Each season from the early days of the relocated Seattle Pilots through to the modern Miller Park era, we apply McLeam's Formula to the roster and cook up the player who represents the Brewers as the Face of the Franchise that year.
1972 Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers finished 21st in winning percentage in 1972, and the 21st ranked player in WAR was Ken Sanders.
It was a season as unsuccessful as the three before it, with the Brewers failing to reach 70 wins. In the previous two seasons the closer was a bright spot on the club, and in spite of only winning 69 games, Sanders led the league with 31 saves in '71. He was less successful in '72, and split the closing duties with veteran Frank Linzy.
Sanders was one of the more successful relievers in Brewer history. He ended with a 2.21 ERA for the Crew in over 300 innings, and is tied for 7th in team history saves with 61. His '71 season earned him a 16th place finish in the AL MVP voting, but his '72 season earned him a trade in the package to the Phillies for Bill Champion, John Vukovich and Don Money.
Nicknamed 'Bulldog' by broadcaster Bob Uecker, Sanders was tenacious on the mound and kept careful track of the hitters tendencies around the league. What he couldn't remember he wrote down in a little black book, and if he found your weakness he didn't forget it.
"Tony Oliva was one of my toughest outs. You'd pitch him sinkers outside and he'd hit a double the other way; you'd try to jam him and he'd hit it out of the park. I learned how to pitch to him by accident. One day, I hung a slider right down the middle and he popped it up. I said, 'What the hell?' From then on I threw it right down the middle, three-quarters speed. I don't think he ever hit off me again."
He wasn't a big player, only 5'11", 165 lbs, but he was tough. In spite of the many games he pitched and innings he threw in relief, he never suffered from arm or shoulder injuries. The only time that Sanders was seriously injured was in '75 with the Mets when he was injured by his own teammate.
"It was a Saturday afternoon against the Dodgers," he says. "I came in to relieve. Overcast sky, the lights were on. We had a rookie catcher named John Stearns and the only way he could get the ball back to the pitcher was to throw it as hard as he could. I reached for the ball, never touched it and it hit me right in the eye. Broke my cheek and nose. Knocked me out."
After his retirement he became a successful real estate agent, and his claim to fame there is brokering the sale of the Lansing Farm (the "Field of Dreams" property) to the Stillmans. He also served on the board of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association for 20 years. In retirement Ken enjoys a good round of golf, but I'd be careful if you play him - he's as competitive as ever, and he still carries around his little black book.
1972 FotF: Sanders was a tough-minded professional for a team that was serious about playing hard and improving their chances. The season may have started badly, but it ended strong with the Brewers sweeping the Yankees on the road. Sanders was a leader in the bullpen whose game was based on control and good decisions. His future in helping to oversee the fortunes of retired players with the MLBPAA happened along side the rise of his owner Bud Selig to commissioner, and both were together in '72 when the players' strike over pension funds delayed the start of the season.