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Donald Driver scores with Thank You Fans Tour

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

GREEN BAY – Donald Driver swept into the Boys & Girls Club the same way he cut across the middle of a football field: with energy, optimism and a clear purpose.

Driver, in fact, is sweeping across all of Wisconsin as part of his Thank You Fans Tour, which began Thursday and wraps up Sunday with his charity celebrity softball game at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.

His message for the boys and girls was that they can be anything they want to be if they work at it and their parents support them; "Even the next Green Bay Packer. Just don't break my records," he said, flashing his trademark smile.

He knows what it is to overcome long odds. Growing up in Houston, Driver was homeless for a time in his early teens and admits to stealing cars and selling drugs to support his family. Moving in with his grandmother and athletics allowed him go a different, better direction. He was a four-sport star in high school and excelled at track and football at Alcorn State in Mississippi, where the Packers found him.

Driver, who retired in 2012, is the Packers' all-time leading receiver, with team records for receptions (743) and receiving yards (10,137). He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 22 at Lambeau Field.

It was a loud, rambunctious group at the club, as you'd expect from a room full of pre-teens, but when Driver told them, gently, to shush, they shushed and listened to his message.

The west-side Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay was his seventh stop of the day, several of them unannounced. He dropped in at restaurants where people nudged each other and wondered if it was really him, until he smiled. Then they knew.

Photo: Richard Ryman/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Richard Ryman/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

"It's been a great lesson for myself. It kind of brings you back to reality," Driver said. "It makes you appreciate the fans so much more now. We even stopped in these little towns and see individuals that never get a chance to see us at all.

"Every stop we've had since Thursday morning has been remarkable."

Proceeds from Sunday's charity celebrity softball game and from corporate sponsorship of the tour go to the Donald Driver Foundation. Supporting the tour are Kohl's, Jockey International, Associated Bank and Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin.

"We've helped so many organizations and programs continue to grow. We've supported the Boys & Girls Club right here in Green Bay," he said. "We just left the Miracle League (in Manitowoc). We helped build a playground and baseball field for those individuals who just want to play the sport that they love."

Acoya Hernandez, 12, of Green Bay, was thrilled to present Driver with a drawing made by club members and to help him draw tickets for a raffle, even though one of the tickets she pulled out of the bucket belonged to her sister, Haylie, 13, and she admitted that she's at least half a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Kaeden Harris, 10, more than balanced Hernandez's fandom. Wearing a Driver jersey, he stepped up to the microphone and explained they had a drawing "for his guy here," before reading a poem that was part of the artwork, his smile equaling that of Driver.

"You wonder why we do the things that we do? This is why we do this, because of kids like this," Driver said. 

Other tour highlights included giving three families back-to-school shopping sprees, making cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair, dropping in at Leinenkugel's 150th anniversary celebration Saturday in Eau Claire and more.

"I give to the state of Wisconsin because you all have given me so much for 14 amazing years of playing," he said. "This is why we've done this tour. This is why we continue to support the local community. To give this support back."

Story by Richard Ryman, courtesy of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.



Donald Driver softball game lineup includes former Packers, celebrities

GRAND CHUTE - When the Donald Driver thank you tour makes its way to Fox Cities Stadium on Sunday, a handful of former Green Bay Packers will share the field with a mix of celebrities from the entertainment world.

Driver, who has embarked on a thank you tour following his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame, will host a softball game at 1:05 p.m. Sunday on the field usually occupied by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Joining Driver and his family will be former Packers James Jones, Dorsey Levens, Andre Rison, Nick Collins, Aaron Kampman, Robert Ferguson, Craig Nall and Tony Fisher.

Other athletes in the lineup include five-time Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair, former UFC Lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, former Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette basketball player Steve Novak and former Wisconsin Badgers basketball player Josh Gasser.

The entertainment world — which Driver has dabbled in since winning ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2012 — will be represented by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw, "Gossip Girl" actress Jessica Szhor, "General Hospital" actress Emily Wilson, "Rules of Engagement" actor Adhir Kalyan, "The Voice" contestants Andi and Alex Peot and NBC’s "The Biggest Loser" host Jen Widerstrom.

“We will have a great group of Packers legends and celebrity friends battling it out this Sunday,” Driver said in a released statement. 

Fox Cities Stadium is familiar territory for Driver. During his playing days, he hosted the annual charity game that features current Packers players. Jordy Nelson is now in that role.

General admission tickets for Sunday's game are $10 and available at 920-733-4152, in person at the stadium box office or through

The parking lot opens at 9:30 a.m. Parking is $10 for cars and $20 for buses and RVs.

The gates to the stadium will open at 10:30 a.m. There is a sponsor game scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. The featured game will start at 1:05 p.m.

Story by Ed Berthiaume, courtesy of




Bud Selig reaches pinnacle of baseball career by joining exclusive Hall of Fame family

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – As Bud Selig delivered his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday afternoon, many of his friends and family were sitting front and center among the sizable crowd.

Seated on stage behind Selig was his new, extended family – those already admitted into the most exclusive club in baseball, including some of the greatest players in the game’s history. For someone whose path began as an excitable, avid young fan, it couldn’t have been more satisfying.

“This weekend, every Hall of Famer has been so warm with me,” Selig said before the ceremony at the Clark Sports Center. “I’ve known a lot of them for years, of course. The first thing they said was, ‘We’re proud that you’re now part of the family.’

“I heard that over and over again. In a great sense, I feel like I’m home.”

In his speech, Selig acknowledged those members of his new baseball family who traveled from far and wide to pay tribute to the new five-member class of inductees.

“I am honored to be in your presence,” said Selig, who was inducted on his 83rd birthday, the only Hall of Famer ever to go in on the date he was born. “On your shoulders, this game became part of the fabric of our country, and we are forever indebted to you.”

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Selig was one of five inductees in the Class of 2017, joining longtime club executive and friend John Schuerholz as well as three former players, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

During his 22 years as commissioner of baseball, Selig participated in every induction ceremony, handing out bronze plaques to honorees. On the receiving end of baseball immortality this time, he admitted the feeling was profoundly different.

“Now, as I stand here at this moment, I am humbled,” he said in his speech. “I am deeply honored to receive baseball’s highest honor. I stand here amongst many friends, including the great Henry Aaron, my friend of 59 years, and one of the best and most decent and dignified people I have ever known."

Later, in a media session after the ceremony, Selig admitted to being nervous on stage, though he said that wasn't the reason he dropped his speech momentarily before making a quick recovery.

"Everybody kept asking me how I felt," he said. "I've given thousands of speeches, in all kinds of circumstances. I kept trying to insist I wasn't nervous but I was tense. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense but I made myself feel better.

"I wanted, in a short period of time, to really illustrate what had gone on for the last 22 or 23 years. I hope I did that. I keep using the word but I'll say again it was overwhelming. Was I nervous? Yeah, now I'll admit, I was nervous."

The theme of Selig’s 18-minute-plus speech, which took 32 drafts to construct to his satisfaction with outside help, was “a great journey,” and his life in baseball certainly qualified. The official start of that journey came when Selig spearheaded efforts to return baseball to his hometown after the Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta following the 1965 season.

Despite his many accomplishments as commissioner, Selig has been unwavering that bringing the Brewers to Milwaukee out of bankruptcy in Seattle is the feat of which he is most proud.

“I made it my mission, my quest, and I devoted five long years in a relentless effort,” he said. “And that day when the Brewers arrived, March 31, 1970, will forever be one of the proudest days of my life.”

Selig paid tribute to three renown members of the Brewers who preceded him into the Hall of Fame – Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers. Yount and Molitor, who couldn’t attend the ceremony because he was managing the Minnesota Twins in a weekend series in Oakland, were inducted representing the Brewers. Fingers went in representing the Athletics but finished his great career in Milwaukee.

“Robin and Rollie and Molly represented the Brewers in so many ways,” Selig said in his speech. “You three were more than just players to me and the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. You are forever etched in the minds of Brewers fans. You are forever etched in the journey of my life.”

Selig also took time to acknowledge the man who bought the Brewers in 2005, Mark Attanasio, saying, “The Brewers and their fans throughout Milwaukee and Wisconsin are in good hands.”

Selig noted the turbulent times after he became interim commissioner in 1992 and the bitter labor wars that followed. The game was shut down two years later, leading to cancellation of the World Series, and Selig portrayed the game as a deeply divided civil war.

“Everywhere you turned, there was rancor and adversity,” he said. “Big markets versus small markets; American League owners versus National League owners; and worst of all, owners versus players. We were a game stuck neutral.

“We went through a terribly painful period to institute a new economic system. The 1994 strike was the most painful experience of my life.”

Under Selig’s guidance, the game shifted out of neutral to drive, then later to overdrive. Labor peace was achieved and there have been no more work stoppages. Revenue sharing helped smaller markets such as Milwaukee get their heads above water and paved the way for many initiatives that grew the game, such as expanded playoffs, interleague play and the World Baseball Classic.

“Success comes from working together,” he said. “The unprecedented success we have achieved over these past 25 years has come from ending the divide, from building harmony, and from working as one for the good of the game.”

Selig mentioned the one period for which he has received the most criticism of his commissionership – the so-called “Steroid Era” in which performance-enhancing drugs led to nearly superhuman offensive exploits. But, under advice from current baseball officials, he did not dwell on that topic.

“We desperately needed a drug-testing program, and we had to work together to get it done,” said Selig, who off stage reminded reporters that the program had to be collectively bargained with the players association, which for years fought testing.

“While the process was more difficult and time-consuming than I would have liked, in the end, baseball and the players association developed a program that is the gold standard for sports and business alike.”

Selig paid tribute to many baseball figures who have passed on, including bombastic New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“We never agreed on anything in 40 years but we remained great friends during that entire time,” Selig said. “And he was incredibly cooperative during my tenure as commissioner.”

Selig acknowledged what he called “the single most important day in baseball history,” April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the game’s color barrier. On that date 50 years later, Selig announced as commissioner that Robinson’s No. 42 would be retired permanently to honor his legacy.

At the end of his speech, Selig feted family members, past and present. Of wife Sue, he said, “She has been an extraordinary partner and helpful in every way.”

He paid tribute to his parents, Ben and Marie, who not only allowed his passion for baseball but nurtured and fostered it.

“If they were here today, they would be proud of this journey,” he said.

Selig concluded his remarks by repeating a closing line from a speech he gave at an awards dinner of baseball writers in New York City a few years back.

“That night, I said, ‘What you have seen here are a little boy’s dreams that came true,’” Selig said. “Thank you for this magnificent honor.”

The inductees were not shown their plaques in advance, and Selig was asked later if receiving his made it finally hit home that he indeed was going into the Hall of Fame.

"I had given them out for 22 years, and here I was getting one," Selig said. "It was quite a feeling. I kept drinking water to make sure this was all happening, to make sure my system was still functioning.

"It's an overpowering feeling."

The previous day, Selig was asked to recall fond birthdays from his past. He talked about his 15th, when his mother took him to New York to see a Broadway play and a game between the Indians and Yankees. Selig laughed about having the audacity of youth to think a birthday cake being rolled onto the field for New York manager Casey Stengel was actually for him. 

But, he agreed after the ceremony there would be no surpassing birthday No. 83.

"My mother was really the one who got me interested in baseball," he said. "My 15th birthday was just an amazing experience. But nothing can top this. I don't know what else to say other than it's a remarkable human experience."

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Inscription on Selig’s plaque:

Allan Huber Selig


Commissioner from 1992 to 2015, the first seven years in acting capacity, before being formally named by unanimous vote among all 30 owners in 1998. Presided over an era of vast change to the game, on the field, while extending its breadth and depth off of it. Fostered an unprecedented stretch of labor peace, introduced three-division play and expanded the postseason. Under his leadership, umpiring was centralized and replay review was established. Celebrated the national pastime’s pioneering diversity by universally retiring Jackie Robinson’s No. 42. Bridge builder and devoted fan who returned baseball to Milwaukee as Brewers’ owner before serving as second-longest tenured commissioner.

Story by Tom Haudricourt, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.



Andy North overcame injuries to win two U.S. Opens

Story by Gary D'Amato, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Photo: Journal Sentinel files

Photo: Journal Sentinel files

CAMBRIDGE, Wisc. -- Andy North, standing inside his cottage on Lake Ripley, motions for a guest to enter through the screen door. He's moving slowly, gingerly, wincing with every step. His face is drawn and pale.

"Double hernia surgery," he says, an explanation and an apology conveyed with a broadcaster's economy of language.

Pardon the pun, but it's par for the course. North, 67, of Madison, is the only golfer from Wisconsin to win the U.S. Open, and he did it twice. But he was waylaid by an assortment of injuries, surgeries and illnesses, the cumulative result of which left him a shell of the golfer he could have been.

There were back and neck problems, which plagued him throughout his career. Five surgeries on his left knee. One on his right knee. One on his neck. Skin cancer. Plastic surgery to rebuild his nose. Prostate cancer.

"I had surgery every year from 1986 to '93," he says. "I was going through operations every year. You know, it's Labor Day, let's go have surgery."

It's been more than 30 years since North won his second U.S. Open title in 1985 and he has played little competitive golf over the past decade. Most golf fans today know him more for his astute observations as an analyst and reporter for ESPN than for his playing career, which effectively ended in the early 1990s.

How good could he have been if his medical chart didn't look like the Green Bay Packers' weekly injury report?

"Who knows?" he says. "I truly feel I could have had a lot better career if I had been just a little bit healthier. But at the same time, you go out and do what you can do and deal with it the best you can."

Some make light of his resume because he won just one regular PGA Tour event, the 1977 Westchester Classic. He's been called a fluke U.S. Open champion, but only by those who have no idea how hard it is to win one of them, let alone two.

"Some people want me to apologize for doing something twice that almost everyone out here is still dreaming of doing once," North said in a 1996 story in Golf Digest magazine. "That can be a little hard to take."

North is one of 21 men in the 116-year history of the U.S. Open to win the title multiple times. Only six men won have won it more than twice and all are in the World Golf Hall of Fame except for Tiger Woods, who will be.

North grew up in Madison, the son of Stewart North, a successful high school football and basketball coach who returned to college, got his doctorate and then taught education administration at the University of Wisconsin.

Whether he inherited the competitive gene or it was learned behavior, young Andy North played every sport under the sun and was good at all of them. But just like that, it was all taken away.

When he was in the seventh grade he was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease in his left knee. He was non-weight-bearing for two years, on crutches the entire time. So much for the budding athlete.

"My world ended," North says.

His doctor allowed him to play just one sport -- golf -- and he had to do it on crutches and from a motorized cart. As fate would have it, his parents had joined Nakoma Golf Club and the pro there, Lee Milligan, convinced the board to let 13-year-old Andy use a cart.

"They had a great junior program at Nakoma and Lee really cared about the kids," North says. "You could have been 100 other places where it wouldn't have turned out that way."

North threw himself into golf and in short order was a good player. Two years after taking up the game he was a '"4 or 5 handicap." He won the state high school title as a sophomore at Monona Grove High School and at 17 made it to the championship match of the 1967 State Amateur before losing to Dick Sucher.

He attended the University of Florida on a golf scholarship, was a three-time All-American and turned pro immediately upon his graduation in 1972. He breezed through Q School that fall and set off on the PGA Tour in '73 with his bride, Susan, and a bunch of goals and dreams.

"We filled up the car with whatever we had and took off," he says. "You just kind of take on the world. I thought it was the greatest deal."

He finished 64th on the money list as a rookie and improved in each succeeding year: 53rd, 37th, 18th, 14th.

"I felt like I got a little bit better every year and was figuring it out," he says. "I had a couple chances to win. I thought I played really well in '76. I had a ton of top-10, top-12 type finishes."

In '77 his touchy back flared up and he spent most of the year fighting the pain and rigging up traction in his hotel room at night. After a tournament on the West Coast, he was so miserable that he was going to withdraw from Westchester, but Susan already had flown to New York and urged him to play.

"And then I went out and won the tournament," he says. "You see it all the time. Guys are playing terrible and they figure it out and, boom, they win. After that, I didn't see any reason I couldn't win a bunch of times."

At the 1978 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills outside Denver, North held the lead after the second and third rounds.

"I was in complete control of the tournament the entire week," he says. "I hit the ball great. I really didn't make any mistakes. In the final round, I had a 15-footer for birdie on the 13th hole and if I made it I would go up five. I was lining up my putt and I told my caddie, 'If I make it, this thing's over.' "

He made it. But the thing wasn't over.

"I didn't hit a good shot the rest of the way," North sighs.

He held on to win by a single shot, besting a field that included Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson -- all of whom finished in the top 10.

"I was relieved it was over," North says. "There wasn't any joy at all. It was like, 'Oh my God, finally.' It's not a two-hour window on Saturday and it's over. You have to come back and do it the next day and the next day and the next day, which is what makes our sport hard. You don't sleep as well on the lead. You don't eat as well. By the end of the week, you're on fumes.

"You're excited and you're happy and all those things, but I don't think anybody enjoys it as much as they think they will, just because it's such a relief that it's over."

Winning the U.S. Open had been his No. 1 goal. Like many major champions, North stood on the mountaintop and found it difficult to sustain the drive that got him there.

"My goal from the time I was about 14 years old, I wanted to win the U.S. Open," he says. "All of a sudden, you've done it. Now what do you do? I went through a period of a couple years after the Open when I played OK, but you're a rudderless ship. You went through the motions, you did all the stuff you needed to do, but something was missing."

The injuries started piling up, too. His back, always a problem, was getting worse. He had elbow surgery in the fall of 1983 and his swing changed.

"All of a sudden," he says, "you're just stumbling around."

Photo: Scott Halleran, Getty Images

Photo: Scott Halleran, Getty Images

Then, surprise, he went out and won the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. He'd missed the cut at Westchester, flew into Detroit the Saturday before the championship started and studied every nuance of the course Ben Hogan had "brought to its knees" in '51.

"I felt I was better prepared for that week than probably for any tournament I ever played," he says. "I spent a ton of time on the greens late in the evenings when no one was out there, chipping and putting and doing stuff that really helped me as the week went on."

He played beautifully the first three days, leading the field in greens hit in regulation.

"And then Sunday I went out there," he says, "and I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Scraped it around the first 11 or 12 holes, never laid the club on the ball. I was terrible."

T.C. Chen of Taiwan was in command until he staggered to a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 fifth hole -- a mess that included a double-hit chip shot, which instantly immortalized him as "Two-Chip Chen."

North, coming off three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 9-11, hit a shot out of a fairway bunker on No. 12 and suddenly found what had been missing.

"I was like, 'Ooh, that felt like how it was supposed to feel,' " he says. "I missed an 8-footer for birdie but the next hole is a par-3 and I hit a 5-iron in there to about 12 feet and made that and it was like I was in complete control after that."

He bogeyed the final hole -- "because I could" -- and beat Chen, Dave Barr and Denis Watson by a single stroke.

It was to be North's last hurrah. Injuries continued to take a toll. Surgeries came, one after another.

"I never could go practice like you're supposed to," he says. "After 1985, I never practiced again. I never did the kind of practicing I did for 15 years before that. From that point on, you faked it. You go hit a few balls and fake it. You can't beat guys doing that."

North segued into television announcing in 1993, at first on a one-year contract with ESPN. He made a seamless transition from playing to talking about it. He plays a couple of times annually on the PGA Tour Champions just to remind himself how difficult the game can be.

"If I can't tell people something they don't know, then I'm not doing my job," he says. "That's kind of how I've approached it."

North's television duties keep him involved in the game but give him wide latitude to do other things, in and out of golf.

He has designed a handful of courses, including Trappers Turn in Wisconsin Dells and The General at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena, Ill. He and Susan are involved in several charities and his "Andy North and Friends" events have raised millions for the UW Carbone Cancer Center. He's an enthusiastic -- some might say rabid -- follower of University of Wisconsin sports. He was Watson's assistant captain on the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

"It's been nice to do a lot of other stuff," he says. "I've never been bored. Every day you get up and you're ready to go do something."

North looks back on his playing career with pride.

"There aren't a lot of people that can say they played with (Gene) Sarazen and (Byron) Nelson and (Sam) Snead," he says. "I got to see Arnold (Palmer) at his best, Jack (Nicklaus) at his best, (Lee) Trevino at his best, (Greg) Norman and (Nick) Faldo at their best. All the way up to Tiger (Woods), Phil (Mickelson) and Rory (McIlroy). It's pretty neat."

If not for all his injuries, there is a good chance North might have been mentioned in the same breath with those players. Nicklaus and Watson are among those who have said as much.

"There was no doubt in my mind I'd win eight or 10 majors," North says of his mind-set after winning his first U.S. Open title. "I loved the fact that they were harder to win. I like that you didn't have to shoot 20-under par. I just thought I would win eight or 10 of them.

"The (U.S.) Open, particularly. I thought I'd win a bunch of those."

He won two more than Snead and Mickelson, Faldo and Norman. One more than Palmer.

It's not a good resume. It's a great one.


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Selig, Kohl, Marcus and others bonded at UW fraternity before going on to greatness


Story by Tom Haudricourt, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Photo: UW Digital Collections

Photo: UW Digital Collections

When Bud Selig steps to the podium next Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., to deliver his acceptance speech during induction ceremonies for the Baseball Hall of Fame, there will be many familiar faces in what is expected to be an enormous crowd.

One group of men will be viewed with particular fondness by Selig, linked by a unique bond that has endured for more than a half century. Herb Kohl, Steve Marcus and Lewis Wolff will be joined by others who first met as members of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity at the University of Wisconsin in the mid to late 1950s.

“All of his associates and fraternity brothers, we feel we’re getting in (the Hall of Fame), too,” Wolff said. “We identify with Bud so much.”

By any measure of future success, the group of young men who gathered daily at the Pilam fraternity house was an extraordinary bunch. There were those who went on to become prominent attorneys, businessmen, physicians and leaders of men in their communities but it went far beyond that with some. And it all started with childhood friends Selig and Kohl, who grew up on the West side of Milwaukee and stayed together through every level of education.

“We grew up a half block from each other,” said Kohl, whose family lived on 51st Boulevard. “We went to Sherman School together, then Steuben Junior High and Washington High School. Then it was on to UW. We were very close, so it was no surprise we ended up in the same fraternity.”

It’s difficult to imagine a pair of college roommates going on to greater things than Selig and Kohl, each destined for individual greatness.

Kohl would serve in the Army Reserve before getting his professional career started in financial investing, then the family grocery and department store businesses before buying the Milwaukee Bucks and going on to serve 24 years as U.S. senator from Wisconsin. Not a bad life path.

Selig would return to Milwaukee to work in the family car business but had little interest in making that his livelihood. An avid baseball fan, he made it his mission to return Major League Baseball to his hometown after the Braves bolted for Atlanta in 1965. Selig led the group that founded the Milwaukee Brewers five years later and went on to become commissioner of baseball, serving a 22-year term that morphed from turbulent to transformational.

As if that weren’t enough, Selig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in December and will be inducted with four others on his 83rd birthday, gaining immortality in the sport he loves so dearly.

Marcus arrived in Madison from Milwaukee a year after Selig and Kohl, and was new to both cities. Marcus was born in Minneapolis but spent parts of his childhood in Ripon and Oshkosh, where he went to high school before his family moved to Milwaukee. He, too, pledged Pi Lambda Phi, where he quickly noticed Selig’s affinity for baseball.

“That’s about all he thought about,” Marcus recalled. “We’d come back to the fraternity house, especially in the spring, and he always had a baseball game on. In those days, it was just radio. He knew what games were being played and how to find them.”

Like Selig and Kohl, Marcus would return to Milwaukee and become a huge success, joining the entertainment and hotel corporation founded by his father, Ben (Selig’s father also was named Ben). He is chairman of the board of the Marcus Corporation, which owns or manages 895 movie screens in eight states as well as 17 hotels, resorts and other properties in nine states, including the venerable Pfister Hotel downtown.

Wolff, who arrived at UW that same year from St. Louis, said Selig and Kohl were more focused as students than he was initially.

“We were in the fraternity together but they were in the library most of the time,” Wolff said. “I didn’t know where the library was until I was a junior.

“From the day I met Bud, I told him he was the 15th man picked on a nine-man team, but he never missed a fraternity or college game in any sport. He was always there rooting. He had an unbelievable passion, especially for baseball, for somebody who wasn’t that active physically in it.”

Wolff, 81, was destined to make his mark as a baseball owner as well. He first launched a career as a real estate mogul in the Bay Area of northern California and was credited with the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown San Jose. He joined an ownership group that purchased the Oakland Athletics in 2005 and remained a managing partner until selling his share of the club last November.

The fraternity success stories from those years went on and on. Frank Gimbel would become a dogged legal prosecutor before switching sides to criminal defense attorney in Milwaukee. Known in town as “Mr. Clout, he also served many years as chairman of the Wisconsin Center District.

Bill Grinker went to Harvard Law and landed in New York City, where he became a successful director and consultant to the small business community. Mel Pearl returned home to Chicago and became senior partner of a huge law firm.

Not exactly the bunch of losers that partied all day and night at Delta Tau Chi fraternity in the movie “Animal House.”

“It is unique,” said Kohl, 82, whose younger brother, Allen, also was a fraternity member. “A lot of the guys have gone on to have very successful lives. We’ve stayed in touch with each other. We’ve had several reunions of that fraternity over the years. A bunch of them have been in Milwaukee. It’s always good to see everyone.”

There will be another reunion of sorts in a week at Cooperstown. Wolff is making the 3,000-mile journey from California on his private jet, stopping in Phoenix to pick up fraternity brothers Don Sandler and Jim Metz.

“It will be a long jaunt but it will be worth it,” Wolff said. “I would not miss this, period.

“He still stays in touch with so many of us. People are just drawn to Bud. He really was a born leader. If you stamped out a list of leadership, Bud’s name would be at the top.”

Wolff watched Selig exercise his leadership skills in getting UW football player Charlie Thomas, an African-American running back who played behind Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche, in their mostly Jewish fraternity. This was years before the Civil Rights movement reached its peak, and Wolff said Thomas’ proposed membership “was a big deal in those days.”

“Bud and a few of us thought he’d be great for the fraternity but he had to be voted in,” Wolff recalled. “Some of the guys were not excited about it. I remember Bud saying, ‘We’re going to stay here in this meeting as long as it takes, even if it goes into the next day, to settle this in a fair way.’ And, so, Charlie eventually was voted in, and we loved him.”

Selig called that night “an interesting experience” but never considered it controversial to bring Thomas into the all-white fraternity. He and Thomas had become good friends, spending nights together in the library and stopping on the way back to their rooms to eat burgers at a joint they called “Greasy George’s.”

“He was a wonderful human being; I loved Charlie,” said Selig, who long has considered the seminal moment in major-league history to be Branch Rickey integrating the game with Jackie Robinson.

“The guys really liked him. It wasn’t because he was a football player. He later became superintendent of all the suburban Chicago schools. He was a remarkable guy.”

Many years later, when Wolff owned the Oakland A’s, he often watched Selig work a room in similar fashion as commissioner. Selig became the consummate consensus builder, cajoling, pleading and often pestering owners until they saw things his way and voted as he desired.

“He could be very persuasive,” Wolff said. “That’s what made him a successful commissioner.”

Selig’s fraternity brothers watched him use those same skills to lead the charge to get Miller Park built when the future of the Brewers in Milwaukee was at stake in the late ‘90s. Kohl said Selig had become accustomed to getting his way as far back as the sixth grade, when the two friends were captains of peewee baseball teams that advanced to the league championship game.

“We were both undefeated and playing for the championship on a Saturday morning,” Kohl said. “We get to the field and we start warming up, and we see this big, tall guy, well over 6 feet tall, come in and start warming up.

“I said, ‘Selig, who is this guy?’ He says, ‘Well, my regular pitcher, Freddie, couldn’t make it, so we got this guy.’ I said, ‘Why isn’t Freddie here?’ He said, ‘Freddie wouldn’t drink his orange juice so his mother wouldn’t let him come.’ We had a big fight about it and Selig said, ‘Quit your whining and let’s play ball.’

“So, I relented and we did and, sure enough, this guy pitches a no-hitter against us and we lost, 9-0. Selig wanted to win so badly, he puts this ringer out there. I never saw the kid again. He disappeared after the game.

“So, fast-forward all those years later and I turn on the television, and Bud Selig has just become the commissioner. He’s holding a big press conference and he says, “My No. 1 responsibility is to protect the integrity of the game.” I looked at the TV and said, ‘This is the guy who brought the ringer to win the game in the sixth grade.’”

Asked about Kohl's account of that day, Selig smiled broadly and said, "Herbie loves telling that story. The only problem is it's not true."

Kohl, of course, was speaking with mock contempt about Selig's integrity. As longtime owner of the Bucks before selling the club three years ago, he knew the importance of a commissioner who looks out for the sport, not his own reputation and popularity. Selig took an early hit over the labor war that led to the cancellation of the ’94 World Series and caught flak about overseeing the game during the so-called “Steroid Era” but Kohl said his childhood friend kept his eye on the ball.

“He devoted his life to baseball in various ways,” said Kohl, who also hopes to attend Selig’s induction ceremony. “First of all, getting the team back to Milwaukee. He was a great owner. Then he became commissioner and did a wonderful job.

“He saw the sport through some of the darkest days that weren’t his fault. He grew the game in every way and left it in outstanding shape. He has done great things in the game of baseball and wonderful things for Milwaukee. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I’m very happy for him, and very proud of him.”

Kohl and Selig remained loyal not only to their fraternity buddies but also their alma mater through philanthropy. Kohl provided the lead gift for the Kohl Center athletic facility and founded the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, which provides grants to students and teachers. Selig established the Allan H. Selig Chair in History in 2010, has helped create scholarships for students and serves as a guest lecturer in the history department.

More than 60 years after an extraordinary group of young men bonded at Pi Lambda Phi, inspired each other and set their course for future success, many will unite in Cooperstown in support of Selig. According to Marcus, 82, it is the least they can do to celebrate the ultimate achievement of one of their own.

“That says more about Buddy than it does about the rest of us,” said Marcus, who will make his first trip to Cooperstown. “When he became the commissioner, he could have put all of us in his rear-view mirror. And he never did that. He could have put Milwaukee in his rear-view mirror. He didn’t do that, either.

“He insisted on staying here and has been a major contributor to the community in many ways. It was amazing that he laid down that marker and it actually happened, and that we would be the home base of Major League Baseball. When you think about how difficult the beginning days of his commissionership were, it’s really amazing. But all he went through in getting problems straightened out, and how much patience and determination that took, it helps you understand why this is so well deserved.

“He’s very excited about it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite as excited about anything, except maybe becoming a great grandfather.”

Selig is beyond thrilled that so many of his fraternity brothers will be on hand to witness his induction into the Hall of Fame. But, looking back at those years when a group of young men united before going on to great success, he said there was no way to forecast what lied ahead.

“We were just kids,” he said. “I can’t give you any logic for it. Herb and I were big sports fans. We talked about things that everybody talked about.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine this would happen. It turned out to be an amazing group.”

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Donald Driver will make cream puffs at State Fair on his "Thank You Fans" Tour

As if Donald Driver could get any more popular around here, the beloved former Packers wide receiver, as part of his "Thank You Fans" tour, will help make cream puffs at Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 11.

The tour, believed to be the first of its kind for a professional athlete to travel around and formally recognize his supporters, will help benefit the Donald Driver Foundation and also give fans an opportunity to interact with the charismatic and ever-active retired player, who still looks as fit as he was in his playing days.

"I am excited to make some cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair, and maybe eat a few too," Donald Driver said in a statement. "A great Wisconsin tradition, plus I get to share a treat with some awesome fans."

Kathleen O'Leary, Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO, said cream puffs and Donald Driver, both cherished and smile-inducing, are a natural local pairing.

"As iconic as Original Cream Puffs are to the Wisconsin State Fair, and Donald Driver is to the Green Bay Packers, we are excited to bring them together," O'Leary said.

Click here to watch a video of Driver talking about the upcoming tour stop.

Also on Wednesday, it was announced that Driver will attend the Miracle League of the Lakeshore's All-Star Game in Manitowoc on the evening of Aug. 11. He will participate as a coach, and might even put on a glove and play too. The annual Donald Driver Softball Game in Appleton will be held on Aug. 13.

These stops, as well as others yet to be announced, are part of Driver's much-anticipated Aug. 10-13 tour through Wisconsin. Driver, who was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame on July 22, retired from the NFL in 2012, following a 14-year career and as the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards.

"I have wanted to do this tour since I first announced my retirement from the Packers, and now is a perfect time to say thank you for all of the support," Driver said. "My wife Betina and I raised three beautiful children here, and we remain ingrained in our support for the state of Wisconsin, because of the incredible, lifelong friendships and relationships that have been built over 20 years."

Driver's adversity-overcoming story from homeless kid in Houston to seventh-round draft pick in Green Bay to four-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion, "Dancing with the Stars" winner and New York Times bestselling author is well-documented and inspiring. Inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016, he has returned to the state many times for charity events and public appearances. He spoke to OnMilwaukee in February on a range of topics, including his extensive post-career work, love of Green Bay fans and Aaron Rodgers vs. Brett Favre.

On Aug. 11 at the State Fair, you won't want to miss a chance to see Driver and perhaps even eat a cream puff prepared by the Packers legend.

Story by Jimmy Carlton, courtesy of


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Junior Bridgeman fourth on Forbes retired jock pay list led by Michael Jordan

Photo: Tim Harris

Photo: Tim Harris

Retired Milwaukee Bucks great Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman, who has made millions more in the restaurant business than he ever did during his 12-year NBA career, ranks fourth on the latest Forbes list of highest-paid retired athletes.

Forbes estimates Bridgeman’s income in 2015 at $32 million. The publication estimates Bridgeman owns more than 450 restaurant franchises, which reports are mostly made up of Wendy’s and Chili’s.

Another retired NBA player, Michael Jordan, tops the Forbes list with an estimated $110 million in income. Jordan is followed by soccer’s David Beckham at $65 million and golfer Arnold Palmer at $40 million. Bridgeman is the only retired athlete with Wisconsin connections on the list.

Bridgeman retired in 1987 after a 12-year NBA career mostly with the Bucks. His top annual salary was $350,000, according to a 2014 profile in Louisville Business First, a sister publication of the Milwaukee Business Journal.

After he retired, Bridgeman bought five Wendy’s franchise locations in Milwaukee. Bridgeman and his family then moved back to Louisville, Ky. — his college team was the University of Louisville — in summer of 1987 and continued accumulating more Wendy’s locations. He has built his business ever since from its headquarters in Louisville.

Story by Rich Kirchen, courtesy of the Milwaukee Business Journal.

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Peter Jackel: My Mount Rushmores of Wisconsin sports

Since 1941, the majestic sculpture of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt in the Black Hills of Keystone, S.D., have represented one of the most iconic and enduring images of the United States.

I am thus inspired to present my “Mount Rushmore” of sports in Wisconsin, both at the local and state levels. For better or worse, here’s what I offer for your consumption:

PACKERS: Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Don Hutson

Comment: The first three are obvious. The fourth was a real challenge considering Reggie White, James Lofton and Forrest Gregg are among the other greats who played for the Packers. The choice falls to Hutson, a receiver who revolutionized his position during his Packers career from 1935-45.

BREWERS: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Prince Fielder, Rollie Fingers

Comment: As great as Yount was, Molitor is my choice for the greatest Brewer. He is 10th all-time in major league history with 3,319 hits. Had he not missed most of the 1984 season with an injury, Molitor easily could be in the top five.

BRAVES: Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette

Comment: What’s remarkable to me is Aaron won only one National League MVP award during his 23-year-career. No player has ever intrigued me more than Spahn, who didn’t win his first major league game until the age of 25 and finished with 363 victories. At the age of 44 in 1965, he finished his career with the Giants by compiling a 3.39 earned run average in 71⅔ innings. And then he was released. How many millions would such a performance be worth these days?

BUCKS: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Sidney Moncrief, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Comment: The Bucks have abused the ridiculous practice of retiring numbers as much as any sports organization, with eight numbers hanging in the rafters to show for their one NBA championship. But Abdul-Jabbar is one of the five greatest players of all time. Robertson is still in the top 20 in NBA history. And it’s remarkable to think Antetokounmpo is still only 22.

UW FOOTBALL: Russell Wilson, Ron Dayne, J.J. Watt, Joe Thomas

Comment: I was so tempted to put Brent Moss on this list and it doesn’t have anything to do with being a homer. Let us not forget that the former Park High School All-State running back was the focal point on the first Badgers team to win a Rose Bowl in January 1994. And that team laid the foundation for the football excellence that has been on display in Madison ever since. And I do realize Alan Ameche won the Heisman Trophy in 1954, but I just cannot omit any of the four names listed above.

RACINE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Tony Romo, Burlington; Brent Moss, Park; Kevin Barry, Park; Johnny Clay, Park

Comment: It hurts not to include Chris Maragos, the only player from Racine County to earn a Super Bowl championship ring and who might end up with the longest NFL career of any Racine County player. But Barry and Clay are the only two county Players to ever be named the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin. Moss was the Rose Bowl and Big Ten MVP during the 1993 season. And the recently retired Romo is, statistically, one of the five greatest passers in NFL history.

RACINE COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL: Jim Chones, St. Catherine’s; Robert Berryhill, Horlick; Caron Butler, Park; Jim McIlvaine, St. Catherine’s

Comment: I will always remember Berryhill as the Michael Jordan of county basketball during his time at Horlick from 1983-86. He was really someone to see. As for McIlvaine, let’s not forget that he was the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin as a senior at St. Catherine’s in 1990 and was a legitimate defensive game-changer who was given a seven-year $33.6 million contract by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.

RACINE COUNTY GIRLS BASKETBALL: Sonja Henning, Horlick; LaTonya Sims, Park; Samantha Logic, Case; Keisha Anderson, Park

Comment: A strong argument could be made that Henning is the greatest athlete to come out of the county. She was the AP Player of the Year in basketball in Wisconsin as a senior at Horlick in 1987, is the all-time leading scorer among boys or girls in county history and was a first-team All-America for Stanford in 1991 (a year after she started on its national championship team).

STATE COACHES: Vince Lombardi, Al McGuire, Dick Bennett, Bo Ryan

Comment: The legend of Lombardi burns as brightly as ever going on 50 years after he coached his last game for the Packers. Ryan never won a national championship, but he might have done more with less – relatively speaking – than any coach in college basketball history. He wasn’t getting elite one-and-done players. He made a career of masterfully molding role players into dominating teams that exponentially raised the profile of UW basketball.

Story by Peter Jackel, Courtesy of The Journal Times.



Wisconsin governor makes June 4 Jerry Kramer Day

Jerry Kramer continues to rack up accolades despite not being in Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jerry Kramer is still waiting to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But in the meantime, Kramer continues to earn accolades for what he was able to accomplish with the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s.

On Sunday, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker did something special for Kramer as he made June 4 "Jerry Kramer Day." Here's a look at the proclamation signed by Governor Walker.

Kramer, 81, went to the Pro Bowl three-times, was named to the All-Pro team six times and was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team. He is considered by many as the best player not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only way Kramer can get into the Hall of Fame now is by the senior committee and they will decide their Hall of Fame finalists for the Class of 2018 in August.

Story by Brian Jones, courtesy of



“Immortalized in Bronze:” Man writes book about WI sports legends inducted into Athletic Hall of Fame

MILWAUKEE -- Some of the greatest athletes in American history have connections to Wisconsin. Now, those standouts are being recognized -- for being recognized.

The physical future of sports in downtown Milwaukee is growing brighter by the day, but that doesn't completely overshadow the past. Just down 4th Street from the new Milwaukee Bucks arena sits the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, with plaques honoring the inductees.

"This whole group of plaques were part of a 14-person induction class in 1951. This was a brand new place, the Milwaukee Arena, in 1951. In fact, some of my research says the state-of-the-art Milwaukee Arena," Gregg Hoffmann, author said.

Gregg Hoffmann

Gregg Hoffmann

State-of-the-art is indeed a relative term. The members of the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame were the best of the best, and their contributions stand the test of time. Donald Driver is a recent inductee, and Paul Molitor an earlier inductee. Those players excelled while playing in Wisconsin. Ginger Beaumont, a much earlier inductee, was a state native.

"He was the first batter in World Series history. He made an out, but by doing so, created history. The family that I can speak closest to from these old-timers, because even I'm not old enough to have seen them play, is Ginger's family and I can tell you that it meant a great deal to them," Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann is a champion of inductees like Beaumont, and he is telling their stories in a new book "Immortalized in Bronze."

"In the book, I do have the greats in there. You have to have that, but I tried to concentrate on people that I thought if I don't get the stories down, this might very well be all that people know about them. Luckily, on many of these folks, I had more information and was able to get that into the book," Hoffmann said.

The subtitle of the book is "Stories about Wisconsin's Sports Legends," and this state really does have quite a few of those.

"I started as a fan, as a kid, and then have written about Wisconsin sports for over 40 years. You know, it's a small state, so I think they have a closer pact -- a closer bond with their teams. It means a lot," Hoffmann said.

It will continue to mean a lot when the latest state-of-the-art facility is finished. Those who are immortalized in bronze have laid quite a foundation.

Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame

Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame

Hoffmann's book is generating positive early reviews. It's available at select local bookstores and online through the Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame.

Story by Tim Van Vooren, courtesy of Fox 6 News.