Brewer Fans Have Bankruptcy To Thank For 50 Years Of Baseball

Most Julys, we are watching the All-Star Game, and starting to pay a little bit closer attention to the Central Division Standings. This year, we are teetering on the brink of a baseball season, with no promise that anyone, let alone the Brew Crew, will make it through the postseason before the pandemic shuts things down again. This could very well be the first year since the 1960s that there is no baseball in Milwaukee. 

It’s a little bit ironic because this was supposed to be a big year for the Brewers. 2020 is the team’s 50th anniversary, and the guys looked pretty good in the handful of spring training games that actually got played. 

One of the things we were looking forward to this year were those long, slow, middle innings when Bob Uecker brings a guest into the broadcast booth for a chat. The story of how the Brewers came to Milwaukee is a fascinating one, and we had hoped to hear some inside accounts of how it happened. 

Inside Pitch: Insiders Reveal How the Ill-Fated Seattle Pilots Got Played Into Bankruptcy in One Year

Earlier this year, a new book came out that tells part of the story. Inside Pitch: Insiders Reveal How the Ill-Fated Seattle Pilots Got Played Into Bankruptcy in One Year, from author Rick Allen tells the story of the work done by Bob Schoenbachler, the then 23-year-old CFO of the Seattle Pilots turned Brewers, and Jim Kittilsby, who also served in the team’s front office. As you may have deduced from the book’s title, bankruptcy played a major role in helping Milwaukee secure its Major League team. 

When the Braves left Milwaukee after the 1965 season, baseball lovers were devastated. The state even filed a criminal complaint against the MLB to try and keep the team here. The case went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, but the Braves still went to Atlanta. 

Then, in 1967, Major League Baseball (MLB) announced that it was adding four expansion teams. Kansas City, Montreal, San Diego, and Seattle were all given leave to start teams, but Milwaukee was snubbed (perhaps as a punishment). Lucky for us, the Seattle Pilots had a horrible first year. So many things went wrong the team became the first and only professional sports team to ever declare bankruptcy

As we often remind our clients, filing for bankruptcy is often a way to find a path forward, not the end of the road. The Pilots’ path forward meant moving to Milwaukee and changing their name to the Brewers. Although Seattle fans were upset (the state of Washington filed its own lawsuit against the MLB), they were soon mollified by the creation of the Mariners. Both teams have had great success despite their market size thanks to the strong support of their fan base. 

If your business is in a slump, bankruptcy should always be on the table. At Hanson & Payne, we regularly assist Milwaukee area business owners and lenders who are looking for help finding a path forward. We would be honored to assist you during your time of need.