Braun adds another historic homer to ledger
Feat comes exactly 54 years after Aaron's, mirrors 2008 blast
MILWAUKEE -- On Sept. 23, 1957 at County Stadium, Hank Aaron stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning and clinched the Milwaukee Braves' first National League pennant with a two-out home run.
It was Milwaukee's only title -- Wild Cards don't count -- won on home turf until Ryan Braun dug into the batter's box on Friday at sold-out Miller Park. Right-hander Clay Hensley on the mound for Florida, the teams tied at 1 and the Brewers this close to clinching the National League Central. Hensley threw a slider on 3-1. Braun swung.
Fifty-four years to the day after Aaron's clinching homer, Braun hit one of his own. His three-run shot gave the Brewers a 4-1 win over the Marlins. With a Cardinals loss, the Brewers were celebrating a division crown."He lives for that moment," said Braun's dad, Joe, who had heard the Aaron story on the radio earlier in the day. "When he comes up in that situation, there's just this feeling. It's phenomenal." Said first baseman Prince Fielder: "It's nothing new. That's what he does." That's true. Three years earlier, on Sept. 28, 2008, Braun blasted a two-run home run -- also in the eighth inning, also in a 1-1 game -- to beat the Cubs in the regular-season finale. Just like Friday, players and fans waited around while the Brewers' fate was settled elsewhere. In that case, the game of interest was in New York, where the Marlins beat the Mets to hand Milwaukee the NL Wild Card. "I live for those moments," Braun said. "I love to have the opportunity come through when it counts. But this is about all 25 guys, and the way everybody contributed at some point in the season. Tonight, I was able to contribute, but all year it's been different guys coming up big." Braun had a chance to come through earlier in the game, when he batted with Corey Hart at second base and one out. He grounded out to shortstop, extending a mini-funk to 1-for-16, spanning four games. Joe Braun, up in the stands, was preaching patience. "Stay back, drive the ball up the middle," Dad said under his breath. "Every time he gets off that, we talk about it a little bit. Think center field, right-center. When he does, things happen for him." Dad felt something good coming when Ryan got another shot in the eighth. "Because he's done it throughout his career," Joe Braun said. "To do it at this level, at this moment, it's almost unexplainable. It's like he wills himself. You expect that he's going to do it, even though it's so hard. It's such a game of failure. He rises to the moment." Braun's teammates were glad he did. "I was hoping," said center fielder Nyjer Morgan, who was at first base after a walk. "Once I knew it was over, I knew we had it wrapped. And I looked back at the scoreboard and I saw the [Cardinals were losing to the Cubs], that's when a lot more emotions came out." After the Cardinals' loss was in the books and the Brewers' postseason spot sealed, Braun returned to the field to celebrate with family and friends. He hoisted a championship belt over his head, an homage to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a good friend. Fans chanted "MVP!" for Braun, a leading candidate in the NL with Fielder and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp. Braun then found his dad and his mom, Diane. The three hugged while champagne sprayed around them. "It's amazing," Ryan Braun said. "I wouldn't want to experience something like this without them being here. It's definitely special that I could share it with them."