Jim Cryns, a UWM graduate, former prep sports reporter and current writer for Brewers GameDay Magazine, the game-by-game free publication that fans can receive after going through the turnstiles, has archived 38 of his stories that he wrote for the latter into an anthology that has received much acclaim from local sports reporters. This book is called Bench Jockey: Stories about the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Jockey largely focuses on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the franchise, from getting to know players personally to stating more obscure facts/stats. In addition, Cryns included biographies and other information on notable players such as Robin Yount, Prince Fielder and Jim Abbott (whose pitching arm was his only functional one) to ones that most fans have forgotten or never knew (Pat Listach, Taylor Green). In addition, he has published a few stories about Brewers’ staff members like Pat Rogo, a dock supervisor at Miller Park.
If one is looking for archived statistics and game-by-game coverage from past years, Bench Jockey is probably not the right book. Cryns main focus was to give Brewers’ fans insights on more in-depth topics. He chronicled the future professions and quirky interests of many of the lesser-known players over the years. For example, Randy Wolf was a big fan of Star Wars. In addition, former pitcher Bill Wegman went on to become a preacher and Abbott later became a motivational speaker for people with physical handicaps.
Cryns’ journalistic passion is getting behind the scenes and asking questions regarding topics that are little-known to casual fans. Writing articles for the team for 20+ years, he certainly paid attention to the mainstream information, but his emphasis was on lesser-known content. His first article was about how the staff at Milwaukee County Stadium (the Brewers’ home before Miller Park) turned over the visiting locker room for different teams. This particular story discussed the Oakland Athletics’ arrival two days after the Chicago White Sox’ departure. In addition, he ran the Sausage Race at County Stadium for a GameDay story and spent a night in the chalet out in left-center field in order to get in-depth information about Bernie Brewer.
Finally, Cryns motivates people who dream of being involved in sports that there are many more ways to achieve that dream than simply playing the sport of interest.
“Dreams are dreams, and have your dreams,” he said. “But also have a Plan B which would be to recognize your strengths; recognize things you can do and still be part of a sport or a part of any business that you dream of.”
Mario Ziino, who was director of publications for the Milwaukee Brewers for 25 years, and Milwaukee sports anchors Lance Allan and Tim Van Vooren are among the people that have praised Cryns’ work.
“Jim Cryns is an incredible storyteller,” said Allan. “He asks the right questions and intently listens to the answers. I’ve known Jim for nearly 20 years and his ability to find the special tales no one else does is rare. And that’s why ‘Bench Jockey’ is
great. Anyone can tell the story of the superstar. It’s Jim that brings out the best of the people in this book.”
“It’s my job to give viewers facts about how a team performed; the guy that got a base hit in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, or another that may have caught the winning touchdown,” said Van Vooren. “These things are important to sports fans. ‘Bench Jockey’ brings to light things about the game of baseball you may have never seen, and in one instance in particular, never been aware of. This is a collection of thirty-eight stories that touch the heart and reach out to the human experience inside and outside of Miller Park and the batter’s box. Whether you’re ten years-old or enjoying retirement, Bench Jockey is sure to have touched on something or someone you can relate to. It will introduce you to new people in the organization or show a side of a household name that might change the way you look at the game of baseball.”
“Whether running in the famous sausage race or sitting high atop County Stadium in Bernie Brewer’s chalet, Jim Cryns has had a unique perspective and genuine passion for what he wanted to convey in an enchanted fashion to die-hard baseball fans,” said Ziino. “Bench Jockey is a sample collection of his published articles that appeared over the years in the Brewers Gameday Magazine.”
Cryns got his start by writing for Ziino. He struck an instant friendship with him and began by writing one article. Ziino liked it so much that he published it and brought Cryns on to write for GameDay.
He received two degrees from UWM: a B.A. in history and a masters in communications, two degrees that have served him extremely well in his chosen career field. In addition, he has published three novels and seven screenplays.
Bench Jockey: Stories about the Milwaukee Brewers, is available at Amazon.com.