Today is Left-Handers day, a special day to celebrate those of us who suffer long and hard under the rule of right-handers.
So, if you’re part of the 90% of the population NOT like us, make sure you take some time to appreciate what it’s like for us to live in a backwards world.
Of course, not everything is so doom-and-gloom for us southpaws. We carry with us a set of unique advantages in certain areas of life – namely baseball. With that in mind, we spend this momentous occasion to celebrate some of the great left-handers baseball fans have seen in Milwaukee.
A southpaw pitcher can be a god-send for any organization looking to improve their winning ways. In Milwaukee, we have had quite a few prominent lefties take the hill with success.
Of course, no other lefty in Milwaukee – or Major League – history has had quite the success of Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn. Spahn played for 21 years – and would have played longer were it not for three years of Military Service during WWII – and was a 20-game winner in thirteen of those years. In the time he played in Milwaukee (1953-1964) he led the league in wins and complete games seven times – three years of which came after he turned 40. He made 17 All-Star Games and had the sixth most shutouts of any pitcher in Major League history. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, and passed away at age 82 in the fall of 2003. With 363 career victories, no lefty in baseball has ever done it better than Spahn.
First is saves (133). First in games played (365). Lowest career ERA (3.21). Second-lowest WHIP (1.232). Second highest K/9 rate (7.69). The list of Brewer leader-boards that close Dan Plesac finds himself on is impressive. His 158 saves rank him 67th all-time, but for seven years in Milwaukee there was only one guy that Brewers fans wanted to see with the ball in the 9th. Plesac made four All-Star Appearances, and even garnered a few MVP votes in his 1988 campaign when he posted 30 saves and had a 2.41 ERA on the year. He ended his career in Philadelphia in 2003 with two saves and an ERA of 2.70 in 58 games – not bad for a 41 year-old.
Juan Nieves makes the list of pitchers because off all the pitchers to ever don a Brewers uniform, only he had the pleasure of earning a no-no.
He only pitched three seasons, and compilied a 32-25 record over that time. But during one April night in 1987, he struck out seven Orioles and walked five in order to seal his second of a career-high 14 victories. One thing he didn’t do, of course, was give up a hit. It was the only no-hitter of his career, and with it he became on of only 66 southpaws to accomplish the feat.
Coming in with a team-leading career WAR of 28.9 and a third-best ERA at 3.61 is Teddy Higuera. The
left-handed hurler played seven years for Milwaukee from 1986-1991, and then again from 1993 to 1994. His first four years were undoubtedly his best, as he never won less than 15 games in that time – including 15 as a rookie and 20 in 1986. In 1988, Teddy led the AL in WHIP with a 0.999 – not too shabby. He would end his seven year career number three on the list of winningest Brewers with 94.
His later years weren’t as impressive, but he makes the list because few pitchers in Brewers history ever displayed the dominance of Teddy.
Mike Caldwell was brought to Milwaukee in 1977, in a trade that saw Garry Pyka and Dick O’Keeffe head to the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system. Guess who got the best out of that deal. Caldwell ended his 14 seasons in baseball with 102 wins for Milwaukee – making him second behind righty Jim Slaton for the most all-time. He led the league in complete games with 23 in 1978 – and ended up posting 81 of his 98 career CG’s with the Brew Crew.
For eight years, Mike Caldwell was the man in Milwaukee, and he would have made an excellent left-handed edition to any rotation in the Majors.
Pitchers aren’t the only ones who benefit from being in the left-handed minority. While their right-handed counterparts are struggling to head down to first base, their left-handed brethren are already one step closer. Here are our favorite left-handed hitters from the Brew City.
There was a time, long before the resurgance of Yankee lore we ride to this day, that Eddie Mathews was regarded as one of the best baseball players of his era – even better than The Mick. It’s not to say that he is somehow unworthy of the comparisons – in fact it’s quite the opposite. There are few people of my generation who will readily bring Mathew’s name into conversation, which is a real shame because what Eddie did for the Braves is more than a lot of other team’s lineups could do for them.
Eddie hit 465 home runs during his time at County Stadium. For the first ten years in his career, he never hit less than 25. Add his 512 total dingers to his 1453 total runs batted in and 12 All-Star appearances, and it’s understandable how he made it into the Hall of Fame. For the bulk of his career – until the effects of a ballplayer’s life of smoking, drinking, and fighting finally caught up to him – he was in the top ten of every major offensive category every season. Mathews retired at 36 in 1968. Some say he could have played longer, but no matter how long he was on the field, he was one of the best third basemen ever to play the game.
Skipping ahead about a half a century or so, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Brewers fan who doesn’t
recognize first baseman Prince Fielder‘s name. The heavy-hitting 28 year-old left this season for greener pastures in Detroit, but before that managed to become one of the most prolific offensive Brewers in decades. In seven years in Milwaukee, Prince knocked 230 balls out of the park, and drove in 656 RBI’s. He had a career on-base average of .390 while donning the Brewer Blue, and has little signs of stopping his offensive prowess. He has power, discipline, and longevity. There’s no telling, when Prince’s career is over, whether he will enter the Hall as a Brewer or a Tiger. Whatever he’s wearing, he will most likely be known as one of Milwaukee’s all-time best southpaws.
Ok, so he might not be one of the best lefties ever, but he holds a special place in the hearts of many Brewers fans of the early ’90s. That’s because from 1988 until 1995, he was one of the most productive Brewers on the team during a time when there weren’t many reasons to see a Brewers game. Hamilton had a career .290 Batting average for the Brew crew, to go along with 253 RBI’s and a .360 OBP. He was also a very effective outfielder for his entire career, and twice led the AL in fielding percentage as a Brewer.
His name won’t appear on many all-time best lists, but for the Brewer team he played for, Hamilton was one of its brightest stars.
Gumby was a career Brewer, drafted out of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1974 and making his debut just two years later. For the next 17 seasons, Jim Gantner spent his days knocking out hits – 1696 of them to be exact – and making major defensive contributions as a second baseman. He never once made the All-Star team, but played 1801 games as a Milwaukee Brewer, and scored 726 runs – fourth most in team history.
Gantner epitomized what so many people wanted in a ballplayer – he took advantage of opportunities, worked his ass off, and did what he could to help Milwaukee day in and day out. That alone deserves him a spot on this list.
Cecil Coopercame to Milwaukee in 1977 from the Boston Red Sox. All he did from then on was hit 201
home runs, 1815 hits, 345 doubles and 944 RBIs. You know, just the average stuff that nets you five All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and puts you in the perfect spot to seal Milwaukee’s chances at a World Series berth in 1982.
That kind of thing.
His career .302 batting average is fourth-highest of any Brewer, as are his 28.2 WAR as a position player, 27.9 Offensive WAR, and his .429 slugging percentage ranks 7th all-time for a Brewer. In short, he is not only one of the best left-handed Brewers, but one of the best Brewers. Period.