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. Here, we look at the night legendary closer Trevor Hoffman picked up his 600th career save.
Trevor Hoffman’s 600th Career Save (September 7th, 2010)
Anyone who is a fan of baseball lore knows that Trevor Hoffman didn’t get his start with the Brewers. The Hall of Fame closer truly made a name for himself as a San Diego Padre, where he and his devastating changeup (sound familiar?) had amassed 541 of his 554 saves through the end of the 2008 season.
But after that year, Hoffman found himself a free agent and needing a new team. The Milwaukee Brewers were coming off a 2008 playoff appearance sealed by CC Sabathia‘s dramatic Game 162 win and looking to move on from their primary closer the previous year, Salomon Torres, who finished the season with a 3.49 ERA but also seven blown saves.
The Brewers decided to bring Hoffman in to fill that role on a one-year, $6MM contract. The move paid off with the closer becoming an All-Star for Milwaukee that season behind a 1.83 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, and 37 saves, leaving him just nine saves short of the 600-save milestone.
Milwaukee decided to run it back in 2010, signing Hoffman to another one-year contract but with a mutual option. Like the Brewers’ season (they went 77-85 and finished 3rd in the NL Central), Hoffman’s wasn’t one of his greatest as his ERA and WHIP ballooned to 5.89 and 1.437, respectively, easily career worsts.
In late May, sitting at 596 saves but already blown five on the season and sitting at a 13.15 ERA, Hoffman was shifted to a setup role in favor of John Axford. Fans started wondering if they’d ever get to see that 600th save.
But then Hoffman started improving. And in August, with Milwaukee far behind in the playoff race, he started getting a save chance here and there. Before fans knew it, it was August 29th and Hoffman had picked up his 599th save. After that, fans wondered if the game they attended would be the one where they saw him hit the milestone.
As it turns out, the lucky fans were the ones who showed up to Miller Park on September 7th for a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The scoring began with back-to-back RBI doubles in the first by Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee, giving Milwaukee a 2-0 lead. After the Cardinals tied it in the fourth, McGehee put the Brewers back up with a two-run single in the fifth.
That 4-2 score would hold over the following innings, and with every bit closer to the ninth that it got, fans started realizing that they had a chance to witness history. Well, as long as the Brewers didn’t score too much.
But then it was here, the end of the eighth. The ringing of the bells from AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells came across the Miller Park sound system, as they had so many times before over his career. Hoffman was headed out for the save and the crowd was absolutely ready for it.
The air left the stadium for a bit as Colby Rasmus led off the ninth with a single. But that was rectified when Hoffman induced a double play from the next batter, Randy Winn. All that stood in Hoffman’s way at that point was Cardinals pinch hitter Aaron Miles.
Miles worked the count full on Hoffman. The sixth pitch of the at bat, though, was grounded weakly to Brewers shortstop, and future manager, Craig Counsell, and the rest, as they say….well, you know the rest.
The fans, his teammates, Hoffman’s family who got to join him on the mound to celebrate, everyone on hand was on their feet to celebrate such a historic achievement. And it’s the type of achievement that Brewers fans haven’t often gotten to see.
Having just hit their 50th anniversary, the Milwaukee Brewers are still one of the younger franchises. And far-removed from the heroics of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and others, Brewers fans hadn’t gotten the chance to see one of their players set such an outstanding milestone. After all, many of us remember how some of those 90s teams went.
So part of what made the moment so special was because of how rare a moment it was, not just for baseball in general, but also for this franchise. But on top of that, it showed how Brewers fans embrace all of their players, even the ones who have only been in Miller Park a little while.
Stay tuned to Reviewing the Brew as we begin to wrap up our series of the top moments in Miller Park history.