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In the forty-one seasons the team has spent in Milwaukee, only one Brewers player has taken the field wearing #61. There haven't been many #61s in baseball history, no matter the team, and the number is far more famous as Roger Maris' 1961 home run total than it is on any player's uniform.
That's not to say players haven't been assigned #61 in the past. In fact, just about any number between 60 and 80 can be found on the back of a long shot or non-roster invitee in March. Last spring, the Brewers gave minor league veteran Adam Heether the number in his first major league spring training. Heether, like every other Brewers hopeful who has worn #61 in the Arizona sun, didn't make it into a regular season game with #61 on his back. In Heether's case, he was claimed by Oakland off waivers about two months into the season.
Heether's departure opened the door for another Brewers farmhand to take on #61. On September 7, it happened when RHP Brandon Kintzler was called up from AAA Nashville. Three days later, Kintzler took the mound for the first time and another number made its debut in Brewers history. Over the final three weeks of the season, Kintzler appeared in seven games, striking out 9 batters in 7 1/3 innings while allowing 6 runs.
Kintzler's road to Milwaukee was circuitous. After graduating high school, he pitched for Pasadena City College in 2003, leading the team in wins (5) and strikeouts (72). He was drafted in the 40th round of the 2003 draft by the New York Yankees but did not sign. In 2004, he pitched for the NJCAA National Champion Dixie State (Utah) Red Storm. He started twelve games that season, going 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. His teammate, Joe Wice, actually outpitched him slightly and was drafted by the Blue Jays en route to spending four seasons on the bottom rungs of their farm system. Following the 2004 campaign, Kintzler was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round. I think he may be the only player drafted in the 40th round in back-to-back seasons.
Unfortunately, elbow and shoulder problems marred his time with the Padres and he was released before undergoing labrum surgery. After recovering, he joined the Winnipeg Goldeyes (who may never have an endearing logo) for 2007 and 2008. Before the 2009 season, he requested a trade to the St. Paul Saints of the American Association. The Saints are known as a gateway back into "organized" baseball, having previously hosted players like Leon Durham, Kevin Millar, and Dwight Smith. In all, nearly 100 Saints players have signed contracts with major league organizations.
As an aside, one of my favorite indy ball signings involved a Saints player signing with the Brewers. In late August 2008, the Brewers signed Saints star Brent Krause, who played in all of three games for Huntsville before being released after the season. The whole process made me wonder if there wasn't an outfielder in northern Alabama that could have filled in for a couple games. Krause played for the Saints again in 2009 and 2010.
During the 2009 season, Kintzler pitched his way into the American Association All-Star game with a 8-3, 2.79 record to go with 46 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings. The Brewers assigned him to AA Huntsville where he appeared in nine games over the final six weeks of the season. In 2010, he came on like Gang Busters to open the season and earned a promotion to AAA Nashville, where he continued to pitch well. His excellent season culminated in his (and his number's) Brewers debut.
Kintzler remains on the 40-man roster and is no doubt preparing to join his teammates at Maryvale Baseball Park shortly. With the Brewers having made a number of bullpen acquisitions as part of the team's "win now" mode, his chances to make the team out of the gate are pretty slim. Nevertheless, he should be one of a few pitchers in the Nashville bullpen with a few games of major league experience. It remains to be seen if he will hold on to #61 should he once again get the call to the majors.