When I was a kid, though, Yount really was my second- or maybe even third-favorite Brewer. My absolute favorite player when I was a kid was Paul Molitor. I can't blame him for leaving Milwaukee when he did -- Bud Selig and Sal Bando lowballed Molitor on a contract offer in the offseason after the 1992 season, so Molitor left for Toronto at age 36 on a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year. The fact that Molitor actually played at a very high level until age 41 is extremely impressive, especially in light of his injury issues in the 1980s in Milwaukee.
Of course, those issues were exacerbated by the fact that the team was jerking Molitor all over the park position-wise. He came up as a shortstop -- the position he played at the University of Minnesota -- but Robin was there. So, Molitor moved to second base. He got hurt in 1980, and Jim Gantner showed he was a decent enough player to man that position. Thus, in 1981, Molitor went to centerfield because (a) the Brewers had traded RF Sixto Lezcano in the Rollie Fingers/Ted Simmons/Pete Vuckovich deal, and (b) the Brewers felt Gorman Thomas would be better in right than Molitor. Molitor promptly tore up his knee on May 3 and used the strike to recuperate.
With the Brewers getting Ted Simmons, though, and having a backup catching solution in-house with Ned Yost, they moved Charlie Moore back to the outfield in 1982 to play right, pushed Thomas back to center, and Molitor moved again -- this time to third base. He played two full seasons before his elbow had to be fixed, so he missed most of the 1984 season. After that, the Brewers even tinkered with him playing left field some in 1986, then first base starting in 1990, though he mainly was a designated hitter from about 1987 forward.
I loved his versatility as a player when I was a kid. He also was the first genuine star for the Brewers who came up through the farm system in my memory. Yount was already established by the time I was just 2 years old, but Molitor came up in 1978 -- and my 6-year-old brain latched on.
As a result, I loved chasing after his autograph, and I would take any opportunity I could to get one. Here are the ones I have:
|The Milwaukee County Stadium Chair from 2000|
|The Wavelength Waterbeds photo that was my first ever in-person autograph, signed in late June of 1981 in a waterbed store in West Bend, Wisconsin. Molitor was sitting upright on a bed with his leg in a cast.|
|The 1981 Fleer card I had Molitor sign at the waterbed store. Damn did I mangle that card.|
|1981 Topps, signed with a black pen before I learned to bring Sharpies|
|1985 Police set, almost certainly signed on that day of that game.|
|1983 Police set Card|
|Another one. I think I was "sneaky" and turned my hat backwards to get this one and the previous card both autographed on the same day.|
|1984 Donruss Action All-Star|
|1985ish Mr. Z's Pizza 5x7 photo|
Molitor was a Midwest boy too -- a Minnesota native, after all -- so I think that helped me to connect with him as well. Because he left, I did not want to go head first into collecting his cards, though. My distaste for Bud Selig's mismanagement of the Milwaukee Brewers franchise would be dredged up with every Toronto Blue Jay Molitor I collected.
In honesty, though, it's probably a good thing that Molitor left. He played until age 41 -- unlike his friend Robin Yount who quit at age 37 -- and he got to stay in the American League and DH when the Brewers decamped for the National League because, well, Bud wanted it that way.
More importantly, he kept playing because he got to play for a winning club -- a direction that Selig ensured Milwaukee would not go under his watch.
Thanks for the memories, Molly -- we Brewers fans still appreciate them.