Milwaukee media history is littered with promotional stunts that set the city abuzz. The radio DJ who camped out on a 21st story ledge to get The Who to play Milwaukee. The year Reitman and Mueller claimed a B-29 bomber would airdrop Cabbage Patch Kids over Milwaukee County Stadium. The time we took one of those free George Webb burgers and buried it in a time capsule in the woods. The list goes on.
Then there are smaller, more sublime media stunts that shed a warm light on the true character of Milwaukee. Like, for instance, the time, in 1985, when Channel 4 (now TMJ4-TV) gave away free golf balls and people apparently went bananas for the things. Free stuff + Milwaukee = always a winning combination.
“Your response to our free golf ball giveaway has been unbelievable!” says reporter Bob Dolan in this vintage clip (via the ever-vigilant TV Madman). “And now we want to make it easier for you to get those free golf balls.” Enter some coupons that people can send to a Channel 4 PO box in a envelope marked “Golf Balls”:
Decades removed from the Great Golf Ball Giveaway of 1985, Dolan—the brother of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and now head of Dolan Productions—looks back fondly on the incident.
“I recall at the time of the promotion that my boss, Hank Stoddard, predicted that ‘these will go very fast!’ Sure enough, he was correct,” Dolan remembers. “I suppose it proves that those of us in Wisconsin love all things ‘free,’ and that those of us in Wisconsin who golf poorly would go through three golf balls within about nine holes!”
Questions remain: Just how many golf balls did Channel 4 go through? Was the coupon strategy a success? Was/is Milwaukee really that bad at golf? Are there still Channel 4 golf balls floating around out there today?
“It’s also odd to see me 30-plus years ago from my years at Channel 4,” Dolan says. “Where did my dark brown hair go? Where did my hair in general go? And thank goodness I retired that mustache.”