Posts Tagged ‘Bud Selig’

Playoff return highlights 2000s turnaround

August 28, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Along with the turn of the century and the start of a new millennium, the 2000s marked a new era of Brewers baseball, one that included a playoff appearance.

It began in 2001 with the opening of Miller Park, the Brewers’ new state-of-the-art, $400 million home. The changes continued in 2002, when Doug Melvin was named general manager of the club. In 2004, the Brewers had new ownership, as Mark Attanasio took over the club from Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig.

All that set the stage for the team’s return to the playoffs, 26 years after losing the 1982 World Series.

Brewers alumni Geoff Jenkins and Bob Wickman are scheduled to participate Friday in a pregame autograph session to celebrate the 2000s as part of the Brewers’ 40th Anniversary season. On Sunday, all fans will receive a collectible Brewers Bobble Head doll, featuring CC Sabathia securing the final out of the regular-season finale, playoff-clinching game in 2008, compliments of Palermo’s Pizza and Piggly Wiggly.

Inaugural Season
After a one-year delay due to a fatal crane accident, Miller Park finally opened its doors to the public on April 6, 2001. Among those in attendance were President George W. Bush and Selig, both of whom threw out ceremonial first pitches.

With his 435-foot home run in the bottom of the eighth, first baseman Richie Sexson sent the crowd of 42,024 home happy, as the Brewers secured the first win at Miller Park, 5-4, over the Cincinnati Reds.

The Brewers’ new ballpark got rave reviews, to say the least.

“There’s no comparison,” said former Brewers infielder Jim Gantner. “This is an awesome building and a great place to play. You miss County Stadium, but when you see this, you forget about it real quick.”

“I did play in County Stadium and know what it was like to play there,” Sexson said. “This is definitely 10 times better than County Stadium.”

While much of the credit for getting the ballpark built goes to Selig, and deservedly so, the Milwaukee native, along with his daughter, credited the fans on Opening Day 2001.

“There are many people that played a role in building this magnificent park,” Selig told the fans. “But none are greater than all of you.”

“You’re the best fans in the world,” added then-team president Wendy Selig-Prieb. “Enjoy this wonderful ballpark. You deserve it.”

In their first season playing at Miller Park, the Brewers had high hopes, but weren’t any better than previous seasons. In fact, they were worse, finishing 2001 in fourth place in the National League Central with a 68-94 record as injuries decimated the team in the second half.

One year later, the ballpark, with its unique fan-shaped roof, was host to the first 100-loss season in Brewers history, as the Crew finished 56-106, good for last in the division. With that came more changes for the Brewers, this time in the front office.

Melvin gets a second chance
In April 2002, the Brewers fired manager Davey Lopes after just 15 games as Milwaukee skidded out to a 3-12 record in Lopes’ third season at the helm. Five months later, general manager Dean Taylor was cut loose as well, as the Brewers shook up their front office.

Doug Melvin was tabbed for the job, given a second chance to show what he could do running a Major League club. Melvin, the former Texas Rangers general manager who led that franchise to three division titles in four years during the 1990s, was named the eighth general manager in Brewers history on Sept. 25, 2002.

“I don’t believe in rebuilding plans,” Melvin said in a spirited press conference. “If there was a three-year plan, I would wait and buy a ticket in, what, 2005? I don’t believe in that, I want people to be a part of this process to get to where we want to go.

“We’ll enjoy it a lot more if we do it together.”

Melvin brought in former Jays general manager Gord Ash as his assistant GM and hired manager Ned Yost, who brought along with him a new coaching staff. But Melvin’s best move in his first days as general manager now appears to have been keeping amateur scouting director Jack Zduriencik in place.

Under Zduriencik, the Brewers put together some of the best Drafts in club history, restocking their system with top-level talent, and building one of the best cores of young players in the Major Leagues.

Among those draft during Zduriencik’s tenure are former first-round picks Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, former Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Corey Hart, staff ace Yovani Gallardo, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and center fielder Lorenzo Cain.

As well as building from within, one of Melvin’s best moves as general manager came in 2008, when he traded highly rated prospects Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley and Zach Jackson to the Indians for Sabathia, who would help carry the Brewers to the Wild Card.

New Ownership
Along with Melvin, Ash and Yost, the organization brought in another new face in 2004, as Mark Attanasio, a Los Angeles investment banker and New York native, took over the club from the previous ownership group, which included Selig-Prieb.

When introduced at a news conference on Oct. 4, 2004, as the Brewers’ owner-elect, Attanasio said he was “up to the challenge” of turning around the ballclub. He also admitted he had dreamed as a child of owning a Major League baseball club.

“As a kid, I lived, breathed and died with the Yankees forever,” Attanasio said. “Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hit a curveball, I gave up dreams of playing Major League Baseball, and when I got a little older thought maybe one day I could own a team.”

One of Attanasio’s biggest impacts upon taking over as the team’s principal owner was a commitment to raising the payroll to make the Brewers more competitive, despite playing in the smallest market in baseball.

After the payroll dipped as low as $27.5 million in 2004, it was raised to $39.9 million in Attanasio’s first season as owner. A year later, the Brewers’ payroll was up to $57.6 million, and by Opening Day 2007, it reached $71 million. When the Brewers reached the playoffs in 2008, the payroll was up to $80.9 million, and in 2010, the Opening Day payroll was up to $90.4 million.

Even with the financial commitment of Attanasio’s ownership group, he acknowledged in his first news conference at Miller Park that he had a lot to do to match the legacy of the Selig family in Milwaukee.

“The Attanasio family feels it has big shoes to fill here,” Attanasio said. “But that being said, we know that we can be the stewards of baseball in Milwaukee for the next 35 years.”

With Melvin, Ash, Yost and Attanasio in place, the Brewers were just a few years away from ending their playoff drought.

The Wait Is Over
When the Brewers returned from St. Louis in 1982 having lost to the Cardinals in the World Series, no one could have guessed it would take 26 years for the club to return to the playoffs. After all, they were expected to be back the following season.

But time after time, the Brewers’ best ballclubs came up short in 1983, ’88, ’91 and ’92. Even in ’07, when the Brewers led the division for much of the season, they came up just two games behind the Chicago Cubs.

Finally, in 2008, it was the Brewers’ turn.

Milwaukee entered the 2008 campaign with high expectations after the ’07 season saw the Brewers post their first winning record since ’92. In an effort to bolster their playoff hopes, Melvin brought in Sabathia just before the All-Star break on July 7. Sabathia was so dominant over the final three months of the season for the Crew that he even garnered a few votes for the NL Cy Young Award.

In 17 starts for the Brewers in 2008, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, tossing seven complete games, including three shutouts. Aside from a near no-hitter against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the most impressive of those seven complete games was Sabathia’s last.

On the final day of the regular season, Sabathia made his third consecutive start on three days’ rest and worked all nine innings in the most clutch pitching performance in Brewers history. In front of 45,299 fans, Sabathia threw 122 pitches, struck out seven, scattered four hits and allowed only one unearned run.

“It’s unbelievable what he has done for the guys on this team, this organization and this city,” left fielder Ryan Braun said. “He’s revived baseball in Milwaukee. He took whatever expectation we had and destroyed it.”

Braun played a pretty big role in the club’s run as well. On that night, Braun made the difference at the plate, as he blasted a tie-breaking, two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning, which gave the Brewers the 3-1 win.

Just days earlier, Braun delivered a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 5-1 Brewers win.

“It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s difficult to describe,” Braun said. “The grand slam the other night, that was pretty special, but this one was pretty meaningful.”

With the Brewers finally returning to the postseason, Miller Park hosted the first two playoff games in its history on Oct. 4-5, 2008. The first game, Game 3, was the Brewers’ first win in the postseason since that 1982 World Series. Game 4 was a different story, however, as the Phillies secured a trip to the NLCS with a 6-2 win.

They came up short of winning their first playoff series since 1982, but for fans in Milwaukee and across the state of Wisconsin, the ’08 season was one to remember, and one 26 years in the making.

For the first time since 1982, the Brewers played games in October that mattered.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Dodgers beat 8/24

August 24, 2010 Comments off

Dodgers not affect by Manny rumors

MILWAUKEE — As far as his manager is concerned, the rumors swirling about a potential trade involving Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez is no different now than a month ago.

“I don’t think it’s anything different than [what] goes on in July with all the rumors that fly around in July about trade possibilities,” Joe Torre said. “I don’t see any concern.”

It’s been speculated that, barring any significant Dodgers winning streak, Ramirez could be placed on waivers sometime this week.

Among the teams that expressed interest in acquiring Ramirez before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline were the White Sox and Rays. To be traded by the end of this month, Ramirez would first need to clear waivers.

If placed on waivers, Ramirez could go to a team that claims him, he could be traded to that team, or he could be pulled back by the Dodgers and remain with the club through the end of the 2010 season.

Despite all the interest in Ramirez’s potential departure from Los Angeles this week, Torre expressed little concern over the effect on Ramirez.

“In this game, because it is the game of baseball, you’re really bred to deal with distractions,” Torre said. “That’s our job. I don’t see it affecting anything at this point.”

Barajas in lineup on first day with Dodgers

MILWAUKEE — Newly-acquired catcher Rod Barajas joined the Dodgers in Milwaukee on Tuesday. On his first day with the club, Barajas was inserted into the starting lineup right away by manager Joe Torre.

The Dodgers claimed Barajas off waivers over the weekend, sending cash to the Mets in exchange for the veteran catcher. With Russell Martin out for the season due to a hip injury, Barajas fills the Dodgers’ void behind the plate.

Before acquiring Barajas, the Dodgers had used Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis at catcher. Upon acquiring Barajas, Ellis was optioned to the Minors. While he likes Barajas’ ability behind the plate as well, Torre especially likes the additional offense he can provide at catcher.

“Offensively, he gives us a little more,” Torre said. “Obviously, I’ve been very satisfied with the defensive side of the game with our catchers. But we’ve sort of been limited, even though we’ve had some contributions offensively. We’ve been lacking a little bit.

“The fact that he is a threat to hit the ball out of the ballpark gives us a little bit different dimension there.”

Barajas is hitting .225 on the season with 12 home runs and a .677 OPS, which is far better than the .492 OPS for Ausmus and Ellis’ .440 mark.

Torre said he remained unsure of how he would use Barajas and Ausmus, but he wanted to see what the Dodgers had in Barajas before making a decision.

“I don’t know yet, we’ll play him [Tuesday],” Torre said. “My guess is he’ll get a good portion of the playing time, and we’ll give Ausmus a couple games a week.

“I could make more decisions after watching him.”

Billingsley pushed back to Saturday

MILWAUKEE — With Chad Billingsley still feeling the effects of a minor calf injury, Dodgers manager Joe Torre shook up his starting rotation a bit once again on Tuesday.

Billingsley has been bumped back to start Saturday night in Colorado, while rookie right-hander Carlos Monasterios will get the nod for Thursday’s series finale at Miller Park.

“He probably could’ve pitched Thursday,” Torre said of Billingsley. “But with the fact that we needed a fifth starter Saturday, we figured we’d rather give him the extra couple days.”

Covering first base on a grounder on Saturday in the second inning, Billingsley said he “kind of tweaked” his calf, but was unaffected by the injury.

According to Torre, the calf bothers Billingsley more off the mound than on it.

“It may not make a difference,” Torre said of the extra time off. “But if it’s going to be a plus for him, then so be it. As long as we needed the fifth starter one place or the other, we just decided to give him the extra days off.”

Torre attends Selig ceremony Tuesday

MILWAUKEE — With the Brewers having honored Allan H. “Bud” Selig with a ceremony earlier in the afternoon, Dodgers manager Joe Torre took some time before Tuesday’s game to reflect on his relationship with the Commissioner.

Torre, who attended the ceremony with his brother, Frank, and a long list of local and national dignitaries, had nothing but positive things to say about Selig and the ceremony honoring the man who he first met during his playing days with the Milwaukee Braves.

“I was very touched by the whole thing because I’ve known Bud so long, since like ’56,” Torre said. “He sold me my first car.”

When Torre broke into the big leagues with Milwaukee in 1960, Selig was working with his father for a car leasing business at the time. But Selig’s true passion was baseball, and he was the team’s largest public stockholder before the Braves left Milwaukee in 1965.

While they shared their time in Milwaukee, Torre and Selig formed a lasting friendship.

“I’ve known Bud for a long time and the one thing that’s been consistent with him, whether you agree with him or don’t agree with him, he’s never lost his excitement for the game and his passion to do the right thing,” Torre said.

“It’s tough to not get emotional when you see how long he’s been doing this, and they wouldn’t have anything like this unless it was for him, because this ballclub left in ’65 and it looked very bleak for this city.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers seventies feature 5/13

May 14, 2010 Comments off

1970s a decade of growth for Brewers

MILWAUKEE — With 95 wins to just 66 losses, the 1979 Milwaukee Brewers posted what remains the franchise’s best record to date. But while they finished their first decade in second place in the American League East, it was a long road to success in the 1970s.

Just days before the beginning of the 1970 season, the franchise moved unexpectedly from Seattle to Milwaukee, as the Pilots became the Brewers.

This weekend, as a part of the 40th anniversary of the move from Seattle, the Brewers are celebrating and reflecting on the club’s first decade in Milwaukee. On Friday, the team will wear reproductions of its 1972-77 uniforms with “BREWERS” in royal blue block letters on the front of the jerseys and the yellow “M” logo on the cap. On Sunday, all fans in attendance will get a bobblehead doll commemorating Hank Aaron’s 755th and final home run.


At 10:15 p.m. on March 31, 1970, Bud Selig received official word that he, along with a group of investors, had won the franchise for just $10.5 million in federal bankruptcy court and the Seattle Pilots were headed to Milwaukee to become the Brewers.

With Opening Day scheduled just seven days later, the move was a swift one. When the players learned of the move, doubts arose in their minds.

Will they have uniforms for us? Where will I live? What about all my stuff in Seattle?

Those questions would all soon be answered, but not without a few stressful weeks in Milwaukee.

Opening Day pitcher Lew Krausse, who had been recently married before the 1970 season, had a lot more to deal with after the move than some. With it being his first year with the club, Krausse was not yet settled in Seattle and had sent many of his belongings ahead of him to the city.

Originally thinking he was “getting ahead of the game,” Krausse’s decision to send his stuff to Seattle only further complicated the move to Milwaukee.

“They said, ‘Well, you’re going to Milwaukee,'” Krausse recalled. “It was just really hectic. We came up here, flew the whole families on charter planes and stayed in hotels for four to five days; and with kids, it was mess.”

On the field, the Brewers were a nearly .500 team at County Stadium in 1970, while losing almost twice as many as they won on the road. Milwaukee finished tied for fourth in the American League West that season with a 65-97-1 record, 33 games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins.

The Brewers improved in their second season under manager Dave Bristol, winning four more games than the year before, but they managed to finish last in the standings, 32 games out of first place. Following the 1971 season, the Brewers moved from the AL West to the AL East, where they would remain until ’93.


Over the next six seasons, the Brewers remained in fifth place or worse in the East, averaging just 69 wins per season. Two major highlight of those seasons, for fans and players alike, stand out: the debut of Hall of Famer Robin Yount, and the return of the home run king to Milwaukee.

In 1973, the Brewers had the third overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft, and with that pick, they selected Yount, a 17-year-old shortstop from Southern California.

Yount wasted little time making his way to the Majors, debuting on April 5, 1974. As the Opening Day shortstop for the Brewers at the age of 18, Yount was the youngest player in the AL in 1974 and ’75, and the youngest ever to play for Milwaukee.

“He was probably one of the best overall, all-around great players that I played with,” former Brewers center fielder Gorman Thomas recalled. “He was a phenom. He was just as smooth as glass. To this day, I’ve never seen anybody have the range at shortstop to his left that Robin had.”

A year later, another player making his Brewers debut on Opening Day generated plenty of buzz. After the 1974 season, the club dealt for Hank Aaron, who had just surpassed Babe Ruth as the all-time home run leader during the previous season.

The move brought a great deal of excitement and credibility to the Brewers, who had just completed what was then the best season in franchise history, going 76-86 and finishing 15 games out of first place.

“That was a treat,” Thomas said of playing with Aaron. “He was my childhood hero; he and Mickey Mantle. And yet, I got to play with him for two years in ’75 and ’76.”

Aaron hit his final 22 home runs over two seasons with the Brewers, bringing his then-all-time-record total to 755. He batted just .229 in his final season, down from .234 in 1975, while collecting 95 RBIs.

The Brewers hosted the All-Star Game in 1975, the second in Milwaukee and first since ’55. Aaron made his record-tying 21st and final All-Star Game appearance. His first, like his last, also came at County Stadium.

Aaron played in his final game, the 3,298th of his career, on Oct. 3, 1976, at County Stadium. The Brewers’ designated hitter went 1-for-3 on the day against the Tigers, in a game that longtime Brewers second baseman Jim Gantner — among many others — will never forget.

“I got to pinch-run for him his last at-bat,” Gantner said. “He got a base hit, they took him out of the game and I got to pinch-run for him. That was special. He was my idol growing up and now I can tell my grandchildren I played with Hank Aaron. It’s incredible. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.”


Just as Aaron retired from Major League Baseball, the Brewers were on their way to becoming relevant in the AL.

The club finished an average of 31 games out of first place from 1975-77. Finally, in the franchise’s eighth year after moving to Milwaukee, though, the Brewers earned their first winning record in 1978.

In George Bamberger’s first year as manager, and the first since Larry Hisle joined the team as a free agent, the Brewers put together one of the best offenses in baseball, earning the name “Bambi’s Bombers.”

Seven Brewers hit 10 or more home runs, while two — Hisle and Thomas — hit over 30 homers. Hisle batted .290 on the year with 34 home runs and 115 RBIs, which earned him a third-place finish in the AL MVP race.

Unfortunately for the Brewers, who finished third in the AL East and six games out of first with a 93-69 record, Hisle suffered a torn rotator cuff injury in April 1979. Hisle’s injury limited him to no more than 27 games in each of his final four seasons with the club.

“It’s a shame that he got hurt,” Thomas said. “He was right in his prime, hitting 30 home runs, stealing bases.”

Of course, Thomas was no slouch himself. Originally selected as a shortstop as the franchise’s first Draft pick, Thomas had become a fan favorite both for his reckless, acrobatic play in center field and his prowess at the plate.

After hitting 32 home runs with 86 RBIs in 1978, Thomas had a career year in ’79, leading a Brewers offense that tied or broke 73 club records. Milwaukee finished second in the AL in home runs (185), doubles (291), slugging percentage (.448) and total bases (2,480).

Thomas set a club record with 45 home runs, which would stand until 2007. He also had career highs in several categories, including RBIs (123), runs scored (97) and hits (136).

“I knew this guy would run through fences,” said Bamberger, in the 1993 book “True Brew” by Chuck Carlson. “I knew he’d hit 35-40 homers in the Minors, and I was convinced he could hit 20 in the big leagues.”

But Hisle and Thomas were far from the only offensive stars that season. In 1979, the Opening Day lineup featured Brewers greats throughout, including Paul Molitor, Don Money, Cecil Cooper, Hisle, Sixto Lezcano, Sal Bando, Yount and Thomas.

With so many great players on the field together, Thomas could not pick just one who was the best he had played with.

“There were so many great guys, but what made it all good, though, was that we all just blended together,” Thomas said. “Everybody did their little niche. Nobody was ever overly egotistical about what they did because we were a team, and that’s the way we looked at it. And that’s why we were successful.”

Even with all their talent, the Brewers still could not overcome the Baltimore Orioles that season. They finished in second place, eight games out, despite establishing what remains a franchise record for most wins in a season.

It took until the early 1980s before the Brewers got their first taste of the playoffs.

“We were there; we had a chance to be in it,” said Thomas, referring to the Brewers clubs of the late 1970s. “We were almost like the Atlanta Braves of the early ’90s who won 14 division championships and only one World Series. We only got to one.”

Next month: the 1980s, when the Brewers had their greatest success.