I’m glad I was born the same year as the Milwaukee Brewers. The fact turns my superficial crank, but I probably would have been glad born in Houston, Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh or Seville Spain, making the most of whatever situation. Even St. Louis woulda been fine. Any city with a baseball team or no baseball team at all. I had no control over any of this. Pride is nothing but quick sand to me.
But it is what it was so Sixto Lezcano, Gorman Thomas, and JimWohlford sit in my mind as real memories. I saw them in the flesh up close, in person, wearing cleats and uniforms. They were gods before I knew about ancient masks and costumes and dancing around fires, praying for home runs.
But pitching was divine. I had this hammered into me at 11 years young. Relatives from Boston told me Red Sox pitching sucked and that’s why the Red Sox lost; not because of curses. Uncle Pat said it with certainty. I didn’t argue.
And so when my turn arrived in the mid 70’s and I sat at County Stadium, I studied starting pitchers Jim Slaton and Moose Haas and hoped for the best.
I watched Teddy Higuera’s tarantula precision in the mid 1980’s. Chris Bosio became the bull. Bill Wegman and Cal Eldred-the horses. I was ecstatic when the Brewers drafted pretty boy Ben Sheets and five years later Yovani Galardo.
I’ve enjoyed seeing Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg transform from hard throwing minor league prospects into confident major league pitchers over the past three years.
And all these pitchers share one thing in common. They were all drafted and developed by the Brewers and in Slaton’s case, the Seattle Pilots also played a part. They were prodigies, apples in the franchise eye, the next generation, the poppy seed; the morphine to ease the pain because the Brewers don’t have a great track record for drafting and developing pitchers.
The list is very short. So there was great joy in Brewerville back in the early 1980’s when Pete Vukovich, Rollie Fingers, and Don Sutton were acquired. And the Brewers won the American League in 1982. The imports played a huge role.
There were many players acquired through the years; Al Downing, Mike Caldwell, Tom Candiotti, Len Barker, Toma Ohka and more recenely CC Sabathia, Zach Greinke and Shawn Marcum. Sabathia helped the Brewers win the wild card in 2008; Greinke and Marcum the NL Central in 2011. The imports played a huge role.
Last year, the Brewers signed Kyle Lohse to a four-year contract. Some argued he was too old and a four-year deal too long. But there was no denying Lohse’s recent success and the consistency and control he would bring to the Brewers. Ditto when the Brewers signed Matt Garza a few months ago.
Every team adds imports to round out a starting staff; brings depth, experience, and maybe most importantly-quality innings. I cherish the imports, but my heart skips a beat when Gallardo or Peralta take the mound. They’re home-grown ideas; authentic. They weren’t hyped up in some other media market. They were raised as Brewers.
After Peralta threw a 97 mph sinking fastball Wednesday night, I took a moment to remember Kenny Henderson, Mike Jones and Mark Rogers, all the first round pitcher busts. All the sad endings to baseball careers and how they fertilize the happy ones.
Peralta tossed 7 innings of 5 hit ball. He allowed one run and struck out 5. The Pirates Francisco Liriano matched Peralta with 7 innings of one run baseball. The score was tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth.
The Brewers bullpen had been one of the best in baseball with Francisco Rodriguez wearing the crown; 21 inning pitched; 9 hits allowed, 27 strikeouts to 4 walks, .043 ERA and 16 saves. .
A hard hit ground ball single followed by a line drive single up the middle and then another single. The Pirates take a 2-1 lead and then a hanging curve from K-Rod and Starling Marte smacks a deep fly to center; off the wall for a bases clearing double.
Final score; Pirates 4, Brewers 1, but no time to whine and pout. Gallardo the other home-grown takes the mound Thursday afternoon; hoping to right the ship; a little morphine matinee.
The Brewers are 25-15.