The Marathon City Brewery sponsored local sports teams like the Wee Willy basketball team, originally known as the Catholic Youth Organization Team, which organized in 1936. Though the team temporarily disbanded during World War II, in the mid-1940s, young men from the area approached the brewery asking them to sponsor the team and buy their uniforms and equipment. When the brewery agreed to sponsor the team, they signed up for three leagues including the Northern Wisconsin-Michigan Amateur League and City Hoops in Wausau and Stevens Point. The team would travel several miles between games that took place on the same day. Their reputation grew steadily over time as they would win most of the games they played.
Since one of the popular drinks made by the Marathon Brewery was called Marathon Lager, the team was called the Marathon Lagers. When the company made a new beer called the Wee Willy, the team was given the name Wee Willy in 1944-1945. This worked out well for the brewery because these new drinks were sold at the games.
Though they played many teams across the Midwest, one of the most notable was the Harlem Globetrotters B team. The Wee Willy’s and the Globetrotters played a game in the gymnasium at Marathon High School where Wee Willy beer was sold in the concession stand. It would be usual for the team to play around seventy games per season. This meant that they played four to five times in a week, with one player estimating that they travelled 5000 miles in one campaign. Members of the team recall wearing down two pairs of shoes during the 1946 season. This amateur team played roughly five-hundred games and lost fewer than fifty.
Written by Megan Schaefer, August 2021.
Sternberg, Sara. “Learning Our History, One Polka at a Time”, 2018.
Marathon City, Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Book: 1857- 2007. ed. Huebsch, Jane and Allen. Edgar, WI, 2007.