How publicly admitting you like the Dead Milkmen can destroy your professional baseball career!
From Issue #2 of ChinMusic! Magazine



Michael J. Fox as Jim Walewander.
From the made-for-T.V. movie:
"How Publicly Addmitting You Like The Dead Milkmen Can Adversely Affect Your Baseball Career"

An Interview With Ex-Detroit Tigers infielder Jim Walewander by Jeff Fox

Jim Walewander is a hard-working infielder who had been drafted out of Iowa State in 1983 to play for the Bristol Tigers, where he led the Appalachian League in stolen bases. He paid his dues in the minors playing for the Lakeland Tigers, the Birmingham Barons, the Glens Falls Tigers and the Toledo Mud Hens.

In 1987, he was brought up from the Mud Hens to play in the majors for the Detroit Tigers. Oddly, soon after his arrival in Detroit, Walewander became infamous for (of all things) being a Dead Milkmen fan.

This fact is even noted on his major league rookie card, which reads, "[Walewander] became an instant legend in Detroit for his devotion to an obscure punk-rock band called The Dead Milkmen."

On the Detroit stop of the Milkmen's tour that year, Jim came out to see their show in Detroit and then invited the band to Tiger stadium for an early game the next day against the Angels.

Walewander's unlikely association with the Milkmen became cemented when he hit his first major league homer against the Angels that day, fueling speculation that it may have been the Milkmen's presence at the park that had inspired him to hit the two-run, upper deck blast.


------------------------ ChinMusic: Tell us about what position you were playing for Detroit when you arrived there.

Jim Walewander: I was a backup for Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. I played some third base too, but I mainly did pinch running. I was faster than almost everybody out there. I'd pinch run for Darrell Evans or Bill Madlock, then they'd put someone else in. That would be it for me.

CM: Being brought to the Tigers as a backup for Trammell and Whitaker, were you worried about not getting much time on the field?

JW: When I got called up, Lou Whitaker said to me, "Two more years and I'm quitting. "Well, that was in '83, and he kept playing until what, 1995? So, he was off by a few years. But when you get signed out of college, you're four rungs down the ladder, there's always room for someone else. So, I wasn't worried about not getting to play. I got called up to the Angels in 1993, but I didn't get to play. I got sent down before I got a chance. They said, "It was nothing you did." I said, "Of course it wasn't. I didnŐt get to do anything." But then I got called up by them again a few weeks later and got to play.

CM: You played ball in Italy, too. How was that?

JW: Yes, I played in Italy in 1992. I wrote an article in Baseball America about it that could probably describe the experience better than I can right now. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I learned a lot about myself, baseball, Italy and the U.S. while I was there. It was right around the time of the Rodney King beating, and everyone in Italy asked, "Does everyone in the U.S. carry guns and treat people like that?"

CM: You hit your first major league homer the same day that the Milkmen came out to visit you at Tiger Stadium. Do you think the Milkmen being there had anything to do with it?

JW: Well, since I'm a business student now, I guess we should look at it statistically. I've had close to 200 at bats, and only 3 of those were that day. And one of those at bats resulted in that two-run homer. Can we prove that they're related statistically?

Sparky Anderson with the Milksters

CM: How did you come to be associated with the Milkmen?

JW: One of the things that made me sort of famous or heightened the notoriety at the time was just my naivete. The press would ask me what I did last night, and I would just tell them, "I went to see this band." Nowadays, the players just give these pat answers. I was just totally honest because I was stupid. I was trying to be myself. I wasn't trying to be something macho. People didn't get to know me. I was just labeled as this strange weirdo. Nobody really looked at the Milkmen to see that there was some wit and intelligence behind what they were doing. They sang songs about Charles Nelson Reilly. I think a lot of people were into alternative music back then. I just had a big mouth. I remember seeing R.E.M. in '82 or '83 and the guys on the team would say, "You're weird," because they were listening to K.C. and the Sunshine Band. It wasn't that I was listening to the Dead Milkmen so much at the time, it was the fact that people loved their name. People would say, "You're the guy who likes the Dead something something." It just got to the point where I was associated with them.

CM: Was it the press or was it baseball fans that made the connection between you and the band?

JW: It was the press first, and then the fans. People would see me walking down the street and they'd start yelling, "Dead Milkmen!" at me. What do you say to someone who yells "Dead Milkmen!" at you across a street? I was just having fun and being myself, but, it really hurt me career-wise.

CM: Do you mean that whole thing actually had an affect on your career?

JW: Well, it sure didn't help to prolong my career. Especially when the Bud Seligs of the world are running the show. Being labeled as a weirdo by management is not very good. It was a double-edged sword. I had a Milkmen album sleeve hanging in my locker that Rodney had signed "Satan lives" or something like that. You wouldn't believe the lectures I got for that from my peers.

CM: You got lectured by your teammates?

JW: Yeah. They were Christians and it didn't sit well with them. In baseball, you can't overestimate the power of the older players, even to the point of influencing who's on the team and who isn't. So, I was trying to downplay the whole Milkmen thing after a while. My career was on the line.

CM: All of this over just telling people you liked the Dead Milkmen?

JW: Yes. The fact that I decided not to go on tour with them was a conscious decision. Baseball is less conservative today than it was, but it's still very straight-laced. At that time, there were major repercussions over players wearing earrings. But the association with the Milkmen has stuck with me, so I must have done something to touch people, and that's nice.

CM: Sports are less conservative than they were in the past, but why do you think baseball is still more conservative than other sports?

JW: Baseball's rural. It has its roots in farmland. Shit, they still chew tobacco.

CM: What was the last year you played ball?

JW: In 1994, I was playing in Edmonton's AAA Florida Marlins team. It was June and it was snowing out. I said, "I'm done." I quit. I had two days off and then I panicked, wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life. So, I called the Angels and they got me a job at Midland, Texas. I was batting third or fourth and playing first base. I realized I was going down the ladder, not up. Then a team from Thailand called during the all-star break. I was going to do it, but then I didn't. I was taking pay cuts and steps down the ladder. I thought I played baseball for too long, but I've taken so much out of it, I can't complain. I had so much fun. I bet I had more fun than all those guys out there combined.



Jim Walewander's Lifetime MLB Stats

Born: 5/2/61, Chicago, Ill.

Bats: both Throws: right

5'10', 160 lbs. MLB Debut: 5/31/87

0
YearTm/LgGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOAVG
1987Det-A53542413311476.241
1988Det-A88175233750061226.211
1990NY-A95111 00100.200
1993Cal-A1282100351.125
Total4 yrs.1622425052911 142433.215




Jeff Fox was called up in the Spring of 1987 from his job as a janitor for the Central Bucks School District to roadie for the Dead Milkmen. He is currently the editor of Barracuda Magazine and the producer of the "Sport Jerks" television show.