It was the second inning of Friday’s game between the Brewers and Cardinals. Carlos Gomez stepped to the plate as the NL leader in batting average. After going 6-for-37 (.162 AVG) through the first nine games of the season, Gomez had gone on a tear. He was 29-for-66 (.439 AVG) over the last 17 games. His hot streak started during the final game of the April series in St. Louis. Meaning that the last game of his cold streak was also in St. Louis, against Shelby Miller — Friday night’s opposing pitcher.
In their first meeting of the season, Gomez had struck out twice against Shelby Miller. Miller fed Gomez a steady diet of four-seam fastballs –- 12 of them against only three curveballs. So when Miller threw a first pitch four-seam fastball, Gomez was waiting for it. Gomez took a cut but fouled it off. Moments later, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Brewers beat writer Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) tweeted this picture from the Miller Park press box –
While Miller and Gomez continued their battle on the field, Rosiak tweeted two more pictures of foul balls that literally left their mark on Miller Park. I loved that someone had taken the time to label each dent in great detail. It’s only fitting for a sport that tracks and quantifies every play that even these foul balls were recorded for posterity. In the pictures, I noticed two different wall colors. Clearly, the press box had been painted but the dents not repaired. The foul ball divots, and their descriptions, were now part of the living history of Miller Park.
As I looked at the pictures, my mind flooded with questions about each blemish. I wondered, how did each at-bat end? Did they happen during low or high-leverage points in the game? Did anything else of note happen during any of these games? So, with the photographic evidence and detailed descriptions in hand, I began my quest to discover the stories behind Miller Park’s foul ball wall of fame.
Friday night’s game against the Cardinals didn’t end well for the Brewers but Gomez’s at-bat against Miller did. After Gomez fouled his way into Miller Park press box history, Shelby Miller threw him three more fastballs. The second one was a ball and the third a called strike. Gomez lined the fourth consecutive fastball to right field for a single. The hit extended Gomez’s hitting streak to 10 games and was his only hit of the game.
Willie Bloomquist off Latroy Hawkins – Brewers vs Diamondback – 10/2/2011 – Game 2 of NLDS
This moment in Miller Park history, courtesy of Willie Bloomquist and Latroy Hawkins, is a reminder of the Brewers’ 2011 playoff run. Zack Greinke takes to the mound for the Crew and makes the first postseason appearance of his career. Greinke struggles through 5 IP — allowing 8 H, 3 HR, 4 ER, and 7 K. With the game at 4-4, Takashi Saito takes over in the sixth inning and works around a one out double to keep the game tied. In the bottom of the sixth, Jerry Hairston’s one out double starts a strange inning that eventually plates five runs for the Brewers. How strange was it? Well, after Hairston’s double, Diamondback relief pitcher Brad Ziegler balks Hairston to third then walks Yuniesky Betancourt on four pitches. Roenicke being Roenicke calls a safety squeeze with Jonathon Lucroy at the plate. The play catches the Diamondbacks defense off guard. Lucroy’s bunt is perfect and, not only scores Hairston, but also earns Lucroy a single. After an intentional walk to Mark Kotsay loads the bases, Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Ryan Braun all single to center and break the game wide open.
Latroy Hawkins takes to the mound in the top of the seventh looking for a shut down inning. After striking out Sean Burroughs, Willie Bloomquist steps to the plate and an epic 13-pitch at-bat begins. Bloomquist takes two called strikes then hunkers down. He fouls off two pitches before watching a ball go by. He fouls off two more pitches then looks at a second ball. Bloomquist proceeds to foul off three more pitches before taking two balls to draw a walk. One of those seven foul balls finds its way into Miller Park’s press box and makes its presence known. Following the walk, Bloomquist steals second base and Aaron Hill draws a walk. Luckily, Hawkins gets out of the inning unscathed and the Brewers go on to win 9-4. With the win, the Brewers go to 2-0 in a postseason series for the first time in franchise history.
J.J. Hardy off Guillermo Mota – Brewers vs Dodgers – 7/10/2009
It’s the bottom of the sixth when J.J. Hardy steps to the plate with no outs. The Brewers are down but a bases loaded single from Frank Catalanotto has brought the Brewers within one run, 4-5. Hardy has already homered off starting pitcher Chad Billingsley so Dodger manager Joe Torre brings in Guillermo Mota. After a called strike and a ball, Hardy fouls back a pitch that finds its way in the press box. While someone memorializes the event, Hardy hits the next pitch to deep right field. Matt Gamel scores on the sac fly and Mike Cameron moves to third. With the game tied, Ken Macha calls on Casey McGehee to pinch hit for Milwaukee’s starting pitcher, Braden Looper. McGehee takes a called strike then grounds into a double play to end the inning.
The game stays tied, until the bottom of the eigth, when Matt Gamel blasts a line drive home run to center field. The Brewers take the 6-5 lead into the ninth inning when Trevor Hoffman comes on for the save. The Dodgers scrape together three singles to score a run and Hoffman blows his second save of the season. After the Brewers fail to score in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers drop six runs over 0.1 IP on Carlos Villanueva. Matt Kemp, who bats eighth for the Dodgers, does most of the damage with a grand slam – his third grand slam of the season. The Brewers add two runs in the bottom of the tenth but it’s too little, too late – final score, 8-12.
Also on this day, Manny Ramirez makes MLB history by blasting a two-run home run in the top of the sixth. The home run is Ramirez’s 536th of his career and ties him with Mickey Mantle for 15th on the all time home run list.
Alfonso Soriano off Yovani Gallardo – Brewers vs Cubs – 9/12/10
Alfonso Soriano comes out hacking against Yovani Gallardo during his first at-bat of this Sunday afternoon affair. There is one out and a man on first when Soriano digs into the box in the top of the second. He fouls off three straight pitches, takes two balls, fouls off the next pitch, then drives the ball to deep left field for an out. One of those four foul balls finds the press box wall.
Soriano ends the day 1-for-3 with a walk. Gallardo goes seven strong innings – 4 H, 0 ER, 6 K, 3 BB – and, in the bottom of the fifth, hits a double then scores on a Ryan Braun hit down the right field line. That run breaks a streak of 25 consecutive innings that Cubs pitchers have held opponents scoreless. Casey McGehee adds an eighth-inning home run to pad the lead. Kameron Loe and John Axford combine with Gallardo for a five hit shut out. The win is Gallardo’s first in seven starts and pushes his record to 12-7. Axford records a four-out save, his 21st of the year.
Chris Young off Randy Wolf – Brewers vs Diamondbacks – 8/12/10
This addition to the foul ball wall of fame was the most elusive to pin down. During this Thursday afternoon game, Chris Young and Randy Wolf face off four times. Young doubles to deep center on the second pitch of the game. It’s the only at-bat that Young doesn’t foul off a pitch from Wolf.
In the top of the third, Young fouls off two pitches during a seven-pitch battle with Wolf. Eventually, Young strikes out. With the Brewers up 6-0, in the top of the fourth, Wolf lets the Diamondbacks back in the game. Wolf gives up four consecutive hits, including a three-run home run, to bring the score to 6-4. Young comes to the plate with one out and a runner on first. He takes a ball, a called strike, and then fouls a ball away, possibly into the press box. Young singles on the next pitch but, with only one out and two on, Wolf escapes the inning without any further damage. After Casey McGehee homers in the bottom of the fifth, to push the Brewers’ lead to 7-4, Chris Young comes to the plate against Wolf in the top of the sixth. After a ball, and two called strikes, Young fouls off another pitch. Wolf deals Young a ball then gets him on a swinging strike for the second out of the inning.
The Brewers hold on to win 8-4, though they almost give it away. Zack Braddock walks the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, after retiring only one. Brewers’ manager, Ken Macha, brings in John Axford for a five-out save. Axford escapes the eighth, but walks the based loaded, himself, in the top of the ninth. Thankfully, Axford induces a double play from Stephen Drew to end the game in the Brewers’ favor.
This game still holds significance in the Brewers’ record book. Casey McGehee goes 4-for-4 — two singles, one double, and one home run – with three RBI and three runs. McGehee’s four hit performance means that he is nine for his last nine at the plate. Those nine-straight hits set a franchise record for most consecutive hits. The next day, McGehee ends his streak, in Colorado, with a ground out to shortstop during his first at-bat.
I was amazed by how much history was uncovered by digging into the Brewers’ foul ball wall of fame. From Todd Rosiak’s pictures on Twitter, it looked like there might be a few more wall divots he didn’t share with us. Which got me wondering about what other parts of Brewers’ history have made their way to that press box wall.