Tales From The Blue Line 4

milwaukee-stadium-wisconsin Milwaukee County Stadium was the modest housing of a major league baseball team, the Milwaukee Brewers. Built in 1953, it initially housed the former Boston Braves, who moved that year to Milwaukee for a cup of coffee, as it were, and then fled town to Atlanta in 1965. The Green Bay Packers of the NFL played three games there every season, from 1955 until 1994.

The place was torn down and replaced in 2000. That describes an extremely short lived sports arena..

But it was more than a sports arena.

The 1970s, America’s original “Me Decade,” also saw the invasion of County Stadium by a bunch of not-so-sporty groups, who were there to be watched and worshiped by an extremely different kind of audience.

I’m referring to Rock ‘n Roll bands. The most famous bands in the history of the world began doing gigs at County Stadium – as they had been doing for some time at other outdoor sports coliseums across the country.

A selection of these fans of said bands went literally crazy over these groups, in a way that sports fans never did for their favorite teams. Or for any teams, or groups, or whatever. I am certain of this.

Literally crazy? Yes. And I was there, along with my too-small band of fellow undercover police officers, to witness – and spoil – the parties.

Spoiling parties? Yes. Drug parties – held by some in the audience – the likes of which cannot be imagined. You had to see ’em to believe ’em.

These were among the largest, most out-of-control drug parties ever held.. And none of them was more dopey than those in the so-called hippie oriented sections of the gatherings at the outdoor stadium rock concerts.

The first bust out rock concert at County Stadium was performed by the Rolling Stones in 1974, on a stage erected in front of the center field bleachers. The first County Stadium rock concert drug arrest was made by an undercover cop who bought an ounce of marijuana from a guy in the back seat of a taxi cab, in the parking lot outside the stadium.

The drug arrests. How I wish that was the only type of arrest we officers of the Milwaukee Police Department, and the deputies of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department, needed to make.

Those were easy. Seize the illegal drug, handcuff the prisoner, and then walk him/her to the stadium’s command office. Do reports. Go back out to the expansive upper and lower decks, and of course the infield and outfield where the best viewing locations were. Repeat.

Rolling-Stones1975That was all daytime stuff, the time when the warm up bands were warming up the crowd,. As it grew darker in the sky and drunker in parts of the crowd – or should I say druggier? – the rules changed. Some of the boys and girls wanted more and harder inebrients, which made them more and harder to arrest.

Fights broke out.

Yes, I said fights broke out.

This was our first operation of this kind. As the warmup bands finished and the Rolling Stones were about to take the stage, the attitude of some in the crowd changed, from wanting to get to the music, to wanting to get to their dealers. As in drug dealers. And fast. And they did. They swilled and smoked and injected their intoxicants of choice, and grew from a silly crowd of playground kids, to a dark chamber of maniacs. And that was when our commanding officers, safe in the upper level broadcast booths with their theater glasses, saw and directed us to the worst of the offenders.

Thanks, guys.

I made a drug buy (LSD, or so the “dealer” claimed) near the third base line. I walked away and my backups moved in to arrest the offender. Then the offenders backups moved in to defend him from the po-lice. They were drunk and full of mindless violence which they were eager to provide to anyone who tried stopping their fun. And it worked.

Three plainclothes, hippie looking officers with me were injured. I grabbed the prisoner and continued walking away. A second gang of fun loving concert goers just outside the third base dugout saw his hands cuffed behind his back. I was holding his arm. Guess what happened?

You guessed it. I ducked and let go of the erstwhile prisoner. I crawled on my hands and knees to get away, while those in the crowed who’d seen who I was began kicking me. In the side. In the ass. In the face. I got up and ran. A bunch of them chased after me. (I’d love to say Mick Jagger was singing the Stones’ hit song Sympathy For The Devil, at the time, but…)

I managed to escape and ran to the police headquarters under the lower deck. My prisoner was – surprise! – sitting in the room. Some uniformed officers had, unbeknownst to me, seen all the fun that was taking place, and jumped in to rescue the undercover narcs I’d left behind. They managed to make some additional arrests, and located a guy who was running around with his hands cuffed behind his back. The same one who had sold me a few small squares of paper with drops of some damn dark liquid on them, and had then slipped away when the crowd went after me. The pieces of paper were not – ta da! – LSD. But it was common LSD presentation, and easy to copy by phony drug dealers who were delivering it to unsuspecting and/or seriously intoxicated members of the crowd. Or narcs who were taking no chances and seizing the product at first sight.

I had rather moderate bruises and a bloody nose. Not bad. I got patched up, and went back out to the baseball field. By now the fans were standing and screaming while the Stones played on. Now barely noticed, we undercovers took dope smokers and dealers away from the edge of the crowd. When we returned to the field after processing them, we stood and watched. Some uniformed and plainclothes officers were fighting with resisting offenders in the upper deck. Others were fighting with resisters in the lower deck. And, of course, on the ball field itself. And then we started arresting drug violators once again.

rolling-stonesjpgAnd the band played on.

Once they were really loaded, many music lovers started dancing. They danced on the pitcher’s mound. They danced on all three base areas. Some boys pulled out their business and peed where they stood. No one cared. More than one couple engaged in sexual acts in front of everyone. No one cared. No one was arrested for it, either: No cops were chasing them. By that time it was beyond the Apocalypse.

Large sections of the crowd eventually did everything there was to do. And then they did some more. And then they puked, passed out, came to and dragged their mangy butts to the exits, when they were able to find them.

I told the captain that one guy tried to make a suicide squeeze play at home plate. Which wasn’t so bad, but he was in the upper deck at the time.

The captain laughed, told me to shut up (it was a b.s. story) and get back to work.

But by that time it was all we had left; crack a few jokes, wonder what the heck we were doing there any longer, and finally, prepare to leave.

It must be noted that many in the crowd were well-behaved, and disgusted with what the bad actors were doing.

During the next few years there were more open air concerts at County Stadium: Pink Floyd, Heart, The Eagles, Ted Nugent – that’s right, that Ted Nugent – and on and on. You could look them up.

But the major league baseball players and the umpires complained about the smell of urine in the infield. What was that all about? And the papers reported the number of teenagers who came home smashed on who-knew-what intoxicants. Some teenagers didn’t come home for a day or two.

Eventually. the back rooms at Milwaukee’s City Hall and the Milwaukee County Executives’ office began to rumble with the sound of citizens complaining about the parties for the drugged up, hedonistic fiends being held in the midst of our fine city a few times a year – with the backing and the applause of the news media, politicians, and he business people who stood to make a buck off the deal.

I left the narcotics squad in the late 1970s, with more than a half dozen of these events under my belt. I heard that the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department took over exclusive law enforcement coverage of the concerts, and that a better system of screening entrants and activities among the crowd was developed.

County Stadium was demolished in 2001. Some say the rock concerts made it old before its time. It sure made it different, on a handful of Saturdays throughout those years.

 

This is the fourth in an ongoing series from Rob.

He spent thirty-two years as a Milwaukee police officer: seven years doing undercover narcotics investigations and twenty-two years as a major crimes detective. Writing and reading have been lifelong passions, and he began by writing short stories more than thirty years ago.

Rob is published by Orange Hat Press

Follow Rob Riley on Face Book https://www.facebook.com/rob.riley.92