The Milwaukee Brewers are a professional baseball team based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, currently playing in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's National League. The team is named for the city's association with the brewing industry and plays its home games at Miller Park.
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.
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.
One and done in Seattle (1969)Edit
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. United States 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.
However, the team's poor play was the least of the Pilots' problems. The team's ownership was badly undercapitalized; Soriano hadn't 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 Sicks 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. Much of the story of that season is told in pitcher Jim Bouton's classic baseball book, Ball Four.
By the end of the 1969 season, the Pilots were almost out of money, and it was obvious they wouldn't 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 1969 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 hadn't 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 didn't 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.
1970–77: Early years in MilwaukeeEdit
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 they would stay until 1972, when they moved to the American League 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 daysEdit
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).
Retired by MLB
The number #50, although it has not been retired, has been placed in the Brewers' Ring of Honor for Bob Uecker and his half-century in baseball.