Editor's note: We're shuffling the schedule a bit today, and the Mug will be up sometime this afternoon. - KL
In researching this week’s forgotten Brewer, it became clear why this player was forgotten by many BCB readers: Despite being a solid player throughout his career, there is nothing especially flashy about Bill Wegman. In fact, if you do a Google search for "Bill Wegman baseball", you are just as likely to get a link to William Wegman’s SNL short film Dog Baseball than you are to an article about Bill Wegman, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher. [I checked with Kyle and Gorman is not featured in this movie.]
In a short autobiographical piece, Wegman said that he always felt that he was born to be a major league baseball player. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wegman grew up in the same neighborhood as Pete Rose. As a high school senior, he was an All-State Honorable Mention selection as a shortstop and third baseman. The Brewers drafted him in the fifth round of the 1981 draft and immediately converted him into a pitcher. According to Wegman, it was his size, 6’5", and his arm strength that convinced Milwaukee that he should change positions.
Wegman began his transformation from infielder to pitcher in rookie ball in Butte in 1981. He had some growing pains that year going 6-5 with a 4.17 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. But after ’81, he moved quickly through the minor leagues. Wegman was a late-season call-up in 1985 at the age of 22 after just four plus years as a pitcher. He started three games for the Brewers that year and won two games.
Wegman made the big league club out of spring training in 1986 but struggled. He went 5-12 with a 5.13 ERA and 1.312 WHIP. Wegman started 32 games that year and pitched 198.1 innings. He showed some improvement in the next two years and he continued to eat up innings. In 1987, he went 12-11 with a 4.24 ERA and 1.253 WHIP, while he went 13-13 with a 4.12 ERA and 1.291 WHIP in 1988. He also started 34 and 32 games and pitched 225 and 199 innings.
Wegman spent much of the 1989 and 1990 seasons on the disabled list before posting the best season of his career in 1991. Wegman went 15-7 (two shutouts) with a 2.84 ERA and 1.117 WHIP in 193.1 innings of work. He won the ML Hutch Award and was third in the AL in ERA and sixth in WHIP. Following the 1991 season, the Brewers rewarded Wegman with a four-year $9.5 million contract.
Wegman had a solid season in 1992 before suffering through a dreadful 1993. The Brewers finally put Wegman on the DL with stomach problems (ulcer and hiatal hernia) after he lost seven decisions in a row and posted a 4-14 record (4.51 ERA and 1.435 WHIP). Wegman started 19 games in 1994 and just four in 1995, when he moved to the bullpen. He was a free agent following the 1995 season and retired from baseball.
Wegman pitched his entire career, eleven seasons, with the Brewers, compiling an 81-90 record—the sixth most wins in franchise history. He had a 4.16 ERA, 1.294 WHIP and a 16.2 (Baseball Reference)/ 16.7 (Fan Graphs) WAR. He started the fifth most games in Brewers history, 216, racked up the sixth most strikeouts, 696, and the fourth most innings pitched, 1482.2.
The oddest little tidbit I could find about Wegman is that his final appearance in a MLB game came as a right fielder. (h/t TheJay) As a reward for years of shagging fly balls, Manager Phil Garner allowed Wegman to play the ninth inning of the final game of the year in right field. It had been a long-time goal of Wegman’s to play in the outfield.
Bill Wegman, you are no longer forgotten.