Last Post: #17
From a common number, to an effectively retired number, to an uncommon number. This week's number has been worn by six players in Brewers history.
Between 1970 and 1984, no Brewers player wore a number higher than #52. After 1984, a couple rookies debuted with numbers in the fifties, but it was not until the 1990s that numbers in the fifties were regularly issued. It took until 1997 for #57 to make a first appearance in a regular season game and it took another decade for a player to wear it for more than one season.
Follow the jump for the exclusive #57 club!
Since 1990, only four pitchers born in Rhode Island have appeared in a major league game. One of those four was drafted out of Georgetown University in the 19th round of the 1993 draft. In fact, that player was the first Georgetown pitcher to appear in the majors in sixty years. With a pedigree like that, it's somehow fitting Sean Maloney was the first Brewer to wear #57. Maloney, a 6'7" righthander, was picked by the Brewers in 1993 and spent four seasons working his way through the minors as a reliever. He was called up early in the 1997 season and made his major league debut on April 28 with a scoreless inning against the Texas Rangers. He then allowed one run in three innings on April 30 and three runs in three innings on May 2. Unfortunately, that was it for Maloney in Milwaukee. He was sent back to the minors and was released early in spring training the next season after a slow recovery from shoulder surgery.
It didn't take long for #57 to find a new bearer. Where Maloney was a tall righthander, Greg Mullins was a diminutive lefthander who was not even drafted before signing with the Brewers in 1995. After striking out batters and racking up saves in the minors, Mullins made his major league debut on September 18, 1998. He struck out Delino DeShields, the only batter he faced that day. He would make just one more appearance in the majors, retiring two batters four days later. He required surgery after the season and never recovered sufficiently to pitch in the majors or minors.
With such bad luck among pitchers, it is perhaps a good thing the next player to wear #57 was outfielder Pete Zoccolillo. Zoccolillo is a synonym for "penultimate" in Brewers history: he wore the second highest number among Brewers position players, and is second to last on the alphabetical list of Brewers players. He also was the second best player shipped to the Brewers in the Ruben Quevedo trade. Zoccolillo appeared in twenty games for the Brewers in 2003, going 4 for 37 with thirteen strikeouts. Oddly enough, he reversed the Doug Melvin model of team-building, being drafted from the Brewers by the Rangers following the 2003 campaign.
Zoccolillo left the Brewers during the 2003 Rule 5 draft, but the Brewers immediately found a replacement in Jeff Bennett, formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bennett spent just one season in Milwaukee, appearing in 60 games with a 4.79 ERA. He spent 2005 in AAA and left in free agency following that season. He later surfaced with the Atlanta Braves, but perhaps his greatest major league legacy is not bending the bill of his cap, a fashion statement popular among Brewers pitchers called up from the minors.
After one year off, #57 returned to the majors on the back of one of the most inexplicably popular Brewers: Joe Winkelsas. After a disastrous debut in 1999, it took Winkelsas seven years to return to the majors. One of the many stopgaps called up due to injury in 2006, Winkelsas gave up seven runs and nine hits in seven innings of relief, and was sent back to the minors to make room for fellow Brewers immortal Chris Barnwell.
As of this posting, the Brewers' 40-man roster lists one more #57. It's unclear how long the final #57 will remain on the team's roster, as he was quickly dispatched to AAA Nashville this season. However, before being exiled to Tennessee after just three appearances in April, Mitch Stetter spent three seasons as a lefthander out of the Brewers bullpen. The Brewers' 16th round pick in 2003, Stetter steadily worked his way up the minor league chain before debuting in late 2007. He fought enemy lefties and his control over the next two seasons and finally wore out his welcome in 2010 after a poor spring training. Stetter's time in the Brewers organization may be limited, but if he is cut, the trend of higher and higher uniform numbers means #57 will probably not be vacant for long.