The Madison Muskies
April 08, 2013
Monday is opening day at Kauffman Stadiumm and it looks like, for the first time in ages, long suffering Royals fans may have something to look forward to. The way that the team has performed in the preseason bodes well for the coming year. Of course, this could be a complete anomaly and they might collapse the second the actual season gets underway, but hope springs eternal. But to be honest, I have never been a great fan of Major League Baseball. It seemed to me that it focuses too much on personalities and salary. However, there was a Minor League baseball team that I absolutely loved watching when I was a kid. The Madison Muskies.
I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. Although Madison is the capital of the state, the larger city of Milwaukee is the one that got the Major League Baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers. In Madison, however, we had something for a while that was better than the big boys. We had a team called the Muskies. The Muskies were a Class A Minor League team of the Oakland A’s, and for eleven years they played in a stadium known as The Fishbowl, a.k.a. Warner Park.
First of all, you might not know what a muskie is. Well, a muskie (short for muskellunge) is a fish. It’s a member of the pike family that is most often found in the waters of northern states such as Wisconsin and Michigan. If you want to know what a muskie looks like, see the above image. Of course, for me, a muskie looks like a large green fish wearing a baseball cap and holding a bat while curling itself around a gigantic M. At least, that is my memory of it. From 1982 to 1993, the Madison Muskies saw many great players go through, including Jose Canseco. I can’t tell you if I saw any of them, however. Who was playing was never the point.
One of the things that I think has been lost over the years when it comes to baseball is the family experience. Going to a baseball game used to be about people spending time together, watching a great game, and having some popcorn. Now, it feels like baseball is more about huge salaries and drunk, unruly fans swearing in the seats. I don’t remember ever encountering anything like that when I went to watch a game at The Fishbowl. What I remember is the flies buzzing around and the hard bleachers. I remember the fantastic hot dogs with relish and those goofy memorabilia cups.
And most of all, I remember loving the name. There is something about that name that I have always adored. When the team first came to Madison, my parents were quick to pick up tickets. It was nice not to have to drive all the way to Milwaukee to watch some good baseball. (We did have the University of Wisconsin teams to root for, but we usually only watched the hockey team.) Having a Class A club so close meant that we could actually see some great stuff without having to go far or pay a lot. And, I also remember not really caring who won or lost. That didn’t matter. It was just about having a fun night at the park.
If feels to me like those times are gone, at least at the top. In the Major Leagues, how much money is being spent on the players and which one was just revealed to have used a banned substance has taken over the game? So, while I’m not saying stay away from the Royals, I am suggesting that this summer might be the perfect opportunity to spend some time in a smaller stadium. Get away from the overpriced tickets and overpaid players and find a team that still might take some joy actually playing baseball. And make it a time that is not about the outcome of the contest, but about the experience. I did go to see the Milwaukee Brewers on several occasions, but the most fun that I had was at those Madison Muskie games.