clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Greatest Games of the 21st Century: #1 Tony Plush sends Milwaukee to the NLCS

As we look back on the last 15 years of Brewers baseball, the legend of Tony Plush easily tops the list of great moments

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

For those of you who, like me, relive 2011 every day, the National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks played out exactly how you remember. Milwaukee jumped out to a 2-0 by holding serve at home; game one's win came courtesy of a gem from Yovani Gallardo, while the Crew won game two despite a rather wretched performance from high-profile trade acquisition Zack Grienke. Arizona tied the series at two by battering Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf, who were arguably the Brewers' most effective pitchers in the regular season but were like helpless babes under the October lights.

On October 7, the baseball world turned it's eyes back to the Good Land for a decisive game five. Game one's starters returned as Gallardo squared off against Ian Kennedy on the hill. A third inning home run from Justin Upton gave Arizona an early 1-0 lead, but a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Jerry Harriston in the fourth and a two-out single from Yuni B (sorry) in the sixth gave Milwaukee a 2-1 lead. Nine outs away from a playoff series win, one could begin to feel the swell of excitement from the 44,028 in attendance.

John Axford, who entered in the top of the ninth to close out the win, at least had the decency not to draw things out. Gerrado Parra laced the first pitch he saw into the gap in right field, scoring the tying run on a bunt single from Willie Bloomquist two batters later. With the score now tied, runners at first and second and no one out, Milwaukee's win probability had dropped from 84% entering the inning to 30%. The energy in the building, just moments ago at a fever pitch, was smoldering. Axford recovered, getting Aaron Hill on a strike out and Upton and Henry Blanco on ground outs, to at least keep the game tied. Milwaukee and Arizona traded quiet 1-2-3 innings, sending the game to the bottom of the 10th.With Greinke warming in the bullpen in anticipation of drawn out affair, Craig Counsell lined out to lead off the frame. Following him, Carlos Gomez smoked a single to left field, bringing Nyjer Morgan to the plate.

Morgan, acquired just days before the start of the regular season from Washington, had become something of folk hero in Milwaukee, both for his surprising effectiveness on the field -- his 115 wRC+ was a career high for a full season -- and for his wild antics off the field. His post game interviews -- in which Brewers fans were introduced to his alter ego, Tony Plush (not to mention the alternates like Tony Gumble and Tony Tombstone), and his Plushdamentals -- had become appointment viewing. Gomez stole second on the second pitch to Morgan, nearly making it all the way to third when Blanco just plain forgot to catch the baseball. With the white-hot National League MVP Ryan Braun sitting in the on-deck circle, J.J. Putz decided to attack Morgan, knowing he needed to get an out.

With one plucky fan-favorite dancing at second base and another menacing the pitcher from the left-hand batter's box, it felt right. We sports fans, and perhaps baseball fans especially, tend to believe in a sense of destiny, as if there truly are forces unseen that push a ground ball those necessary couple of inches toward the hole to find that sweet outfield grass. Perhaps Putz, as he desperately kicked backwards at Morgan's base hit up the middle, could sense it too, and knew he needed a miracle to stop it.

The baseball gods guided Morgan's seeing-eye single just past the diving glove of Bloomquist. Gomez flew around third and scored easily as Chris Young's desperate heave from center field sailed high and wide right, though even a perfect strike wouldn't have been on time. Pandemonium seemed to explode from Morgan's outstretched arms, enveloping Miller Park in chaos as Milwaukee won it's first playoff series in 29 years. T-Plush emerged from the dugout with a god dang army helmet on his crazy head, fired off a few expletives and became a Brewers legend.

Now, I turn it over to you guys to vote on the rest of our countdown -- I felt pretty confident making the unilateral decision for this game to top the list. Below, I have selected a few games I think were pretty good, so go ahead and cast your vote for the second-best Brewers game of the century. I'm also open to additional suggestions, so feel free to bring up any games you feel might be relevant -- if any of them get a bucket of recs, I'll add it to the next poll or just make it the next selection.