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This series started with an often-worn number and has since seen rarely-worn, retired, and seemingly "average" digits. Today's entry in numerical history sets a series record for most total players and, not coincidentally, most unremarkable or forgotten players. That's not to say #26 has not graced the backs of some memorable Brewers, but rather to say there's a good reason this number has been worn multiple times in the same season at least five times.
Now that over a dozen major league careers have been belittled in one small paragraph, it's time to follow the jump and follow #26 through Brewers history.
In the 1969 June draft, the expansion Seattle Pilots selected 47 players. Their first selection, with the 21st overall pick, was a soon-to-be-ex-shortstop named Gorman Thomas. In the fifteenth round, the Pilots found a gem in Jim Slaton. Of the twenty-four seventeenth round picks, only one made the majors. That one was Centralia, Washington outfielder Bob Coluccio. Coluccio made his debut one week into the 1973 season. He showed promise as a rookie, overcoming a .224 average with eight triples, fifteen home runs, and thirteen stolen bases. He regressed in his sophomore season, falling to six home runs to go with a .223 average. With a batting average under .200 in May 1975, he was shipped to the White Sox in exchange for Bill Sharp. Sharp not only took Coluccio's spot, he took his uniform, too. A .258 hitter with 8 home runs in a season's worth of at bats spread over two years when he was traded, Sharp spent most of 1975 and all of 1976 in Milwaukee. Where Coluccio's batting average was constantly poor, Sharp's on-base percentage was equally bad; he reached base at a .289 clip in 1975 and .288 in 1976. He played briefly in the minors in 1977 before calling it quits.
In 1977, an outfielder named Dick Davis made his debut with the Brewers. A cousin of Houston third baseman Enos Cabell, Davis signed with the Brewers as an undrafted free agent in 1972. While Davis put up a creditable batting average (.264) in his four seasons with the Brewers, his on-base percentage was lacking. In fact, he is one of only three Brewers to put up two seasons with a batting average over .250 with an on-base percentage under .300. The others? Fellow 70s outfielder Von Joshua and a young shortstop named Robin Yount. After the 1980 season, Davis was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for tall lefthander Randy Lerch.
In 1982, the Brewers broke camp with a rookie named Kevin Bass on their roster. Bass spent six weeks on the major league roster, mostly pinch-running and being used as a defensive replacement. He went 0 for 9 with one walk and one sac bunt. His claim to Brewers fame, however, was being traded at the end of August 1982 with two other prospects to the Houston Astros in exchange for Don Sutton. Sutton, of course, helped the Brewers into the playoffs and to the World Series. For his part, Bass spent ten seasons with the Astros, making one all-star squad.
With Bass' return to the minors and eventual departure, #26 was vacant once again. Into the void stepped Bob Skube, the team's 13th-round pick in 1979. Skube appeared in four games in 1982, going 2 for 3. He made the Opening Day roster in 1983, but lasted just two months amid scarce playing time. He went 5 for 25 in 1983 with one double and one triple. He was then sent to the minors where he hit just .209. Despite spending a couple more seasons in AAA, he never returned to the majors.
For the second season in a row, #26 was vacated mid-season. Brewers' 1979 fifth round draft pick Andy Beene earned a September call-up in 1983 and appeared in one game, allowing three runs (one earned) in two innings. In 1984, he started three games and reliever in two others, but his 11.09 ERA in 18 2/3 innings quickly doomed him to the minors. With Beene pitching his way out of the majors, infielder Willie Lozado played his way onto the big-league roster. After hitting .276 in AAA, Lozado made his debut in July and hit .271/.339/.411 over the rest of the season. Despite that promising beginning, he was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and was selected by St. Louis. He never appeared in a major league game for the Cardinals, or any other team.
In December 1984, the Brewers selected Brian Giles in the Rule 5 draft. Overshadowed by another Brian Giles, this version appeared in the majors in part of six seasons over ten years. He wasn't long for Milwaukee, though, and he departed in mid-July having hit .172 in 34 games.
Fresh off the franchise's first World Series appearance, the Brewers selected Dan Plesac in the first round of the 1983 draft. In the second round, they took Hawai'i Rainbow Warrior Glenn Braggs. Known for his prodigious strength (which he used to break bats while swinging and missing), Braggs tore through the team's minor league system, hitting .390 after being drafted. He followed that by hitting .296 in A ball, .310 in AA, and .360 with 15 home runs in half a season at AAA as a 23 year old. Unfortunately, he never lived up to his promise in the majors. In 1990, having hit .255 with just 45 home runs in four-plus seasons, he was traded to Cincinnati, where he hit .299 down the stretch, helping the Reds to the World Series.
Braggs' place on the team's numerical roster was taken by catcher Tim McIntosh. McIntosh appeared in five games in 1990, seven in 1991, 35 in 1992, and one in 1993. He batted exactly 100 times as a Brewer, hitting .204 with two home runs. After his one appearance as a defensive replacement in 1993, he was waived and claimed by Montreal. McIntosh was replaced by another waiver claim, Phillies shortstop Juan Bell. Bell hit .234 with five home runs as a Brewer but was released at the end of spring training in 1994.
Bell's departure opened up #26 for 1991 11th round pick, third baseman Jeff Cirillo. Cirillo had an inauspicious debut, hitting just .238 as a rookie in 1994. He followed that up with a lukewarm sophomore campaign following the 1994 strike, but broke out in 1996, hitting .325 with 15 home runs. He was the Brewers' last American League All Star in 1997 despite hitting "just" .288 but returned to form as a National Leaguer, hitting .321 and .326 in 1998 and 1999. Despite his status as one of the team's few stars in the 1990s, Cirillo was traded in December 1999 in exchange for pitchers Jimmy Haynes and Jamey Wright and catcher Henry Blanco. He later returned for two seasons as a bench player.
From a bonafide star to a bonafide bust: 1997 first round pick Kyle Peterson spent seventeen games in #41 as a rookie in 1999 before missing all of the 2000 season due to surgery. He returned to wear #26 in three games in 2001, but injuries kept him out of the majors thereafter and forced him to retire in 2003. While Peterson rehabbed in 2002, catcher Marcus Jensen came back for his second stint as a Brewer. After striking out twice as a Brewer in 1998, Jensen bounced around the league before signing with the Brewers as a free agent. He appeared in sixteen games in May and June, hitting a paltry .114 before being returned to the minors.
At the end of August 2002, the Brewers traded another star of the late 1990s, Mark Loretta, to the Houston Astros for second baseman Keith Ginter and lefthanded pitcher Wayne Franklin. Franklin made four starts for the Brewers in September 2002, putting up a 2.63 ERA in 24 innings. His 2003 was disappointing, however, as he led the league in home runs and earned runs allowed en route to a 10-13 record and a 5.50 ERA. He was traded just before the 2004 season, bringing back Carlos Villanueva.
Early in Doug Melvin's tenure, the Brewers built bullpens with castoff relievers. One early buy-low success was righthander Matt Wise, who didn't stick in Anaheim as a starter. Signed as a free agent before the 2004 season, Wise started out as a long reliever/spot starter but transitioned easily into middle relief. Over four seasons, he appeared in 175 games with a 3.93 ERA and two saves. He left the team as a free agent after 2007.
Matt Wise wore #26 during the 2004 season but switched to #38 thereafter. Taking #26 from him was free agent catcher and Wisconsin native Damian Miller. Despite not making the majors until he was 27, Miller lasted eleven seasons in the majors. By the time he joined the Brewers he had played for four teams, made one All Star squad, and was a World Series champion. He declined each year in Milwaukee, as to be expected for a 35 year old backstop, but flaws are easy to overlook when your other options are Chad Moeller and Johnny Estrada.
In 2008, #26 was vacant for ten games. When Anthony Gwynn's hamstrings exhibited their typical poor sense of timing, Hernan Iribarren was called up to take his place on the roster. Despite being a career .300 hitter in the minors, Iribarren didn't get much of an opportunity to play in Milwaukee. He picked up his first career hit in his debut as a pinch hitter, but went 1 for 13 during the rest of his time in the majors in 2008. He switched to #9 in 2009, but couldn't find any more playing time. He was placed on waivers and claimed by Texas before the 2010 season.
After the 2008 season, lefthander Manny Parra decided it was time to make a uniform switch. After wearing #43 during his first two seasons, he decided to take up the mantle of #26. The early results of the switch are discouraging: ERAs of 6.36 and 5.02 and removal from the team's starting rotation. Parra's struggles have made him one of the most controversial players/topics of discussion in Brewers fandom, but his major league career is still young and there is time for him to make his switch to #26 look like a good move in hindsight.