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Brewers Numerical History: #44

Last Post: #54

The Brewers have retired four uniform numbers.  The first retired number profiled in this series was #34, belonging to Rollie Fingers.  Today, we look at another retired number, that of home run king Hank Aaron.  Aaron joined the Brewers for their sixth season in Milwaukee, meaning there wasn't much time for other players to put a claim in on #44.  Still, two other Brewers, including one very well known one, also wore the digits.

The first Brewer to wear #44 was Hank Allen, a utility player who spent parts of seven seasons in the majors.  Overshadowed by All-Star brother Richie, Hank appeared at least once at every position except shortstop and pitcher.  After being signed by the Phillies along with his brother, Hank bounced around the minors for six years before surfacing in the majors with the new Washington Senators.  In five seasons as a utility player with the team, he appeared in 324 games, hitting .251 with six home runs and 15 steals.  During the 1970 season, he was traded to Milwaukee with second baseman Ron Theobald in exchange for outfielder Wayne Comer.  Allen appeared in 28 games for the Brewers while playing five positions and hitting .230.  He was traded to Atlanta after the season but did not play in a game for the Braves.  He later resurfaced with the White Sox, joining his brother for the 1972 and 1973 seasons.

The Seattle Pilots franchise's first ever selection in the June amateur draft was a shortstop by the name of Gorman Thomas.  During his time in the minors, Stormin' Gorman moved to the outfield and displayed his trademark power, belting 31 home runs in one Midwest League season.  He made his major league debut in right field on Opening Day 1973, wearing #44, but struggled to start the season.  Thomas was sent down in June after hitting .213 with just one home run in 127 at bats.  He got a September call-up but went just 2 for 28 to close out the season.  He spent most of 1974 in the minors, but hit well in another September call-up.  Of course, when the reigning career home run leader comes to town, you give up your uniform number for him, and Thomas did just that, switching first to #3 and later to #20.  After a couple more rocky seasons in 1975 and 1976, Thomas rejoined the Brewers in 1978, hitting with a vengeance.  Over the next five seasons, he led the league in home runs twice, belting 175 round-trippers and making one all-star appearance.  He was traded to Cleveland in mid-1983 but was brought back at the end of the 1986 campaign.

In 1975, Hank Aaron came back to Milwaukee.  Fans in the Cream City watched Aaron play the County Stadium outfield for twelve seasons before the team departed for Atlanta.  In those twelve seasons, he was named to eleven All-Star teams, was awarded three Gold Gloves, won one MVP award, led the league in a bevy of categories, including batting average and home runs twice and RBI three times.  He hit 398 home runs as a Milwaukee Brave, stole 149 bases, and hit a sizzling .320.  He also led the team to two World Series and hit three home runs in the city's only World Series victory.  For nine more seasons, he starred for the Atlanta Braves and in 1974 broke Babe Ruth's career home run record.  After the 1974 season, however, the Braves traded him back to Milwaukee in exchange for outfielder Dave May and minor league pitcher Roger Alexander.  Hammerin' Hank still had some power, belting 22 home runs over his final two seasons in Milwaukee.  He retired following the 1976 season with a .305 batting average, 3771 hits, 2297 RBI (still the record), 6856 total bases (also the record), 240 stolen bases, 19 more walks than strikeouts, and of course, 755 career home runs.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982, with 97.8% of the vote (406 of 415 ballots).  He currently works as a senior vice president of the Atlanta Braves and a director and vice president of TBS.