Tagged: Milwaukee Brewers

What Can the Brewers Expect from Nyjer Morgan in 2012?

An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game


-Curt Hogg-

T. Plush. Gotta go. Plushdamentals. Namesake of this very blog. Tony Tombstone. .304 hitter. NLDS hero. Beast mode. Alberta Pujols. Master of the postgame interview. Gentleman. Tony Plush.

We get it–Nyjer Morgan had one hell of a 2011. But, in all honesty, that was 2011 and should be left as 2012. His profound craziness on and off the field won’t be taking Brewers fans by surprise anymore, though they will still be nonetheless entertaining. Morgan put up career numbers across the board in 2011 and experienced a career resurgence in a city that grew to adore him. But is it realistic to expect the same out of Morgan in 2012?

It may be a bit unreasonably sanguine to expect Morgan to reproduce his 2011 numbers, especially considering the many oracular factors that can affect his play.

We’ve seen Morgan draw negative attention to his name for throwing a ball at a heckling fan and charge the mound against Chris Volstad and the Marlins. Both of these instances came in 2010 with Washington, previously his only full season in the Majors until 2011. These were the memorable moments of his season, which finished with forgettable .253/.319/.314 numbers and a league-high 17 times caught stealing. The Brewers took a risk in trading for a talented-yet-troubled outfielder with a past history of nothing but trouble.

But in Milwaukee, Morgan turned his career and reputation around. With clutch hits and “tickling” the ball into the outfield, he became a fan favorite. Insert in the memorable post-game interviews, Tony Plush alter-ego, and Jim Rome correspondent video and you have a national media hit. He finished the season batting .304/.357./.421 with 20 doubles, 6 triples, 4 home runs, 37 RBI, and 61 runs. To cement his legacy with the Brewers, he hit the walk off single in Game 5 of the NLDS against Arizona to propel Milwaukee to the NLCS.

Last time Morgan experience this kind of success, however, was in Washington in 2009. After being traded from Pittsburgh, where he hit .277 in  71 games, Morgan batted .351 and stole 24 bases in 49 games. Nothing similar to his 2009 numbers were emulated in 2010, a season in which  the Walla Walla Community College product played in 16 more games. We’ve already gone through his statistic drop-off, which was in part due to his inability to keep a level head. He was suspended seven games for throwing a ball at a fan. He missed a fly ball against Baltimore and threw his glove on the ground, giving up on the play. While I don’t see anything of this magnitude happening in Milwaukee, where the environment is “Nyjer-friendly”, there are too many unpredictable things that can go against Morgan that can affect his season.

That being said, Morgan is still expected to be a solid contributor to the Brewers in 2012. He, Carlos Gomez, and Nori Aoki will split time in center field. Each will also get more playing time to begin the season, with Corey Hart expected to begin on the DL. His stellar defense is both center field and right field add to his already-solid value.

Brian McCann, meet Nyjer Morgan. Nyjer, meet home plate.

Speaking of value, you can’t place one on Morgan’s clubhouse impact. On a team full of eccentric personalities, Morgan, with regular help from the ubiquitous Tony Plush, was the center of the pack. When introducing himself mid-Spring, he ignored the customary greetings of his name and former baseball pit stops. Instead, he screamed, “What up f******!”. His twitter account (@TheRealTPlush–follow him. If you aren’t, what are you doing with your life?) has over 78,000 followers. Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson has just over 1,000.

So Nyjer Morgan is good in the clubhouse. Got it.

By no means should Morgan have the kind of drop-off he did from 2009 to 2010; he’s in a place and on a club where his emotions won’t get the most of him….very much. He’s a player who derives his production on the field from emotion–of which he has plenty. While 2012 may not have the T. Plush magic of 2011, don’t expect him to drop off significantly. His role may be slightly decreased with the addition of Aoki and the health and hopefully rejuvenated play of Gomez, but his Plushdamentals–running over the catcher, laying out in center, and gettin’ dirty on a triple–will still be there.

He’s an intricate part of an intere……….ya’ know what? I gotta go.

*What Can the Brewers Expect from Nyjer Morgan in 2012 is the “sixth inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read each of the first five posts here.

I have recently joined Reviewing the Brew, a Brewers blog and member of the FanSided network. Posts will be found much more frequently at RtB.


Ryan Braun Suspension Overturned: How This Affects the Brewers in 2012

-Curt Hogg-

Ryan Braun will be in the lineup, batting third for the Brewers on April 6th. Brewers fans, rejoice.

Not only does the successful appeal on Braun’s positive drug test maintain his image, but it may have saved the Milwaukee Brewers season. With the off-season loss of three-time All Star Prince Fielder, the Brewers could not have afforded losing the reigning National League Most Valuable Player for 50 games to begin 2012. Though the pitching staff–primed with upper-echelon arms in Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum–may have been able to keep the Brewers from locking themselves in the cellar by the end of May, the offense would have been stagnant without Braun and Fielder.

Let’s face it: Ryan Braun’s vindication saved the Milwaukee Brewers season.

All along, Braun denied any allegations, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the positive drug test report was “BS”. Throughout the entire process, including a five-week appeal in court, Braun was nothing short of professional. That same approach was taken Thursday by the Brewers outfielder, who said in a statement, “I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.”

In a division with no evident front-runner, the Brewers now have as good a chance to make the Playoffs as any team in the NL Central. The   defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals lost the face of the franchise and arguably top player in the game, Albert Pujols. Cincinnati, though much-improved with the addition of starter Mat Latos, has much to prove with a plethora of question marks surrounding the back end of the rotation and bullpen.

The Brewers back end of the bullpen, comprised of 46-save-man John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, is easily the best in the division. The starting rotation is proven and can compete with the likes of the Chris Carpenter-led St. Louis arms.

What may be overlooked in all this may be the fact that the Brewers retained a Gold Glove in left field with what may have been the worst defensive infield in the National League with the likes of Rickie Weeks and Mat Gamel. The outfield is now one of the best, boasting UZR-gem Carlos Gomez (27.5 UZR in 2011), the speedy Nyjer Morgan and his alter ego, Tony Plush, and the underrated Corey Hart in right field.

The effect will be most obvious under the ‘R’ column in the scoreboard. The Brewers gain a .330 hitter who can bop 30 homers and drive in over 100 in addition to stealing 30 bases. As much love as there may be for Carlos Gomez and Japanese import Nori Aoki, it’s borderline-impossible that the two could match that production. I mean, there is a reason the man was the National League MVP.

The debate over the Most Valuable Player award typically is along the lines of “Well, is he really the most  valuable to his team? Or is he just the top performer?” As if that line isn’t spoken enough, it would as overused as the driver’s seat in a 1994 Buick by the time his 50 game suspension would have been over. I’ll just do us all a favor and call it out right now, on the spot.

Ryan Braun will prove to be most valuable to his team in 2012.

Thanks, Prince: No. 28’s 28 Most Memorable Moments as a Brewer

An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game


Curt Hogg-

A harsh, grim reality is finally falling over Brewers fans: the beloved slugger Prince Fielder will not be a mainstay in the cleanup spot for Ron Roenicke and the Brewers anymore. In a well chronicled free agency with no void of wild, circulating rumors surround Prince, the former Brewers first baseman signed with Detroit for nine years and $214 million. The inevitability of the day that Milwaukee attempted to ignore was finally a crashing reality.

Looking back, Fielder provided the Brewers with dozens of memories on the field. He was an everyday shoe-in for the cleanup spot and was adored by the fan base. On behalf of every person to proudly don a navy blue cap emblazoned with a metallic gold ‘M’ underlined in barley, thank you, Prince.

For one last tribute to No. 28, here are his 28 most memorable moments as a Milwaukee Brewer.

28. Cover Boy (2007, ’11)

Fielder was featured on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine in the August 13, 2007 edition and, again, on the  August 29, 2011 edition of Sports Illustrated along with Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan. His first appearance on a magazine cover for ESPN marketed his name to the national audience, despite playing in “small town” Milwaukee. You can see the recent SI cover here.

27. Home Run #200 (2011)

In only six seasons with the Crew, Fielder amassed a total of 230 homers, good for second in franchise history. The historic 200th round-tripper came on May 11, 2011 at Miller Park off of Tim Stauffer of the Padres. Trailing 5-3 with two outs in the fifth, Fielder hit a line drive over the fence in right-center to tie the game and reach the 200 homer mark. He was the first Brewers player to reach the plateau since Geoff Jenkins in 2007.

26. Post-NLDS Interview (2011)

I searched long and hard for this one–trust me–and finally found this footage of Fielder’s interview with TBS after the Brewers 3-2 Game Five of the NLDS. For some, this moment may not even be memorable or already may have been forgotten about (probably because of this). But for me, Prince’s reaction after advancing to the NLCS was priceless. He displayed immense shades of T. Plush when TBS reporter Sam Ryan asked him for an interview after the on-field celebration. Caught in the emotion of the moment, Fielder started talking, couldn’t produce any semblance of words, and simply uttered the words of Plush: “I GOTTA GO.” Attaboy, Prince.

25. The LaRussa IBB (2009)

On the final day of the 2009 season, with St. Louis already having clinched the division and Milwaukee eliminated from playoff contention, is when Tony LaRussa’s douchiest moment as a manager against the Brewers happened. Fielder entered the game batting .297, needing a 4-6 game to reach the .300 mark for the season. After a single and two homers, Prince was sitting at .299 with one plate appearance left and needing a hit to reach .300. What does LaRussa do at a point when the game meant nothing to either team? He intentionally walked him, and Fielder finished the season at .299.

24. Payback against Pittsburgh (2007)

Pittsburgh may be the most relieved team too see the Prince swap out of the NL Central. The first of many memorable moments against the Pirates (trust me, there’s a lot more to come), Fielder was drilled by a Matt Capps fastball in May of 2007 after a JJ Hardy three-run home run. The pitch was justifiably deemed intentional and Capps received a four game suspension from MLB disciplinary czar Bob Watson. Fielder avenged the hit by pitch the next night by blasting two home runs and scoring the winning run, after which he stared down the Pirates bench, gesturing emotionally, before being shown the way back to the home dugout. Since that series, the Pirates are 4-37 at their house of horrors, Miller Park.

23. Houston, We Have Blast Off (2011)

486 feet. I’ll just let this do all the talking.

22. Third in MVP Voting in 2007, 2011

After becoming the youngest player to hit 50 home runs in a season and slugging .618, Fielder took third place in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, trailing only the winner Jimmy Rollins of Philadelphia and the Rockies’ Matt Holliday. Again in 2011, Fielder took third, behind Matt Kemp of Los Angeles and teammate and winner Ryan Braun. Fielder hit 38 homers, drove in 120 runs, and batted .299 on the division champion Brewers.

21. Splash Hit in San Fran (2008)

On July 17, 2008, Fielder went yard at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. If that wasn’t already the hardest place to dial 8 in the Bigs, it would still be just incredibly impressive that the ball of his bat landed in McCovey Cove for a “Splash Hit”. Check the blast out here, and see how quickly all those sailboats went scurrying for the Fielder Blast.

20. Salami for Prince (2009)

Prince, often noted for using other teammates' bats, disposes of Casey McGehee's lumber after hitting a grand slam

The once-renowned vegetarian hit his first and only career grand slam on June 15, 2009 against Cleveland. Once down 8-3, Milwaukee

Braun and Fielder celebrated Prince's game-winning Grand Slam in Cleveland in 2009

(sitting in first place at 34-29) had managed to cut the lead down to one before Chris Narveson and Mark DiFelice surrendered four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Down 12-7 and facing former Brewers greats Greg Aquino and Luis “Lose the Lead” Vizcaino, the Crew drew within three after RBI from Corey Hart and Ryan Braun. With the bags full and facing erratic lefty Rafael Perez in the eighth, Prince roped a line drive that cleared the right field fence at Progressive to give the Brewers a 13-12 lead they would not relinquish. This was also the moment that made Braun and Fielder’s home run celebration (below) particularly exoteric.

19. Everyday I’m Scufflin’ (2008)

Though more people tend to remember his attempt to reach the LA Dodgers clubhouse and confront Guillermo Mota, his in-game altercation with teammate Manny Parra in 2008, to me, is more important. After surrendering six runs in six innings, Parra was taken out for a pinch hitter and infuriated Fielder by heading toward the clubhouse instead of remaining with the rest of the team in the dugout. Prince shoved Parra twice before being restrained by teammates. This singular moment may have turned the Brewers ’08 season around, precipitating an eight-game win streak that vaulted Milwaukee to the top of the National League Wild Card standings. Unlike the not-so-brawl at Dodger Stadium that was over-hyped by the media, Fielder’s scuffle with Parra was a turning point in their season.

18. Time to Send ‘Em Home (2011)

What remained of a Friday night crowd of 33,361 at Miller Park on May 20, 2011 went home happy after enduring a marathon between the Rockies and the Brewers. A game that featured 14 different pitchers and lasted four hours and 35 minutes ended abruptly with a no-doubter into the right field bleachers to give Milwaukee a 7-6 victory in 14 innings. The Brewers trailed 6-5 with one out when Fielder hit the two-run walk off homer that launched a sweep of Colorado.

Fielder sets a new Brewers single season RBI record against the Astros on a sac fly to score Felipe Lopez

17. Move Over, Coop (2009)

On September 19, 2009, with 14 games remaining in the season, Fielder broke Cecil Cooper’s single-season franchise record of 126 RBI with a sacrifice fly against the Cooper-managed Houston Astros. He would go on to drive in 141 runs on the season, tied for the league lead with Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard.

16. First Career Walk Off (2005)

I remember as a 10 year-old boy, listening to Bob Uecker call the Pirates-Brewers game on August 31, 2005, just days after the infamous tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina. Trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth, that new guy called up to the Brewers pinch hit for Derrick Turnbow–I had to refute the temptation to turn his name into the oft-mentioned joke–and added another career first to his mantel. After Pirates closer Jose Mesa, indelible to Brewers fans for giving up Robin Yount’s 3000th hit, walked Lyle Overbay on four pitches, Fielder began his legend as a Brewer by hitting a towering walk off homer to win 6-5 much to the chagrin of Mesa. The Brewers finished 2005 at 81-81 and, much to the credit of Fielder’s walk off blast, ended their 12 year streak of finishing with a losing record. Oh how would the Buccos soon become ever so familiar with big No. 28…..

15. Prince’s Debut Single (2005)

Technically, Prince’s first Big League hit was a double, but please tell me you get the reference. After taking the collar two nights before in his Major League debut, Fielder took care of business and picked up his first of many hits to come with a double down the right field line of Hideo Nomo a frozen rope that would soon become colloquial at Miller Park and stadiums across the country. The double marked the start of Prince’s memorable career as a Brewer.

14. Beast Mode (2011)

Yup. A picture’s worth a thousand words. Aka, shut up, Curt and let the pictures do the talking.

13. Prince Becomes Brewers HR King (2007)

“There’s a new home run champion of all time…and it’s Prince Fielder.”

Okay, I get it. I’m not Milo Hamilton and Hank Aaron didn’t just break Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, but on September 15, 2007, Fielder gained sole possession of the Brewers single season home run record. His third inning dinger was number 46 on the season, surpassing Gorman Thomas and Richie Sexson, who were previously tied for the record with 45 homers apiece. He would hit 46 homers again in 2009, only behind his 2007 eventual total of 50.

12. Catcher in the Way (2006)

"Hey Todd Greene, GET SOME!" -Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder, meet Todd Greene. Todd Greene, meet Prince Fielder.

In a type of play Giants fans would soon grow to hate, Fielder completely obliterated San Francisco catcher Todd Greene on a May afternoon in 2006. After an extra base hit to right field, Fielder was waved home and was beaten easily by the throw. He went to his last resort and simply lit up Greene, jarring the ball loose and scoring. The photo beneath shows Greene shaken up by a perfectly fine Fielder as he watches Corey Koskie get tagged out.

11. Snake Bitten (2011)

NLDS. Game One. Brewers 2. D’Backs 0. Ian Kennedy fastball. Prince Fielder blast off. Gave the Brewers a 4-0 lead and clinched their first playoff series lead since 1982.

10. First Career Home Run (2005)

In a well document game, both Prince and Rickie Weeks hit their first career homers against Jesse Crain and two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana of the Twins, respectively. As Darren Sutton said of Fielder’s round-tripper, it was ” career home run number one for the man who is Prince but will soon be king.” Fittingly, Fielder’s three-run homer came with the Brewers trailing 5-4 and would prove to be the winning hit. It was the beginning of great things for both Prince and Rickie.

Fielder celebrates his NLCS monster home run to give the Brewers the lead with Weeks and Betancourt.

9. Hunting Cards in October (2011)

Down 5-2 in the fifth inning in Game One of the National League Championship Series, the Brewers bats exploded. Base hits by Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, and Ryan Braun cut the St. Louis lead down to 5-4. Enter Prince Fielder, stage right. The big fella wasted no time, launching the first pitch from Jaime Garcia into the visitor’s bullpen to give the Brewers a 6-5 lead as Miller Park erupted. The Brewers went on to win 9-6 and take the early series lead over the Cards. A clutch, game changing homer in the NLCS is, without a doubt, an incredible moment.

8. All Star Game MVP (2011)

For many, this would be one of Prince’s most memorable moments as a Brewer, and surely would be higher if Milwaukee had reached the World Series. With the National League going winless in 13 consecutive All Star Games (including the 2002 infamy in Milwaukee), they appeared to be on the same track, down 1-0 in the fourth. That is until Fielder stepped up. Prince connected with a CJ Wilson cutter and drove the ball out of Chase Field in left-center for a three run home run to give the National League the lead. The streak was snapped as the NL ultimately won, 5-1, and Fielder received the Most Valuable Player award for his game-winning homer. 

7. One Final Pirate Killing (x3) (2011)

One final standing 'O' for Prince.

In his second-to-last regular season game as a Brewer, Milwaukee was facing the Pirates. That in itself should say enough. The noted Pirates killer had the best single-game performance of his career. Prince homered not once or twice, but three times. His final moon shot, a 7th inning frozen rope to right off of reliever Jared Hughes, broke a 4-4 tie and gave the Brewers a 6-4 lead. But are we surprised that a homer off the bat of Fielder gave the Crew a late lead? Fielder’s first, a 453 foot shot to Souvenir City in right, was impressive in itself. Add to this another homer in the fifth off the Miller Park scoreboard to give Milwaukee a 4-3 lead and his game-winner in the 7th, and you have the formula for a night when Prince cemented his status as a king of BrewTown.

6a & 6b. Rumble, Prince, Rumble. (2007, ’08)

I’d like to thank the MLB for complaining about copyright infringement and, thus, keeping me from posting YouTube videos for Prince’s two inside-the-park home runs against the Twins and the Blue Jays. BUT, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and Brew Crew Ball for this video of the 2007 one in Minnesota and of this round-tripper against Toronto in 2008. Seeing Prince chug around the bases for a rare inside-the-parker has to be one of the most memorable moments from his career.

5. One Final Hoorah (2011)

Admittedly, this was one of the saddest moments as a Brewers fan. The culmination of an entire career and the brute face of reality finally faced Brewers faithful everywhere. Trailing 12-6 and almost assuredly on the verge of Playoff elimination, Fielder came to the plate for one last time in the eighth inning. Always a gentleman and understanding the emotion (he would sign with the Angels two months later), Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols called time as Fielder stepped to the plate to let the moment soak in. Tough moment, to say the least.

4. Nifty Fifty (2007)

Fielder became the youngest player in MLB history (then 23) to hit 50 homers in a single season when he blasted two out of Miller Park on September 25, 2007 against the Cardinals. The historic home run came in the seventh inning off of Kip Wells on a no-doubter to left field. He received a standing ovation that evoked emotion and created memories to last. Seeing Prince run around the bases after reaching the milestone that is 50 home runs was simply incredible.

3. “He hit that one to the MOON!” (2009)

At Busch Stadium in July of 2009, against hometown favorites Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard, Fielder beat out former Brewer Nelson Cruz in the final round to win the Home Run Derby. In terms of importance to the Brewers, this moment may have been the least important, but it sure made for one fun night. Watching Fielder dominate the competition–including connecting on a 503-foot blast, the longest of the night, that led to Chris Berman squawking the above quote–while his kids and Braun celebrated was one of Prince’s best moments as a Brewer. Behind 23 home runs, he was crowned champion of the night.

T-1. Final Week Heroics (2008)

Untuck 'em, baby.

Trailing the New York Mets by one game in the final week of the 2008 regular season, with the Mets having already won that night, Prince came up with his most clutch moment as a Brewer. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and tied 5-5, Fielder launched a walk-off, two run home run to the Toyota Territory in right-center field off (surprise, surprise) Pirates. Clutch. I remember completely erupting in my basement and waking up the entire house when Fielder hit the homer. It launched a simply unforgettable week. Two nights later with a 13 year-old Curt Hogg in attendance, Braun hit a walk off grand slam to beat the Pirates. On the final day of the season, Braun hit a beyond-dramatic go-ahead homer in the eighth against the Cubs as Milwaukee clinched the NL Wild Card.

T-1. Bowling With the Prince (2009)

In what may have been the greatest celebration after a walk off hit ever, Prince and the Brewers created a long-lasting and hilarious memory. On September 6, 2009, Fielder cracked a walk off home run to beat the San Francisco Giants. The homer wasn’t even the most memorable part, as Fielder majestically jumped on home plate and the rest of the Brewers fell down like bowling pins. The Giants didn’t like the move (but who cares?) and Barry Zito plunked Fielder for redemption the next year in Spring Training. The celebration will forever be associated with Prince and his incredible career with the Brewers.


*Thanks, Prince: No. 28’s 28 Most Memorable Moments as a Brewer is the “third inning” in a series of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. Read the first and second posts here.

Milwaukee and Baseball: A Love Saga


-By Curt Hogg- 

Humbly, it all began.  In front of 37,273 sanguine fans on April 6, 1970 at County Stadium, sporting makeshift jerseys created hastily in under a week from those of the old Seattle Pilots, the Milwaukee Brewers were thrashed at the hands of the California Angels, 12-0. Approximately forty years and four Playoff appearances later, that same franchise that unpretentiously lost to the Angels one April afternoon in 1970 was popping champagne, claiming Tony Plush to be a folk legend, and advancing to its first National League Championship Series. And all the way, the team was backed firmly by the city it called home.

This is where the author, wrapped in sheer pride and basking in reminiscence, brags about the world championships, and the pennants, and the MLB records set, and all the years of winning teams, and how being a fan of the team has always been a breeze.

Fans created a frenzy on the field at County Stadium after winning the 1982 ALCS

But this is where an author from Milwaukee, utterly thankful to the baseball gods for giving his Brewers one deep Playoff run in his lifetime, goes on about 1982 and 2011, with minor references to Robin, CC, 1987, 2008, and the “new stadium” thrown in somewhere. This is where we ignore the 12 consecutive losing seasons, the 106-loss embarrassment that was 2002,  the lack of a World Series title, the league-worst earned run averages, the horror that was the 1990s, and the ways in which Stormin’ Gorman and Mollie and Sheffield and Prince departed from BrewTown. Wait, did I mention the 12 consecutive losing seasons yet?

The things is, we can’t just forget and ignore any of this. How much appreciation can be drawn from a fan that has only ever seen a winning ballclub? Heading out to County Stadium or, more recently, Miller Park on an unpleasant summer night and cringing helplessly as the Brewers suffered another beating  just to, somewhat masochistically, repeat this action time and time again is what has made Milwaukee a baseball city. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder–but in Milwaukee’s case, losing has made the heart grow incredibly fonder.

Where the love saga really began, however, was with the  Braves, Milwaukee’s lost treasure of the 50’s and early 60’s. They remain the one Milwaukee team to bring a World Series title home. Led by legends Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, and Eddie Mathews, the Braves led the National League in attendance six times in their 13-year tenure in the Midwest. And when America’s small-town team defeated the mighty Yankees in seven games in the 1957 World Series, the city erupted into a frenzy. That would be just the beginning.

From the days of seat cushion giveaways all the way through the days of Randy Wolf  and John Axford bobblehead doll giveaways, Milwaukee has faithfully been behind their Brewers. For the team with the smallest television market in the league to attract over three million fans three of the last four seasons and to rank in the top half in attendance each of the last five seasons shows true dedication on part of the fans. This is a town that threw a celebration at a sold-out County Stadium after losing the World Series–and it made the actual World Series parade  in St. Louis look like Brown Deer’s homecoming parade. Robin Yount’s rebellious ride around in warning track in his Harley epitomized the city and its fans; blue collar, loud, and in love with baseball.

Milwaukee’s brightest moment in the 1982 postseason sun was a special one. Close your eyes at an empty County Stadium, and you can still hear the echoes from Cecil Cooper’s ALCS-winning hit. The place nearly collapsed under the weight of all that joy. Ten days later, the city almost collapsed under the weight of that World Series despair, until along came Robin and his Harley and lifted the spirits.

Former Brewers hold special places of endearment in Milwaukee’s heart. When Cooper was managing the division rival Houston Astros in 2009, he received such a loud standing ovation from Brewers fans that his name could not be heard over the PA during lineup introductions. Geoff Jenkins had to step out of the batter’s box and tip his cap to fans during the Phillies’08 NLDS matchup against Milwaukee. Miller Park’s roof is nearly blown off anytime Robin Yount steps foot in the building. Even in the 2011 NLDS against Arizona were fans signaling an ‘O’ when former Brewer Lyle Overbay came to bat.

To say Milwaukee embraced Nyjer Morgan, Tony Plush, and “Beast Mode” in 2011 would be an understatement. The city went all-out, full-throttle, pedal to the metal, and was completely in love with anything involving any of the three. From chucking up the T’s to going Beast Mode, the city

Rickie Weeks and Brewers fans go Beast Mode

was enamored with these in 2011. Morgan’s spunk and eccentricity won him over with the fan base and vaulted his t-shirt to the top of Brewers Fan Shop sales.

Fast forward through the Brewers history and there are those moments that have forever captivated Brewers fans. Robin Yount’s 3000th hit undoubtedly holds a special place in every Brewer fan’s heart. Close your eyes once again and you can hear legendary Bob Uecker’s nerving, spine-tingling call. Brewers baseball entered the morbid doldrums until one large man named Carsten Charles Sabathia gave Milwaukee the taste of champagne popping again.

If not for the indubitable suffering evoked and etched into the hearts of the faithful, Milwaukee baseball would not be the same. Robin, Rollie, Paulie, Coop, Jenkins, Prince, and Braunie have created the mold for modern-day Brewers baseball. Miller Park may not  be blanketed by World Series pennants on the façade, but there is no tangible way to adequately represent all the passion poured into Brewers baseball.

Forget Twilight. This is truly a love saga, and I hope it never ends.

**Milwaukee and Baseball: A Love Saga is the “second inning” of a set of nine posts on An Infectious and Unconditional Love for The Game. You can read the “first inning” here.

NLCS Game One: Brewers 9, Cardinals 6: Six Run 5th Gives Milwaukee 1-0 Lead

The ball was jumping out of Miller Park on Sunday afternoon for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Three two-run home runs, two of which came in a six-run fifth inning, propelled the Brewers to a 1-0 lead in the NLCS. Ryan Braun’s 463-foot blast over the Harley Davidson Deck in left-center opened it up, and homers by Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt ensued in the fifth to give the Brewers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“With the shadows it can get hard (to hit), but I’m just fortunate it went over the fence,” said a modest Ryan Braun on his first inning moon shot off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia (0-2).

However, it wasn’t all fun and games for Milwaukee, who is 4-0 at home so far in the Playoffs.

A three-run home run by David Freese in the fourth gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead against Brewers starter Zack Greinke. St. Louis added to their lead with a two-out RBI single off the bat of Lance Berkman in the fifth.

Milwaukee responded, down 5-2 in the fifth. The rally began humbly with a meager base hit through the left side by Corey Hart. Following a Jerry Hairston double to left, Braun sent a Garcia breaking ball down the line in right that barely stayed fair for a ground-rule double. 5-4. Fielder carried the momentum by launching Garcia’s first delivery into the visitor’s bullpen on a rope to give the Brewers the lead 6-5. Octavio Dotel then relieved Garcia and botched a Rickie Weeks grounder, disposing the ball into right field for a two-base error. The usual free-swinging Betancourt then put together an eight-pitch at bat before homering to the Milwaukee bullpen to make it 8-5.

Braun finished with 4 RBI with a homer, double, and two runs scored as the Brewers followed suit of the 1982 Milwaukee team to take the opening game in a Playoff series with St. Louis (the two teams met in the World Series that year).

The team that won Game 1 of the NLCS has advanced to the World Series in 16 of the past 19 years.

Milwaukee is now 17-0 at home in games Greinke (1-0) has started. Greinke, who criticized the demeanor of Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, went six plus innings, allowing all six of St. Louis’ runs, striking out six.

Takashi Saito relieved Greinke after a leadoff single from leadoff man Rafael Furcal in the seventh and immediately made Brewers fans nervous.

Axford (left) notched the save as the Brewers take Game One

With Furcal running on the pitch, the Cardinals avoided a double play and wound up with a Jon Jay single to put runners on the corners with no outs and the heart of the order coming up. Saito avoiding the jam, breaking Albert Pujols’ bat for a 5-4-3 double play with Furcal coming home. A Lance Berkman pop out ended the inning and Milwaukee escaped up 8-6. A Jonathan Lucroy RBI single would get the run back immediately for the Brewers.

Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford held the lead in the eighth and ninth with no trouble as Axford picked up his second postseason save.

Brewers 3, D-Backs 2 (10): T-Plush Walks it Off, Brewers on to NLCS

“F*** YEAH! F*** YEAH!” Nyjer Morgan yelled into the microphone for what was meant to be a post-game interview, which he then followed with “I GOT NOTHIN TO SAY! AHH GOTTA GO!”

TBS should have known better than to try to get Morgan, Friday night’s hero and forever’s legend, for an interview.

With Carlos Gomez on second and one out in the bottom of the tenth, Morgan transformed into legend Tony Plush and laced a single right back up the middle as Gomez came around to score the winning run. On to the National League Championship Series.

The Brewers held a 2-1 lead going into the ninth inning, but John Axford blew his first save opportunity since mid-April when Gerardo Parra scored on a Willie Bloomquist suicide squeeze. Axford then escaped a major jam, striking out Aaron Hill, inducing a weak fielder’s choice groundout from Justin Upton, then Henry Blanco rolled out to Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt out-sprinted Upton on a phenomenal play. But who cares about the blown lead? He was just setting up the stage.

After Craig Counsell lined out sharply to Upton to lead off the tenth off of Arizona’s JJ Putz, Gomez singled to left. Everyone in the raucous Miller Park knew what was to come: “Go-Go” would be stealing with T. Plush at the plate.

On what turned out to be a completely overlooked play, Gomez took off for second and Plush squared to bunt. At the very last moment, the Brewers center fielder pulled back, screening the catcher Blanco as the ball squirted away. Gomez reached second and the stage was set.

Putz threw a 2-2 fastball that Plush, or Morgan (you choose) laced back right up the middle. Putz had the only play on it, but a kick-save attempt failed. The speedy Gomez then beat out the throw from center fielder Chris Young as the celebration began.

Miller Park and the city of Milwaukee erupted and rejoiced as the Brewers won their first Playoff series since 1982.

To say the least, the Snakes are on a plan going home.

Arizona opened up the scoring on a solo homer from Justin Upton to the D-Backs bullpen in right field. The homer came two pitches after Milwaukee thought they were out of the inning on a supposed strike three.

Milwaukee tied up the score on a Jerry Hairston sac fly that scored Morgan. Second baseman Aaron Hill had to range to shallow right field to make the grab and his momentum was too much to overcome and Morgan tagged and scored easily. The lead then came in the 6th from an unlikely source.

After a Ryan Braun leadoff double, Prince Fielder walk, failed bunt by Rickie Weeks, and incredible catch by Young in center to rob Hairston of a bases-clearing double, Betancourt singled to center to score Braun. The oft-criticized Betancourt was in place to be the hero.

Betancourt's RBI single

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo consistently found himself in jam after jam, but escaped them all. With a pitch count of 112, Gallardo exited after six excellent innings of one-run ball. He gave up five hits, struck out five, and walked two. The only blemish on Gallardo’s line was the two-out homer to Upton.

D-Backs starter Ian Kennedy gave up two runs in six innings of work and was on the hook for the loss until Bloomquist’s safety squeeze tied the game.

Takashi Saito pitched a perfect seventh and Francisco Rodriguez escaped a nerve-wrecking bases loaded jam in the eighth.

Arizona third baseman Ryan Roberts, who hit the Game Four grand slam, came up and K-Rod had nowhere to put him. The mid-season pickup came through for Milwaukee, as Roberts grounded into a fielder’s choice, shortstop to second.

Immediately after the hit, Morgan gave the Beast Mode signal to Brewers players and fans. What a sight.

In the words of T. Plush “F*** YEAH!” ONTO THE NLCS!


NLDS: Brewers vs. Diamondbacks Game Two Preview

After Milwaukee’s Game One victory over Arizona, they will send out home ace Zack Greinke to the mound. Greinke’s comfort zone seems to be Miller Park, where he is 11-0 with a 3.15 era. Manager Ron Roenicke opted to start Greinke on three day’s rest at Miller Park than on normal rest on the road.

After throwing only 74 pitches on Wednesday, the Milwaukee righthander isn’t concerned about the short rest, admitting that he “didn’t throw that many pitches last time because we planned on it possibly happening.”

Greinke will oppose D-backs starter Daniel Hudson, like Greinke, a 16-game winner. In the first inning, opponents hit 50 points higher than the rest of the game, meaning that the top of the order will need to jumpstart the offense early.

The teams will head off to the desert after Sunday’s game for back-to-back games. If necessary, a Game Five would be at Miller Park.


NLDS: Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 1: Gallardo’s Gem, Prince’s Homer Put Milwaukee Up 1-0

Diamondbacks Game One starter Ian Kennedy is the Cy Young candidate, but Yovani Gallardo pitched like the deserving winner on Saturday.

Over eight innings, Gallardo only allowed four hits and one run, coming on an eighth inning home run to Ryan Roberts. Meanwhile, Kennedy was consistently in jams, but had held Arizona in the game through 6 2/3 innings with the score still at 2-0 until Milwaukee’s big boys stepped up.

Ryan Braun fought off tough pitches from Kennedy before dumping an outside corner fastball down the right field line for a double. Arizona manager Kirk Gibson then opted to pitch to Prince Fielder with a base open and the Brewers slugger made him pay. Fielder laced a 1-0 breaking ball over the right field fence for a home run that was caught by Jack Wallisch, a friend of mine, to put Milwaukee up 4-0. (What a monster, right??)

That was all Milwaukee would need, as John Axford came on to record a 1-2-3 9th for the save and Milwaukee’s first Game One victory since the 1982 World Series. Gallardo struck out nine over his 8 innings for the victory.

The Brewers opened up the scoring with a Jerry Hairston, who was starting in place of Casey McGehee, sac fly that scored Braun. Jonathan Lucroy followed up a Yuniesky Betancourt triple with a two-out jam-job RBI single to left (Arizona once again opted not to walk a batter with two out and a base open and paid).