Anne in the Stands: Players I miss
Contributions remembered years after departures
Like all Brewers fans, I had hoped for another year of postseason games. While I erase the "if onlys" from my memory, I've been wondering how the team will look next year. In the past, I have been sorry when a favorite player of mine got traded or ended his career. With Trevor Hoffman secured, I'm crossing my fingers that Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Mike Cameron, Craig Counsell, Rickie Weeks and Yovani Gallardo will be back.
One of my all-time picks, Kevin Seitzer, seemed to be nearing the end of his career when he joined the Brewers in 1992, after the Royals let him go. Like Counsell has this year, Seitzer made a big difference on the team, averaging .300-plus between 1994-96. Late in the '96 season, I took it hard when the Brewers traded him to the Indians.
I began keeping track of Mike Matheny (my designated all-time favorite catcher), after his first game in the Majors. Never mind that he couldn't hit the ball very well; I appreciated his errorless play, and the chance to get a glimpse of his handsome face when he took off his hockey-style mask. We were at the stadium the night the big guy got hit by a pitch in his cheek. The smack echoed all over the stadium. He went down, and the shocked crowd gasped, thinking he might not get up. But he did, and took his base.
Jeff Cirillo had two stints playing third base for the Brewers, which was just fine with me. You could count on him to get a base hit when we needed one. His other talent was being able to initiate a double play while blowing a bubble half the size of his face.
In the late '90s, Fernando Viña was the player I liked to watch, because of the flashy double plays he made at second base. These days, I enjoy his work as an analyst on ESPN.
A textbook slugger, cocky and outspoken, Jeromy Burnitz could change the pace of a game in a second. He was also a joker. In 2001, he instigated the "Sweep Suits" photo op, where a bunch of Brewers donned colorful, plaid, wide-shouldered, double-breasted and/or pin-striped suits to celebrate a sweep of the Cubs. Unfortunately, right after that, the team began a miserable losing streak.
Another favorite, Richie Sexson, was a member of that "Sweep Suit" gang. He was so tall (6-feet-8), his range at first base gave a nice margin of error to his teammates. And he could hit! (In 2007, Fielder broke Sexson's home run record with the Crew.) I swear the ball was expelled from the park before I heard the whack of Sexson's bat.
I don't want to forget Derek Turnbow, a.k.a "T-Bow," a mighty force when he could control his pitches. What a great time we had in the bottom of the ninth, watching him trudge out to the mound as if each foot were packed in cement. With his hair a tousled thatch, his cap cockeyed and his shirt half untucked, he'd throw bullets and strike out the side.
I hope to see Ben Sheets pitch again some day. He was so quick and so efficient. Innings flew by, without all the nodding, scratching, stepping off the mound, grabbing the rosin bag or shaking off signs. Batters had to pay attention. Umps had to stay on their toes. Fans had to hustle back to their seats. Sheets got down to business so quickly that often, after a commercial break between innings, he was already facing the second batter. I was at Miller Park on the Sunday he struck out 18 batters. It was grand.
Scott Podsednik was a constant annoyance to opposing pitchers. Once he got on base, everyone knew he was going to steal. With his eyes focused on the pitcher, he'd squat with his hands out in front of his waist as if he were about to catch a basketball. Then he'd take tiny dancing steps toward the next base. At the merest hint of distraction, he was off and sliding face first.
Tough Gabe Kapler looks like an ad for workout equipment, and I like that in a player. Last year when he returned to baseball after a few years off, he played his heart out for the Brewers. I missed him this year.
Anne Stratton is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.