Around Milwaukee’s History: Hall of Greatness | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

This week, voting opened once again on the DoU Hall of Greatness. Our site’s Hall is a fun opportunity to reflect on Milwaukee’s baseball history, and maybe do so in a light that is more robust, inclusive, or fan-oriented than Milwaukee’s official Walk of Fame. This isn’t a knock on the Walk of Fame itself, but simply a note that it’s fun to construct our own “institutions” as fans. If there is someone in Milwaukee’s history that we want to honor — such as Joe Adcock, Del Crandall, George Scott, Mike Caldwell, Jeff Cirillo, or Geoff Jenkins — we as fans can vote them into the DoU Hall of Greatness. That group of players is a good example of names that are thus far excluded from Milwaukee’s official walk, but honored by fans and readers at DoU.

I have never been a proponent of the “Wille Mays Hall” attitude; you could call me a “Tim Raines Hall” or “Bert Blyleven Hall” kind of guy. Meaning, I don’t believe that a Hall of Fame needs to include only the most elite at their craft. Applying this logic to a Milwaukee Hall of Greatness raises another issue, one that I grappled with during last year’s voting. Since Milwaukee’s baseball legacy is largely one of heartbreak or losing — with a few cracks at winning placed here and there — one might ask, “What constitutes greatness in Braves and Brewers history?” There are a lot of players who gave their heart and soul to Milwaukee, entertained us, and served as the face of the team — even during losing seasons. Jenkins is a good example of such a player — he’s held in high regard in our household, and I will always remember watching him while I became an everyday baseball fan at the turn of the century.

Since the 10-player limit was lifted for this ballot, I tried to apply a broad logic to vote players into the Hall. I included a lot of different names that were on my ballot last year (but not inducted), and I even added at least one name. Going decade-by-decade, we could probably find at least 30 notable Brewers or Braves to represent Milwaukee in the Hall of Greatness. So, I tried to stay faithful to that fact while submitting a ballot full of 1970s and 1980s relief aces, a gang of 1980s pitching prospects, some sluggers, and maybe even some glove-first players:

1. Bob Buhl
2. Johnny Logan
3. Greg Vaughn
4. Bill Bruton
5. Teddy Higuera
6. Ben Oglivie
7. Jim Gantner
8. Chris Bosio
9. Moose Haas
10. Chuck Crim
11. B.J. Surhoff
12. Bill Castro
13. Bill Wegman
14. Cal Eldred
15. Ken Sanders
16. Darryl Hamilton
17. Jim Slaton
18. Wes Covington

Admittedly, I’ve been a Chuck Crim apologist since the days of Junkball Blues and Bernie’s Crew. To me, Crime exemplifies the type of unheralded relievers that exist within the MLB’s specialized bullpen strategy. As long as “saves” are classified as different stats than “holds,” relievers like Crim will always fall outside of the limelight — let us remember that Crim inherited 296 runners in 327 relief appearances as a Brewer, and he still managed to convert 83.7% of his leads. I also couldn’t pass on some of my childhood favorites, such as Greg Vaughn and Darryl Hamilton; those days of the “Notre Dame” Brewers logo weren’t all that bad, and I’ve got the autographed Sid Roberson glove to prove it (although, can’t say I miss bundling up in a winter jacket for night games on the Menomonee Valley).

In honor of this round of Hall of Greatness voting, here are some historical tidbits to enjoy. Maybe they will help with the next round of voting next year, maybe not.

2015 Special Case? Brian Shouse
Our original Hall of Greatness rules required a player to play in Milwaukee for at least three seasons. In technical terms, lefty fireman Brian Shouse does not meet that requirement. In terms of games, however, Shouse appeared in more than 58 games in 2006, 2007, and 2008 for the Brewers, even though his specialist role resulted in only 133 innings pitched in Milwaukee. Shouse first appeared for the Brewers in May of 2006, which means that he misses the three-year technicality by one month. His relief line speaks for itself:

Shouse (’06-’08). 201 G, 0 GS. 133 IP, 3.18 ERA (139 ERA+). 5 saves. 55 / 63 total leads converted (87.3%). 52 of 194 inherited runners scored (26.8%).
Entered 41% of appearances when game was within 1-run (33 of his lead opportunities were 1-run leads. Shouse also entered in 50 tie games or 1-run deficits).

I’d be interested to know if readers that voted for the Hall of Greatness would approve adding Shouse to the 2015 ballot in a special case.

1957-1958: Wes Covington and Bill Bruton
Last year, I did not vote for Wes Covington. It may have been a mistake to place closer-before-his-time Don McMahon on my ballot ahead of Covington, but I was also trying to make an argument for the inclusion of minor-to-major leaguer George Crowe in Hall of Greatness voting. Yet, upon further review, Covington absolutely deserves a vote, especially due to his contribution to the 1957 and 1958 Pennant Clubs. I believe that Bill Bruton also deserves a vote in general, but that his Pennant Performance also strengthens his case.

H. Aaron 1339 .324/.382/.573 159
W. Covington 695 .305/.358/.577 153
B. Bruton 693 .279/.327/.398 99
J. Adcock (1B/LF) 349 .275/.317/.506 122
A. Pafko 420 .260/.307/.391 91
F. Mantilla (UT) 451 PA .228/.289/.353 76

Between 1957 and 1958, Hank Aaron was the Braves’ only true full-time outfielder. Both clubs used handfuls of part-time outfielders and utility players to cover County Stadium’s grass, and only six of them amassed 400+ PA over these years. By itself, Covington’s Home-Run-Explosion in 1957 and 1958 looks impressive, but in the context of the team’s depleted outfield that performance looks even more important. Alongside Aaron’s prolific slugging, Covington’s notable HR totals gave the club another outfield weapon: Covington was THE RBI-man behind Aaron and Eddie Mathews. On the other hand, Bruton’s slugging might not have been prolific, but he was one of the club’s batting order stabilizers. Together, Covington and Bruton held together the Braves’ outfield behind Aaron, giving the club stability even when they lacked three full-time outfielders.

Those 1996 Brewers
Only in the mid-1990s could 894 runs serve as a slightly-below average team total. While Harvey’s Wallbangers and the Braun/Fielder glory year Brewers have better runs scored rates against their respective league/park environments, the 1996 Brewers boast the franchise record for runs scored. Depending on how one rates the 1980s County Stadium, the classic 1982 squad’s total of 891 runs could be more than 200 runs better than their environment. While the 1996 club outscored Harvey’s Wallbangers by a handful of runs, the 1990s County Stadium environment (and league environment) suggests that the 1996 club should have scored approximately 900 runs (this gives us some ridiculous math, as the 1996 Brewers would have had to score 1100 runs to match the output of Harvey’s Wallbangers). Surprisingly, no team scored 1000 runs in the 1996 American League.

Greg Vaughn must be the trademark for the 1996 season, as he slammed 31 homers before the Brewers traded him for Ron Villone, Bryce Florie, and Marc Newfield. While this trade looks dreadful in hindsight, it is worth noting that not only were these three players in their mid-20s when the Brewers traded for them, but Newfield and Villone were both Top 100 prospects. Newfield peaked as BaseballAmerica‘s #17 prospect in 1992, and although his stock dropped, he rebounded to #29 in 1996; Villone peaked at #62 in 1995. If any trade proves that landing Top 100 prospects for a proven player does not always work out, this is the one. Of course, not one of these players would last more than two years in Milwaukee:

Player PA or IP Performance OPS+ or ERA+ Note
B. Florie (P) 94 4-5 / 4.79 ERA 100 Traded Away After 1997
R. Villone (P) 77.3 1-0 / 25 GF 144 Traded Away After 1997
M. Newfield (LF / DH) 583 11 HR / .319 OBP 80 Released After 1998

Villone was involved in the trade that netted the Brewers Marquis Grissom and Jeff Juden. Although the Angels selected Juden off waivers in 1998, the Brewers eventually traded Grissom for Devon White. The Brewers traded Florie to Detroit for a trio of players, including Mike Myers. Since Myers ultimately netted Curt Leskanic, one of the pieces of the Vaughn deal created a lineage to one of Doug Melvin‘s rebuilding moves. Leskanic produced Wes Obermueller, who produced Dan Kolb, who produced Jose Capellan, who produced eventual independent-ball / minor league free agent Chris Cody. Perhaps this chain of deals showcases the strength of some of Melvin’s rebuilding moves, as Melvin proved to be a tireless worker of the scrap heap to produce serviceable pieces for some of his up-and-coming Brewers rosters.

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