As MC for the ceremonies, Brewers radio announcer Bob Uecker was in prime shape, adding his usual self-deprecating comments that made the crowd ripple with laughter.
I got a chill when dozens of famous ball players from nearly every team were introduced. In the mix were Mrs. Jackie Robinson and (former Brewers manager) Harvey Kuehn's widow.
In the front row sat Al Kaline and one of my big brother's all-time favorites, Ernie Banks. In the middle of the rows of owners from every major league baseball team, I spotted George Will, political and baseball columnist.
From the dais Mark Attanasio and Senator Herb Kohl related entertaining stories about their friendship with and admiration for Bud Selig. However, I was most impressed with the speeches of Robin Yount and Henry Aaron (two of my three all-time favorite Brewers*).
Robin joked that he and Henry Aaron were delighted to have a new statue next to theirs for the birds to aim at. His speaking style reminded me of the lithe way he played baseball. He was relaxed, comfortable, confident in front of the microphone, grinning at the crowd, eloquent and funny as went on to praise Bud's leadership and mentoring.
Henry was more serious and more formal as he reminisced about his long-time friend. His words were delivered beautifully, with emotion and affection.
I couldn't help comparing Robin's and Henry's remarks with the many graduation speeches I had heard given by professional speakers and educators. To seek their baseball dreams, Henry and Robin left school in their teens. They accumulated their knowledge and speaking ability outside of a classroom. I was impressed, entertained and moved by their polished, yet personal expression of their affection and admiration for Bud Selig.
When it was Selig's turn to speak, he expressed how honored he was by the Attanasios' gift to Miller Park. As he often does when he speaks in public, Selig mentioned that he began going to ball games with his mother and then referred to Doris Kearns Godwin's observation that baseball connects the generations.
Selig acknowledged he'd had quite a few "disappointments and failures, but never defeat," as he attempted to bring baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves left our city, and again while he worked to build a new stadium.
The statue depicts the man who worked against the odds, against a few waffling politicians, in opposition to a batch of the electorate, and a slew of reporters; the man who worked to build a graceful, comfortable, easy-to- get-around stadium, with a roof that protects us from the elements that make us Milwaukeeans such a brave, sturdy bunch.
Thanks to Bud Selig and the many people who helped bring baseball to Milwaukee in the 1950s and again in the 1970s, I continue to have the opportunity to sit next to my grandchildren and watch my Milwaukee Brewers. Our visits are another link in the process begun by Pops Youngclaus, my grandfather, carried on by Ellie Youngclaus, my mother, and by Bill Youngclaus, my big brother. Because of their passion and those treasured memories, I learned to love the game.
*Paul Molitor is the third. Still looking good, he was at the ceremony too.
Quote from "The Story of the Game" (1950-1960)
Fan by Doris Kearns Godwin
"Indeed, sometimes when I close my eyes against the sun as I sit with my boys at Fenway, I am suddenly back at Ebbets Field, a young girl once more in the presence of my father, watching the players of my youth on the grassy field below. There is magic in these moments, for when I open my eyes and see my sons in the place where my father once sat, I feel an invisible bond among our three generations, an anchor of loyalty linking my sons to the grandfather whose face they have never seen, but whose person they have come to know through this most timeless of all sports."