Baseball

Milwaukee Brewers (and Braves) Mount Rushmore

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The Milwaukee Brewers Mount Rushmore is the tenth in a series revealing the top four players for each franchise as selected by writers and fans.

The Cream City has featured some of the game’s true greats, including five Golden Hallers. Four of these five are honored on this Baseball Rushmore.

Franchise History

What defines a franchise?

Bud Selig’s quest to return Major League Baseball to Milwaukee culminated in success in 1970. Through his purchase and relocation of the Seattle Pilots, the future commissioner restored the old Brewers name. With the acquisition of Henry Aaron, the Brewers solidified themselves as the true inheritors of the Milwaukee Braves’ legacy.

Before the 1970 version of Brewers and the 1953-1965 Braves, the Milwaukee Brewers competed in major and minor league ball. So too did the Grays, Cream Citys, and Bears.

Most historians and fans count these as distinct entities.

For the purposes of this series, however, OTH is embracing the idea that these iterations are one club telling a shared story. These teams represented Milwaukee in professional baseball. They played with Milwaukee written proudly on their uniforms. They share a common fanbase that enjoyed successes and lamented failures.

This series of articles serves, in part, as an attempt to recapture the legacy of those earlier teams. OTH recognizes that while an owner may move the corporate structure, the legacy belongs to the fans and the city for which the team played.

For cities that fielded two teams in the shameful era of segregated ball, this series will consider both sides as part of the same club. Today to a degree, major league clubs take a similar approach. The Washington Nationals, for instance, include Washington Homestead Grays players in their Ring of Honor, and most teams tip their caps to their city’s Negro League predecessors by donning their uniforms for Negro Leagues heritage games.

The NBA and NFL have recognized the validity behind this line of thinking. The modern Charlotte Hornets inherited the legacy of the Hornets that moved to New Orleans. The modern Cleveland Browns inherited the legacy of the Browns that moved to Baltimore. Now Rob Manfred and MLB need to do the same.

Founded

1878 in the majors; 1885 in the minors

Team Names

  • Brewers (1888-1952, 1970-present)
  • Braves (1953-1965)
  • Bears (1923)
  • Milwaukees (1886-1887)
  • Cream Citys (1884-1885)
  • Grays (1878)

World Series titles (1)

  • 1957

National League pennants (2)

  • 1957
  • 1958

American League pennant (1)

  • 1982

Junior World Series titles (3)

  • 1936
  • 1947
  • 1951

American Association-Southern League title (1)

  • 1914

American Association-Western League title (1)

  • 1913

American Association pennants (5)

  • 1913
  • 1914
  • 1936
  • 1947
  • 1951

Current Ballpark

American Family Park

First Ballpark

Milwaukee Park

Milwaukee Brewers Mount Rushmore

After counting votes from OTH writers and baseball fans, here are the top four players in Milwaukee Brewers (and Braves) history.

Henry Aaron

  • Milwaukee Years: 1954-1965, 1975-1976
  • Milwaukee Stats: 89.0 WAR, 420 HR, 2,437 H, 415 2B, 149 SB, 4,276 TB, 147 IBB

When considering all arguments, crowning Henry Aaron as the true career home run king might just be the most defensible position to take. He obviously surpassed Babe Ruth, is far ahead of Josh Gibson’s confirmed 238 and adjusted 684, is a mere seven behind Barry Bonds and trails Sadaharu Oh by a count of 113. Aaron had these factors going for him during his career that the others did not:

  • He played in the integrated major leagues.
  • Baseball was still the nation’s most popular sport and drew the best athletes.
  • He did not take performance-enhancing drugs.

Aaron’s talent, dedication, and consistency propelled him to hit 755 home runs against the best competition baseball arguably ever had to offer (and the majority of those with Milwaukee). And he accomplished this feat, breaking the previous record, in the face of millions who actively rooted against him and thousands who harassed him and his family with racist, terroristic threats.

Even if Aaron’s power-hitting was taken away, he almost surely would still stand among the greats in MLB history. Removing his home runs, Aaron still has more than 3,000 hits. With his 1,402 strikeouts, he posted a career on-base percentage of .374. Reconsidering his power, Hammerin Hank led the majors in OPS+ three times and had a career mark of 155. His career total base count is literally 12.3 miles in front of second place.

Aaron’s fielding and baserunning were and often rose to similar levels as his offensive output. His career tally of runs from baserunning is 44 and fielding 98. Aaron also swiped 240 bases at a success rate of 76.6 percent.

The Alabaman was consistent not only across the years but also across formats, including the already covered regular season and postseason. In three playoff series, Aaron slashed .362/.405/.710 with six home runs, 1.08 win probability added, and 36.5 percent championship win probability added. His Milwaukee Braves won two pennants, a division title, and the 1957 World Series.

The essence of Aaron’s greatness lies in both his consistency and his perseverance. The consistency enabled him to be an all-star and put up some of the best numbers year after year. The perseverance in the face of those racist threats as he neared the career home run record. Aaron was not driven by a desire to overcome that prejudice; the hate mail did not drive him. The threats against his family and the ugly invective hurled against him hurt him, just as they were evilly intended to do. Rather, Aaron kept at it because of the joy: the happiness that he could bring to those millions more who were rooting for him.

Robin Yount

  • Milwaukee Years: 1974-1993
  • Milwaukee Stats: 77.3 WAR, .285/.342/.430, 3,142 H, 583 2B, 271 SB, 4,730 TB

It is a common experience as one ages to start comparing oneself to younger people. You start to feel the relative lack of accomplishment of your own endeavors contrasted with those of the true greats. Mozart had composed ten symphonies by the time he was 12. Einstein published his theory of special relativity at 26. Robin Yount had played 242 major league baseball games by the time he was 20.

The Kid spent his entire big league career with the Brewers. Behind his MVP performance and leagues-leading hits, doubles, slugging, and OPS+, Milwaukee claimed its first major league pennant in a quarter of a century. With 3,142 hits and 77.3 wins above replacement, this Californian earned his way onto the Brewers Rushmore.

Eddie Mathews

  • Milwaukee Years: 1953-1965
  • Milwaukee Stats: 89.0 WAR, .277/.385/.528, 1,960 H, 294 2B, 452 HR, 3,732 TB, 42 rField

Though fans rarely continue their devotion when a team leaves town (another reason for the franchise definition above), they might have continued their admiration for the only person to have played for the Braves in all three towns. Eddie Mathews excelled for the team, whether manning the hot corner at Braves Field, Milwaukee County Stadium, or Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

The Californian placed in the top ten in home runs in ten different seasons, wins above replacement nine times, adjusted OPS eight times, and fielding percentage 12 times. Multiple great single-season campaigns combined for a stellar career. Mathews ranks 22nd all-time in wins above replacement, and 23rd in home runs.

Paul Molitor

  • Milwaukee Years: 1978-1992
  • Milwaukee Stats: 59.9 WAR, .303/.367/.444, 2,281 H, 405 2B, 412 SB, 3,338 TB

“The amazing thing about Paul Molitor’s recent bat-o-rama is not that he has hit in 33 straight games but that he has played in 33 straight games.”  As Mike Downey observed, Paul Molitor exhibited injury and energy in his playing days.  In fact, the only time he tied for most games played in as season was the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yet, despite frequent appearances on the injured list, Molitor cobbled together a 21-year major league career.

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Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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