Milwaukee Brewers Logo
Originating in Seattle, Washington, as the Seattle Pilots, the club played for one season in 1969 before being acquired in bankruptcy court by current MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and then moved to Milwaukee. The Brewers were part of the American League from their creation as an expansion club in 1969 through the 1997 season, after which they moved to the National League Central Division. Milwaukee had previously been a National League city when its team was the Milwaukee Braves (1953–1965).
In 1982, Milwaukee won the American League East Division and the American League Pennant, earning their only World Series appearance to date. In the Series, they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to three.
In 2008, the Brewers achieved their first postseason berth in the 26 years since their World Series appearance as the wildcard team in the National League. They were eliminated in the NLDS by the eventual World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.
The Brewers were born at the 1967 Major League Baseball winter meetings as the Seattle Pilots, owned by former Cleveland Indians owner William R. Daley and former Pacific Coast League president Dewey Soriano. They entered the American League along with the Kansas City Royals as part of a hasty round of expansion triggered by the Kansas City Athletics' move to Oakland. Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri had threatened to have baseball's antitrust exemption revoked unless Kansas City was promptly granted another team.They were originally slated to begin play in 1971, but Symington would not accept the prospect of having Kansas City wait three years for another team and pressured MLB to have the Royals and their expansion brethren (the Pilots and the National League's San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos) ready for play in 1969. Until a new stadium (what would become the Kingdome) was ready, the Pilots would play at Sick's Stadium, the home of the city's longtime PCL franchise, the Seattle Rainiers.
Manager Joe Schultz actually thought they could finish third in the newly formed, six-team American League West even though they had been badly outdrafted by the Royals. However, to the surprise of almost no one outside Seattle, the Pilots were terrible. They won their very first game, and then their home opener three days later, but only won five more times in the first month and never recovered. They finished last in the West with a record of 64–98, 33 games out of first. Much of the story of that season is told in pitcher Jim Bouton's classic baseball book, Ball Four.
However, the team's poor play was the least of the Pilots' problems. The team's ownership was badly undercapitalized; Soriano had not been able to afford the franchise fee and had to ask Daley to help pay it. In return, Daley got 47 percent of the team's stock—the biggest single share—and became chairman of the board. Also, Sick's Stadium was completely inadequate even as a temporary facility. While a condition of MLB awarding the Pilots to Seattle was that Sick's had to be expanded to 30,000 seats by the start of the 1969 season, only 17,000 seats were ready because of numerous delays. The scoreboard was not even ready until the night before Opening Day. While it was expanded to 25,000 by June, the added seats had obstructed views. Water pressure was almost nonexistent after the seventh inning, especially with crowds above 10,000. Only 677,000 fans came to see the Pilots that year; they never attracted a crowd even near capacity. By the end of the 1969 season, the Pilots were almost out of money, and they would not survive long enough to move into their new stadium without new ownership. No credible offers surfaced from Seattle interests at first, however. Under these circumstances, Soriano was initially very receptive to an offer from a Milwaukee-based group headed by car salesman Bud Selig. Selig had been a minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves and had led unsuccessful efforts to keep them from moving to Atlanta, and had been working ever since then to bring the majors back to Milwaukee. During Game 1 of the World Series, Soriano agreed to sell the Pilots to Selig for $10 million to $13 million (depending on the source). Selig would then move the team to Milwaukee. However, under strong pressure from Washington state officials, MLB asked Soriano to try to find a local buyer first. Unfortunately, one local deal collapsed when the Bank of California called a loan for startup costs, and another bid was turned down out of concern it would devalue the other teams. With no other credible offers on the table, the owners approved the sale to Selig's group. Selig had already announced plans to rename the team the Brewers, a name that had been used by past Milwaukee baseball teams dating to the 19th century (most notably by a very successful minor league team that played there from 1902 to 1952). However, legal action kept Selig from formally taking control, and dragged out through the winter.
The matter still had not been resolved by the end of spring training, leaving new manager Dave Bristol and the players unsure of where they would play. The team's equipment sat in Provo, Utah while the drivers awaited word to drive to Seattle or Milwaukee. After the state filed an injunction to stop the sale on March 17, Soriano and the Pilots filed for bankruptcy to forestall any more legal action. After general manager Marvin Milkes testified that the Pilots did not have enough money to pay the players, the bankruptcy judge granted the Pilots' filing on April 1 and ruled the move to Milwaukee in order. MLB would not return to Seattle until 1977, when the Mariners entered the AL, along with the Toronto Blue Jays.
1970–77: Early years in Milwaukee
With less than a week to go before the start of the season, there wasn't nearly enough time to order new uniforms. As a result, the Brewers were forced to replace the Pilots logos with Brewers logos. In fact, the outline of the old Pilots logo was clearly visible on the Brewers' uniforms. They were also forced to assume the Pilots' place in the AL West (where, due to their geographical location, they would stay until 1972, when they moved to the AL East).
Under the circumstances, the Brewers' 1970 season was over before it started, and they finished 65–97 (a one-game improvement over 1969). They would not have a winning season until 1978. Those years, however, were not without their highlights. For instance, in 1973 the team introduced its popular mascot, Bernie Brewer. A year later, the Brewers engineered a trade that brought Hank Aaron back to Milwaukee, a move which gave the team instant credibility. Selig also began acquiring many players that would become long-standing fan favorites, including Robin Yount, Jim Gantner, Stormin' Gorman Thomas, Don Money, and Cecil Cooper.
1978–83: The glory days
The Brewers finally arrived in 1978, when they won 93 games—a healthy 26-game improvement over 1977. They finished 6.5 games out of first—the first time a Milwaukee-based team had been a factor in a pennant race since the Milwaukee Braves finished second in the National League in 1960. The next season, Milwaukee finished second in the East behind the Baltimore Orioles on the strength of their home run power, led by Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie (who led the league in homers in 1980 along with Reggie Jackson), and Gorman Thomas (whose 45 home runs in 1979 was the Brewers' single season home run record, until Richie Sexson tied the mark in both 2001 and 2003; Prince Fielder surpassed the mark with 50 home runs in 2007). After finishing third in 1980, the Brewers won the second half of the 1981 season (divided because of a players' strike) and played the Yankees in a playoff mini-series they ultimately lost. It was the first playoff appearance for the franchise.
In 1982, the Brewers won the American League pennant. The team's prolific offensive production that season (they led the league in runs and home runs) earned them the nickname Harvey's Wallbangers (a play on the drink Harvey Wallbanger and the team's manager Harvey Kuenn). In the 1982 American League Championship Series the Brewers defeated the California Angels three games to two and became the first team to win a five-game playoff series after trailing two games to zero. The Brewers then played the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series where they started out strong, taking the first game of the series 10–0. Unfortunately, future Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers had been injured before the postseason, and relief pitching became a problem for the Brewers. St. Louis eventually triumphed in the series, winning four games to three.
During the 1980s the Brewers produced three league MVPs (Rollie Fingers in 1981 and Robin Yount in 1982 and 1989) and two Cy Young Award winners (Rollie Fingers in 1981 and Pete Vuckovich in 1982). Yount is one of only four players in the history of the game to win the MVP award at two positions (shortstop, then center field).
1984–93: Rollercoaster, riding the highs and lows
Following their two playoff years, the club quickly retreated to the bottom of the standings, never finishing higher than fifth (out of seven) in their division from 1983 to 1986. Hope was restored in 1987 when, guided by rookie manager Tom Trebelhorn, the team began the year with a 13-game winning streak. Unfortunately, they followed that hot start with a 12-game skid in May. But "Team Streak" eventually posted a strong third-place finish. Highlights of the year included Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak and what is still the only no-hitter in team history, pitched by Juan Nieves on April 15.
On that day, Nieves became the first (and so far, only) Brewer and first Puerto Rican-born Major Leaguer to pitch a no-hitter, defeating the Baltimore Orioles 7–0 at Memorial Stadium. The final out came on a climactic diving catch in right-center field by Robin Yount of a line drive hit by Eddie Murray. The game also was the first time the Orioles were no-hit at Memorial Stadium. Yount later recalled at a Brewers banquet that he did not have to dive to catch the line drive hit by Murray but figured ending the game with a diving catch would be the icing on the cake for Nieves' no-hitter.
In 1988 the team had another strong season, finishing only two games out of first (albeit with a lesser record than the previous year) in a close playoff race with four other clubs. Following this year, the team slipped, posting mediocre records from 1989 through 1991, after which Trebelhorn was fired. In 1992, reminiscent of the resurgence which greeted Trebelhorn's arrival in 1987, the Brewers rallied behind the leadership of rookie manager Phil Garner and posted their best record since their World Series year in 1982, finishing the season 92–70 and in second place, four games behind that year's eventual World Champion Toronto Blue Jays.
Hope of additional pennant races was quickly dashed, however, as the club plummeted to the bottom of the standings the following year, finishing an abysmal 26 games out of first. Since 1992, highlights were few and far between as the franchise failed to produce a winning season, having not fielded a competitive team because of a combination of bad management and financial constraints that limit the team relative to the resources available to other, larger-market clubs. With new management, structural changes in the economics of baseball, and the advent of revenue sharing, the Brewers were able to become competitive once again.
1994–98: Realignment / "We're taking this thing National"
In 1994, Major League Baseball adopted a new, expanded playoff system. This change would necessitate a restructuring of each league from two divisions into three. The Brewers were transferred from the old AL East division to the newly created AL Central. (Due to the baseball strike, however, the new-look playoffs and World Series did not materialize that year.)
In March 1995, two new franchises—the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays—were awarded by Major League Baseball, to begin play in 1998. It was decided to add one new team to each league. However, it soon became clear that it would be impractical to have an odd number of teams per league: baseball would either have to give teams many more off-days than in the past, or interleague play would have to be extended year-round, or both. In order for MLB officials to continue the existing schedule, where teams play almost every day and where interleague play is limited to a few days per year, both leagues would need to carry an even number of teams. The decision was made to have one existing club switch leagues.
This realignment was widely considered to have great financial benefit to the club moving. However, to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Commissioner (then club owner) Bud Selig decided another team should have the first chance to switch leagues. The Kansas City Royals of the American League's Central Division were asked first, but they decided not to move over to the National League's Central Division. The choice then fell to the Brewers, who, on November 6, 1997, elected to move to the National League's Central Division. At the same time, the Detroit Tigers agreed to move from the AL East to the AL Central (to replace Milwaukee). The Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined the AL East and the Arizona Diamondbacks joined the NL West. Had the Brewers elected not to move to the National League, the Minnesota Twins would have been offered the opportunity next.
Milwaukee had formerly been a National League town, having been the home of the Braves for 13 seasons (1953–65). With the Brewers having joined the National League, it was now necessary for their pitchers to take batting practice, because the NL had no DH rule.
1999–2003: Building Miller Park
Miller Park was opened in 2001, built to replace Milwaukee County Stadium. The stadium was
built with $310 million of public funds, drawing some controversy, and is the only sporting facility to have a fan-shaped retractable roof. Miller Park has a seating capacity of seating 41,900 and with standing room 43,000, which is 10,000 fewer seats than County Stadium.
The park was to have opened a year earlier, but an accident during its construction, which resulted in the deaths of three workers, forced a year's delay and $50 million to $75 million in damage. On July 14, 1999, the three men lost their lives when the Lampson "Big Blue" crane, one of the largest in the world, collapsed while trying to lift a 400 ton right field roof panel. A statue commemorating the men now stands between the home plate entrance to Miller Park and Helfaer Field.
The Brewers made renovations to Miller Park before the 2006 campaign, adding both LED scoreboards from Daktronics, a company in Brookings, South Dakota, in left field and on the second-tier of the stadium, as well as a picnic area in right field, shortening the distance of the right-field fence. The picnic area was an immediate hit and sold out for the season before the year began.
Miller Park also features another fan favorite, Klement’s Racing Sausages, in a race of five costumed mascots, held before the bottom of the sixth inning.
2004–present: Attanasio era
On January 16, 2004, Selig announced that his ownership group was putting the team up for sale, to the great relief of many fans who were unhappy with the team's lackluster performance and perceived poor management by his daughter, Wendy Selig-Preib, over the previous decade. In September 2004, the Brewers announced they had reached a verbal agreement with Los Angeles investment banker Mark Attanasio to purchase the team for $180 million. The sale to Attanasio was completed on January 13, 2005, at Major League Baseball's quarterly owners meeting. Since taking over the franchise, Attanasio has worked hard to build bridges with Milwaukee baseball fans, including giving away every seat to the final home game of 2005 free of charge and bringing back the classic "ball and glove" logo of the club's glory days on "Retro Sunday" home games, during which they also wear versions of the team's old pinstriped uniforms.
In 2005, under Attanasio's ownership, the team finished 81-81 to secure its first non-losing record since 1992. With a solid base of young talent assembled over the past five years, including Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J. J. Hardy and Corey Hart, the Brewers show renewed competitiveness. Further encouraging this sentiment, the Brewers have hired former stars Yount (bench coach)(who resigned in November 2006) and Dale Sveum (third base coach), both very popular players for the Brewers in the '80s.
The 2006 season started well with the Brewers winning their first 5 games and ending April with a 14-11 record. On April 22 2006, the Brewers set an MLB record with five home runs in one inning, the fourth frame of an 11-0 defeat of the Cincinnati Reds (home runs hit by Bill Hall, Damian Miller, Brady Clark, J. J. Hardy and Prince Fielder). They then set a new club mark with six home runs in one game on April 29, including two by Fielder, in a 16-2 defeat of the Chicago Cubs. The second half of the season started badly as Derek Turnbow blew three saves in the first seven games. Ben Sheets returned July 25 against Pittsburgh and pitched extraordinarily for 7 innings before the Brewers bullpen blew the game in the eighth. With doubts that all-star left fielder Carlos Lee would re-sign with the club, the Brewers traded Lee on July 28 along with minor league prospect Nelson Cruz to the Texas Rangers in exchange for outfielders Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, reliever Francisco Cordero, and minor league pitching prospect Julian Cordero. Francisco Cordero started strong with the Brewers as he converted his first 10 save opportunities. In late August the Brewers swept the Colorado Rockies to climb back to 3 games under .500 and within striking distance of the NL Central title, but they then lost 10 games in a row. The season ended on October 1 with Carlos Villanueva pitching a fantastic game against the eventual World Series champion St Louis Cardinals.
In 2006 the Brewers' play disappointed fans, players, and management. After losing starters JJ Hardy, Rickie Weeks, and Corey Koskie to injuries, the Brewers were forced to trade for veteran infielders David Bell and Tony Graffanino. They also suffered setbacks when losing starting pitchers Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka for a substantial amount of time, forcing Triple A starters Ben Hendrickson, Dana Eveland, Carlos Villanueva, and Zach Jackson into starting roles at different points in the year. The Brewers ended the season with a 75-87 record.
At the end of the season, Attanasio stated that he and General Manager Doug Melvin would have to make some decisions about returning players for the 2007 season. With young players waiting in the minor leagues, during the off-season the key additions were starting pitcher and 2006 NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan, starter Claudio Vargas, reliever Greg Aquino, catcher Johnny Estrada, and returning Brewer Craig Counsell. The Brewers parted ways with 2006 starters Doug Davis and Tomo Ohka, as well as fan favorite Jeff Cirillo.
During the 2007 season, the buzz surrounding the Brewers noticeably increased. Called one of the 'sleeper teams of 2007' and 'contenders in the NL' by numerous sports analysts and magazines, the Brewers ultimately lost a tight divisional race in the last few days of the season. To celebrate the 1982 successful Milwaukee Brewers team, the franchise decided to have the 2007 season be named as the "25th anniversary of '82", with more fan giveaways than any other Major League Baseball team, and more discounts and deals than any other time in Brewers' history. On February 24, 2007, the Brewers hosted an "Arctic Tailgate" in which they were opening up Miller Park's parking lot to celebrate the first day of sales for single season games throughout the 2007 season. People waited outside of Miller Park for hours, even days at a time, camping in tents, sleeping in cars to get a tickets for Opening Day. At the end of the day, they posted the third-highest total of single day ticket sales with 85,000 tickets sold in one day.
With the 2008 season not immediately meeting the increasingly higher expectations of fans and team management, the Brewers traded a number of prospects, including Matt LaPorta, to the Cleveland Indians for left-handed starting pitcher CC Sabathia. Sabathia, who had started the season 6-8 for Cleveland, went 11-2 for the Brewers with a 1.65 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 130 and two-thirds innings. He also pitched 7 complete games for Milwaukee, including one on the last day of the regular season to keep Milwaukee's playoff hopes alive. The Brewers would go on to clinch the NL Wild Card upon the Mets losing a concurrently-played game, their first trip to the postseason in 26 years.
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