Harvey Kuenn was Milwaukee baseball royalty by 1982, when he was named manager of the Brewers to replace the fired Bob Rodgers. Robin Yount might have been the star on the field, but he was still pretty young. Henry Aaron was undoubtedly the city’s greatest player, but he had left town with the Braves. Bob Uecker was the voice of the franchise, but had yet to achieve the near-immortal status he holds today. And then there was Harvey, a native son and batting champion who had been on the Brewers coaching staff since 1972. As he took the helm of his hometown team and watched as they bashed their way to the top of the American League standings, he was as beloved a Milwaukee baseball figure as there was.
If Kuenn was royalty, Cesar’s Inn – a West Milwaukee corner tap with a five-room boarding house above – was his manor. Kuenn had first started visiting Cesar’s in 1969, when he returned to Milwaukee after the end of his playing career. It was there that he met Audrey, the owner’s daughter, and struck up a friendship. Five years later, the two were married and moved into the apartment in the back of the bar. Audrey ran the business while Harvey held court behind the bar, chatting with anyone who stopped in, signing autographs and telling stories of the old days. Little changed once Kuenn took over the Brewers and led them to the World Series. During the pennant run, “Harv” and “Aud” were as hospitable as ever, usually leaving the top of the Dutch door that separated the bar from their apartment open until closing time. In the morning, Audrey would serve customers in her bath robe as Harvey slept in.
During the World Series, the place was packed well beyond its capacity, with the crowds spreading onto the sidewalk and into the parking lot. “One guy from the fire department said he’d have to do something because it definitely was over-crowded,” Harvey recalled about the Fall of 1982. “There’s a sign on the wall saying there shall not be more than 65 persons on the premises. He went over to the sign and put a number in front of the 65.”
After a disappointing 1983 season, Kuenn was fired by the Brewers, but he remained a fixture at Cesar’s for many years before relocating to Arizona. Harvey passed away in 1988. Eventually, the Kuenns passed the bar down to their son, Harvey, Jr., who sold the place in 2000 to its present owner. Less than a mile from Miller Park, it remains a destination for Brewers fans.
Antique Milwaukee is a new Milwaukee Magazine web series that takes a closer look at objects and curiosities from around town that have a story to tell. We’ll reveal a piece of Milwaukee’s history through a new artifact in each installment.