A Pair of 60-Somethings Renew the Friendship
Frank: Unless we see a no-hitter, today's game will only be my
third-favorite event of the weekend.
Artie: What's No. 1?
Frank: This morning, for the first time as a swimmer, I reached
10,000 yards for a week.
Artie: Ten thousand? Any NFL running back would kill for that,
and Floyd Little just joined the Hall of Fame with 6,000-plus.
Frank: And it took him a lot longer than a week. How about you?
Anything you've reached 10,000 in?
Artie: Maybe my 10,000th step up the stairs in my elevator-free
building. So what's your other big highlight?
Frank: When I found out the Milwaukee Iron would play an Arena
Football League playoff game at the Arena because the Bradley Center
was unavailable, I had to be there!
Artie: That's the old Milwaukee Arena, later the MECCA Arena and
now the U.S. Cellular Arena, ain'a?
Frank: To us old-timers, it'll always be simply the Arena.
Artie: Which, unlike you, doesn't get much exercise these days.
Frank: Ah, but in its day… I reckon I've been to more than 800
Artie: All this computation is scaring me. How do you figure it?
Frank: About 20 Marquette
basketball games in each of my undergrad years, then about 10 each for 15 years
until the Bradley
Center opened in 1988.
That's roughly 230. With the Bucks, about 150 games over the two decades before
the BC. And Admirals hockey games—I was in a group that had four season tickets
for the 10 seasons before the BC, and I swear we were at virtually every game!
That's about 400 against IHL foes like the Grand Rapids Owls, Flint Generals
and Toledo Goaldiggers. Throw in some games involving MU women's basketball,
UWM men's hoops, the old WISAA high-school tournaments, and we top 800.
Artie: And now, arena football.
Frank: I had to see the old place again. And though arena
football is kind of goofy—guys running into and over sideboards, kicks caroming
off end-zone nets—it was entertaining.
Artie: And loud, I'll bet.
Frank: Yeah, but what sports event isn't these days? The
constantly blaring music is the same at the BC, at Miller Park...
Artie: Don't we know it? Who the hell decided that we need six
seconds of loud music before every stinkin' pitch?
Frank: Last night I was thinking, "We're a long way from
Steve Swedish." Remember his band at Bucks games in the early years, and
the team song? "Milwaukee Bucks, that's the name of our team, and they
will win with an effort supreme..."
Artie: My musical memories of the Arena are a little livelier. I
know I saw the Doors there in late ’68.
Frank: For me, the Arena was strictly sports. But it's kind of
sad: You spend so much of your life in a place, but the specific memories are
Artie: Well, give me a few highlights.
Frank: My first Arena experience was Oct. 23, 1968—Knicks 114,
Bucks 112, with the decisive shot coming from the little lefty guard, Howard
Artie: And you sat where?
Frank: West side, and I think we poor MU students splurged on
mid-priced seats, $4.50 a pop. We spent a lot less for our student tickets to
MU games—and were rewarded with George Thompson's senior season and all three
of Dean "the Dream" Meminger's varsity career. They never lost a home
game in my student years. But as an alumnus I was there that fateful
Artie: Refresh my memory.
Frank: January 1973. Notre Dame guard Dwight Clay scores from the
right corner at the south end, opposite me, to snap MU's 81-game home winning
streak. The Arena played a part in the streak; with a capacity of about 11,000
it was intimate and full of energy. Sports
Illustrated named it one of the top "snake pits" in college
Artie: Other MU highlights for you?
Frank: February 1974. Maurice Lucas' last-second shot from near
half-court beats Wisconsin
and sends Al McGuire to the top of the scorer's table. I was in the southwest
corner, behind Lucas.
Artie: And other Bucks highlights?
Frank: October 1977. Milwaukee's
former hero, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, decks Kent Benson in the rookie's debut. I
was in the last row at the north end and had binoculars on the two centers.
Less than two minutes in, Benson elbowed Kareem hard in the belly. Kareem
doubled over for a second, then SMACK! I could hear the punch as it broke
Benson's jaw and Kareem's hand. After the game, which the Bucks won, I got to
Major Goolsby's in time to see Reggie Jackson's third homer in the World Series
Artie: Benson missed a lot of games and never lived up to
expectations as a No. 1 pick. Speaking of Bucks centers, I remember going to
one game and thinking, "If they remake the Frankenstein movies, Randy Breuer
would be perfect for the monster, but he'll have to work on his speed and
agility to play the part."
Frank: Another big memory is April 1987—Bucks vs. Dr. J and the
76ers, who they would soon finish off in the playoffs. One of the biggest
cheers came during a lull—it was Brewers fans who had brought radios and heard
the end of Juan Nieves' no-hitter in Baltimore.
Artie: One of my vivid Arena memories is taking a bunch of kids
to a Disney “Snow White” ice show. I remember thinking the skaters probably trained
all their lives, had Olympic ambitions, and now they're skating around as the
Seven Dwarfs trying to see with 40-pound cartoon heads on. It was kind of
Frank: Here's a special memory. December 1978, I was there for
the debut of the Women's Professional Basketball League, the Milwaukee Does vs.
the Chicago Hustle.
Artie: Boy, were you a masochist.
Frank: It was history! The Does lost, 92-87, but drew almost
8,000 people. A while later I went to a Does game that drew more like 800, and
the team lasted only two seasons—one fewer than the league.
Artie: So how did the Arena strike you last night?
Frank: Looking darn good! It's nice and bright now. In the old
days, even that first time in ’68, it seemed worn-down. I always liked the
south atrium, nice and airy, but inside the colors were kind of dull browns and
greens. Now the walls are white, the concourse floors have bright colors and
the seats look sharp in red and blue.
Artie: But there'll never be anything as colorful as that wild
Robert Indiana court the Bucks and MU played on.
Frank: They've widened some of the main-level areas, but there
are still those narrow, wonderful curving ramps to the top level. I always dug
Artie: No accounting for taste.
Frank: I scoped out the places I sat over the years, especially
our four seats for the Admirals. First row in the mid-level, right behind the
north goal. No protective netting in those days; a deflected slap shot could
zoom up there mighty quick.
Artie: Glad you survived.
Frank: Last night I was on the top level, east side. For fun I
moved up to the last row, next to a girder and rivets that must be original
equipment. And I remembered the Arena opened in 1950—the year I made my debut!
Artie: That was my grand opening, too.
Frank: So here were a couple of 60-somethings, together again and still functional. Kind of made me feel good.