Back in 1957, in both the United States and in the state of Wisconsin, things were quite different than they are today. For example, a gallon of gas cost just 24 cents. You could buy a brand new car in a price range of $1,800 to $3,400. The average cost of a new home was around $20,000. You could rent an apartment for $90 per month.
And with Wisconsin being the dairy state in the country, products in that genre were quite inexpensive based on today’s prices. A dozen eggs cost just 55 cents. A gallon of milk cost just $1.00. Butter was just 75 cents per pound. American cheese cost around 55 cents per pound.
And seeing that Wisconsin also loves it’s beer, it’s important to know the beer prices at the time. You could go into a tavern and a have a glass of beer for just 10 cents. You also could buy a six-pack of beer for less than a dollar.
Yes, things were quite different in 1957 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States. The man who would follow Eisenhower as President, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book called Profiles in Courage.
I bring up Kennedy for two reasons.
One, JFK played a big part in the Green Bay Packers winning the 1961 NFL title, due to his friendship with Vince Lombardi.
Secondly, I was born on JFK’s birthday, which is May 29. I was born on that day in…you guessed it…1957.
That year was very special in the hearts of sports fans in Wisconsin.
In Green Bay, the Packers were going through a very tough time. The team was losing on a consistent basis and hadn’t had a winning season since 1947.
Plus, the NFL was seriously looking at moving the Packers out of Green Bay due to the antiquated stadium that the team was playing in, which was old City Stadium, which had been built in 1925 and was also used by Green Bay East High School. The capacity for the stadium was just 25,000.
That is why the Packers also started playing some of their games in Milwaukee starting in 1933, which had larger venues (State Fair Park, Marquette Stadium and Milwaukee County Stadium) for the Packers to utilize.
And unless the Packers built a new stadium in Green Bay, the team was likely going to move to Milwaukee permanently or to some other location.
But in April of 1956, in a 2-to-1 vote in a municipal referendum, a new stadium was financed by the way of a bond issue. The original cost of the new stadium was $960,000 and was to be shared equally by the Packers Corporation and the city of Green Bay.
The stadium was located in southwest Green Bay and surrounded on three sides by the village of Ashwaubenon. Work started on the stadium in February of 1957 and the stadium was christened as new City Stadium on September 29, 1957, as the Packers opened their season against the rival Chicago Bears and their founder and head coach George Halas.
It’s also important to note, that Halas himself campaigned for the new stadium in Green Bay before the vote in April of 1956.
The Packers beat da Bears at their new stadium 21-17 in front of 32,132 fans, as Vice President Richard Nixon was in attendance, along with NFL Commissioner Bert Bell.
But even with the new stadium, which would later be re-named Lambeau Field in 1965, in honor of one of the founders of the team and their first head coach, Curly Lambeau, the team went 3-9 in 1957.
In fact, after the season-opening win against the Bears, the Packers did not win again at home, either in the new stadium or in Milwaukee, where the Packers still played three home games per season.
One of the teams which visited new City Stadium were the New York Giants, who were the defending NFL champions in 1957. The offensive coordinator for the G-Men then was none other than Lombardi, and it was he who would take Green Bay back to greatness in 1959, when he was named head coach and general manager of the Packers.
In that case, Halas availed himself to Green Bay once again, as both he and Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns were staunch supporters of Lombardi getting the new head coaching gig in Green Bay.
Also in 1957, thanks to the scouting prowess of Jack Vainisi, the Packers drafted Paul Hornung out of Notre Dame with the first pick in the 1957 NFL draft. The “Golden Boy” had won the Heisman trophy with the Fighting Irish in 1956 and may have been the catalyst for Lombardi coming to Green Bay. That is certainly what legendary right guard Jerry Kramer believes.
Hornung played a big role in the success of the Lombardi Packers, that is for sure.
Back to new City Stadium, now Lambeau Field. The stadium has seen three NFL titles (1961, 1965 and 1967) won by the Packers over the years.
The 1967 NFL championship game, better known as the “Ice Bowl”, is considered among the best games in NFL history. Who can forget Bart Starr scoring the game-winning touchdown behind a classic block by Kramer with just 13 seconds remaining?
New City Stadium, now Lambeau Field, has seen many renovations over the years and is now considered the crown jewel in the NFL in terms of having a great game-time experience.
Between the actual stadium, the Atrium, the Packers Hall of Fame and the new Titletown district, the stadium has become a year-round place to visit. The current capacity of Lambeau Field is now 81,441.
Lambeau Field is now the longest continuously occupied stadium in the NFL by a large margin. The next closest is Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, which opened in 1972, which is 15 years later than when new City Stadium opened.
Besides Green Bay getting a new stadium in 1957, there was a lot of excitement at Milwaukee County Stadium, where the Milwaukee Braves played.
The city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin were very passionate about the Braves and had led MLB in attendance ever since the Braves moved to Milwaukee from Boston in 1953. In fact, the Braves were No. 1 in attendance from 1953 through 1958.
- 1953- 1,826,397
- 1954- 2,131,388
- 1955- 2,005,836
- 1956- 2,046,331
- 1957- 2,215,404
- 1958- 1,971,101
As you can see by the figures above, the attendance in 1957 really blossomed. The Braves had finished just one game out from winning the National League pennant in 1956, as the Brooklyn Dodgers took the crown instead. The Braves were in first place for 126 days during the 1956 season and Milwaukee and Wisconsin knew that the Braves were ripe for winning the NL pennant and perhaps the World Series in 1957.
Everything did indeed fall into place for the Braves in 1957, as the team went 95-59 and won the National League pennant and advanced to the World Series to face the New York Yankees.
The Braves were managed by Fred Haney and their general manager was John Quinn.
The 1957 Milwaukee Braves
The starting pitching was led by Warren Spahn, who had a 21-11 record and an ERA of 2.69. No. 21 also had 18 complete games. “Bullet” Bob Buhl was 18-7 and had an ERA of 2.74 and had 14 complete games. Lew Burdette was 17-9 and had an ERA of 3.72 and he also completed 14 games. No. 33 would later have one of the greatest World Series performances in history.
Saves were not considered to be a big part of the game back in 1957, but in the late innings, the Braves usually brought in Don McMahon, who was 2-3, had eight saves, finished 19 other games and had an ERA of 1.54. McMahon struck out 46 hitters in 46.1 innings.
In closing out games, the Braves also used Ernie Johnson, who was 7-3, had four saves, finished 16 other games and had an ERA of 3.54.
In terms of how the pitching was ranked in the National League, the Braves were second in ERA (3.47) and first in complete games (60).
The offense of the Braves was led by NL MVP Hank Aaron, as the right fielder hit 44 homers, drove in 132 runs and had a batting average of .322. Aaron was helped by slugging third baseman Eddie Mathews, who hit 32 homers, drove in 94 runs and hit .292.
Both Aaron and Mathews were National League All Stars in 1957 and they were joined by Spahn, Burdette, shortstop Johnny Logan (10-49-.273) and second baseman Red Schoendienst (6-32-.310).
Schoendienst came to the Braves via a trade earlier in the 1957 season, when Milwaukee acquired him from the New York Giants.
Other players chipped in offensively, as left fielder Wes Covington had 21 homers, 65 RBIs and a .284 average, while catcher Del Crandall had 15 homers, 46 RBIs and hit .253.
Because of a knee injury to Billy Bruton, time was split in center field, as both Bruton (5-30-.278) and Andy Pafko (8-27-.277) each saw playing time there.
At first base, Frank Torre (5-40-.272) and Joe Adcock (12-38-.287), platooned at the position.
One of the biggest things which helped the team in the second half of the 1957 was the call up of Bob “Hurricane” Hazel, who also received some playing time in the outfield as a left-handed hitter. Hazel hit seven homers and drove in 27 runs and hit .403 in 41 games.
The Braves were led in the World Series by a number of players, but especially the performance of Burdette. Burdette pitched 24 consecutive scoreless innings, won three games, pitched two shutouts (Game 5 and Game 7) and had an ERA of .067.
Lew Burdette in the 1957 World Series
Aaron hit .393 in the World Series and hit three homers and drove in seven runs.
It took seven games for the Braves to beat the Yankees in the World Series.
- Game 1- Yankees 3, Braves 1 at Yankee Stadium
- Game 2- Braves 4, Yankees 2 at Yankee Stadium
- Game 3- Yankees 12, Braves 3 at Milwaukee County Stadium
- Game 4- Braves 7, Yankees 5 (10 innings) at Milwaukee County Stadium
- Game 5- Braves 1, Yankees 0 at Milwaukee County Stadium
- Game 6- Yankees 3, Braves 2 at Yankee Stadium
- Game 7- Braves 5, Yankees 0 at Yankee Stadium
But when it was all said and done, the Braves had won their first World Series since 1914, when they were still in Boston.
The Braves and Yankees would face each other in the 1958 World Series again, but this time the Yankees won it, as they came back from a three games to one deficit and beat the Braves four games to three.
Burdette did go 20-10 and had an ERA of 291 in 1958, but he did not fare as well in the 1958 World Series, as he was 1-2 with an ERA of 5.64.
Aaron had another fabulous season in 1958, as Hammerin’ Hank hit 30 homers and drove in 95 runs, plus hit .326. No. 44 also hit .333 in the 1958 World Series, but didn’t hit a homer and only drove it two runs.
Still, the 1957 season was the crowning achievement for the Braves in Milwaukee. And even though the team left for Atlanta after the 1965 season, Milwaukee fans will never forget players like Aaron, Mathews, Spahn and Burdette.
In his time in Milwaukee as a Brave, Aaron hit 398 homers, drove in 1,305 runs and hit a cumulative .319.
Meanwhile, Mathews hit 452 homers, drove in 1,271 runs and hit a cumulative .277 in his 13 years in Milwaukee.
Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron
In his 13 years in Milwaukee, Spahn was 234-138, which included winning over 20 games per season nine times. No. 21 had a cumulative ERA of 2.88. Spahnie also had 232 complete games.
Burdette meanwhile, was 173-109 in 11 years in Milwaukee with an cumulative ERA of 3.28. The Nitro, West Virginia native also had 146 complete games in Beertown plus had 17 saves.
But all in all, 1957 was truly a special year in Wisconsin, as the Packers had a stadium built for then which is now considered the ultimate shrine in the NFL, while the Braves did something that has yet to be achieved again in Milwaukee, although the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers came close. That is, winning a World Series title.
When people talk about classic cars, you always hear about the ’57 Chevy Bel-Air. When people in Wisconsin talk about memorable years in the history of sports in the Badger state, 1957 should be one of the years that should be right near the top.
I know 1957 will always be a special year for me, because that’s when my journey through life began.