NOTE: The author began a twenty-part series unveiling the Top Farm Teams in Milwaukee Brewers history that will end with next week’s Number One team. Most of the articles had a short section detailing a player from that team. The following is the result of a phone interview with Rob Dewolf, who had a six-year minor league career–five years with Milwaukee and one season in the Padres organization.
(All photos used by permission of Rob Dewolf.)
(COVER PHOTO: from left: Rob Dewolf, Mike Frew, Angel ‘Caballo’ Rodriguez after winning the 1986 California League title.)
Robert King Dewolf was drafted in the seventh round of the 1984 June Amateur Draft by the Brewers out of Malone College (Canton, Ohio).
Dewolf was a lanky (6’3, 185) left-handed outfielder who doubled as a pitcher throughout his minor league career.
Ironically, ‘Wolfie’ never pitched in college.
He began his pro career in 1984 at Paintsville in the Appalachian League and although he only slashed 216/335/299, he earned a promotion to Class A Beloit the following year.
Dewolf’s second season saw him hit .252 and draw 49 walks. He starting stealing bases, pilfering 21 out of 30. He also started a game on the mound and completed it, but took a loss after giving up four runs in his eight-inning stint.
“It’s kind of funny because my first year under (manager) Dave Machemer, I was always telling him I could pitch, even though I never pitched in college,” said Dewolf in a recent phone interview.
In the final game of the regular season, Machemer granted his player’s wish, allowing him to start the final game against Waterloo.
With his father in the stands, Dewolf pitched a complete game, albeit losing 4-0.
“After that, playing for ‘Mac,’ I was always the emergency pitcher,” mused Dewolf.
On the bases, Dewolf got to use his excellent speed more because that was the type of game that Machemer subscribed to.
“That was the kind of game he had as a player, stealing a lot of bases and taking the extra base,” commented Dewolf. “That’s how he managed his team.”
He moved up to High A Stockton in 1986 and had his best pro season.
The 1986 Stockton Ports before a home game at Billy Hebert Field. Rob Dewolf is at far right.
But a couple weird things happened before that, as Dewolf got traded to the San Francisco organization with a couple weeks left in Spring Training.
After playing several games with the Giants, he was called into the front office and was told that the Giants had acquired another player and that he was being released.
Dewolf got in touch with an ex-teammate and mentioned what had happened and soon after, resigned with the Brewers.
Dewolf slashed 312/403/450 and banged out 43 ‘long’ hits. His 51 steals and 14 three-baggers both led the California League.
“That was just a dream season,” said Dewolf. “I was leading off and playing every day, hitting well and getting on base.
“Everything just fell into place that year in Stockton.”
Including the California League title.
He also pitched in three games (one start) and earned his first (and only) victory.
“The last day of the year we had a doubleheader and I pitched the second game, went six innings and actually got the win there,” remembered Dewolf. “That was pretty cool to get a win, especially when you’re not really a pitcher.”
Dewolf began the 1987 season in Class AA El Paso but then in mid-season got sent back to Stockton for ‘organizational needs.’ He went 9-for-15 at Stockton and went back to El Paso, a bit earlier than the expected one week.
He hit .278 in 360 ABs at El Paso, stealing 16 bases in 18 tries. The lefty also relieved in three games but struggled with an ERA of 9.82.
He played the complete 1988 campaign at El Paso and had some success at the plate, slashing 283/367/386 in 428 at-bats and stole 16 bases, but was also caught 14 times. He would appear in two games on the mound (1 1/3 innings) for the Diablos.
Dewolf discounted the decent average at El Paso, saying that his play had dropped off somewhat.
“Hitting .280 in El Paso was like hitting .240 elsewhere.”
After the 1988 season, Dewolf was traded to the San Diego organization.
He started the 1989 campaign at Class AA and played most of the season there, hitting .242 while continuing to show good discipline at the plate with an OBP 85 points higher than his batting average.
Wolfie got called up to Class AAA Las Vegas and played 23 games but got sporadic playing time.
“I knew that was going to be my last season, so I asked Tom Romanesko (Director of Minor Leagues for San Diego) if he would send me down to Wichita (AA) instead of just sitting on the bench in Las Vegas.”
He played a few games for Wichita and started one game on the mound but got rocked in two innings, taking a loss.
“I took it too seriously and it was a nightmare,” laughed Dewolf. “I should have quit while I was ahead.”
He retired after the season at age 25.
In his six-year career, he averaged nearly 20 steals per year with a career slash line of 277/365/389. On the mound, he pitched in ten games (three starts) and had a 1-2 record with an ERA of 5.26 in 25 2/3 innings.
Rob Dewolf had a unique career as a pro; many position players throw an inning or two in a pinch, but Dewolf even started three games.
He earned a journalism degree in his off-seasons and covered high school sports while in Massillon, OH and later wrote a weekly diary for his hometown paper while playing.
Dewolf is now the Columbus (OH) Dispatch website sports editor.
Stockton Ports celebrating after 1986 California League championship. Rob Dewolf is at far right.