The Numbers Game: 4 Love of the Game

Paul Molitorby Kevin Kimmes

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.

Seattle Pilots

No player was assigned the number 4 in the Pilots organization in 1969.

Milwaukee Brewers

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.

Someone Like “Ueck”: Mr. Baseball to be Imortalized August 31st in Milwaukee

by Kevin Kimmes

We here at Cream City Cables would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations (and an apology for the above Adele parody title) to Bob Uecker on becoming the latest member of the Brewers family to be immortalized outside of Miller Park.

On August 31st, “Ueck” will join Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, and Bud Selig as the most recent statue recipient at the ball park. Earlier this week, Uecker quipped that his statue would be the first one to be entirely made of paper mache, and that the team also planned on attaching some sort of feeder to it in order to attract pigeons to the statue.

When asked what the statue would look like, Uecker was quick to respond:

“Kind of a Schwarzenegger-type thing. Beefcake. Speedos. Pretty buffed. It’s really enhanced. I’ve seen pictures of the finished product, and, yes, I’m very pleased, as a matter of a fact. It’s drawing a lot of attention. More than that swimsuit issue.”

Swimsuit issue, you ask? Uecker was referring to the infamous picture of himself, poolside, that ran with an article on the Brewers in Sports Illustrated in 2008, and which can be found here.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Why has it taken this long for Uecker to take his place among the immortals, like Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, and…and…well, let’s just focus on those two statues for now…” Well the answer is simple. As current Brewers owner Mark Attanasio pointed out this week, 2012 is the 50th anniversary of Uecker’s first major league game (he debuted as a catcher with the Milwaukee Braves in 1962), and despite being a .200 hitter in his 7 years in the majors, the statue represents just the latest accomplishment for a man who can be counted as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, and the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame, among others.

Stay tuned to Cream City Cables all season long as we will continue to cover this story and all the Uecker related news that’s fit to print (and probably some that isn’t).

My Cardboard Habit: Looking at What’s Brewing in Topps 2012 Series I Baseball

by Kevin Kimmes

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always viewed the launch of the Topps Baseball set as one of the earliest signs of spring. Prior to spring training, or even the groundhog seeing (or not seeing) his shadow, the set marks the first sign of hope that another season is on its way despite it’s release in the middle of winter’s icy cold grip.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve made collecting the entire 660 card set a yearly tradition. This year, I thought I would use the blog to share my love for these cardboard keepsakes and to specifically focus on what Brewers fans can expect to find in the first half (Series I is composed of cards 1-330) of this years set .

We’re Number 1, We’re Number 1!

For the second consecutive year, Brewers slugger and 2011 NL MVP, Ryan Braun finds himself on the first card of the set. While this honor is a great one (former Brewers 1st baseman Prince Fielder had graced this spot in 2010 with a photo of his infamous September 2009 walkoff celebration), this year is “doubly” special for Braun.

Why you ask? Well, this year Topps decided to change up their “chase” variants (short printed versions of some cards with alternate photos and lower print runs) which for the last several years had been reserved for the retired greats of seasons past. This year, the focus is on celebrations and off field hijinks, leading to Braun’s card having 2 separate versions. Shown above, is the standard version of Braun’s card depicting him doing what he does best, knocking the crap out of the ball. His alternate card (pictured to the left), features Braun doing his signature “boxing” home run celebration with Fielder.

For those looking for the short print, your best chance is to check with your local hobby shop or eBay as the estimated average of finding a short printed card (of which there are 22) is only 2 per hobby case.

So, Who Else Made The Cut?

Below is a list of the other players who can be found in the main set donning a Brewers uniform. For convenience sake, I’ve broken this down into 2 groups: those currently with the team and those no longer with the team.

Currently With The Team:

# 29 Active NL Wins Leaders (Wolf)
# 66 Nyjer Morgan
#143 George Kottaras
#146 Carlos Gomez
#181 2011 NL Batting Average Leaders (Braun)
#210 Zack Greinke
#262 Shaun Marcum
#272 2011 NLDS Brewers Game 5 (Morgan)
#294 John Axford

No Longer With The Team:

# 57 Yuniesky Betancourt
# 77 2011 NL Home Run Leaders (Fielder)
#136 Casey McGehee
#224 2011 NL Runs Batted In Leaders (Fielder)
#327 Mark Kotsay

Of all of the cards listed above, the two that I love the most are the Nyjer Morgan cards. First, his standard card (#66) is the same photo of him, Braun, and Fielder that graced the cover of the August 29, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated (shown on the left). Due to the national exposure that this photo got, this has become one of those instant classics and was a real surprise to me when I pulled it out of a pack.

The other card to feature Morgan is the 2011 NLDS Brewers Game 5 card (#272). Here we find Morgan in full “Beast Mode” as he celebrates his walk off single that sent the Crew to the NLCS for the first time in franchise history. I love this photo choice so much simply due to the fact that it just sums up the energy and the enthusiasm of the 2011 campaign so perfectly. It’s Brewers baseball, in the post season, and “T-Plush” is supplying the charge. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Digging for Gold: The Inserts

Topps decided to go with a gold motif for this years inserts. This means everything from gold ring toppers, pins, coins and just plain old gold foil can be found in abundance in these subsets. Let’s look at which Brewers, and Brewers alum can be found here.

**Note – I have not included former Brewers below if the card they appear on shows them in another team’s uniform (sorry Minnesota Twins Paul Molitor), with the exception of cards featuring players on the Milwaukee Braves.**

Golden Moments

Golden moments is a 50 card set composed of cards celebrating historic moments in MLB history which were accomplished by not only those that have come before, but from today’s stars as well. Here we find two cards of interest: GM-10 which celebrates Prince Fielders “Wake Up, Walk Off” from this past season, as well as GM-15 which celebrates Ryan Braun’s passing of Robin Yount for the longest consecutive game on base streak in franchise history. An autographed version, relic version, an auto/relic variant, as well as a “24k gold infused” version numbered out of 5 pieces are also available for the Braun card.

Additionally, the following players each have relic cards in this subset:

GMR-CH Corey Hart
GMR-CM Casey McGehee
GMR-JA John Axford
GMR-JLU Jonathan Lucroy
GMR-PF Prince Fielder
GMR-PM Paul Molitor
GMR-SM Shaun Marcum
GMR-YG Yovani Gallardo

Golden Greats

This 75 card set celebrates the career highlights of 15 legends of the game (5 cards each). Brewers fans, or more specifically Milwaukee baseball fans, may be interested in checking out cards GG51-55 which feature none other than “Hammerin” Hank Aaron as a Milwaukee Brave. As with the Braun card found in Golden Moments, the Hank Aaron cards found in this set also have autographed (numbered out of 10), relic (numbered out of 10), and auto/relic parallels (numbered out of just 5). Additionally, there is a Gold Coin variation which has a production number based on the player’s jersey number (in this case 44) and contains an actual gold coin with the players likeness on it.

Timeless Talents

These 25 dual-player cards statistically compare a hero of yesteryear to a modern day player. As with the main set, this subset again finds Ryan Braun in the lead-off spot teamed up with none other than “The Ignitor”, Paul Molitor. A dual autographed parallel of this card also exists.

1987 Topps Minis

Topps classic wood grain design from their 1987 set gets the mini treatment in celebration of the sets 25th anniversary. Braun (TM-1) again leads off this 50 card subset and is joined by Brewers ace Zack Greinke (TM-35).

In The Name Relics

You want something no one else has? How about the actual letters off of this past years All-Star warmup jerseys? That is what Topps is offering in this subset where each piece is numbered 1/1. Fielder (shown at left), Weeks, and Braun all appear here meaning that Brewers Nation will need to figure out how to sort out the 17 total pieces available between these three players.

Topps Silk Collection

100 of the base sets cards were  also printed as mini version on gold silk and numbered out of only 50 pieces each. Included in this subset are Ryan Braun (SC-1), Zack Greinke (SC-47), Shaun Marcum (SC-62), and John Axford (SC-81).

Base Set Paralells

Each of the 330 card in the base set features two different parallels: Platinum and Wood. The platinum cards are numbered out of 61 pieces in honor of this being Topps 61st set. These are identical to the base cards with the exception that they sport a platinum colored border. Like the platinum parallels, the wood parallels are also identical to their base cards except that these cards are a tribute to the 1962 set and are all numbered 1/1.

So there you have it, a thorough look at the Brewers cards in this years set so far. I’ll be back with a look at Series II after it is released in June. In the mean time, if you have any questions regarding this set, or card collecting in general feel free to hit me up on Twitter at @kevinkimmes. Happy collecting!

Walk of Fame Quickly Becoming Shameful

The Miller Park Walk of Fame is literally that; a series of granite slabs surrounding Miller Park, each inscribed with the name of a legendary Brewers or Braves player, manager, or executive.  You can probably guess most of its membership; names like Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, and, when the ballot was opened up to Milwaukee Braves in 2007, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn.  It took Lew Burdette three tries to finally get in, despite 2 All-Star appearances and a near-miss for the Cy Young in 1958 when he was a 20-game winner.

Despite winning a Cy Young in 1982 and pitching the Brewers to their first World Series, you won’t find Pete Vuckovich on the Walk, though.  Nor will you find Mike Caldwell, another 1982 staple who pitched over 1600 innings of 3.74 ERA baseball over 8 years for the Crew.  No Ben Oglivie, a 9-year veteran and 3-time All-Star who slashed .277/.345/.461 during his time in Milwaukee.  No Ted Simmons, Geoff Jenkins, Teddy Higuera, or Dan Plesac, either.

And if you want to talk Braves, Johnny Logan (38.1 career WAR as a Brave), Joe Adcock (31.5), and Del Crandall (33.2) are all missing.

Consider it the curse of being a great, but not elite, Brewer or Brave; unless you can make it into Cooperstown, you’re not likely to make it into the local hall, either.

I was shocked last year when none of the guys listed above managed to garner the required 75% of votes to get in.  I’m shocked again this year.  What possible case can be made against Vukovich or Caldwell?  What about Johnny Logan?

Though the selection process is similar, the local Walk of Fame is not to be confused with Cooperstown. Like the baseball hall of fame, retired players have to garner 75% of the vote for induction, with any candidates who receive fewer than 5% of the vote in any year becoming ineligible.  But unlike the national hall of fame, the local Walk begins with a much smaller pool of candidates to begin with.  These are just the greatest players in Milwaukee Brewers and Braves history, so our standards for inclusion should obviously be much lower than that of Cooperstown.  Even if great baseball talent is distributed evenly among teams (ignoring, for a moment, spending disparities), only a sliver of all great players will have found themselves in a Brewers or Braves uniform during their career.  Some non-Cooperstown players already adorn the Walk, including Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, and Gorman Thomas.  There’s really no justification for a restrictive view of our local hall.

So why do we exclude former Brewers and Braves who clearly deserve the honor?  According to the Brewers, the Walk of Fame is selected “by a committee of approximately 100 Wisconsin media members and Brewers officials.”  Last year, 57 ballots were returned; a record, according to Tom Haudricourt.  This year, the committee returned only 39 ballots.  Not even Haudricourt, who agrees that the system is flawed, filled out his ballot (albeit because of a family matter).

Missing ballots don’t entirely explain why the 39 voters didn’t induct a single player, unless it’s disproportionately stupid voters that returned their ballots.  But the low return does suggest that the process is, at best, unimportant to most of those on the committee.  And that, in turn, might speak to the amount of thought voters who did return their ballot put into it.

So we don’t have to change the process to honor deserving former players. Those voters who hold the Walk of Fame in the same regard as Cooperstown can live up to their own expectations by taking their ballots a little more seriously.  By, you know, actually filling them out, and maybe looking up a few player stats while they’re at it.

*Edit:* Not everyone who returned their ballots is to blame, and I want to be fair in my criticisms.  Higuera and Jenkins did receive nearly 50% of the vote.  Caldwell and Vuckovich each garnered just shy of 40%.  Oglivie, Simmons, and Plesac all tied with 12 votes at 30.8%.  Of the Braves, only Logan cracked 60%, while Adcock barely missed 50%, and Crandall garnered only 8 votes.  Kudos to those of you who did the right thing.