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Brewers Numerical History: #40

Last Post: #36


[EDIT: D'oh, obviously I remembered to go back and write everything but an introduction.  How embarrassing.  Sixteen Brewers players have worn #40 in team history and you can read about them by following the jump.]

The first Brewer to wear #40 was outfielder Floyd Wicker.  Wicker debuted with the Cardinals in 1968, struck out 20 times in 41 plate appearances for the expansion Expos in 1969, and went 9 for 49 with one double and one home run in 1970 and 1971 with the Brewers.  He was traded to the Giants for infielder Bob Heise, but did not appear in another major league game after 1971.

After Wicker was sent packing, righthanded pitcher Jerry Bell took on #40.  The Seattle Pilots' second-round pick out of Belmont University, it took Bell just two years to make it to the majors.  He was used as a reliever in September 1971 and in 1972, but moved to the starting rotation in 1973.  He went 9-9 in 25 starts with a 3.97 ERA, which was actually below the league average, and walked 70 batters while striking out only 57 in 183 2/3 innings.  After being bothered by a sore elbow, he started 1974 as a reliever and was sent to the minors in mid-May after requesting a trade or release.  He never appeared in another major league game.

In 1968, the Oakland Athletics selected high school pitcher Pete Broberg second overall in the June draft.  He did not sign and spent the next three years at Dartmouth College.  He was drafted by the Washington Senators first overall in the 1971 June secondary draft (for players who were previously picked but did not sign) and spent four seasons with the Senators and Rangers.  After finding no success in the majors in 1974, he was traded to Milwaukee in exchange for lefty Clyde Wright.  Broberg went 14-16 for the Brewers in 1975 and became the first Brewers pitcher to walk 100 batters in a season.  His 106 walks is still a franchise record.   He went 1-7 with a 4.97 ERA in twenty appearances (11 starts) in 1976 and was left unprotected for the expansion draft following the season.  He was drafted by the Mariners and spent two more seasons in the majors.

For a few seasons after Broberg, no Brewers player took hold of #40.  Sam Hinds, an undrafted righthander, earned a call up in May 1977 and pitched in 29 games over the course of the season.  He picked up two saves and finished with an ERA of 4.73 in 72 1/3 innings.  He did not make the team out of spring training in 1978, struggled with his control in the minors, and was out of the Brewers system by 1980.

While Hinds was pitching his way out of major league consideration, West Bend native Willie Mueller earned a late-season call up in 1978 following a strong season at AA affiliate Holyoke in the Eastern League.  Mueller pitched in five games that year, giving up at least two runs in four appearances.  He did get a win in his only scoreless appearance.  He appeared one more time in a Brewers uniform in 1981, but that was it for his major league career.

After the 1979 season, the Brewers traded former first round pick and utility infielder Lenn Sakata to Baltimore for righthander John Flinn.  Flinn appeared in twenty games for the Brewers in 1980, going 2-1 with 2 saves in 37 innings.  He was rewarded the next season with a trip to AAA Vancouver and a release in February 1982.

In 1979, the Brewers signed "the other Bob Gibson" out of Bloomsburg (PA) University.  He was destined to spent parts of four seasons in Milwaukee, appearing in 97 games (18 starts) with varying success.  In 268 2/3 career innings with the Brewers, he walked 165 hitters while striking out 164.  He went 12-18 with 13 saves but was left unprotected for the 1986 Rule 5 draft after his control deserted him in the majors that season.  He was selected by Chicago and made his way to New York for once appearance with the Mets in 1987.

In 1987, former fourth round pick Mike Birkbeck changed from #41 to #40 and started the year in the Brewers rotation.  He lasted ten starts, struggling his way to a 6.20 ERA while dealing with shoulder problems that necessitated surgery.  He recovered to start 23 games for the team in 1988, going 10-8 with a 4.72 ERA before shoulder problems returned.  Recurring injuries limited him to just nine starts in 1989 and he was released after struggling in AAA in 1990.

Righthanded reliever Darren Holmes debuted for the Dodgers in 1990 and was traded to Milwaukee for minor league catcher Bert Heffernan.  He spent two seasons in Milwaukee, picking up nine saves in 81 appearances.  He was left unprotected in the 1993 expansion draft and was selected by Colorado Rockies.  He saved 25 games for the Rockies in 1993 and 14 games for them in 1995.  He bounced around the majors until 2003.

In 1973, Gary Ignasiak appeared in three games for the Detroit Tigers.  Eighteen years later, his brother Mike Ignasiak made his major league debut for the Brewers.  Mike wore #53 that first season but switched to #40 when he returned to the big leagues in 1993.  From 1993-1995, he appeared in seventy-five games for the Brewers.  He never picked up a save, but did record nine holds, the claim to fame of middle relievers.

After the 1995 season, the Brewers made a big free agent signing, inking 6'7" righty Ben McDonald to a two-year deal.  McDonald, the first overall pick in 1989, struggled with shoulder problems in 1995.  He stayed healthy through 1996, starting 35 games and going 12-10 with a 3.90 ERA.  Shoulder problems returned in 1997, however, and ended his season in July after 21 starts.  He was traded to Cleveland in December 1997.  In what was termed an "unusually cooperative move between teams," the Brewers took McDonald back in exchange for prospect Mark Watson after it turned out McDonald required season-ending surgery in February 1998.  If you are curious, Watson did not have a successful major league career.

The next Brewers #40 also had an injury-plagued career.  Chad Fox racked up strikeouts whenever he took the mound for the Brewers to the tune of a 10.6 K/9 in Milwaukee, but elbow and shoulder injuries limited his time on the active roster.  He appeared in thirty games in 1997 and 49 in 1998, but was limited to six appearances in 1999 and missed all of the 2000 season.  He returned to make 65 appearances with a 1.89 ERA in 2001, but was able to make just three appearances in 2002 before being released.  He bounced around the league while fighting injuries and made his last major league appearance in 2009.  He departed his final game (incidentally, against the Brewers) with a sore right elbow, a sad yet fitting end.

The Brewers traded rotund Ray King to the Braves in December 2002, receiving destined-to-be-detested Wes Helms and "tattooed, pierced left-handed reliever" John Foster in return.  Foster, a 25th round pick in 1999, appeared in twenty-three games for the Crew in 2003, going 2-0 with a 4.73 ERA and sixteen strikeouts in twenty-one innings.  He was selected by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft following the season and was returned to the Brewers in spring training.  Curiously, the Brewers released him shortly thereafter.

In 1999, the Brewers selected high school pitcher Ben Hendrickson in the 10th round of the June draft.  Before the 2003 season, he was named the #90 prospect in the game by Baseball America.  An injury-curtailed season lowered his prospect rankings but a great 2004 season in AAA that saw him go 11-3 with a 2.02 ERA in 125 innings, resulted in a mid-season call-up.  Unfortunately, he could not replicate his minor league success in the majors.  He started nine games, going 1-7 and lost another game in relief that year, finishing with an unsightly 6.22 ERA in just 46 1/3 innings.  He struggled in AAA in 2005 before receiving another chance in the big leagues in 2006.  He quickly showed he was not the answer for an injury-decimated staff, lasting just 7 1/3 innings over 3 starts and finishing with sixteen earned runs allowed in twelve total innings before being sent back to the minors.  He was traded to the Royals in exchange for Maxim St. Pierre (also known as "Marxist Empire" in spring training 2007.

As part of the team's playoff push in 2007, the Brewers shipped prospects Steve Garrison, Will Inman, and Joe Thatcher to San Diego in exchange for veteran reliever Scott Linebrink. Linebrink made two appearances in #40 before switching to #71 to honor former Padres catcher Mark Merila, who was battling a brain tumor at the time.  Linebrink's pitched two scoreless innings while wearing #40.  Ultimately, the trade backfired as the Brewers missed the playoffs and saw Joe Thatcher develop into a solid reliever for the Padres.

Like Ben Hendrickson, Brad Nelson was highly ranked by Baseball America before the 2003 season.  The Brewers' 4th round pick in 2001 was named the #23 prospect in the game before 2003.  He fell to #43 before the 2004 season and struggles at AA Huntsville pushed him out of the top 100 after the season.  It looked as though his hopes for a major league career were dashed, but a good season at AAA Nashville in 2008 earned him a September callup.  He went 2 for 7 that month, mostly as a pinch hitter, and struck out twice in that year's playoffs.  He made the big league roster out of spring training in 2009 but was outrighted to the minors and opted for free agency following an 0 for 21 start to the season.  He played for Seattle's AAA affiliate in 2009 and 2010.

In 2009 and 2010, #40 was worn by Brewers manager Ken Macha.  It is as yet unassigned following the expiration of Macha's contract, but with a number of newcomers to the roster and coaching staff, there's a fairly good chance someone will be wearing it by the time pitchers and catchers report.