In National League baseball history, which began in 1876, the last man to win the Triple Crown was Joe Medwick, left fielder of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937. Today, Milwaukee Brewers’ right fielder, Christian Yelich, has the possibility of becoming the first man to do so in 81 years.
He has clinched the National League in batting average with a .324.
He is tied in home runs with Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals with 36 home runs.
He is 2 RBI behind Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs with 109.
Before Hall of Famer Medwick, only Hugh Duffy, Paul Hines, Rogers Hornsby and Chuck Kline have done it.
In 1878, Paul Hines, center fielder of the Providence Grays, won the Triple Crown with 4 HRs, 50 RBI and a .358 batting average.
Hugh Duffy, an outfielder with the Boston Beaneaters in 1894 led the league with 18 home runs, 145 RBI and a .440 batting average. Coincidently, in 1901, he was the player-manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945.
Twenty-eight years later, in 1922, Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby, second baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals won the Triple Crown with 42 HRs, 152 RBI and an .401 batting average. In 1925, he did it again with 39 HR, 143 RBI and a .403 batting average.
In 1933, Hall of Famer Chuck Klein, right fielder of the Philadelphia Phillies won the Triple Crown with 28 HRS, 120 RBI and a .368 batting average.
Then came Joe Medwick who banged out 32 HRs, 114 RBI and a .343 batting average.
Now on Sunday, in Miller Park, the Milwaukee Brewer right fielder, Christian Yelich has the opportunity to do something improbable in the Senior Circuit. He has a chance to win the Triple Crown. It has never been done in Milwaukee baseball history.
In the Cream City’s Major League baseball history, only Henry Aaron has ever won a batting title, in 1956 with a .328 batting average for the Milwaukee Braves, and again in 1959 with a .355 BA, both times in the National League.
In Milwaukee baseball history, Eddie Mathews (47 in 1953) & (46 in 1959), Henry Aaron (44 in 1957) & (44 in 1963 led the National League in home runs when they were with the Milwaukee Braves while Prince Fielder (50 in 2007) and Ryan Braun (41 in 2012) led the National League in home runs as the Milwaukee Brewers.
In Milwaukee baseball history, Henry Aaron as part of the Milwaukee Braves (NL) drove in 132 RBI in 1957; 126 RBI in 1960 & 130 RBI in 1963. George (Boomer) Scott delivered 109 RBI in 1975 (AL); Cecil Cooper had 126 RBI in 1983 & 122 in 1980 (AL); while Prince Fielder had 145 RBI in 2009 (NL) to lead the league.
All he has to do today is drive in 2 to 3 more RBI and the Triple Crown will come to Milwaukee for the first time in history.
All of the fresh bats are in the racks. The new gloves have been broken in with weeks of catching in Spring Training. Now the marathon known as a Major League Baseball season is upon us.
Six teams begin today. The New York Yankees visit Tampa Bay Rays; the San Francisco Giants meet the Arizona Diamondbacks and the World Champion Chicago Cubs begin their season visiting their biggest rival, the Saint Louis Cardinals.
This is probably one of the most exciting days of the year. All of the hopes of fans everywhere is at its highest.
There is only one thing to say….
The Milwaukee Brewers won’t win the pennant.
A fan favorite, Scooter Gennett has been let go to division rival Cincinnati. The National League home run leader in 2016, was let go. An All-Star catcher and his defensively skilled back-up were traded. While all of this happened, the Cream City Nine brought in two new first basemen; a new third baseman and a partridge in a pear tree.
But, they got younger.
Yet they still have, through no fault of their own, one of the finest baseball players to ever play the game, Ryan Braun.
He is an absolute gem.
While rival fans love to trash him for his past problems with PEDs and of course his lying about taking performance enhancing drugs, fans of Pigsville, love this guy. He has a regime like few in the game. He is the consummate professional. At the plate, he is rarely off-balance. And he can hit the ball out of the ballpark nearly everywhere in the strike zone. His fielding and arm are exemplary. He is the last of the players from the great teams of the early ‘00s. He is their only All-Star left.
After ten years, here is what he has done on the field:
He’s played in 1,354 games with 1,597 hits.
He has banged 317 doubles, 43 triples and 285 home runs.
He has driven in 937 RBI, stolen 181 bases, walked 473 times while striking out 1,070 times while compiling a .304 batting average with an OBP of .367; a slugging percentage of .544 and an OPS of .910. On defense, he has 225 assists and only 47 errors (26 of which were in his first season at 3B) in 10 years with a fielding percentage of .981.
He is a six (6) time All-Star and did you know that he actually was #23 in the MVP last season?
In the history of the game, he compares with Hack Wilson.
At the age of 32, he compares with Lance Berkman and Larry Walker in hitting.
Is he the greatest player in Milwaukee Brewer history?
There is Robin Yount. And Paul Molitor. Cecil Cooper. Prince Fielder.
All he has to do is play another ten years and perhaps he will have number 8 up on the ring at Miller Park.
Tomorrow he will hit the field. In the meantime, as we said, baseball is a marathon.
The chance was still there and it was in their hands. But as the manager made the decision to insert a rookie in his first Major League start, brought up in the September call-up from Huntsville in AA ball, to play first, it seems as though it was not in their hands. On one of the easiest 5-4-3 double play opportunities, the newbie could not catch the very catchable throw from second. Error on the 1st baseman for dropping the ball. It was discovered that his glove did not work. Thus the reason he is called a minor leaguer. The door opened for the Cincinnati Reds to pull ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth-to-last game of the season and they took a 3-2 lead which they never relinquished.
This was an important game.
In fact, it was one of the most important games of the year.
The manager again did something that has eluded him from past mistakes. When this team has more veteran first basemen than any other team, why start someone who isn’t even #5 on the depth chart? The manager continues to make moves to lose, not to win. But it isn’t just the manager and his coaching staff that are less than adequate.
The veteran second baseman committed yet another fielding error when he failed to field a pop up.
Again, the veteran second baseman committed his second error, and the team’s third in the game, by making a wild throw to second.
The second year shortstop who brought us so much hope before this year, stayed on the ground rather than rush to the ball to control the game. A mental error.
The season ended at Great American ballpark on the banks of the Ohio River.
The catcher was left in the game to see if he could hit some sort of record double, again leaving the backup catcher sitting on the bench. The catcher, who has been attempting to get this double for a week, would break an existing record of a catcher leading his league in doubles. Hasn’t been done for quite a while. Let’s go after some records rather than try to win a game that could keep you in the hunt.
The right fielder looked tired. For the first time in his career, his bat looked too long…too big for him to catch up to a 95+ mph heater. In a season which greeted him with catcalls throughout the games wherever the team went, he progressively broke down physically at first with a hand injury and a hammy, a this or that which a season is made of. But this season, in an effort to blow all of the negative thoughts out of his head, it became clear to his loyal fans, he no longer was the player he used to be. The center fielder, playing with more heart and soul than anyone on the team gave his all, that Go Go spirit, played hurt down the stretch, and just hit pop ups, no more slashing singles turning into doubles as he had early in the season to bring him All-Star status. Scooter just hit shallow pop flys. Rickie, at bat, hit. In the field, he was not such a hit.
Why all the concern over a baseball team? When one follows a team and a home town with a team for most of their lives, an attachment grows. It boils in the blood. It reaches the heart. It possesses the soul. There is a bond of escape filled with moments of joy and wonder that are the adrenaline of the spot. But if you are a Milwaukee Brewers fan, if you are one of the faithful of the Cream City Nine, it has been 57 years since the City was presented with a World Champion in baseball from its team. Two owners. Fifty-Seven years. In dog years, that’s more than four dog lifetimes. It is almost incomprehensible that a team, outside of those hapless loveable Northsiders of Chicago, can go through such a drought with players like Joe Torre, Tony Cloninger, Roy McMillan of the old Braves and Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Paul Molitor, Don Money, Robin Yount, Ben Oglivie, Teddy Higuera, Gorman Thomas, Ted Simmons, Rollie Fingers, Ken Sanders, Jerry Augustine, Sal Bando, Dante Bichette, Chris Bosio, Jeremy Burnitz, Mike Caldwell, Jeff Cirillo, Craig Counsell, Rob Deer, Billy Hall, Darryl Hamilton, JJ Hardy, Tommy Harper, Cory Hart, Mike Hegan, Larry Hisle, Trevor Hoffman, Geoff Jenkins, Sixto Lezcano, Mike Methany, Davey May, Bob McClure, Charlie Moore, Jaime Navarro, Juan Nieves, Lyle Overbay, Dan Plesac, Darrell Porter, Francisco Rodriguez, George Scott, Richie Sexson, Gary Sheffield, BJ Surhoff, Fernando Vina, Pete Vuckovich, Greg Vaughn, Ben Sheets, CC Sabathia, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo, Aarmis Ramirez, Carlos Gomez, Zach Greinke, Ryan Braun, Jonathon Lucroy and a host of other fine players. Perhaps Fred Haney was the only real manager this City ever had. Most of the rest were losers. OK. Even if Bambi and Harvey didn’t bring us the World Championship, they did bring us near the pinnacle once. Once! That’s it. One League Pennant which was brought home when Coop did a Jeter.
There can only be one conclusion. And it is one that rips at the heart of everyone who cherishes Cream City.
It’s the water.
To many that is a sacrilege. ‘Go to the confessional immediately.’ they say. ‘Blastphemer’, they can be heard yelling. ‘Step on his face and twist’, they shouted. ‘Don’t say that. You’re making our city look bad’, others murmured under their breath honoring the guiding word of Sister Ramegia.
But consider this. When the Milwaukee Braves won the World Championship in 1957, Schlitz was the #1 beer. Enough said.
At one time the water in Milwaukee was great. Grandma would say, ‘Just drink from the tap. Its that good.’ City fathers would point with pride to their many beers brewed with the great water. There was Fox Head 400, Blatz, the city’s favorite (‘Blatz is Milwaukee’s finest beer.’), Pabst Blue Ribbon, Gettelman, Miller and many, many more.
But one should not forget what the native Potowatami’s called this special place, remembering that the Milwaukee area was originally inhabited by the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) native American tribes. The name “Milwaukee” comes from an Algonquian word ‘Millioke’, meaning “Good”, “Beautiful” and “Pleasant Land”. That’s what many natives believe and they all follow the Chamber of Commerce pledge: ‘Never give St. Louis the opportunity to hold one over on us. They make rice beer…pretend beer.’
Yet there is a rumor, buried along side of Jacob Best in the Forest Home Cemetery that there is a piece of paper which says that when he talked to a native in Juneautown when he began to brew his first frothy drink, that the name ‘Millioke’ meant: land of stinking water.
Come on. Monks made beer because the water was bad. Boiled water with some wheat, barley and hops purified the drink. Have no idea what rice does to it. Never drank that stuff from the Mississippi River.
So kids, take heart. The former Brewers who make up a good number of the Kansas City Royals, escaped the plight of Cream City and are now in the playoffs. Congratulations to Nori Aoki, one of the best right fielders we ever had is tied for the second best hitter on the Royals. Congratulations to Alcides Escobar, one of the best young shortstops we ever had, is tied for the second best hitter on the Royals. Congratulations to Lorenzo Cain, one of the best outfield prospects we every had and is the best hitter on the Royals and the third best base stealer on the Royals. Congratulations to Dale Sveum, the Royals hitting coach, former Brewer and the best manager the Brewers ever had. Congratulations to Nedly Yost, a former player and manager of the Crew who almost did it, guiding the Crew to two winning seasons, their first in 11 years, before being relieved of his duties 16 games above .500. Sixteen games ABOVE .500. Oh, Mike Jirschele, the Royals third base coach, is from Clintonville. Doug Henry, the Royals bullpen coach, a former Brewer, lives in Hartland. They no longer have to drink the water. They are in the playoffs. The Brewers aren’t.
Nestled in Nashville, Herschel Greer Stadium is the home of the appropriately named Triple A franchise called the ‘Sounds’. They have been to the top of the mountain as a Milwaukee Brewer affiliate. In 2005, a group of players including Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Cory Hart and Nelson Cruz won the Pacific Coast League Championship. All four became All-Stars in the Major Leagues. Later, the Sounds had another interesting group of players, all capable of moving up to the major league club an hour airplane ride to Milwaukee. Scooter Gennett, Sean Halton, Caleb Gindl, Khris Davis and Logan Schafer all made their mark in the ‘Athens of the South’. Gennett was the young second baseman who many figured would be some years away from making it into the Show because Rickie Weeks, an All-Star filled that position in the Cream City. Sean Halton was the first baseman. A star position in Milwaukee, the legacy of first baggers from Mike Hegan, an original Brewer via the Pilots to George ‘Boomer’ Scott, onto St. Cecil of Cooper to Richie Sexton, from Lyle Overbay to Prince, was a position the Brewers rarely changed.
Sean Helton (26), from Fresno, CA, is a first baseman and outfielder. He attended Lewis-Clark State College and was drafted by Milwaukee. In limited action with the big club, he hit .238, with 4 home runs and had 17 RBIs.
Caleb Gindl (25) from Pace, FL, an outfielder by trade, has been a minor league All-Star in nearly every stop he has made. He was an All-Star with teammate, Jonathon Lucroy in the Rookie League. He was an Arizona Fall League Rising Star. He hit .307 in Nashville. Last year, for half a season, he batted .242 with 5 home runs and 14 RBIs in limited action with the Brewers.
Schafer (27) with one of the most graceful left-handed swings in baseball and graced with blinding speed, hit only .219 with 4 home runs and 38 RBIs in 2013 seeing limited duty behind Gomez and Aoki in the outfield.
Scooter Gennett from Sarasota, FL, the youngest of this group (23) was the surprise of the season as he took over for Weeks at second base and batted .324 with 6 home runs and 21 RBI during the last part of the 2013 season with Milwaukee.
Khris Davis (26), an Arizona high school All-State player at Deer Valley High School playing outfield, turned down offers to sign with the Washington Nationals and attended Cal State Fullerton. He has been a .280 hitter in Single A Appleton and a .280 hitter in Double A Huntsville. In Nashville he found he could hit at a .310 level. While moving up to the Brewers last season, he hit .279, 11 home runs with 27 RBIs in limited playing time.
Five young ballplayers who have been top performers in the minors within the Brewers farm system and are now at the gateway to their future. Davis is being given the chance to win the left field position as management has traded away Aoki and moved Braun from left to right. Will he be the star player in left everyone believes he can be? Gennett will beat out Rickie Weeks this season if not injured. A huge fan favorite, the undersized second baseman could become the fixture that began with Gaintner which was passed down to Weeks. Now is Scooter’s time.
But the other three face a daunting task. Are they ‘tweeners’ or are they the stars of the future many believed they could become. Helton will have a tough job at keeping his roster spot as he will have to compete and excel above the recently acquired Mark Reynolds who is on the downside of his career. He will have to hope that Juan Francisco doesn’t learn the art of being patient at the plate. And he has to bang the cover off the ball in Spring Training when given the chance to play. And that will be an issue. He has to excel in the split games and make the Brewers want to put him in the lineup come the last two weeks of Spring.
Schafer will have to fly around the outfield like the gazelle he is and make all of those Carlos-type catches he can also make. He has to hit like he has never hit before in Spring Training. This is the make or break season for Logan. Is he an Oglivie or a Travis Lee? Is he a legit Big Leaguer or a Tweener?
Gindl may be the odd man out. He is not as fast as Schafer but he has proven he can hit. In baseball, that is the defining factor. He can and must hit to make this team and become a factor everyone thought he would be.
Of these three, who will make the Show this season or return to the music madness in Nashville? In a few days we will find out.
For those who do not, they may have to be ready to call an end to their boyhood dream.
Baseball is never ending. There is a rhythm and flow that predates rock and roll. It is part of past, present and future. It is there for us, on demand, as regular as running water. We know it is there and when we want it, it comes out. It is, after all, our heritage. It is an American legacy.
The temples where the game is played of green grass has a look all its own. There, the gods of the sport, now and before, play the game. Their ghosts are everywhere. Aaron and Banks. Williams and Mantle. Spahn and Mathews, Musial and Koufax. Jackie and Robin. Through the turnstiles, past the concession stands, into the venue itself, the opening is there and passing through, there it is…it is the place where magic will happen today.
Hope for the season ahead is ever present. This is the season when the heavens will open up and victory in the form of a World Series pennant will be ours.
For many of us, it is a way of life, passed down to us from our grandparents, parents or relatives. It is our legacy. When remembering the past, it is the time we spent with our grandfather and grandmother, Mom and Dad at the ballpark. For those who grew up in Wisconsin, the home team, our home team is the Milwaukee Brewers. So much had been seen there; the great players like Roger … ‘The Rocket’, perhaps the greatest pitcher the game has ever seen, or Reggie and Yaz, Cal and Randy Johnson, as well as Griffey, Jr. and Ichiro, the greatest hitter the game has seen in our lifetime. ‘The Brewers Win The Pennant’ with Simba, Robin, Pauly, Gimby, Stormin, Rollie, Vuch, Coop, Benji and the Harvey were all witnessed with family and friends, Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. CC and Sheets, Prince and Braun, Greinke, Weeks and Nyjer, K-Rod and AxMan, brought the feeling back but fell ever so short.
This was a team that was brought to Wisconsin after the first great heartbreak of our sporting life, on a loan from the Schlitz Brewing Co. family to a car dealer’s son who would become the Commissioner of Baseball (after he was involved and found guilty in the collusion between the owners to keep players from earning their fair share through free agency) to fill the void left by the carpetbagger who moved the beloved Braves to that city down south.
We live in a world of globalization. We live in a world where the game is played by athletes everywhere. Milwaukee is a community that has diversified over the past half century as well. Today 39% of Milwaukee County is made up of Black Americans, 13% Latinos, 5% Asian Americans. It became a majority minority dominated city in 2000.
Today’s baseball team in the Cream City no longer reflects that diversity. Of the 40 man roster, there are only two Black Americans, one an aging Weeks nearing the end of his career and Davis, a young man just beginning his career. The Latino contingent is well represented, with some sixteen team members. There is one Asian, a Taiwanese pitcher who is yet to make it to the Bigs.
We no longer live in a Jim Crow era. Yet the team that is in Milwaukee has just two Black Americans. When they made a run for the pennant, the starting first baseman, second baseman and center fielder were black. Prince was beloved since he came up through the minors and would, fans thought, forever be an All-Star Brewer. Rickie was the college educated, All-Star second baseman. Nyjer was the center of joy. And he did get THE HIT. Together with Braun, Hart, Lucroy, Grienke, Vonnie, K-Rod and Axford they made their run which would be only the first of many to come. Today there is no Prince, no Nyjer, no Grienke, no K-Rod nor Axford. And there is no Hart. Rickie is waning, Vonnie is struggling and Braun is coming back from the unknown.
The team has no minority manager or coaches with the single exception of John Shelby who begins his third season on the coaching staff after joining the organization as outfield coach/eye in the sky, whatever that is; no upper management who are minority. Yet this is the governing body of the team that represents a majority minority city in the great Midwest. ‘A team is a reflection of the community it represents.’
The owner is from Los Angeles. There is little that is the same on Wilshire Boulevard or Pacific Palisades as compared to Pigsville or Lincoln at Kinnikinnick. In the City of Angels, Brats (with Secret Stadium Sauce) and beer are as foreign as sushi and wine are in Bayview. Brookfield is not Beverly Hills and Racine has kringle. Try finding that at Gilsons. This is a town where there are bubblers and kids wear rubbers on their feet when it rains. There is a separation here. It is not just distance, but a cultural misunderstanding that Milwaukee is the same as it was or the same as everywhere else. It is not. The Packers and Brewers, Badgers, Bucks and Marquette belong to Wisconsinites, not Californians. Curley, Uecker, Crazylegs and Chones are our guys. Spencer Tracy, Fred MacMurray and Gene Wilder are our guys. They all, uncommon individuals and brilliant in their craft, who have all played at one time or another in California, are Wisconsinites through and through. The Brewers, every last one of them who ever played in the Cream City, belong to us.
If there is one thing a person from Los Angeles knows, it is star-power. They know that if you have a star for your program or movie or team, people will come and fans will pay in record numbers to see them. It is as eternal as Cary Grant, Bob Hope or Babe Ruth. They don’t call Yankee Stadium ‘The House That Ruth Built’ for nothing. Mark Attanasio lives and works in Los Angeles. He occasionally shows up in Milwaukee as the owner. He should know more than most what a star does to propel a team and make money. The present team looks like a fragment of their former self. Yes, the payroll is manageable and the team will make money…a lot of money. What is our VORP? Who gives a crap. Enough with Keith Wollner. We want a PENNANT. We want to be competitive. We want it NOW.
A former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers in the old American Association, Bill Veeck, said, “Baseball must be a great game because the owners haven’t been able to kill it.” The fans will fill the stands. And records will be broken. But we need a Prince or a Price, a Tanaka or, hell, a first baseman who can play first base. It is time for change. It is time for an owner to get in touch with the city his team represents and a management who represents a constant path to victory. We are watching Attanasio.
We will be heading to Maryvale in February and again the gates will open and warm, brilliant sunshine will illuminate the field. The lines will be chalked and fans will press for autographs. The smell of brats and beer will fill the air and the boys from the team representing Milwaukee will take the field. Will this team have a chance to win the pennant or will this owner be like so many before him, make money on a fan base who will support them regardless of the outcome. He will earn it on the millions who will go through Miller Park. He will earn it from broadcast and telecast, mobile and digital rights. He will earn it from the advertising in the stands and on merchandise that is sold. He will make it from those over the limit teams who will spend monies to try to win the pennant and pay the tax. He will earn it by paying for mediocrity on the field, in the dugout and in upper management. Can you spell Masahiro? David? Or, even Prince?
Texas Rangers trade for Prince Fielder, one of the great hitters in the game. Ken Sanders once said, ‘He has the fastest hands with the bat I have ever seen. It doesn’t matter how big he gets.”
Seattle Mariners sign Robinson Cano for $240 million, a ten year contract, lifetime subscription to the Nintendo News and a good chunk of Jim C’s ad budget. Sorry, Big Mariner.
Curtis Granderson signs with the cross town rival, New York Mets. He gets $60 million.
Boston Red Sox sign A.J. Pierzynski, an aging catcher but fans feel he looks like Carlton Fisk.
Yankees, in anticipation of losing probable PED offender, Alex Rodriguez, signed Jacoby Ellsbury for $153 million to play centerfield from the hated Red Sox. Yankees hope to save approximately $14 million this year, but not on under the counter drugs. They also signed Brian McCann from Atlanta for $85 million. Yet, they still have no third baseman.
St. Louis signs Jhonny Peraltta, a former suspended PED offender. Unusual move by this squeaky clean franchise with a holier-than-thou image. Of course, this is the home of the ‘Gashouse Gang’.
Detroit signed Joe Nathan, pitcher for the Texas Ranger, for $20 million over 2 years. Now they have the best reliever in baseball to go along with the major’s best starting pitching staff.
Baltimore is thinking about signing John Axford.
Miami signed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for $21 million over three years from the World Champion Boston Red Sox. The team also signed Rafael Furcal, shortstop from the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals for $3 million.
Houston signs Scot Feldman, a right handed pitcher for 3 years and $30 million.
Washington got a new manager, Matt Williams, perhaps the best third base coach in the game.
The Angels got Don Baylor as their batting coach, perhaps the best batting coach in the game.
The D’Backs lost both Williams and Baylor. They are stuck with one of the best managers in the game, the overwhelming talented first baseman and a solid starting pitcher and a gold glove right fielder.
The Rockies got Justin Morneau for 2 years for a total of $13 million.
Kansas City got the best left handed hitter of left handed pitching in baseball in Nori Aoki. Gives them a tremendous leadoff man who wears opposing pitchers out, often taking them 8-12 pitches into the count and rarely striking out, only 40 times in 2013 out of some 600+ at bats.
Milwaukee got a … pitching reject. Oh, they also are thinking about re-signing Cory Hart who has not played in a year and one-half.
Yet they still have the worst third base coach in the major leagues, a so-so starting rotation, a non-improved bullpen, an aging third baseman, poor throwing catcher, a hopeful prospect in left field, a center fielder who probably had the best season of his career, a GM who inherited a waffle full of young talent when he came into his job (Fielder, Weeks, Hardy, Braun, Hart and Vonnie) but has seen the team fade into another dream sequence of Brewer seasons past, and an owner who allows all of this to happen.
The fans in Milwaukee and Wisconsin are resilient and beyond loyal. They bleed Green & Gold, Cardinal Red & White, Green & Growing and True Blue Brew Crew. They drink beer, eat bratwursts and cheese, send their kids to school and provide plenty of milk, work hard at their jobs, go to Church on Sunday and root for the home teams like no one else. They hate the Bears, White Sox, Cardinals, the carpetbagging Braves, Ohio State and dislike those lovable Cubs. They also dislike Thanksgiving in Detroit. That’s why St. Vincent Lombardi stopped playing the Lions on that day decades ago.
These fans have heroes like few others. Johnny Blood, Don Hutson, Curly Lambeau, Bart Starr, Paul Horning, Jim Taylor, Jerry Kramer, Willie Davis, St. Vincent Lombardi, Reggie White, Bret Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Alan Ameche, Elroy Crazylegs Hirsch, Pat Richter, Barry Alveraz and Ron Dayne in football; Jon McGlocklin, Oscar Robinson, Karem Adbul Jabbar, Larry Costello, Al McGuire, Dean the Dream, Doc Rivers and Bo Ryan in basketball; Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Joe Adcock, Billy Bruton, Johnny Logan,Del Crandall, Henry Aaron, Ken Sanders, Augie Doggie, Bernie Brewer, Jim Gaintner, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, Vuch, Stormin Gorman, Sixto, Benji, Coop, Ben Sheets, Prince, Nori, Rickie, Vonnie, Braunschweiger, Jean and Go-Go in baseball.
Just 50 guys who the burgers of Cream City adored in sports, 20 of whom are part of yesterday and today’s Brew Crew. Yet only the last four mentioned are hopefully at the top of their game out of a line-up of 25. Another, Nori Aoki, who only played two years in Milwaukee after years in Japan, became a fan favorite, not because he hit home runs, but because he could hit and stay in the lineup with gripping plays and excitement that reminded more than a few that he was like the ‘Igniter’ of days gone by. He was the best left handed hitter of left handed pitching in baseball. And, he wore opposing pitchers out at the plate. He was just let go for some guy who the GM has had his eye on for a couple of years.
The Milwaukee Brewers have had eight general managers in their lifetime. Names like Marvin Milkes (his teams won 64 and 65 games) and trader Frank Lane (coming in 1971-72 winning 69 than 65 games) were the first two. One of the things Lane did was trade for George ‘Boomer’ Scott who became the cornerstone of great Milwaukee first basemen. Jim Wilson lasted for just two years, but brought the City the first 70+ winning seasons since the Braves historic run in Cream City. He had teams that won 74 games then 76. Of course, in typical Brewer ownership fashion, Wilson was replaced and was followed by Jim Baumer. In three seasons, Baumer regressed as his teams won 68, 68 and then 67 games.
Then the owner finally realized that he was not the smartest person and hired he greatest of all Brewer general managers with unquestioned credentials was the late, great Harry Dalton. For 15 years, he brought the Milwaukee nine to greatness with great managerial selections, incredible trades which rank near the top of all-time in the history of the game and an incredibly sad time toward the end of his reign as the owner barely spoke to him, rarely acknowledging him in public and in private treated him like an unwanted employee. Yet no one could match him in intelligence or humility. He was an incredibly well liked individual and understood the game better than most. He immediately hired George Bamberger, a tremendous pitching coach from Baltimore. The team immediately began to jell. They were the first to win 90+ games, with 93 and then 95, dropped back a bit to 86 after which he made the greatest trade in history by gaining Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich and then fought for the American League East title in 198 strike shortened season. Finally, after 20+ years in existence, in 1982 with a record 95 wins, under rookie manager, Harvey Kuenn, the Milwaukee Brewers won their first and only pennant, an American League pennant, falling short to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games of the World Series. From 1978 to 1991, before being demoted to V.P, Special Projects, Dalton’s teams finished below .500 only four times.
In 1992 he was followed by one of the most ill-equipped general managers of all-time, one Sal Bando. One had the feeling that here was a guy who angled for the job, kissing up to an under funded owner who needed a miracle. The unfortunate aspect of Bando’s hiring was that he drove the once proud franchise into one of its lowest periods of in history. In his years with the team in this capacity, other than the 1992 team he had inherited from Dalton, none of his teams finished above .500. He was reassigned in August of 1999 making his tenure as a GM, sub par for 7 & 1/2 seasons.
Dean Taylor was brought in. In 2000 the Brewers won 73; ’01 his team won 68 and in ’02, they could only win 56, losing a record 106. Therefore, in twelve years following Dalton’s architecture, the Brewers were below .500 every year.
Doug Melvin, after leading the Texas Rangers to three post season playoffs as general manager, the first in that team’s 48 year history, he is replaced and spends a season as a special assistant to the Boston Red Sox before being hired by the Brewers, baseball’s answer to the tunnel without a light at the end of it. After two season, he brought the Brewer fans a .500 season. Then they fell below again, then two seasons above, then below, again above for two seasons and below.
In eleven seasons at the helm, he has had his team finish above .500 four times, even at .500 once and the remaining six season below. He is not Harry Dalton. He doesn’t work for an owner who is strapped for cash. He has brought in countless players who have been overpriced and under performed. He has let a treasure go twice. Prince Fielder was allowed to leave because they didn’t want to pay him. The Tigers stole him. Then just this past week, while in need of a first baseman for a team that has a history of terrific first basemen from George Scott to Cecil Cooper to Richie Sexton to Lyle Overbay to Prince… briefly Hart…he had an opportunity to get Prince back for a price less than what they offered him just two years ago. Fielder is of Brewer blood. He was drafted by Milwaukee. He came up through the ranks. He was a fan favorite. Can you imagine the enormous boost in fan morale to bring their Prince back? But no. He was messing around with destroying one of the better players the Brewers have ever had, Norichika Aoki, who was not even on the Brewer’s radar because Melvin had no Japanese scouts to witness a six-time Japanese batting champion, the best since Ichiro, to take the place of Braun in case that player was suspended. But Braun won that arbitration. Aoki is the best leadoff hitter, arguably in the entire game. He is consistent. And he is one of the few left-handed hitters in the game who kills left-handed pitching. But here is Melvin having lunch with the owner discussing whether to move Braun to right field, thus eliminating Aoki for someone who has not proven himself over the course of an entire season, a rookie to replace the former left fielder in left.
Melvin has had a history of dubious moves. Gagne, Suppan, Riske and Wolf, all over priced over-the-hill pitchers. The renting of C.C. Sabathia for a couple of months, whom he could not resign with the club. The renting of Greinke, who could not be resigned. The inclusion of Nelson Cruz, thrown into the Carlos Lee trade. The hiring of managers like Ken Macha and allowing assistant coaches like the horrible third base coach of the Brewers right now. Here is a coach who actually loses games for the team, consistently.
This is the year Melvin has to have this team perform, not like in the past, but be able to beat the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates in their division at home and on the road. This is the year the team has to reach the playoffs and win the National League pennant. This is the year to prove that he is capable of winning and setting the stage for plus .500 seasons to come.
It has been a long time since Harry Dalton set the plan of winning in Milwaukee. Now it is time for Melvinitis. Let’s hope it is a solution and not a disease. He has to begin winning.
It is not the cloth that we have to worry about. It is the thread that makes up the cloth. The fabric is critical. If just one strand is of poor quality it makes the entire piece cheaper. In baseball, this equates to each player who makes up a team. Often, this magic ingredient is called “chemistry”. The chemistry of the Milwaukee Nine is based on the ball and glove logo of old, strong, true blue, built through a farm system that has made every effort to make a small market team viable with good quality people and players that these fans can believe in. After all, they have lived and breathed with these young men’s progress ever since they were signed. That is what a small market team community does. It is always in search of hope and dreams to come. Ryan Braun was once believed to be the strongest thread in the entire Brewer cloth. His deterioration has not happened because he cheated. Cheats are cheats. We know how to handle them. But what has made our cloth, the fabric of what we believe in as the True Blue Brew Crew, crafted by legends like Yount, strong and rich is the belief that all is as good as the people who have made the beer, cheese and sausage that has made our land famous. To the good people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin, that is as important as life itself. Nietzsche said, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” You ask why?
“This is all B.S. I am completely innocent.’ Braun, Dec 2011
“I truly believe in my heart and I would bet my life that this substance never entered my body at any point.” Braun, Feb 2012
“There are a lot of haters-a lot of people who doubted me and lot of people who continue to doubt me.” Braun, Feb 2012
“When you know you’re innocent of something, it’s extremely difficult to have to prove it when you’re in a process where you’re 100% guilty until proven innocent.” Braun, Feb 2012
“We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.” Braun, Feb 2012
“I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide.” Braun, Feb 2012
“I have always taken tremendous pride in my image and my reputation in being a role model and handling myself the right way and doing things the right way.” Braun, Feb 2012
“I have nothing to hide and have never had any other relationship with Bosch.” Braun, Feb 2013
“The truth still hasn’t changed.” Braun, July 9, 2013
“I have tried to handle the entire situation with honor, with integrity, with class, with dignity and with professionalism because that’s who I am and that’s how I’ve always lived my life.” Braun, Feb 2012
“Lies were never innocent. Their purpose was to escape punishment, or work, or responsibility, and they were used for profit.” John Steinbeck, ‘East of Eden‘
The improbable happened when performance enhancing drugs removed this icon in our minds. A terrible battle emerges between loyalty for the team and the loyalty for the individual. That is…team loyalty remains while loyalty for the icon diminishes until our next close encounter…at a ballpark whether the icon is still in the uniform that is familiar to us all.
The real problem remains because it wasn’t about PEDs at all. It was about this former icon’s ruthless use of fabricated truths that made so many…that made us lose faith in truth itself. What to do?
In business, we fire cheaters. Contract or not, cheaters are dealt with severely and sent packing. As for liars, we fire them. No matter what we do to them we can never trust them again. They have planted the seed of doubt. They have no more authority. They have nothing more we can trust them with.
Now, as the season is ebbing and after the season has ended, our disgust continues because of the reminders…because Braun brought into his sleeve of lies another stalwart hero of this land, Aaron Rodgers.
He Braunschweigered Aaron to profess his innocence.
How could you? How could you lie to others to get them to profess your alleged innocence?
“Lies are never innocent.”
Go away. I am hurt. Can’t you see I am hurt? You lied to me. You lied to all of us. I don’t want to see you at Maryvale this coming Spring. It would mean that the Season of Braunschweiger, the Lost Season of Lie, will become the Spring of Doubt. We want to see Nori in right; Cory at first; GoGo in center; Jean at short. We want to see Luc behind the plate and Aramis at third and Rickie at second. We want to see Khris or Logan or anybody in left. We don’t want to see you. We don’t want to see you at all.
Spring is about hope, not doubt and dope. Get out. Get out before all of the disdain of your lies come heaping down on the team I love, we all love. These are the hopes brought about by Bambi’s Bombers, Harvey’s Wallbangers…legends of our youth and of our dreams. These are the guys Cooper made the hit for. These are the guys Rollie came in and saved. These are guys Augie, Mollie, Simba and Sanders fought to bring the dream. Guys like Gimby, Vuch and Stormin, Juan and Sixto created and allowed the dream to grow and what Oglivie made the catch in Baltimore for. Get out. Go to where all liars go to live…in a castle of themselves surrounded by a moat of never-ending lies.
All of this was revisited this past week when the Cardinals came to town and the TV announcing crew from the St. Louis side brought up the issue again. None of the other PEDboys were mentioned. They just centered upon our former left fielder and how it will burden the team with his long-term contract strangling a small market team.
Welcome to our new world. Welcome to our new life. Thanks for the joy you are bringing to all of us. I am hurting now. We are all hurting. We can no longer see the pennant in our future. We now are on food stamps to get free food at the ballpark because management, who also believed and trusted in you, doesn’t want us to abandon the team like you have done to our City…our team.
We haven’t. We won’t.
Get out. Can’t you see I’m crying? Can’t you see my tears? Can you not see that we can no longer see the dreams of our future? We need freedom…freedom away from you. We need space where you do not exist. We just need to have the guys we believe in to just….
The Cream City has experienced this all before.On the day the announcement was made by the carpetbagger Bartholomay to remove the beloved Braves, a devastated population of loyal fans had jaws agape. It simply could not be true. How could someone remove a team from a city that supported it from day one with Major League record attendance, year after year? Was there no one in town who could offer greed more than the hope of Dixie?
The pain was real. It was deep. It cut through the boyhood memories, dragging them ruthlessly away, well ahead of its time. We had felt disappointment before. There were the continual battles with the Cardinals for the pennant where the sound of fingers on rosary beads were louder than the silent scream of hope that this would be our year. There was the release of Spahn, Buhl, Burdette, Bruton and others. But the hope of the future was there with Aaron, Carty and Torre. And Eddie was still there, the real deal, the heart of the team beloved by so many. Surely Henry and Mathews would refuse to move to the South and force the owners to reconsider.
The ballpark was vacant. ‘No Game Today’ signs hung on the box office windows as if penance from confession was not enough. No one was coming to ‘Will Call’. George Webb made no predictions. They had left town never to return.
No more battles with the Cubs and our next door neighbor who was a religious Cubbie fan. No more “Take Me Out” during the 7th inning stretch. No more excitement about the anticipation of who would see the stadium first when driving in from out-of-town. Hot dogs never tasted the same after that in our winter of complete and total discontent.
The citizens, with hidden tears being wisped away with a rub of a shoulder to the eyes when no one was looking, were the same but now with a pall over the City. Joy had been ripped out of our hearts.
Then as if the skies opened up, with a huge check from Robert A. Uihlein, Jr., the owner of Schlitz Brewing Company after being persuaded by Ben Barkin, his and the world’s best PR man, the car leasing dealer’s son was bringing the game back to the City. There was hope. There was joy.
Baseball, throughout all of its years, after all is a game of hope. Players change. Manager’s change. Venues sometimes change. From County Stadium to Miller Park, the spirit of the Braves of old whistled through the stadium on opening day of the transplanted Seattle Pilots who went bankrupt in Seattle.
From that point, a new alliance was born between desperate fans yearning to erase the pain of old and replace it with new hope. A bond was created between fans who loved the game and a team that was saved from extinction. Yes. We were now in a new league but that league had the Yankees. We would now be able to see the greatest team in baseball a number of times a year play in the stadium where our home team once won and lost to them in a World Series.
No more Cubs, but we got the White Sox. Close enough.
We also got that new team up in the Twin Cities as a new rival. Life was getting better and now hope was rampant as a new surge of energy spread throughout the land of cheese and butter, beer and ‘B-O-L-O-G-N-A’. The bubblers and goulashes were back in fashion. Baseball was back in the City, the county, the State.
Through the years we latched onto heroes of the game our home team spawned. ‘Boomer’, ‘Vuch’, ‘The Kid’, ‘Molly’, ‘Bambi’s Bombers’, ‘Harvey’s Wallbangers’, Cecil, Sixto, Money, ‘Augie Doggie’, ‘Kenny The Sandman’, Prince, Rickie, Cory, Aoki, Lucroy, ‘Vonnie’, the new kid at short, ‘St. Jean’ and the guy in left.
Most of the pain that we experienced before came flooding back in a flash flood of sorrow. Sure some of the Crew had taken drugs before but none were ever banished with such suddenness, such deliberate heart wrenching disgust and suspension. And in a time when there was no more Prince to defend us, no more Cory to hit us out of our deep depression, the guy in left had us hanging by a thread…without much hope.
Hope drives the game. Hope instills a loyalty that suspends belief. Hope is the lifeblood of youth in all of us no matter what the age. Without hope we are adrift on an endless, joyless whim of no direction.
The pall is over the City once again.
We need a prince to bring life back to the fans of the True Blue Brew Crew.
Perhaps we should just abide and softly in typical Milwaukee fashion, quietly close with …
Baseball can bring on an argument quicker than you can spell “Aspromonte”. Not that Bob or Ken’s name was that difficult to spell, the point is that baseball is a game filled with opinions, decisions and statistics that can bring about the Third World War.
Recently ‘trades’, more specifically, ‘great trades’ was the topic of debate. Nearly every fan and every team have their favorite or infamous trade stories. Which begs the question: Who was the greatest General Manager of all-time? After all, GM’s are the architects of ball clubs and much of that structure is built through trades.
For me there is one distinct gentleman who because of his savvy on one cold December day pulled off the greatest trade in the history of the game. And because of it, he is the greatest GM of all-time.
On Dec. 12, 1980, the Milwaukee Brewers acquired catcher Ted Simmons, pitcher Pete Vuckovich and closer Rollie Fingers in exchange for outfielders Sixto Lezcano and David Green and pitchers Lary Sorensen and Dave LaPoint. Brewers needed a closer. Cardinals needed an outfielder.
This deal paved the way for the Brewers to make the playoffs in 1981 and ’82. Fingers, a future Hall of Famer, won the Cy Young Award in 1981, Vuckovich won it the following year. Simmons provided offense from behind the plate and leadership in the clubhouse.
It is unheard of to pick up two Cy Young winners in a single trade. This deal however wasn’t as top heavy as some would think. The Cardinals had a surplus of relievers and catchers and needed Sorensen and LaPoint to solidify their starting rotation and got Green, who was regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball at the time. They also got one of the rising young stars of the Brewers, Sixto Lezcano, a fan favorite.
Which brings about the question once again: who was the greatest general manager of all-time? What about Whitey Herzog, who was on the other end of this trade. After all, the Cardinals beat the Brewers in the ’82 World Series.
But the Cards had and continue to have a grand tradition. The Brew Crew had none, not until Harry Dalton moved from the California Angels in 1977 to take over the Milwaukee franchise. Harry was whip smart. He understood the game like few men. He had hired Earl Weaver in Baltimore. We all know how that turned out. In Milwaukee, he hired George Bamberger, Weaver’s pitching coach. ‘Bambi’s Bombers’ began what would become “Harvey’s Wallbangers” when Harvey Kuenn won the only American League pennant in the history of the franchise. The players who came over from St. Louis in that December trade joined the likes of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Jimmy Gaintner, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas, Don Money, Jerry Augustine, Mike Caldwell, Moose Haas, Pete Ladd, Bob McClure, Jim Slaton and Don Sutton. Check out that lineup and see how many Hall of Famers you can count.
The trade made the Brewers contenders. In baseball, that is all you can ask. The rest is up to the players themselves.
Harry Dalton is the greatest general manager of all-time because he gave those players a chance from mediocrity of what could be and could have been to American League Champions.
Not bad for a guy from West Springfield, Mass, via Amherst College.
I had the unique pleasure of knowing Harry after he had retired. He wasn’t one who patted himself on the back for what he had done. In fact, just the opposite. He once told me that the toughest thing he had done, and one of the poorest decisions he had made, was when he traded Gorman Thomas to Cleveland in 1983 for Rick Manning. “I had to have police protection to walk from my office in County Stadium to the car and back. I didn’t understand the emotional tie Gorman had with the fans and the chemistry he created in the clubhouse.” He brought Stormin’ Gorman back in 1986 to complete his career in Milwaukee.
That’s what made Harry Dalton a great person to me. He understood finally that non-statistical tie to the game. Here’s to Harry. The greatest GM of all-time.
We lost a good friend of this effort on baseball this week. This is dedicated to mmbupkus. See you on the first base side behind the dugout.