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Understandably, Brewers fans are still agog following the sudden acquisition of 2009 Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke last weekend. Since just about everyone else is talking about Greinke this week, I figure it's as good a time as any to look at the history of his new uniform number. If you follow sportswriter Jordan Schelling's Twitter feed, you may have seen that Greinke is just the eleventh Brewers player to wear lucky #13, along with a picture of his new jersey.
In a sport so steeped in superstition as baseball, it is not surprising #13 has not been worn much leaguewide. Only one player has had his #13 retired (Dave Concepcion), one currently wears it for the Yankees, and perhaps the most famous #13 in baseball history belongs to Ralph Branca. Branca, of course, is known for giving up The Shot Heard 'round The World, thereby perpetuating the superstition. With that pedigree, it is perhaps to be expected it took nearly a decade for a Brewers player to wear #13.
Read about the Brewers' #13s after the jump!Ray Fosse was nicknamed the "Marion Mule" for his hometown and his stubbornness. He was picked seventh overall by Cleveland in baseball's first amateur draft and made the All-Star team in 1970, his first full season, by hitting over .300 at the All-Star break. Then Pete Rose struck. Fosse played the rest of the season with a fracture and separation of his left shoulder. He won the Gold Glove in 1970 and 1971, but his offense declined each season. He was traded to Oakland, where the decline continued. A brief resurgence back in Cleveland in 1976 and with the expansion Mariners in 1977 earned him a four year deal with the Brewers. Fosse was injured in spring training in 1978 and missed the entire season. He came back to play in nineteen games in 1979 while wearing #13, perhaps to change his luck, but hit just .231. He was cut at the end of spring training in 1980, ending his playing career.
After the 1980 season, Toronto third baseman Roy Howell elected free agency, hoping for richer pastures south of the border. The fourth overall pick in the 1972 draft and a former All-Star third baseman, Howell signed with the Brewers and soon transitioned into the team's designated hitter role. A part time player in his four seasons in Milwaukee, he topped out at 98 games and 300 at bats while hitting .253/.307/.377 as a Brewer.
In the 6th round of the 1982 draft, the Brewers selected a graduate of Ware (MA) High School with the mellifluous name of Billy Jo Robidoux. Robidoux hit well through the minors, including a season with 23 home runs at AA El Paso in 1985, but struggled once he reached the majors. After hitting .176 as a September callup at the age of 21 in 1985, Robidoux struggled to a .227 average with just one home run in 181 at bats in 1986. He bounced between AAA Denver and Milwaukee in 1987 and 1988, putting up fairly good minor league numbers but finding no success in the majors. The Brewers let him go following the 1988 season and he made brief appearances with the White Sox and Red Sox in 1989 and 1990. He now umpires American Legion games in Massachusetts and works in his hometown.
From New England to an old English penal colony, the Brewers signed Brisbane, Australia native Dave Nilsson to an amateur contract in 1987. He progressed steadily through the minors and made his major league debut on May 18, 1992, at the age of 22. He wore #13 during his rookie season and hit .232 with four home runs in 164 at bats. He switched to #11 and later #14 during an eight season career that saw him hit .300 twice, leave and return to catching, and make an All-Star team in his final season. After becoming a free agent, he headed to Japan so he could more easily represent Australia in the 2000 Summer Olympics. He attempted a major league comeback in 2004, but called it off after playing in sixteen games for the Braves' AAA affiliate.
Bill Doran was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 6th round of the 1979 draft. He was the Astros' starting second baseman for eight seasons before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. In January 1993, the Brewers purchased Doran from the Reds. He spent two months on the bench but never got going, hitting just .217 in sixty at bats. Doran finished his career with 1366 hits, 209 steals, and 109 more walks than strikeouts. He remains active in baseball, working as the Reds' minor league infielding/baserunning coordinator.
With the possible exception of Robidoux, Brian Givens had the least major league success of anyone thusfar on the list. Still, getting to the majors at all was quite the accomplishment. A tenth round pick by the Mets in 1984, it took Givens ten years, five organizations, five arm surgeries, and a players' strike to make his debut. Crossing the picket line as a replacement player in order to pay debts, Givens started 1995 in the minors but was called up in June. After pitching well in a loss in his debut and being shelled in his second start, Givens went on to finish the season 5-7 with a 4.95 ERA in nineteen starts. After starting 1996 rehabbing a back injury, Givens was called up to make four starts in June but was sent down after giving up twenty runs in fourteen innings. He spent the next season in Japan and never returned to the majors.
I was always stunned by the fact there were two major leaguers named Jeff D'Amico playing at the same time. One of them appeared in just seven games for the Royals in 2000 (oddly, four of those appearances were against NL teams), but the other spent parts of five seasons in Milwaukee. The Brewers' D'Amico was the 23rd pick of the first round in 1993. He rose quickly through the minors and debuted as a 20-year-old in 1996. He struggled, going 6-6 with a 5.44 ERA in seventeen starts. In 1997, he improved to 9-7 with a 4.71 ERA in 23 starts but injuries cost him the entire 1998 and all but one inning of the 1999 season. In 2000, he returned with a vengeance, entering his final start with a sparkling 2.42 ERA in 156 1/3 innings. Needing six innings to qualify for the ERA title, he reached the 162 inning minimum but gave up six runs on the way, costing him the title and in fact dropping him to third behind Kevin Brown (2.58) and Randy Johnson (2.64). In 2001, injuries limited him to ten ineffective starts and he was traded to the Mets following the season. He bounced around the majors for three more years before calling it quits.
The 2002 Brewers lost 106 games. As 100-loss games are wont to do, they began throwing pitchers at the mound to see who would stick. One of the team's 25 pitchers and 13 starters, Dave Pember joined the organization as an eighth round pick in 1999. Following a 10-6 record and 3.17 ERA in 27 starts at AA Huntsville in 2002, he was called up to make a start in Wrigley Field on September 3. He gave up four hits and five walks en route to four runs in 3 2/3 innings. He made three more appearances out of the bullpen before the season ended. Oddly, he seems to have disappeared following the season, dropping out of both the majors and minors.
When fan favorite Lyle Overbay was traded to Toronto after the 2005 season, the Brewers received two first rounds picks and a second round pick in return. Dave Bush and Gabe Gross both spent a lot of time on the major league roster, but Zach Jackson, the 32nd pick in the 2004 draft, spent just ten games in a Brewers uniform. One of the Brewers' many injury-induced callups in 2006, he struggled in seven starts and was sent down after a month and a half. He continued to struggle in Nashville but received a second chance at the majors in 2008 thanks, once again, to injuries. He made two appearances in May but was quickly returned to AAA. Later that summer he was traded to Cleveland as part of the CC Sabathia deal.
In 2005, the Brewers selected Zach Braddock with their 18th round pick. Originally groomed as a starter, injury concerns forced him to move to the bullpen, where he thrived. After putting up great numbers in limited time at Brevard County and Huntsville in 2009, Braddock opened 2010 in Nashville. After being called up in May, Braddock showed his gaudy strikeout numbers in the minors were not a mirage: he finished the season with 41 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings against nineteen walks and just one home run. A sparkling 2.94 ERA was icing on the cake for a successful rookie campaign.
After all his rookie success, Braddock was rewarded by having his uniform number assigned to Zack Greinke. These things happen when a team acquires a Cy Young winner. Still, to me the best part of this uniform number switch is the fact as soon as Greinke takes the mound next season, all three Brewers named Zach/Zack will have worn #13 for the team.