Milwaukee: MVP City

Big names and bright stars have powered the sports scene for generations. By sports writer Dan Simmons.

By Google Arts & Culture

Dan Simmons

Milwaukee Skyline (2018) by Visit MilwaukeeVISIT Milwaukee

Hammerin’ Hank. Pope Lombardi. The Greek Freak. Some of the biggest sporting icons in American history have called Milwaukee home. The city is not just major league. It’s an MVP capital. 

Hank Aaron (1964)National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Hank Aaron

The Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta long ago. But their 13-season run in Milwaukee, from 1953 to 1966, was headlined by one of the greatest long-ball hitters in Major League Baseball history, Hank Aaron. He jacked at least 24 home runs a season from 1955 to 1973. He won Most Valuable Player honors in 1957. In 1974, he hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.

By then, the team had moved to Atlanta. But he remembered Milwaukee fondly: “To this day, whenever I'm in Milwaukee, which is often, I'm reminded that the people there still haven't gotten over the Braves leaving ... If it helps, they should know the players haven't either.”

Vince Lombardi (1968-09-16) by Leonard MccombeLIFE Photo Collection

Green Bay Packers

For 60 years, the National Football League’s most celebrated franchise played a portion of its home games in Milwaukee. It was during that time, in the 1960s, when Packermania reached its zenith. Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi oversaw a dynasty, guiding the green-and-gold to five league championships, including the first two Super Bowls. He was named Coach of the Year twice. Three of his players (Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor and Bart Starr) earned MVP honors.

Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Colts Football by Robert W KelleyLIFE Photo Collection

Sold-out home games become expected -- every Packers’ game has sold out since 1960. Although all home games have been in Green Bay since 1994, Milwaukee is still considered a home market for the team, and Milwaukee fans qualify for a season tickets package for four games a season. But there’s a catch -- the waiting list for season tickets is about 30 years.

By Bill RayLIFE Photo Collection

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar / Lew Alcindor

The master of the “sky hook,” Lew Alcindor dominated pro basketball starting his rookie year in 1969 with the expansion Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds a game in green. He won three MVP awards in just six seasons in Milwaukee.

Lew Alcindor (1967-01) by Bill RayLIFE Photo Collection

In 1971, he and fellow future Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson led the team to its first, and still only, NBA title. Also during his Milwaukee years, Alcindor converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, before leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975. Adbul-Jabbar remains the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. His #33 Bucks jersey hangs in the rafters.

Baseball card:Milwaukee Brewers/Rick Cerone/Topps (1987) by Topps Chewing Gum, Inc.The Strong National Museum of Play

Baseball's Back!

Professional baseball returned to Milwaukee in 1970, when the Seattle Pilots moved to become the Milwaukee Brewers. Bud Selig, who in later decades served as commissioner of Major League Baseball, co-owned the nascent franchise and engineered the move.

Pin:Hank Aaron (1968) by Button HouseThe Strong National Museum of Play

The team brought Hank Aaron back to Milwaukee, where he played the final two seasons of his storied career and, in 1976, played his final game as a Brewer.

Ace Reliever

Rollie Fingers became known as much more than just a relief pitcher with a waxed handlebar mustache. In 1981, his first season as a Brewer, he accomplished the unthinkable for a relief pitcher, winning both the Cy Young award, given to the league’s best pitcher, and MVP, given to the best overall player. His earned run average of 1.04 that season stands as one of the best all-time.

By Joe ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection

Harvey's Wallbangers

The Brewers caught fire in 1982, storming to baseball’s best record under the direction of manager Harvey Kuehn. They went all the way to game 7 of the World Series, the first and only WS appearance for the franchise, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in the “Suds Series” (both teams represent beer-soaked locales).

Baseball card:1978 Robin Yount baseball card (1978) by Topps Chewing Gum, Inc.The Strong National Museum of Play

Shortstop Robin Yount won American League MVP, and Pete Vuckovich won Cy Young. With Fingers winning both awards the previous year, the team swept all major awards for two straight seasons.

Brewers Bash Brothers

They’re both Californians, but Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich have found their summer home in Milwaukee, powering the Brewers to bigger relevance and annual playoff contention from 2010 through today. Braun won league MVP honors in 2011, while Yelich collected his in 2018. The team’s 51% winning percentage this decade is the highest since the 1980s. 

Greek Freak

Giannis Antetokounmpo came to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013 as a lanky 18-year-old from Athens with no experience in American hoops but bundles of potential. He quickly converted potential to results and in the process sparked a renaissance for a moribund franchise. Antetokounmpo won NBA MVP honors in 2019, the first Buck to do so since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974. Pictured is Fiserv Forum, where the Bucks play.

Milwaukee BucksMilwaukee Public Museum

The Bucks finished the 2018-2019 season with the best record in the NBA. In 2019-2020, they did even better, again pacing the league with the best record before the season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Antetokounmpo was on his way to another likely MVP award, with career-best averages of 30 points and 14 rebounds a game. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps