blue Jays after the 1992 season, he was asked what he’d miss most about Milwaukee. “It’s between the sausage races and the Two-Fisted Slopper,” he replied.
The Slopper was lost with the move to Miller Park in 2001 but has re-emerged several times since, most recently during this season’s decade-themed weekends. “The Two-Fisted Slopper is a memory that fans frequently discuss, so [it] seemed like the perfect time to bring it back,” says Tyler Barnes, VP of communications for the Brewers. During the ’80s Weekend this June, the Slopper PSA cut to live video of a real-life Slopper in the stands: white tank top and cheap cap, belly hanging over his belt, and, of course, a cup of beer in each hand. The crowd went wild and those nearest to him in the seats, who had turned away with disgust 35 years before, smiled and applauded.