by Kevin Kimmes
Closers are a strange breed, and frankly, I can’t say I blame them. It takes a certain kind of personality to be able to enter a game at it’s most pivitol moment, knowing that the outcome is squarely on your shoulders. You have only one goal, to shut the door on the opposition, and in most cases there is no margin for error. It’s a tight-rope act being played out in front of a captive audience.
As Brewers fans, we can count ourselves lucky as we have had the opportunity to see some of the best at the position come through our club. From Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers in the 80′s to one-time career saves leader Trevor Hoffman in the late ’00s, and most recently Brewers’ Rookie Saves Leader John Axford, Brewers fans have been treated to some truly memorable innings. Today though, it is Axford that I would like to talk about.
You see, a few days ago, I was made aware of an article regarding a baseball card from 1865 which was recently discovered in Maine. Unless you are a collector like myself, this article would most likely be classified in the “That’s neat, I wonder what’s for lunch? ” category of news, as quickly forgotten as it was read. But for someone with an acute eye for detail, the card contains something interesting.
Here is a picture of the card itself:
I can hear most people saying, “Yeah, so what?” Well, take a look at the man seated on the far left.
Look Familiar? Possibly like a certain current Brewers closer? Possibly like John Axford?
Is it possible that Milwaukee’s current closer is also a time traveler? Has Axford, an admitted film buff, discovered the secret to time travel that Dr. Emmett Brown used to get Back to the Future? Did Axford go back to the game’s source in order to hone his skills as a pitcher, and if so, can he finally answer once and for all who actually created the game, Alexander Cartwright or Abner Doubleday? My curiosity was piqued.
I asked myself, “What do we really know about John Axford?” As a fair and reasonable journalist, I put together a list of facts:
1) Axford is Canadian: According to episodes I’ve seen of “How I Met Your Mother”, Canadians are a polite and jovial people who will apologize to you and give you a doughnut if you bump into them. They may also be afraid of the dark, though this has yet to be scientifically proven.
2) Axford was born on April 1, 1983: April 1st is also known as April Fools Day. Is it possible that the above photo is part of some elaborate joke carried out by a major league reliever with the ability to move through time on a whim, and if so are there other historical “photo bombs” out there which have yet to be discovered?
3) Axford has been known to sport a handlebar mustache: The handlebar mustache was a popular facial accessory in the late 1800′s. The photo was from 1865. I was surely on to something.
4) Axford worked as a bartender in the offseason: A bartender is a mixologist, a barroom alchemist if you will. Is it possible that this is where the secret to time travel was discovered? Could the secret lie in some accidental combination of seemingly benign ingredients such as seltzer, aromatic bitters, and linseed oil? I felt like I was on the verge of something big here, so without hesitation, I mixed up the above ingredients, slammed them back, and headed straight to the bathroom where I spent the remainder of my afternoon making nice with the major porcelain deities. Once the room stopped spinning and I could focus my vision again, I pressed on.
5) Closers normally pitch 1 inning per game: What do they do the rest of the time? While waiting for his call to action, could Axford have discovered a wormhole of some sort which allows him to travel through time unencumbered? Could there be a tear in the time/space continuum inside Miller Park, and if so, why hasn’t it been exploited to win a championship yet? No, seriously, I want to know. I turn 34 on Sunday and would really like to see Milwaukee win a championship in my lifetime. I don’t think this is a lot to ask for.
Cream City Cables made no attempts to reach John Axford for comment, since we assume that time travel is the kind of thing that one keeps close to the vest and doesn’t admit to just anyone.
Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com, a huge fan of John Axford and an applicant for the 2013 MLB Fan Cave. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.
Loyal readers, welcome to 2013!
With today being the first day of the new year, and with just about 6 weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report, I thought it would be the perfect time to roll out a new daily column looking at jersey numbers throughout the years. Each day I will tackle a new number and try to share a little bit of information about each player that has worn it throughout the years as either a Seattle Pilot or Milwaukee Brewer.
So, without further ado, lets look at who was/is number 1.
1969 Seattle Pilots:
- Ray Oyler: The Pilots Opening Day shortstop, Oyler was a player whose career existed well below what is now known as the Mendoza Line. In 106 games with the Pilots in 1969, Oyler recorded 255 at-bats resulting in 42 hits, 31 walks and a meager batting average of .165.
1970-71 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Ted Kubiak: The number 1 remained with the shortstop position in 1970 despite a change in venue and a new player at the position. Kubiak played in 158 games (most on team) for Milwaukee in their inaugural season splitting time between shortstop and 2nd base. He finished 2nd in both hits (136) and walks (72).
Kubiak is best known for setting the Brewers record for most RBIs in a single game by a single player which he set with 7 on July 18th, 1970. The record has been tied three times since moving to the NL, once by Jose Hernandez (April 12th, 2001), just over a year to the day later by Richie Sexson (April 18th, 2002), and most recently by the man who currently wears jersey number 1, Corey Hart (May 23rd, 2011).
1971 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Jose Cardenal: Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals (with Dick Schofield and Bob Reynolds) in a trade for Kubiak, Cardenal recorded the most RBIs of his carrier (80) between both clubs in 1971. Following the ’71 season, Cardenal was traded by Milwaukee to the Chicago Cubs for Brock Davis, Jim Colborn and Earl Stephenson.
1977-78 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Tim Johnson: Johnson, who had been with Milwaukee since 1973, had previously worn number 4, but changed to number 1 in 1977 as 4 was passed on to Mike Hegan. Johnson, who had lost his starting shortstop position to Robin Yount, appeared in 33 games as a utility infielder between ’77 and ’78. During this time, Johnson showed batting ineptitude that makes Ray Oyler look like a batting champion (.061 in ’77, .000 in ’78) before being traded to Toronto during the ’78 season for our next entrant.
1978-79 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Tim Nordbrook: Out of all of today’s players, Nordbrook’s contribution to Brewers lore is the least. Nordbrook only appeared in 4 total games as a Brewer (2 per year) recording 1 whopping hit in 7 total at bats.
1985-1988 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Ernest “Earnie” Riles: Riles debuted mid-season in 1985 and got his career off to a promising start, finishing 3rd in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Unfortunately, Milwaukee would never see Riles reach his full potential as a series of injuries kept him off the field. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Jeffrey Leonard in mid-1988.
1988-1989 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Gary Sheffield: The only man on today’s list who could be considered “locker-room cancer”, Sheffield was brought up from the minors when rosters expanded in 1988. He would go on to famously claim that the Brewers organization was racist for moving him from short to third and filling the vacancy with the white Billy Spiers instead of owning up to his own drop in production coupled with injury concerns possibly being responsible for the move.
Side-note: While no one was assigned the number 1 in 1992, Franklin Stubbs was assigned the number “0″. He would wear the “goose egg” on his back for only 1 season.
1993-94 Milwaukee Brewers:
Alex Dias: In three seasons with Milwaukee, Dias was a solid, yet unremarkable, outfielder. He batted .264 in 133 games and 256 plate appearances as a Brewer, and recorded only 1 home run during this time. Dias wore the number 18 in 1992 before changing to 1 in 1993.
1995-99 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Fernando Vina: The good: As a Brewer, Vina was a National League All-Star in 1998. The bad: Vina was mentioned in The Mitchell Report for having purchased HGH from Derek Sprang several times between 2000 and 2005. He would eventually come clean about his steroid use on an episode of Sports Center.
2000-02 Milwaukee Brewers:
- Luis Lopez: Acquired in a trade with the Mets for Bill Pulsipher prior to the 2000 season, Lopez batted .262 in 176 games for Milwaukee before being released on June 7th, 2002. After his release, the number was re-assigned to Keith Ginter who would switch to number 6 for the 2003 campaign.
2005-Present Milwaukee Brewers:
- Corey Hart: The final owner of jersey number 1 is none other than current Brewers 1st baseman Corey Hart. Hart, who moved to 1st in 2012 after injuries to Mat Gamel and Travis Ishikawa ended each of their respective seasons.
Hart is a two time NL All-Star, and as mentioned earlier is one of four players who are all tied for the single game team RBI mark.
Check back tomorrow for a look at the men who’ve worn number 2 over the years.
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.