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For thirty seasons, no member of the Milwaukee Brewers wore today's number in the regular season. Once the number was finally assigned, no fewer than four Brewers wore it in a seven-year span. It is not the highest number ever worn by a Brewers player and it was not the highest number ever worn at the time it finally made its debut. Undoubtedly the fact #55 is a relatively high number for baseball is why it took so long for someone to wear it in a game. Regardless of the story behind why it was assigned, the Brewers' #55 first arrived in 2000.
Read about the four #55s after the jump!
The Community College of Rhode Island boasts two major league alumni. One of them, Rheal Cormier, was drafted in the 6th round of the 1988 draft and went on to spend over a decade in the majors as a lefthanded starter and then a reliever. While Cormier was finishing his last full season with the Montreal Expos in 1996, the Brewers drafted another CCRI pitcher in the 13th round. Allen Levrault spent four inconsistent seasons in the minors but made it to the majors in June 2000 when Jeff D'Amico went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. After two scoreless two-inning appearances, he gave up four runs in six innings in his first start on June 25. He allowed three runs in the final inning of an extra-inning loss to the Cubs on June 30 and was demoted soon after. He returned to pitch a final scoreless inning in September. Levrault spent almost all of 2001 in the majors. He made twenty starts, going 5-10 with a 6.04 ERA. He made twelve relief appearances and did not fare any better: he allowed 18 runs in 26 1/3 innings. He was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Athletics in February 2002 and ended his major league career with the Florida Marlins in 2003.
In 1990, the Montreal Expos signed Izzy Alcantara out of the Dominican Republic. After a slow start to his minor league career, he started slugging. Between 1997 and 2002, he hit .292/.365/.590 with 176 home runs across three levels of the minor leagues in four major league organizations. His success was rewarded with a call-up to the Boston Red Sox in June 2000 and he hit .289 with four home runs in 21 major league games that season. A perceived lack of hustle doomed his major league career in Boston, and he was released following a 2001 season that saw him enjoy little success in the majors after karate-kicking a catcher in the minors. Alcantara was signed by the Brewers before the 2002 season and hit .250 with two home runs during four weeks in the majors during July and August. He was released following the season and spent the next few seasons playing in Mexico.
In 2003, the Brewers took a chance on an outfielder turned pitcher. A position player being converted into a pitcher in the minors is not terribly uncommon, but it is rare for a player to make the switch after reaching the majors. In the 1993 draft, the Chicago Cubs selected Texas outfielder Brooks Kieschnick with the tenth overall pick. Kieschnick hit for power in college and in the minors, but could not translate that success to the majors. At the age of 30, with his major league prospects cloudy, he decided to try his hand at pitching. After some success in 2002 in the White Sox organization, the Brewers signed Kieschnick and give him a spot in AAA. Kieschnick struggled in April, giving up 15 runs in 8 games and going 0 for 10 at the plate. Despite his struggles, he was called up in May and stuck around for the next two seasons. He put up a 5.26 ERA in the majors in 2003 but did better at the plate: seven home runs and a .300 average in 70 at bats. He hit just one home run the next year but did better on the mound, putting up a 3.77 ERA. However, he was released at the end of spring training in 2005. During his time in Milwaukee, his unique status and prodigious power gave him a cult following that still survives to this day.
By June 2005, the Brewers were in need of a starting pitcher (more than one, but I digress). Gary Glover was showing his September 2004 success was a fluke and Wes Obermueller was "pitching" as usual. With top prospect Rickie Weeks hitting well in Nashville, the Brewers had a second baseman to spare. On June 10, Junior Spivey was shipped to the new Washington Nationals in exchange for righthander Tomokazu Ohka. Ohka made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox, but was traded to the Expos after just one season's worth of starts in the majors. At the time he was traded to the Brewers, Ohka had put up a 4.50 ERA in 124 career starts. He spent two seasons in Milwaukee, going 7-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 20 starts in 2005 and 4-5 with a 4.82 ERA in 18 starts in 2006. He left the team as a free agent following the 2006 season.
The number 55 has remained in mothballs since Ohka left in 2006. Given the fact pitchers and rookies are routinely given higher and higher numbers, it is only a matter of time before another Brewer puts on the old double nickel and writes his own paragraph in team history.