UTICA, N.Y. -- Retired journeyman baseball player Ken Brett, star of a beer commercial that uses the city of Utica for a punchline, traveled to the beer-brewing city to set the record straight.
'It was done in fun,' Brett told reporters at a 'Ken Brett Day' news conference called by the mayor Monday. 'We're here to make sure everyone here know this was done positively.'
Mayor Louis LaPolla gave the much-traveled pitcher a key to the Handshake City and accompanied him on a chauffered tour of Utica's most popular attractions to prove the community of 80,000 doesn't deserve to be the butt of many a joke.
A nationally televised commercial for Lite Beer shows Brett at a bar unsure of what city he's in. Brett, who has played for nine major league clubs, mentions New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and some of his other former homes before a bartender helps him come to the realization he's in Utica.
The first-term Republican mayor, trying to shake the city's negative image, last month asked Miller Brewing Co. to arrange the visit.
'We're elated that he took the time to come to correct any misinformation that he may have had beforehand,' LaPolla said.
The mayor even pulled some strings to have the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, normally closed on Monday, open its doors for Brett, who says he collects art.
During his day in Utica, Brett explained that his role in the beer commercial was intended to poke fun at himself, not at Utica.
'I can understand how someone could have taken it or construed it the wrong way. It wasn't intentional.'
Brett declined an invitation to tour the century-old West End Brewing Co. LaPolla said last week he would offer Brett a six-pack of Utica Club Beer during the visit.
Brett also quipped that Utica was as close as he would ever get to Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.