First, I definitely messed up on my starting pitcher. It's not that Bert Blyleven is not worthy of being listed there. Neither, for that matter, would Don Sutton have been improper to list. But, I failed to recall one of the items that I got in the midst of my war with Wes back in 2015: a Warren Spahn autographed ball:
As good as Blyleven and Sutton are, they are not as good as Warren Spahn. That was a major omission on my part.
Second, while he would not supplant Tom Kelly for the managerial position, I neglected to mention my JSA-certified Eddie Mathews manager card from 1974 in the honorable mention section:
In addition, I should have added Ted Simmons to the catcher honorable mention since my autograph of him is on a St. Louis Cardinals card. Similarly, I have a couple of Rob Deer autographs of him on the San Francisco Giants, so he should have been an honorable mention in the outfield. Also, I know I have a Johnny Logan autograph here, so he should be a shortstop honorable mention.
Finally, in going through the various programs I have accumulated over the years, a few of them have autographs too. I don't remember them all, so I'm not going to say who I missed. But I missed those guys. I know I have Tommy John in a program next to Bowie Kuhn and Bud Selig, for instance.
Okay, enough errata. On to the Brewers Autograph team!
Catcher: B.J. Surhoff
Surhoff getting drafted overall in the 1985 draft was a big deal in Milwaukee, as you would expect. The Brewers were terrible in 1984 -- some of which can be blamed on Paul Molitor having Tommy John Surgery and the rest of which can be blamed on the core of the 1982 team all getting old and injured at the same time. For whatever reason, the Brewers drafted Surhoff as a catcher -- probably due to that being a position of need in the organization -- over Will Clark, Barry Larkin, Barry Bonds, and Rafael Palmeiro, among others. Also going in that first round were Bobby Witt, Pete Incaviglia, Chris Gwynn, Tommy Greene, Willie Fraser, Brian McRae, Gregg Jefferies, and Joey Cora.
At least the Brewers weren't the White Sox. They drafted Kurt Brown, a high school catcher who never made it past Triple-A.
Surhoff edges out Jonathan Lucroy here because I got the Surhoff in person, and the Lucroy was just a Topps certified autograph. That matters to me.
Honorable Mention: Dave Nilsson, Bill Schroeder, Ned Yost, Rick Dempsey, Johnny Estrada, Rick Cerone, Charlie Moore, Jonathan Lucroy
Guy I wish I had an Autograph for: Ted Simmons as a Brewer
First Base: Cecil Cooper
The Brewers and Red Sox made a fair number of trades with one another in the early 1970s. Perhaps the Red Sox thought that they could create a farm-club set up in the way that the Yankees of the early 1960s did with the Kansas City A's. In any event, the Red Sox had Yastrzemski at first base and put Cooper at DH. Then the Sox sent the soon to be 27-year-old Cooper to Milwaukee in exchange for 33-year-old George Scott after the 1976 season. Scott turned in a very good season in 1977 but then at age 34 fell off the table in 1978. Cooper was just getting started.
For a long time in the early 1980s, Cooper was a difficult autograph to get. He just wanted to get home after games and did not want to hang out signing autographs. Eventually, in the midst of his last year in Milwaukee in 1987 -- when the team kept him on the roster without ever playing him after mid-July -- he did a signing at Mayfair Mall. Nearly every Cooper autograph I have was from that day.
Honorable Mention: Greg Brock, Lyle Overbay, John Jaha, Billy Jo Robidoux, Antone Williamson, Kevin Barker, Matt Clark.
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Prince Fielder (tons of relics, no autos), George Scott, Johnny Briggs
Second Base: Jim Gantner
As the local boy on the team after the 1983 season finally saw Jerry Augustine's albatross-like contract come off the books, Gantner was the guy that a lot of kids related to. They didn't idolize him, certainly, since Gantner was just a good player and not a great like Robin Yount or Paul Molitor. Gantner took his role seriously, though, and signed autographs after practically every game I ever attended and tried to get autographs.
This slot came down to Gantner and Rickie Weeks. My nostalgia won out.
Honorable Mention: Rickie Weeks, Ron Belliard, Juan Castillo, Fernando Viña, Hernan Iribarren
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Pedro Garcia, Willie Randolph, Scooter Gennett
Shortstop: Robin Yount
The only questions with Yount were (a) which autograph I'd use and (b) at what position he would appear in this team. I chose shortstop because he was better in 1982 as MVP than he was in 1989 as MVP in centerfield, and I felt like having Gorman Thomas on the team.
This autograph is on one of the team-issued photo sets from the early 1980s. I got it at a signing that Yount and Molitor did together at a shoe store in 1983. I remember Molitor's first wife Linda hovering over both of them as they signed autographs. The line was incredibly long, so to increase the number of people who could get autographs, the store had Yount sign these to hand out instead.
As a position for the Brewers, shortstop has been a position of bright, short-lived stars. A lot of guys have been the next big star at short for Milwaukee, and most of those guys were pushed out the door or fell on their face, unfortunately.
Honorable Mention: Jean Segura, Ernest Riles, Orlando Arcia, Fred Stanley, Ed Romero, Rob Picciolo, Bill Spiers, Pat Listach
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: J.J. Hardy, Craig Counsell
Third Base: Jeff Cirillo
This is the first autograph on this team that I did not obtain myself in person. I got this Cirillo from Matt Prigge, a fellow Brewers collector and the purveyor of the Summer of '74 Blog. Cirillo was one of the few bright lights in the morass that was the late 1990s Sal Bando-assembled Brewers. Sal Bando lost a lot of my respect for him during that time. I've heard that he got therapy because he lost my respect, though that's just a rumor.
I put Cirillo in here rather than Paul Molitor because Molitor could literally have slotted in at half the positions on this team and reached his pinnacle at DH rather than playing a position.
Honorable Mention: Dale Sveum, Randy Ready, Roy Howell, Bill Hall, Kevin Seitzer, Don Money
Guys I Wish I had an Autograph for: Tommy Harper, Sal Bando, Aramis Ramirez
Left Field: Ryan Braun
Braun is reviled around the league thanks to his steroid use and, more terribly, his lying about it and halfway ruining a guy's life after the protocols for handling his test samples (that came out positive) were not followed. That said, Braun is a good player. He's into the point of his career where injuries are keeping him off the field for 20-30 games a season. Yet, he's reaching major milestones now, having just surpassed 1,000 RBI for his career.
He'll never make the Hall of Fame, nor do I think he should based on where his numbers project to finish. Yet he will be one of the best players in Brewers history for a long time to come.
Honorable Mention: Ben Oglivie, Glenn Braggs, Mike Felder, Drew Anderson, Kevin Mench, Carlos Lee, Geoff Jenkins, Jim Paciorek, Greg Vaughn
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Johnny Briggs, Danny Walton
Center Field: Gorman Thomas
I never got Gorman Thomas's autograph in person. He was a baseball gym rat and loved being in the locker room around other baseball guys, according to Daniel Okrent's Nine Innings. For autograph hounds in the 1980s, that meant we never saw him. He arrived 4 or 5 hours before the game and then hung out in the locker room after the game drinking beer. So, he avoided all of us little kids. So, that means I end up having to get his signature through later cards like this Panini Hometown Heroes set.
Honorable Mention: Lewis Brinson, Logan Schafer, Rick Manning, Scott Podsednik, David Hulse, Michael Reed, Carlos Gomez
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Mike Cameron, Brady Clark, Marquis Grissom, Darryl Hamilton, Von Joshua, Davey May
Right Field: Corey Hart
Going by statistics, Hart is outshined by Jeromy Burnitz for the right field slot. To me, there is something that is attractive about the fact that Hart came up in the Brewers system and was a key cog in Milwaukee's winning in the late 2000s and early 2010s. That's as opposed to Burnitz, who piled up big stats in the steroid era on legitimately terrible teams. Winning matters.
Honorable Mention: Dion James, Mark Brouhard, Matt Mieske, Brett Phillips, Marshall Edwards, Rob Deer, Jeromy Burnitz
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Sixto Lezcano, Nori Aoki, Domingo Santana
Designated/Pinch Hitter: Paul Molitor
Molitor has to be included on this team, of course. Molitor was the guy I most liked as a player as a kid. During his fifteen years in Milwaukee, Molitor did not pitch or catch, but he played in games everywhere else: 131 games at first, 400 games at second, 792 games at third, 57 games at short, 4 games in left, 42 in center, and 4 games in right -- along with 418 games as a DH, 22 games as a pinch hitter, and 4 games as a pinch runner. After leaving Milwaukee, he only played DH and first. Of course, he left at the age of 36.
I'm just glad that he did not sign a pro baseball contract directly out of high school. I would have hated Paul Molitor as a St. Louis Cardinal.
Honorable Mention: Larry Hisle
Guys I wish I had an Autograph for: Dave Parker, Dick Davis, Julio Franco, Hank Aaron
While the team that Kenny called for had just one starter, I decided to include four starters. The Brewers do not have a history of strong starters, but I have a lot of autographs so four it is.
SP1: Ted Higuera
The biggest shame about Ted Higuera's career is that he did not get into US baseball early enough. He made his debut in Milwaukee in 1985 at the age of 27 despite pitching with his hometown Juarez team starting in 1979. If only the scouting system were a little better, perhaps Ted could have been in the bullpen for the 1982 team at the age of 24 to help out when Rollie Fingers went down.
Oh, who am I kidding, though? Harry Dalton would have flipped him to the Astros instead of Frank DiPino probably.
One thing I always liked about Higuera's autograph is the fact that he did not anglicize his autograph. His real name is Teodoro Valenzuela Higuera (yes, his mother's maiden name was Valenzuela) so his autograph was always "Teo Higuera" rather than "Ted".
SP2: Yovani Gallardo
I was disappointed when Gallardo did not pitch well enough this spring to make the Brewers. That disappointment was completely selfish, because I was hoping to add a few more new cards to my Gallardo collection. Instead, he ended up in the Reds bullpen as batting practice fodder for hitters wanting to improve their statistics before the Reds dropped him like he's hot. Shortly after, the Rangers signed him to a minor league deal.
The Brewers pretty much sucked the life out of Gallardo's arm toward the greater good of winning divisional championships and the wild card. His stats have been in decline for several years now. It's tough to believe that he is only 32 years old, having turned 32 in February.
SP3: Mike Caldwell
Mr. F**king Warmth. So named sarcastically for his surly overall demeanor by his teammates, Mike Caldwell actually was usually pretty nice to me. Caldwell was the workhorse of those late 1970s and early 1980s Brewers teams. There was never an "ace" for those teams, but Caldwell was as close as it got. He owned the Yankees, and his 1978 was a masterpiece of pitching -- as he threw nearly 300 innings and completed twenty-three games of his 34 starts AND had 6 shutouts AND even added a save for good measure.
His falling off the map ability-wise in 1983 and 1984, getting really old really fast, helped accelerate the team's decline into the abyss in 1984.
SP4: Ben Sheets
Sheets had pinpoint control matched with great swing-and-miss stuff. He holds the Brewers team record for most strikeouts in a game with 18, racked up against the Atlanta Braves in 2004. His curve just dropped off the table and befuddled hitters. The ever obnoxious Chris Berman even compared the curve to Bert Blyleven's -- the gold standard of curveballs. So many of those strikeouts were on curves that bounced. So those balls looked tantalizing enough to hit but were nowhere near hittable.
His pitching is just fun to watch, if you can find some YouTube videos to do it.
Honorable Mention: Ray Peters, Tim Leary, Chris Bosio, Mike Birkbeck, Bill Wegman, Juan Nieves, Jaime Cocanower, Pete Vuckovich, Chris Capuano, Ben Hendrickson, Nick Neugebauer, Johnny Hellweg, Chuck Porter, Steve Woodard, Mike Fiers, Ricky Bones, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Danny Darwin, Jim Slaton, Moose Haas, Tom Candiotti
Guys I wish I had an autographs for: Lew Krausse, Marty Pattin, Jim Colborn, Bill Travers, Scott Karl, Cal Eldred, Jaime Navarro, Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, Junior Guerra, Brent Suter, Hideo Nomo, Doug Davis, C.C. Sabathia, Gene Brabender
Right Handed Reliever: Mark Clear
Watching Mark Clear pitch during his time in Milwaukee was mesmerizing. He was so thin -- just look at him in that photo! -- and having his stirrups showing the way he did emphasized how tall he was too. And, when it comes to good curveballs, Clear is right up there. He couldn't always get it over the plate, but man did it break.
Clear is nowhere near the best righty reliever in Brewers history. He just as easily could have been listed under closers here too. But he was one of the most enjoyable middle/late inning relievers to watch thanks to that curve.
Honorable Mention: Jorge Lopez, Pete Ladd, Carlos Villanueva, Jose Capellan, Bill Castro, Bob Gibson (the white one), Chris Demaria, Tom Tellmann
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Chuck Crim, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jeremy Jeffress, Todd Coffey, David Weathers, Danny Frisella
Left Handed Reliever: Dan Plesac
I'm cheating again here to get Plesac into this team. Plesac is still the Brewers all-time leader in saves with 133, and he is also the all-time pitching appearances leader for the team with 365. He finished 269 games and even started 14, so he pitched more in non-save situations than in save situations. That's my excuse -- he was never a pure closer.
After being drafted out of N.C. State in 1983, Plesac came up at the age of 24 in 1986, so he was 10 years older than me. He was another Midwest kid, which is probably why I gravitated toward him. He won 10 games and saved 14 in his first season in the major leagues before taking over as closer through 1990 and making the All-Star team three times. He lost the closer job in 1990 thanks to a spike in his walk rate from 2.5/9 innings up to 4.0/9 innings. He left Milwaukee after the 1992 season and became a LOOGY, finally retiring at the age of 41 in 2003.
Honorable Mention: Jerry Augustine, Rick Waits, Josh Hader, Will Smith, Graeme Lloyd, Mike Potts, Wei Chung Wang, Ray Searage, John Morris
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Mitch Stetter, Bob McClure, Jesse Orosco, Valerio de Los Santos
Closer: Rollie Fingers
When life gives you a Hall of Famer, you do not look that gift horse in the mouth. You employ the Hall of Famer. I know Rollie gets a lot of love in Milwaukee and rightfully so. But, to me, he's not a Brewer. He's an Oakland A, having spent 9 years of his career there. Plus, I'm not sure I've forgiven him for screwing up his elbow in 1982 so that the team had to use Pete Ladd as the closer in the World Series.
Even so, Rollie was the Cy Young and MVP as a closer. It's tough to top that.
Honorable Mention: Dan Plesac, Mike Fetters, Corey Knebel, Doug Jones
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Bob Wickman, Dan Kolb, Trevor Hoffman, Ken Sanders, Doug Henry, John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Francisco Cordero, Curt Leskanic
The Dalton Gang changed the franchise in the mid-1970s, and Harry Dalton and George Bamberger are inextricably linked as a result. Dalton is the only GM for which I have an autograph.
Honorable Mention: Managers: Buck Rodgers, Tom Trebelhorn
Coaches: Dave Garcia, Herm Starrette, Andy Etchebarren, Tony Muser
Guys I wish I had an autograph for: Doug Melvin, Frank Lane, Marvin Milkes, David Stearns, Davey Lopes, Phil Garner, Ron Roenicke, Ned Yost as Manager, Harvey Kuenn as Manager, Del Crandall, Dave Bristol, Joe Schultz, Alex Grammas, Jerry Royster, Jim Lefebvre, Cal McLish, Rod Carew, Rich Dauer, Robin Yount as a coach, Don Baylor, Frank Howard
All in all, this isn't a bad team. It's been just as fun for me to see who I would like to get some autographs from as well.