Monday, May 21, 2007

Now batting, #....

Sunday afternoon I was working at Miller Park, and during my break (which I always try to take during the home half of the 7th inning, which, thanks to Jenkins, proved to be the go-ahead inning on Sunday...) I found myself gazing up at Molitor, Yount, Fingers and Aaron's retired numbers, wondering which, if any, of the current young guns might find themselves up there 25 years from now. Quickly I realized that I was probably getting just a wee bit ahead of myself. After all, I should probably wait until these kids at least become the best Brewers to ever wear their respective jersey numbers. Despite his fantastic start to this season, for instance, J.J. still has a way to go to catch Don Money as the greatest number 7 that the Brewers have ever seen...and that got me thinking about today's list--the greatest Brewers to wear every jersey number from 00 to 59.

(Editor's note: Please understand that as I created this list, I focused on the guys who became fan favorites based on their play during their time here in Milwaukee. So in many instances, I'm not necessarily referring to the best player, but rather, the best Brewer. For that reason, you will not see Gary Sheffield anywhere on the list. And as far as I'm concerned, that's the way it should be.)

#0--Franklin Stubbs. The only reason he wins is because he is the only one to wear the number. And, boy-oh-boy what an appropriate number it is for this knucklehead. "Stubbs" became synonymous for me to the words "loser" or "scapegoat." Comments like "I think Jose Valentin is going to be my Stubbs this season," were typical comments in the mid and late '90s...

#00--Curtis Leskanic. He had a nice, allbeit brief, run as the Brewers closer, and was known as one of the more colorful personalities in the clubhouse. It also helps that the only other player to wear this jersey # was Jeffrey Leonard, who was the first in a long line of big-name disappointments that the Brewers obtained over the course of the mid to late 80s and early 90s.

#1--Fernando Vina--the heart and sole of the Brewers teams in the mid 90s--I will remeber him best for getting trampled by Albert "Joey" Belle in the first of a succession of plays that lead to the most famous brawl in Brewers history. And we let the Indians play here this summer?

#2--Bill Hall. I'd argue that Billy has already done more to preserve his place in Brewers lore than Jose Valentin. Pink bat, walk-off suicide squeeze in the 9 run comeback, walk-off homer the night before, face it...Bill Hall wins games.

#3--Gorman Thomas--Before you holler at me that Gorman wore #20, just keep your panties from getting cinched. Thomas actually started his career in #44, but gave that up when Hammerin' Hank came to town. His two season in #3 are still more important to Brewers history than Dante Bichette's single season. Interestingly enough, three managers (Garner, Royster, and Yost) also donned #3.

#4--Molitor. If I need to explain this any further, you've stumbled upon the wrong blog...

#5--Geoff Jenkins. I had a very difficult time choosing between Surhoff and Jenkins, and it's possible that yesterday's heroics are tainting my judgement...Nonetheless, 200 HRs is nothing to scoff at, and despite what you say about his strikeout totals, no one plays harder than Jenks.

#6--Sal Bando. Not much of a GM, to be sure, but he was a fan favorite as a player. His 5 seasons certainly top Cirillo's last two seasons here and Mike Hegan's (one of the five Brewers to hit for the cycle) 2 seasons in this uniform #.

#7--I loved Dale Sveum as a kid, but as I mentioned in the intro, this one is Money.

#8--Mark Loretta--I'd give anything to trade the Astros Grafanino for Loretta. Something tells me they won't take us up on it, however. The guy is a constant pro...

#9--Larry Hisle--speaking of class acts...

#10--Bob McClure--never spectacular, but he wins by basis of tenure, if nothing else. Ronnie Belliard finishes a distant second.

#11-Davey May. Hard to go against Sexson and Overbay, but May was one of the first fan favorites in club history and holds the second longest hitting streak (24 games) to Molitor's 39.

#12--Johnny Briggs. Not really a whole lot to choose from at this #. No one has even put up a decent season for the Brewers in this jersey # since Scott Fletcher in '92. You know it's a weak crop when Henry Blanco makes a case to be the top runner-up.

#13--Jeff D'Amico. Another weak cast of characters provides Roy Howell as Big Daddy's only real competition. Howell had some key hits (HRs) as a DH in the '82 season, but D'Amico had a short run of dominace on the mound in which he show cased the best ERA in the league.

#14--Dave Nillson--The less-than stellar defensive catcher doesn't get the nod at his other two numbers (11 and 13), but there were a couple years when Nillson supplied the only offense the Brewers could muster. Then he decided he wanted to support the Australian National team, and he was never heard from again...

#15--Cecil Cooper. With all due respect to Big Ben, who has been the ace of the staff since he arrived from the minors, Cecil Cooper may be one of the most underrated hitters of all time. When the Brewers set a major league record in '82 for hitting back-to-back-to-back HRs three times in the same season, Coop was involved in all three of the dinger assaults. And, of course, we all remember him motioning that infamous hit to left to "get down, get down." In the late summer of '83, the national writers were ready to hand him the MVP trophy, until the Orioles pulled away from the Brewers and Ripken became the obvious choice.

#16--Sixto Lezcano. Tiny Felder and Rookie of the Year Pat Listasch were certainly fan favorites, but the first player I remember cheering for as a toddler was...Sixtooo!

#17--Gumby. Gantner's number isn't officially retired, but you'll notice that no one else has wore this # since the kid from Eden hung 'em up. Hands down, one of the greatest defensive second basemen to ever play the game.

#18--Jose Hernandez. Yeah, not a lot of Brewer pride emanating from this choice: Hamilton wore the # for a year, but other than him it's stars like Wes Helms, Tom Brunansky, Todd Dunn or Duanne Singleton. If he can ever become a starter, this one might be Gabe Gross' to claim.

#19--If you don't know who this is, please drive immediately to Miller Park and kiss the feet of the statue outside the home plate gate...

#20--Gorman Thomas. Hands down the strongest # in the history of the Brewers. you could make a case for any of the following fan favorites--Kenny Sanders, Juan Nieves, Kevin Seitzer, Jeromy Burnitz or Scott Podsednik. But none of them have a cool nickname like "Stormin' Gorman" and despite Burnitz's all-star game appearance and Nieves' no-no, none of them have the credentials like leading the AL in HRs.

#21--Cal Eldred. With all due respect to what Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton did to push the '82 Crew over the top, Eldred's resume over his first few years was stellar. Unfortunately, arm problems doomed him, but he was the ace of the '92 team that made a run at the Blue Jays....

#22--Charlie Moore. 2 other catchers, charlie O'Brien and Mike Matheny, wore 22 as well, but neither of them would have been able to transition as one of the top defensive right fielders in the major leagues. His throw to get Reggie at third still seems like yesterday to me...Here's one that a current young gun, Tony Gwynn, has a realistic shot to claim...

#23--Ted Simmons. Argue with me long enough and you might be able to convince me that it's really Greg Vaughn. When I heard Ned Yost talk about Simmons at the preview of the Harvey Wallbangers DVD, however, it became pretty clear that, despite all of the talent on that '82 team, they might not have reached the Series without Simmons leadership and fire. And for every incredible month that Greg sent 10 to 12 long balls into Vaughn's Valley, there seemed to be three months of a .125 average with 537 strikeouts.

#24--Ben Oglivie. I was always a Daryll Hamilton fan (and I still say he was Freeway's twin brother), but Oglivie was one of the premier power hitters during each of his two stays with the Brewers. As a kid, there was no better batting stance to imitate on the playground.

#25--Bill Travers. Finished the '76 season with an ERA under 3 and was selected for the all-star game that season. Unfortunately for Travers, he left the Brewers as a free agent in '81 and never got to be a part of the real fun.

#26--Jeff Cirillo--the Brewers all time batting average leader just reminded the Crew of what an offense weapon he can be with a HR and a triple this past Friday night. Glenn Braggs finishes a distant second.

#27--Bob Wickman. Gorman actually wore this number for a year as well, and another closer, Pete Ladd, had a stellar season in '83 and was a key component to the '82 run once Fingers went down. But Wickman was the club leader in saves three times, including an all-star appearance.

#28--Prince Fielder. Yep, it's already his. You can make a case for Doug Henry or Jamie Easterly, I suppose, but neither of those guys ever meant as much to the Brewers hopes as Prince does today. He is the heart and soul of the current team, and the Brewers are better because of it. (You could also make a case for Rick Manning, but I've never forgiven him for getting the hit that ended Molitor's hitting streak.)

#29--Chris Bosio. A serious honorable mention nod goes to Mark Brouhard, but the Bos was a workhorse for several seasons. Ultimately, his constant butting of heads with Garner saw his days as a Brewer end on a sour note, but he was their best pitcher in '89 and a key to the late season success in '92.

#30--Moose Haas. Anyone named Moose is going to be a fan favorite in Milwaukee. Winning 91 games in a Brewer uniform helps too. No one else even comes close at this uni #.

#31--George Bamberger--I know I said "greatest Brewer players," but Bambi was the utlimate players' coach and a big reason for the success of the late '70s and early '80s. Honorable mention goes to Jaime Navarro, another key cog to the '92 team.

#32--Harvey Kuehn--You can't recognize "Bambi's Bombers" without recognizing "Harvey's Wallbangers." Harvey was the savior when the team was heading down the wrong path. And believe me, no one was a bigger John Jaha fan than me--but he takes honorable mention to Kuehn.

#33--Marty Pattin--lead the Brewers in wins in '70 and '71. This is before my time, so that's all I know of the guy. Regardless, it's a weak crop, so I'm confident it would be him. Villanueva has this one locked in three years.

#34--Rollie, Rollie, Rollie.

#35--Bill Castro. Well, hell he became our bullpen coach. That's got to be worth something, right? Right? Trust me, there's no other options.

#36--Mike Fetters. With all due respect to another reliever, Tony "the Mechanic" Fossas, Fetters was the Brewers best pitcher in '95 and'96.

#37--Dan Plesac. The Brewers really have had good success finding dominant closers. None of them had a better run than the "Sac Man." Not only was he the Brewers most dominant reliver, he was an all-star in four consecutive seasons....

#38--Matt Wise. Seriously. There's no one else of note. Navarro did wear the jersey for a season, but that was during his second stint (we swapped him for Eldred) when he was downright horrible.

#39--Dave Parker. He only spent a year here, but he was beloved for the attitude he brought to the club. The sledge hammer in the on deck circle is a memory all to itself. By next year, I'd probably put Cappy here.

#40--Mike Birkbeck. Seriously. This was the best I could do. The patheticness of this # continued last year with Hendrickson.

#41--Jim Slaton. Kolb made an all-star game, but Slaton is the Brewers all time wins leader with 117 and all times loss leader with 121. Quite frankly, you'd be hard pressed to find a pitching stat (both good and bad) that Slaton's name isn't in the top 10 of all-time Brewers.

#42--Scott Karl. You'll notice that we are getting into the numbers commonly worn by pitchers. Are you starting to understand why the Brewers were miserable for all those years?

#43--Doug Jones. As an 85 year old man, Jones somehow saved games without ever topping 60 mph...

#44--Hammerin' Hank. I know, his years as a Brewer were less than stellar, but how many times can i put Gorman on the list?

#45--Rob Deer. Maybe in five years the bitterness of El Caballo spurning our $48 million offer will wear off and I'll change my choice...but I doubt it. While most fans are going to remeber the towering home run balls and the high strikeout totals, I'll rember Deer as the outfielder who went into the wall defensively with reckless abandon. As good as Carlos was in his year and a half, i'm not sure he came close to giving us a memory like Easter Sunday...

#46--Bill Wegman. Not spectactular, but a solid workhorse. the same can be said for his runner-up, Jerry Augustine.

#47--Jaime Cocanower. This is a pretty good summary of how bad things were from '84 to '86.

#48--Mike Caldwell. Colburn was a great pitcher as well, but Caldwell had some amazing seasons with the Crew long before he won game one of the '82 Series. His 22 wins and an unheard of (at least in today's game) 23 complete games in 1978 are still the club bests. As is the 2.36 ERA he sported that year. Add to that the fact that Caldwell looked like the kind of guy who belonged at a bowling alley, and it's easy to see why he was a Milwaukee favorite.

#49--Teddy Higuera. An injured shortened career is the only thing that kept this man from being one of the greatest pitchers in major league history. Even so, he remains the greatest Brewers pitcher of all time. He was a dominant force on some horrible teams, and an essential component to Team Streak. If you ever wonder why pitch counts are watched so closely, look no further than Higuera who threw 261.2 innings in 1987. He also struck out 240 batters, which means he threw a ton of pitches...

#50--Pete Vukovich. Cy Young winner in '82 and one of the true bad asses in the game. A starring role in the movie Major League saw Ricky Vaughn give him the heater. The real Vukovich had little left in the tank, but somehow managed to win...

#51--Jimmy Haynes. Hmmm. And we were doing so well there for a second...

#52--Rafael Roque--Brewers opening day starter in St. Louis in 1999. Based on what I can remember about him, that might just as well been his only start. (The Brewers did win the game.)

#53--Mike Felder. He only wore this # for the '85 season, but he's a better choice than any of the pitchers who followed.

#54--Jose Valentin. I have no recollection of Jose wearing this jersey in '92 and '93, but the Brewers media guide says he did. So there you go.

#55--Brooks Kieschnick. What can I say? The fans did like him.

#56--Rocky Coppinger. This is just getting silly now.

#57--Joe Winkelsas. I'm a huge Brewers fan. Huge. But I'm having a tough time even remembering the other guys who reportedly wore this number: Sean Mahloney, Greg Mullins, Pete Zoccolillo...

#58--Valerio De Los Santos. This seemed like a much better idea when I was still in the teens...

#59--Derrick Turnbow. Despite his meltdowns, there was a time when Turnbow legitimately reached "rock star" status in this town...

And there you have it. Perhaps the single most uselesss list any Brewers fan has ever constructed. Do with it what you will. I'm actually off for Cancun the next five days, so i won't be checking back in until Memorial Day.

Until then--

Go Brewers.


Anonymous said...

holy xmas trees. how long did it take you to compile that list??? i guess a ''good job'' is in order?

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