I owe a confession to the Brewers fan base. It’s a deep, dark secret I’ve carried with me for years. A weight I’ve carried like Atlas – tortured to carry the world on his back – for over a decade. Before this deep, dark secret reaches its 11th season, it’s time for me to come clean. Brewers fan everywhere: I ruined Derrick Turnbow.
Please, don’t try to console me. I’ve known it for a long time, but it’s time that you know, too. But while the fan base currently believes it all started on the Turnbow’s bobble head day (one of the Brewers’ top-five bobble heads in recent memory), it goes back a even further than that.
“My Favorite Pitcher”
It’s a game teenage Brad had been waiting for for what felt like his lifetime: the game when the Brewers were finally winners again. As a Brewers fan born after 1982, the only time you could really remember the Brewers as winners was when family members or broadcasts would force you to live in the Brewers’ one moment of fame. The evening of Friday, Sept. 30, I was sitting in front of my TV, dreaming that I’d finally see the dawn of a new era. Two innings after jumping around my room, celebrating the magnificence that was the 7th inning (when Geoff Jenkins AND Damien Miller both jacked 2-run homers), I was sitting on the edge of my seat, praying that this magnificent closer who came from nowhere could make my dreams come true. I watched in awe as the gas throwing righty, THE Derrick Turnbow, dominated the Pirates. He struck out Brad Eldred, he mowed down Humberto Cota, and, finally, he faced Tike Redman and got him to ground out.
THEY DID IT! The Brewers did it! They got to 81 wins. For the first time in my recollection, the Brewers were winners, and I had just witnessed it. Then it came to me: if it wasn’t for this magnificent – albeit, dopey-looking – pitcher, the Brewers wouldn’t be anywhere. “Derrick Turnbow,” I thought to myself, “you just became my favorite pitcher.”
When Awe Meets Jinx
A t-shirt jersey later (I was in high school, and that was about as far as my finances could take me in terms of fandom), and I was Turnbow’s biggest fan. I went around touting how great he was to anyone who would listen. He was a spectacle to behold, a treasure to Major League Baseball, and if you said any different, he could throw a baseball so hard it’d take your damn head off. I praised the closer near and far, and was heartbroken to find out there was no way I was making it to the bobble head game for the man, myth and legend. It’s ok though, for I decided to be there for the greatest thing to happen to the Brewers since Robin by rooting for him hard from the comfort of my parent’s couch.
I watched the May 13 game against the Mets fly by, hoping that Derrick would get the chance to impress on HIS night. Sure enough, after a crazy game that needed the Brewers to come back from 4 down, Ned Yost made the call and out came Turnbow. I knew it was time to witness greatness, so I pulled my family around and said, “Watch this.” What they witnessed was not awe-inspiring. On the second pitch, Paul Lo Duca cracked a homer to left-center, and the Brewers’ were behind. Derrick needed David Wright to fail an attempt at stealing a base before getting out of it, and was wild to say the least (throwing only four pitches for strikes). But this, this was not Derrick’s fault. How could a closer be expected to pitch up to his standards when it wasn’t even a save situation? A part of me wondered, could this have been my fault?
Now, this moment in time is what most Brewers fans cite as being the end of Turnbow, the amazeballs closer. No, it took a final nail in the coffin, and it was me holding the hammer.
The Final Nail
After that terrible bobble head weekend, Turnbow had a couple of bad games, but for the most part had rebounded. He gave up five earned runs in four days, but was basically spotless for the rest of May. In June, he had started off rough again but then followed through with an 11-game scoreless streak. The Brewers were back in town before the All-Star break – Derrick Turnbow, God’s gift to Brewers’ fans, was a member of that All-Star team, by the way – and my dad, who lives in California, was visiting his son in Milwaukee.
We decided to do what fathers and sons do and catch a ball game. Why not? He was still a Brewers fan at heart, although cut off from the franchise in an era pre-MLB.tv, and would love to see his old team. A warm 80-degree day, we were taking in the game in the garbage Bernie’s Terrace section, and the Brewers bats had come to play. The Brewers had managed to score 3 runs off of Aaron Harang (when he was good) and came back to take a 6-4 lead heading into the 9th.
“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire!”
The crowd was sent up into a roar, or at least as loud a roar as a crowd of 31,000 can make, as Turnbow took the field. I turned to my dad, and with my hammer and nail decided to end Turnbow’s tenure as closer.
I explained to you that my dad grew up a Brewers fan and was still somewhat connected to the franchise, but in jest he had been teasing me about the Giants being better than my beloved Brewers. In my moment of triumph, the Brewers had just stormed the gates, and out came the pride and joy.
I turned to my dad and said, “Oh, who’s this? It’s no big deal, just the best closer in baseball is all. He only throws 100 miles per hour. But you wouldn’t understand, being a Giants fan…”
And it didn’t stop there. Throughout the warm up pitches, I berated my dad with insults about how his team will never have a commodity like Derrick Turnbow. I used every swear available in my arsenal, and when I ran out, I used them again. “Derrick Turnbow is Rollie Fingers reborn!” I screamed as you could hear the pop of 98 mph heat meet the mit. Then watched it blow up in my face. Turnbow pitched 2/3 of an inning that day, giving up 3 runs. He threw 30 pitches and only 12 of them went for strikes. I had just run my mouth off with every insult I could find about how Derrick Turnbow alone made the Brewers superior to any other team in baseball, and in front of my face, his demise was evident.
Prior to July, the Brewers’ record in games Turnbow pitched in was 32-5. His ERA was 3.28 in 35.2 IP and he Kd 45 of his opponents while only walking 17. After July? The Brewers went 8-19 in games Turnbow pitched in. His ERA was 13.06 in 20 innings, and he only struck out 24 while walking 22. Everyone wants to say the bobble head ruined Derrick Turnbow, but not until this point of complete arrogance did Turnbow’s career finally tip.
Baseball is a game of superstitions. I had tempted the jinx to come out in May with my arrogance about Turnbow, forcing the “sports gods” to show what he could be at his worst. I spit in the face of that jinx and it came out ten-fold. I’m sorry. I ruined Derrick Turnbow.