With the renaming of Miller Park officially happening at year’s end, here at Reviewing the Brew, we’re going to remember the top Brewers moments in Miller Park’s history.
Starting on January 1st, the Brewers home stadium will no longer be called Miller Park, but instead will be called American Family Field. Despite fan uproar about the change, it’s going to happen. The stadium has been named Miller Park for 20 years and has brought some incredible memories to Brewers fans.
We are going to be remembering some of the most important moments that came from this stadium and tell the stories of these days. Let’s head back to the final week of the 2008 regular season.
Ryan Braun’s Walk Off Grand Slam
Thursday, September 25, 2008. It’s a clear 69 degree evening at Miller Park with the feel of a big game surging through the atmosphere. There are over 40,000 expected for this crucial matchup against the Pirates in hopes of clinching a Wild Card spot and punching their ticket to the playoffs for the first time in 26 seasons.
The Brewers are struggling in the month of September, having gone 5-15 up until the series with Pittsburgh, but a Prince Fielder walk-off home run two days prior and a win the day before make this a pivotal time for a potential sweep.
Yovani Gallardo is on the bump for Milwaukee in his first game back since May 1st when he tore a knee ligament trying to hurdle a baserunner against the Cubs. Zach Duke is the hurler for the Pirates, whose record is 5-13 entering the day but is looking to end the season strong and spoil the Brewers’ potential playoff hopes.
The rally towels are handed out, the fans are ready to go and Gallardo pumps in a fastball to leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan for a strike…we’re underway in Game 159.
The first two and a half innings are scoreless as both pitchers look to be settling in nicely. Gallardo gets out of a jam in the 1st and has kept the Pittsburgh bats quiet since then, while Zach Duke still hasn’t allowed a hit. Duke retires the first two in the bottom of the 3rd, but leadoff hitter Mike Cameron beats out an infield single. Bill Hall follows up Cameron’s hit with a screaming double to deep center field to score the first run of the game.
Yovani Gallardo comes out in the 4th and gets Adam LaRoche to fly out to right for out number one. But Steve Pearce gets a hold of one and ties the game at one with a solo shot to left. Gallardo walks the next batter but then gets a double play to end the inning and finishes off his night with a statline of 4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB and 7 K’s.
The game stays tied 1-1 as pitchers on both sides are battling, not budging an inch as the drama continues to grow. Brewers fans know how crucial this game is in the Wild Card race and the nervous energy from the 40,102 fans in the stadium is at an all-time high.
Todd Coffey sprints his way out of the bullpen for the top of the 10th inning, scheduled to face the Pirates’ eight and nine hitters and then the top of the order. He ends up getting a groundout but then allows an infield single. A fielder’s choice marks the second out of the inning but Pittsburgh has a runner in scoring position.
Coffey gets pulled by manager Dale Sveum for Mitch Stetter. The unorthodox lefty is on to face the Buccos’ best hitter in Nate McLouth. Stetter falls behind 3-1 but deals a strike to bring on a full count. The sixth pitch of the at-bat fools McLouth and Stetter records the backwards k.
The stage is set.
Jesse Chavez is tasked with trying to keep this game tied and give his Pirates another shot, but the Brewers have other plans. Rickie Weeks leads off the inning with a single to right. Runner on first. Jason Kendall is given the bunt sign and gets the sacrifice down but becomes the first out of the inning. Runner on second, one out.
Pirates manager John Russell opts to intentionally walk Ray Durham. Runners on first and second, one out. Mike Cameron battles but ends up striking out swinging. Runners on first and second two outs. Craig Counsell takes all five pitches he sees and draws a walk to load the bases. Ryan Braun is up.
This is the moment all kids dream of, except there’s a twist. Braun is 0-4 on the day and is just barely hitting above .200 in September. But some may argue, this is where the legend of Ryan Braun started.
Chavez falls behind 2-0 on some very close pitches but evens it up after a strike looking and a foul ball. 2-2 count. 2 outs. Bottom of the 10th. Tie game. A 26 year drought and one game lead in the Wild Card race hanging in the balance.
Euphoria. Pandemonium. Jubilation.
There are plenty of words that could describe this moment in Brewers history but one I’d like to use is special. A special player making a special play in a special place.
This offseason we say goodbye to the name Miller Park and potentially to one of the best players ever to put on a Milwaukee Brewers jersey. So it feels right to pay them both homage for this spectacular moment and say, “Thank You”.
Stay tuned to Reviewing the Brew as we continue to look back on the best moments in the 20 year history of Miller Park.