Founded in 1969 as something called a Pilot in the American League West, the Milwaukee Brewers in their 49 year history, had their first winning record ten years later in 1978 when they finished with a 93-69 record. Bambi’s bombers had arrived and they were led by Mike Caldwell on the mound. In 1979, they improved to 95-66 with Paul Molitor and they still had not reached First Place in the American League East. The next season they slipped a bit and the Buck Rodgers/George Hamburger managed team was led by Robin Yount. But then, in the 1981 season, in a Strike-shortened season, they finished first in the American League East, with Robin Yount leading the team into their very first League Division Series where they lost, 3 games to 2. Rodgers was again the manager. Then in 1982, led by Robin Yount after a rough start as Rodgers was fired after a 23-24 start and replaced by Harvey Kuenn, Harvey’s Wallbangers brought the American league Championship to Milwaukee for the very first time as they pulled off a miracle victory over the California Angeles in the LDS 3-2 as heroes forever were born, Mark Brouhard & Cecil Copper. In 1983 they slipped a bit, finishing 5th but still had a winning record (87-75) in Harvey’s last season as Robin was again the star player and for the first time in history drew 2.397,131 fans into Milwaukee County Stadium.
The Yount-led Brewers would have one more winning season, 1987, a remarkable year as Teddy Higuera led the team with a 91-71 record, but could only finished 3rd under Tom Trebelhorn. They had one more winning season in 1988 (87-75) as again Teddy led the way.
The next decade brought only two winning seasons, in 1991 when they went 83-79, finishing 4th led by Paul Molitor and the last season with Tom Trebelhorn at the helm; 1992 the Crew finished 2nd in the American league East led by Bill Wegman and managed by Phil ‘Scrape Iron’ Garner. That would be the last winning season until the next Century. They would have to leave their home of County Stadium and their league, the American, which is all the Milwaukee Brewers had ever known, dating back to 1901. Guys like Jeff Cirillo, Jeff D’Amico, Ron Belliard, José Hernández, Scott Podsednik and Geoff Jenkins would never see the top end of the standings as Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster joined Joe Schultz, Dave Bristol, Del Crandall, Alex Grammas and Rene Lachemann as the losing record skippers during 28 years as bottom feeders.
Then in 2007, led by Corey Hart and managed by Ned Yost, they finally had a winning record, 83-79. There was a slight change for ‘hope’. Then in 2008, the faint whispers of Robin, Pauly, Cecil, Simba, Rollie, Sutton, Vuck, Gantner, Stormin and Harvey came back louder as the Brew Crew were back, first under Yost and then by Dale Sveum for a few brilliant games and moments led by Ryan’s remarkable home run and a score of other fabulous plays, Prince pulling off the HR flop, CC Sabathia led the team to the LDS in the National League Central against the Philadelphia Phillies. They lost 3-1 but there was hope, now in the new confines of Miller Park.
Shockingly, they drifted into mediocrity once again under the inept leadership of Ken Macha as Braun and Fielder tried to lead the way.
It would take the next decade, in 2011, that they would reach the top once again with a 96-66 record as Ryan Braun was the star and Ron Roenicke was the manager. It is the largest winning percentage in team history, .593. The team would win again in 2012 with an 83-79 record and in 2014 with a marginal 82-80 record as Jonathon Lucroy led the Roenicke managed team.
Now, for the first time since 2014, on July 1st, the Milwaukee Brewers are in first place by 3 games over the World Champion, Chicago Cubs, with a record of 44-38. It is made up of players from absolutely everywhere, with the lowest payroll in all of MLB. And the enthusiasm of these players is contagious. The grand master is Craig Counsell, the manager, who uses the lineup card like a bingo player at the church hall. So many players play so many positions, you really can’t tell the players without a scorecard. And the starting lineup for any given day will amaze you. And ladies and gentlemen, this team is in First Place!
A team with a record of 3685 wins and 4040 losses, and a winning percentage of .477, being in First Place is a big thing.
Forty-Nine (49) years.
Three (3) First Place finishes.
This in fact is rarified air in the land of beer and brats.