The Numbers Game: 4 Love of the Game
In the history of the Brewers franchise, only five numbers have ever been retired. They are:
4 – Paul Molitor
19 – Robin Yount
34 – Rollie Fingers
42 – Jackie Robinson
44 – Hank Aaron
Now I know someone is looking at that list and saying, “Wait a minute, Jackie Robinson didn’t play in Milwaukee!” Well, right you are my astute friend, he didn’t, but in 1997 the MLB universally retired Robinson’s number across all teams meaning that the only time you will see anyone wearing number 42 each year is on Jackie Robinson Day which lands on April 15th to commemorate the day Robinson broke the color barrier and debuted with the Dodgers.
Today, however, we are looking at one of the other numbers, 4, the one made famous by the man known as “The Ignitor”, Paul Molitor. Molitor wore jersey number 4 during his entire tenure in Milwaukee which stretched over 15 seasons and included time on three very famous Brewers squads: “Bambi’s Bombers”, “Harvey’s Wallbangers”, and “Team Streak”. As a member of “Team Streak”, Molitor recorded a 39 consecutive game hitting streak which ranks as the fifth-longest in modern-day baseball history, and the longest consecutive game streak since Pete Rose went on a 44 game tear in 1978.
For more info on Molitor, including his hall of fame induction speech, check out his National Baseball Hall of Fame page.
So, who else wore the number 4? Well, let’s take a look.
No player was assigned the number 4 in the Pilots organization in 1969.
No player was assigned the number 4 in the Brewers organization from 1970 through 1972.
Tim Johnson – 1973-76: I mentioned Tim Johnson in the first part of this series on Tuesday. Johnson was the everyday starting shortstop in 1973 before losing the job to “The Kid”, Robin Yount. Loss seems to be a recurring theme for Johnson as he would also lose his jersey number to Mike Hegan prior to the 1977 season. Speaking of…
Mike Hegan – 1977: In his final year in the majors, Hegan wore number 4 having previously worn number 8 (in ’69 as a Pilot and ’70-71 as a Brewer) and 6 (for Milwaukee from ’74-’76). Hegan is famous for hitting the first home run in Seattle Pilots history in his first at-bat of the ’69 season. He was also 1 of 2 Pilots to make the All-Star squad in ’69 (the other was Don Mincher). After retiring from play, Hegan would go on to be the Brewers television color commentator for 12 seasons.
Paul Molitor – 1978-92: See above.
No player was assigned the number 4 in the Brewers organization from 1993 through 1995.
Pat Listach – 1996: Having previously worn number 16 over the course of 4 seasons with Milwaukee, Listach switched to number 4 in 1996. Bad move.
The former AL Rookie of the Year would find himself traded to the Yankees along with Graeme Lloyd, while Milwaukee would receive Gerald Williams and Wisconsin native, Bob Wickman. The deal, which was primarily made so that the Yankees could acquire Lloyd, went south when Listach suffered what was initially thought to be a bruise, but turned out to actually be a broken bone in his foot. Adding insult to injury, literally, The Yankees returned Listach to the Brewers, and took Gabby Martinez in his place.
No player was assigned the number 4 in the Brewers organization from 1997 or 1998. The number was retired by the Brewers in 1999.
Come back tomorrow as we look at those players who wore the number 5.
Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and an applicant for the 2013 MLB Fan Cave. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.