Saturday, July 6, 2013

June 21- Milwaukee Brewers

Well, I guess it was going to happen sooner or later. On a grand-scale plane I’ve been quite happy with every single New Era Cap I’ve collected over the last 15 years or so… except two of them. I picked this Milwaukee Brewers cap on May 19, 2012 along with a Seattle Mariners hat that I will be writing about in the next few days. Right now you’re probably think, “How the hell does he remember the exact date of when he bought those two hats?” Excellent question; there are two reasons why I know this:

1. This was the last order I did with Lids before I get the axe from the MLB Fan Cave. I tend to not forget a little thing like that.

2. It was an on-line order so I had the luxury of going through my order history and pinpointing the exact date. Ha!

While neither of those points explains why I don’t like this hat, I know refer you to clicking on the link for the Milwaukee Braves cap I wrote about on April 13th. Notice anything peculiar? If it’s not registering, it’s ok. What you’re not seeing, if you can’t tell, is that it’s pretty much the same cap, but with a different color scheme. Now, I love the Braves cap. I think because of its color scheme and plainness it gives it a classic, sophisticated look. Not to mention the fact that Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron were pretty much badasses when they popped this lid on. As for anyone on the Brewers… does it really matter?

To be fair, I really don’t have any personal beef with the Brewers players; however, my entire issues stem from 1970 (well before I was born), the inaugural year of the Brewers franchise. For those of you who don’t know the story… In an effort to prevent the relocation of the Braves to a larger television market, Braves minority owner Bud Selig, a Milwaukee-area car dealer, formed an organization named "Teams Inc." devoted to local control of the club. He successfully prevented the majority owners of the Braves from moving the club in 1964 but was unable to do more than delay the inevitable. The Braves relocated to Atlanta after the 1965 season, and Teams Inc. turned its focus to returning Major League Baseball to Milwaukee.

Selig doggedly pursued this goal, attending owners meetings in the hopes of securing an expansion franchise. Selig changed the name of his group to "Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club Inc.". The "Brewers" name, honoring Milwaukee's beer-brewing tradition, also was traditional for Milwaukee baseball teams going back into the 19th century. The city had hosted a major league team by that name in 1901, which relocated at the end of that season to become the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles). From 1902 through 1952, a minor league Milwaukee Brewers club in the American Association had been so successful that it lured the Braves from Boston. Selig himself had grown up watching that minor league team at Borchert Field and intended his new franchise to follow in that tradition.

To demonstrate there still was support for big-league ball in Milwaukee, Selig's group contracted with Chicago White Sox owner Arthur Allyn to host nine White Sox home games at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1968. A 1967 exhibition game between the White Sox and Minnesota Twins had attracted more than 51,000 spectators, and Selig was convinced the strong Milwaukee fan base would demonstrate the city would provide a good home for a new club.

The experiment was staggeringly successful - those nine games drew 264,297 fans. In Chicago that season, the Sox drew 539,478 fans to their remaining 58 home games. In just a handful of games, the Milwaukee crowds accounted for nearly one-third of the total attendance at White Sox games. In light of this success, Selig and Allyn agreed County Stadium would host Sox home games again the next season.

In 1969, the Sox schedule in Milwaukee was expanded to include 11 home games (one against every other franchise in the American League at the time). Although those games were attended by slightly fewer fans (198,211 fans, for an average of 18,019) they represented a greater percentage of the total White Sox attendance than the previous year - over one-third of the fans who went to Sox home games in 1969 did so at County Stadium (in the remaining 59 home dates in Chicago, the Sox drew 391,335 for an average of 6,632 per game). Selig felt this fan support lent legitimacy to his quest for a Milwaukee franchise, and he went into the 1968 owners meetings with high hopes. Those hopes were dashed when National League franchises were awarded to San Diego (the Padres) and Montreal (the Expos), and American League franchises were awarded to Kansas City (the Royals) and Seattle (the Pilots). That last franchise, however, would figure very prominently in Selig's future.

Having failed to gain a major league franchise for Milwaukee through expansion, Selig turned his efforts to purchasing and relocating an existing club. His search began close to home, with the White Sox themselves. According to Selig, he had a handshake agreement with Allyn to purchase the Pale Hose and move them north. The American League, unwilling to surrender Chicago to the National League, vetoed the sale, and Allyn sold the franchise to his brother John. Frustrated in these efforts, Selig shifted his focus to another American League team, the expansion Seattle Pilots.

To make a long story short, and because I’ll go into more detail on this story in August, Selig purchased the Pilots after they filed for Bankruptcy after their one, and only season in 1969. The original Brewers uniforms were "hand-me-downs" from the Seattle Pilots. Since the move to Milwaukee received final approval less than a week before the start of the season, there was no time to order new uniforms. Selig had originally planned to change the Brewers' colors to navy and red in honor of the minor league Brewers, but was forced to simply remove the Seattle markings from the Pilots' blue-and-gold uniforms and sew "BREWERS" on the front. However, the outline of the Pilots' logo was clearly visible. The uniforms had unique striping on the sleeves left over from the Pilots days. The cap was an updated version of the Milwaukee Braves cap in blue and yellow. Ultimately, it was decided to keep blue and gold as the team colors, and they have remained so ever since.

The Brewers finally got their own flannel design in 1971. These were essentially the same as the 1970 uniforms but with blue and yellow piping on the sleeves and collar. In 1972, the Brewers entered the doubleknit era with uniforms based upon their flannels—all white with "BREWERS" on the front, blue and yellow trim on the sleeves, neck, waistband and down the side of the pants. This is the uniform that Hank Aaron would wear with the club in his final seasons, and that Robin Yount would wear in his first.

The main thing I wanted to point out in all of this, besides the team history, is that even when the Brewers had a chance to change things up they still decided to bite off of the old Milwaukee Braves. With this cap in particular they did it from 1970-1973 as their game cap and from 1974-1977 as only their home cap. It wouldn’t be until 1978 that a fan would design this awesome logo in a contest for the team to use. I love the colors, I love the team, but I hate it when teams rip off of others, a theme that will surely be brought up down the road. As for the marks on this bad boy…

#41- Having written about the two most popular and only Hall of Fame players in franchise history in Yount and Paul Molitor, it became surprisingly difficult to find a few names and numbers to grace my cap. It also didn’t help that I stuck with the era in which this cap was used. Sooooooo… Jim Slaton was a 15th round draft pick by the Pilots in the 1969 amateur draft out of Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, California. During the 1969 season Slaton spent the entire year in the minors, which also carried on into 1970 when he was still with the Class-A Clinton Pilots of the Midwest League. Despite the Major League franchise relocating, all the minor league affiliates stayed put and kept their original names. Weird! In 1971 Slaton pitched four games with the AAA Evansville Triplets throughout the season, going 1-0 with a 1.41 ERA; however, Slaton got his call to The Show and made his debut on April 14, 1971.

Slaton pitched in a lot of games during his tenure from 1971-1977 and then again from 1979-1983 while taking 1978 to play for the Detroit Tigers.  He is the Brewers all-time leader in Wins (117), Innings Pitched (2025.3), Games Started (268), and Shutouts (19), and he is third in Strikeouts, trailing Teddy Higuera and Ben Sheets, and Complete Games, trailing Mike Caldwell. He represented the Brewers and the American League in the 1977 All-Star game and was the winning pitcher for the Brewers in the 4th game of the 1982 World Series against St. Louis. His All-Star Game appearance in 1977 was the only one of his career.

After his playing career ended, he started coaching in the minor leagues. He coached in the Oakland Athletics organization from 1992–1994 and then became the pitching coach for the Class A Daytona Cubs (1995–1996), his hometown Lancaster Jethawks (1997–98) and the Tacoma Rainiers (1999–2003). In 2004 he was a special assignment coach for the Seattle Mariners and from 2005-2007 he was the Mariners bullpen coach. Before coaching in the minor or major leagues, Jim coached an all-star team for the Monte Vista Little League, while pitching for the Angels. He was the pitching coach for the Las Vegas 51s in 2008, also serving briefly as the bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers when Ken Howell temporarily left the team for medical reasons. After the season, the Dodgers announced that Slaton would be the pitching coach in 2009 for their new Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes, a position he held through 2010. In 2011, he was named the pitching coach at Camelback Ranch.

#48- Here’s another guy you’ve probably never heard of. After graduating from Whittier College with a degree in sociology, Jim Colborn studied for his masters’ degree at Edinburgh University in Scotland, where he also starred in basketball as well as baseball, being named all-Scotland. He was planning on becoming a sociology professor until baseball lured him away. In 1966, while in college, Colborn struck out 21 batters in a College All-Star Game in the Netherlands. In 1967, the Chicago Cubs signed Colborn as an amateur free agent. He found himself in Leo Durocher’s doghouse after struggling as a young relief pitcher for three years. At the end of the 1971 season, Colborn was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for José Cardenal.

In his first season with the Brewers Colborn went 7-7 with a 3.11 ERA and 97 strikeouts as he started in 12 of the 39 games he pitched in on the season. In 973 however, things took a turn for the best. That season he became the first 20-game winner in Brewers franchise history. He finished the year with a 3.18 ERA, 314 1/3 innings logged, 135 strikeouts, his first, and only All-Star Game appearance and a sixth place finish for the AL Cy Young award.

Over the next three seasons, however, Colborn posted losing records (10-13 in 1974, 11-13 in 1975 and 9-15 in 1976) before being traded, along with Darrell Porter, to the Kansas City Royals. In 1977, Colborn won 18 games for a Royal team that won the second of three consecutive AL West titles (all three times, however, the Royals lost to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series; Colborn did not pitch in the 1977 ALCS). On May 14 of that year, Colborn no-hit the Texas Rangers 6-0, the first no-hitter by a Royal at Royals Stadium and second overall in that park, after the first of Nolan Ryan's seven career no-hitters (1973).
For eight seasons, Colborn was on Jim Tracy's staff as a pitching coach: from 2000 to 2005, when Tracy managed the Los Angeles Dodgers, and in 2006 and 2007, when Tracy managed the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2008, Colborn became the Texas Rangers bullpen coach.
In his career, Colborn won 83 games against 88 losses, with a 3.80 ERA and 688 strikeouts in 1597 innings pitched.

1 comment:

  1. Another terrific baseball history lesson. Yes, I remember Jim Slaton with my Tigers.