Many of you were probably watching Friday night when Johnny Hellweg loaded the bases in the first inning, then walked Kirk Nieuwenhuis to force in the game's first run. By allowing a run to walk home, Hellweg became the 193rd pitcher in franchise history to issue a bases loaded walk. He's also the fourth Brewer to do it in 2013, joining Marco Estrada (three times), Wily Peralta (twice) and Hiram Burgos.
As I mentioned above, 193 different pitchers have issued a bases loaded walk as a Brewer. Bob McClure did it eleven times. Even Ben Sheets did it once, as a rookie in 2001. Looking at the list of Brewers guilty of this offense might lead you to say, "Oh, bases loaded walks are no big deal. Everyone's done it once." And you'd be mostly right.
If you've read the title of this post, though, you might have guessed the exception. Pete Vuckovich appeared in 85 games as a Brewer between 1981-86, collecting 40 wins and the 1982 AL Cy Young Award. Over 533 innings as a Brewer (the 26th most in franchise history) he pitched to 43 batters with the bases loaded. He never walked one.
Looking deeper at the numbers, I'm even more confused as to how this could happen. Vuckovich walked 3.8 batters per nine innings over five seasons as a Brewer, which is actually pretty high for a guy who didn't get many strikeouts. 3.8 BB/9, for perspective, is significantly more than Yovani Gallardo (3.47), Jeff Suppan (3.45) or even Victor Santos (3.56) allowed during their time as Brewers. It's almost twice as many as guys like Mike Caldwell (1.98) and Ben Sheets (1.97). Somehow, though, he was able to bear down and throw strikes when the situation required it.
Now, all of this shouldn't imply that Vuckovich was a superhuman performer in bases loaded situations. Opposing batters hit .317/.302/.415 against him in the aforementioned 43 plate appearances, including a single Carlton Fisk grand slam. But he did, at the very least, make the opposing team beat him instead of beating himself. If anyone should be able to appreciate that, it's a fan of a Brewer team that's averaged 12 bases loaded free passes per season since 1998.
So, if you're inclined to pour yourself a cold one tonight, raise your glass to Pete Vuckovich and his unwillingness to give in.