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Until July 16, 2010, the number 36 had not been worn by a Brewers player in a regular season game in over a dozen years. Despite being worn in more than one season by just two players, the number has a relatively short list of alumni. Only eleven Brewers have played wearing #36 and four would probably be a very good score on a quiz to name them.
Follow the jump for the eleven #36s!
In Ball Four, Jim Bouton describes Steve Hovley's penchant for reading and having long hair. These two cardinal sins against baseball may have contributed to the briefness of his major league career, but hitting .258 and slugging in the low .300s probably did not help. Hovley, a Stanford alum, was a 35th round pick by the Angels in the 1966 draft and was selected by the Seattle Pilots with the 35th pick in the 1969 expansion draft. In 364 at bats with the Pilots, he hit .277 with three home runs while splitting time between center and right field. He was hitting .281 in 135 at bats in 1970 when the Brewers traded him to Oakland in exchange for veteran first baseman Tito Francona and a veteran righthanded pitcher. Hovley hit under .200 in Oakland and finished his career with two seasons on the bench in Kansas City.
In 1961, Al Downing had the good sense to sign with the Yankees as an amateur free agent. In 1964, he led the American League in strikeouts. In 1967, he made the All Star team. In 1971, he won twenty games for the Dodgers. In 1974, he gave up Hank Aaron's 715th home run. In 1977, he retired with 123 career wins and a career 3.22 ERA. In the midst of that generally successful career, he was stuck with the new Milwaukee Brewers. Traded with Tito Francona to Milwaukee in exchange for Steve Hovley, Downing started sixteen gamed down the stretch for the Brewers. He ran into some hard luck, however, going 2-10 despite a 3.34 ERA (113 ERA+). The Brewers traded him to Los Angeles in February 1971 for utilityman Andy Kosco.
In May 1972, the Brewers traded Curt Motton, who had batten all of seven times for the team, to California in exchange for Archie Reynolds. A 26-year-old righthander who pitched well in AAA but found success difficult to come by in the majors, Reynolds appeared in just five games for the Brewers. He gave up at least two runs in each appearance (including two starts), and left town having allowed twenty-six hits and fifteen earned runs in 18 2/3 innings. He spent part of two more seasons in AAA before calling it quits. He is one of just nine pitchers in major league history to lose eight or more games in his career without a single win.
In May 1977, the Brewers signed Mark Bomback, a minor league pitcher released by the Boston Red Sox one month previously. Bomback spent the rest of 1977 and most of 1978 in the minors, but was called up to make a start on September 12, 1978. Bomback struck out Julio Cruz to start the game but then gave up a single, home run, single, double, flyout, and a walk before being pulled. He was charged with three runs in his 2/3 of an inning. He stuck around to pitch a scoreless inning in relief on September 15, but did not make another major league appearance for the Brewers. In 1979, he was traded to the Mets and he spent the next three seasons in New York and then Toronto.
After a decade in Milwaukee, Gorman Thomas was traded with two other players to Cleveland in exchange for outfielder Rick Manning and lefthander Rick Waits. Waits' career had a stereotypical path up to that point: middling success as a young player, a short prime between 26 and 28, and a decline thereafter. In 1982, he turned 30 and went 2-13 with a 5.40 ERA in 21 starts and four relief appearances. In 1984, the Brewers made him a full-time reliever and slapped #36 on his back. He responded with a solid relief campaign but couldn't repeat that success the next year. Perhaps because of his struggles, the Brewers media guide does not give him credit for pitching for the team in 1985.
One player who did get credit for playing in 1985 was Carlos Ponce. Signed out of Puerto Rico in 1982, Ponce rose through the Brewers system as a first baseman. He was called up to the majors in August 1985 and split time between first base and both corner outfield spots. In sixty-two at bats over twenty-one games, he managed an ugly .161/.169/.242 batting line. He moved to Japan after the season and starred for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales.
Before the 1987 season the Brewers traded former first round pick Dion James to Atlanta in exchange for former first round pick Brad Komminsk. Neither player had lived up to their lofty draft positions and neither player ever would. James put up some decent seasons, but Komminsk couldn't top at .237 batting average. He went 1 for 15 with seven strikeouts for the Brewers in September 1987. After an awful 1988 at AAA Denver, he was released.
Quick trivia question: what pitcher has the highest K/9 in Brewers history? Actually, that's a trick question: three pitchers are tied. One of those pitchers is Ray Krawczyk, who appeared in just one game for the team. On April 28, 1989, the Royals led the Brewers 5-1 when Krawczyk came in to pitch the seventh inning. Krawczyk proceeded to strike out six hitters over the final two innings. Unfortunately, he also allowed four hits, a walk, and three runs. He was sent back to the minors four days later. He never appeared in another major league game. Prior to his Brewers career, his signature was analyzed in a newspaper feature that should really make another appearance. For the curious, Wayne Twitchell and Mike Capel are the other Brewers with 27.0 K/9. The media guide credits Capel with #36, but he appeared in the same game as another player who wore #36, so I find that claim exceedingly unlikely.
One month after Krawczyk was sent to the minors, the Brewers called up lefthander Tony Fossas. A career minor leaguer, Fossas finally got a major league shot with the Rangers in 1988. He was released after making five appearances for Texas. The Brewers signed him and he pitched well out of the bullpen in 1989, putting up a 3.54 ERA with one save in 51 games (61 innings). He struggled in 1990 and finished with an unsightly 6.44 ERA in thirty-two appearances. That performance earned a release. He went on to be a solid lefthanded reliever over the rest of the 1990s.
In December 1991, the Brewers traded reliever Chuck Crim to the California Angels in exchange for prospect Glenn Carter and righthander Mike Fetters. Carter never made it to the majors, but Fetters developed into a solid reliever for six seasons in Milwaukee. In 1992, he went 5-1 with two saves in fifty appearances with a 1.87 ERA and a WHIP under 1.00. After another solid campaign in 1993, he was moved into the closer role and recorded 71 saves over the next three seasons. He was replaced as closer by Doug Jones in 1997 and was traded after that season to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Marquis Grissom and Jeff Juden. He pitched for seven different teams over the next six years and retired after the 2004 season with an even 100 career saves.
On July 16, 2010, the slumping Brewers called up outfield prospect Lorenzo Cain to take injured pitcher Doug Davis' roster spot. Cain lined out in a pinch hitting appearance that night but started a seven-game hitting streak in his second career game. After one month in the majors, he was hitting .364 (in a small sample of 43 at bats). He started to come back to earth but wound up hitting .306/.348/.415 in 147 at bats for a successful rookie season.