06/22/2004 9:46 PM ET
Notes: Two more join Walk of Fame
Thomas, Gantner honored as latest inductees
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Did Jim Gantner really think his old Brewers teammate Gorman Thomas would stand in front of the microphone and not take at least one shot at his co-honoree?
|Gorman Thomas listens in as Jim Gantner addresses the crowd. (Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers)
Not a chance.
Thomas, the fan-favorite who partied hard and hit baseballs even harder, and the Wisconsin-born Gantner, one-third of the most prolific trio of teammates in Major League history, were honored Tuesday in a ceremony marking their induction into the team's Walk of Fame.
"They were more than just good teams," Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said of the Brewers of the late 1970s and early 1980s. "They were people who represented this city and this state beautifully. Nobody, but nobody, did it better than Jimmy Gantner ... and my friend Gorman Thomas."
Both players unveiled large, home plate-shaped granite monuments with their names and autographs which will be installed onto the home plate plaza at Miller Park. Previous inductees include Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount, Selig, first baseman Cecil Cooper, former general manager Harry Dalton and longtime Voice of the Brewers Bob Uecker.
Of course, "Stormin' Gorman" had to take one shot at his former teammate.
Thomas told the story of the day in 1977, when he and Gantner were playing at Triple-A Spokane and Thomas fell ill with "a 24-hour virus." Gantner, a second baseman, quickly volunteered to play center field.
As the story goes, Thomas listened on the radio as Gantner committed five errors, two on dropped fly balls, two on grounders that he overran and one on a throwing miscue. When Thomas visited manager John Felske the next day, he was furious.
"He told me, 'If you ever pull this again, I'm going to call Mr. Selig and have you released,'" Thomas said.
Neither player was released, of course. Ganter played all 17 of his Major League seasons in a Brewers uniform, and for 15 years, teamed with Yount and Molitor to collect 6,399 hits, the most ever by a trio of teammates. Gantner chipped in 1,696 of those hits, but was known more for his defense.
"I was drawn to Jim Gantner," said current Brewers manager Ned Yost, who joined the team in 1980. "I was drawn by his passion, his love of the game, his energy, the way that he played the game with an all-out style. He was a guy that I could really relate to. I tried to play the game as hard as he did."
Born in Eden, Wis., Ganter and his family currently reside in Hartland, Wis. His wife, Sue, runs a Christian-themed coffee shop.
"The game is over with, but the memories will last forever, and that's what's so special about this night," Gantner said. "I was very fortunate to play my entire career with the Milwaukee Brewers. Not many people get lucky enough to be about to play for their state team."
Thomas' no-holds-barred play in center field and habit of visiting with tailgaters before and after games made him a fan-favorite. A first-round pick of the Seattle Pilots in 1969, Thomas grew up along with the fledgling Brewers franchise and, apologies to Aaron, was its first true power threat.
From 1978-1982 Thomas belted 175 home runs including 45 in 1979, a franchise record that stood until Richie Sexson equaled it in 2001 and 2003.
"Gorman could carry the team for weeks on end, and fans came to realize that as Gorman went, so went the Brewers," said Brewers chairman Wendy Selig-Prieb, who introduced Thomas.
Since the Hall of Fame quartet was honored in 2001, the Brewers have honored two new Walk of Fame inductees each summer. They are chosen by a panel of journalists and club officials.
Encouraging words: During the ceremony, Selig singled out Yost.
"I don't get to see the Brewers very much anymore, but I want to tell you, Ned, you're getting great national attention and everybody here is very proud of the job you've done," Selig said.
Entering play Tuesday, the Brewers had won eight of their last 12 games and were 35-31 overall. The team has not enjoyed a winning season since Gantner, Molitor and Yount played together for the last time in 1992.
Rehab notes: Third baseman Wes Helms (right knee surgery) went 0-for-4 for Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday in the second game of his rehabilitation stint. In his first two games, Helms is 0-for-6 with a walk and a run scored. ... Right-hander Ben Ford (right shoulder tendinitis) started Tuesday's game and allowed a run on one hit and three walks in two innings. The Indians lost, 12-11.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.