Happy holidays, Brewers fans. We've reached the end of this series, and I hope that you've enjoyed reading these as much as I've enjoyed writing them. If none of these have given you goosebumps or caused you to tear up, you and I may not be cut from the same cloth.
Now that we're wrapping up, let's take a look as some of the runners-up. If your choice didn't make the top five, don't worry, it's only because you have bad opinions and are probably a nerd or something. I can assure you that everything about the voting was entirely on the up and up and no one had any artificial influence on the results in any way. BRING ME THE HONORABLE MENTION LIST:
October 4th, 2008 - Brewers 4, Phillies 1: The Brewers win a playoff game for the first time in 26 years
This game in a vacuum wasn't altogether excited, with the Brewers claiming a lead in the first that they never relinquished. Nor was it especially important in the context of the series, as it would be the only game Milwaukee won in a 3-1 Phillies NLDS victory. However, in the first postseason baseball game that took place in Milwaukee since 1982, the Brewers took care of business, giving long suffering hometown fans something to cheer about.
May 14, 2006 - Brewers 6, Mets 5: Bill Hall walks it off on Mother's Day with his mom in attendance
Not necessarily an important game in context for a team that was .500 at the time and would finish with 75 wins (though the Mets won the East that season), but certainly one of the more memorable moments in recent Brewers history. A back-and-forth game that pushed into extra innings after a blown save by Derrick Turnbow, Hall ended this one with a two-out bomb to the Toyota Territory in the tenth after Rickie Weeks got caught trying to stretch a single. Making the moment more special was his use of the special Mother's Day pink bat while his mother, Vergie, was in attendance.
April 8th, 2014 - Brewers 10, Phillies 4: Jonathon Lucroy stays white-hot
This is a personal inclusion for me. A week into the 2014 season, with the Brewers on an absolute tear led by Jonathan Lucroy my grandmother, perhaps the only person I've ever known that cares about the Brewers as hard I as do, passed away at the age of 83. For reasons she was never able or willing to articulate, my grandma hated Lucroy, and I loved poking fun at her whenever he got hits, which in 2014 was quite often. Sending her off in style, Lucroy stroked a pair of his league-leading 53 doubles that afternoon to cap a 3-for-4 day as Milwaukee rolled.
May 20, 2011 - Brewers 7, Rockies 6: Prince Fielder wins wild game with a moonshot to the Dew Deck
This game was wild. Despite high expectations following the the off-season signing of Zack Greinke, the Brewers were languishing in third place at 21-23. Greinke left with a 4-3 deficit in the 6th, and it went to extras after a Casey McGehee home run in the 8th. The Rockies plated single tallies in the 13th and 14th -- Yunieski Betancourt lengthened the game in the bottom of the 13th with a home run. As I watched on my tiny kitchen TV while angrily scrubbing the dishes at 11:30 pm in a shitty apartment in Bay View, Fielder literally hit a ball harder that I have ever seen anyone hit a baseball, kicking off a 17-5 run that put the Brewers back in first place.
And now for the main event....
This one had juice from the start. With the Brewers desperately battling the fading Mets for the Wild Card spot -- the teams entered the evening tied atop the standings -- the Brewers were getting their ace back. Making a surprising return to the field less than five months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL, Yovani Gallardo took the ball for the Crew to make his first start since suffering the injury covering first base on May 1.
It was a relatively quiet game in regulation on September 25, 2008. Gallardo threw just under 70 pitches in four innings, striking out seven and allowing one run, a solo shot from Steve Pearce in the fourth that tied the game at 1-1. That would end the scoring in the first nine frames as the Brewers offense failed to gather any steam against Pirates lefty Zach Duke, and the Milwaukee bullpen chipped in six scoreless innings to back their recovering ace.
Meanwhile, Brewers fans watched in slowly-developing horror, delivered in 45 second intervals from the out-of-town scoreboard, as the three run lead the Cubs had built over the Mets in the seventh inning evaporated. The Mets tallied one in the bottom of the seventh, two in the eighth to tie, and walked off on a two-out single from Carlos Beltran. It was a most improbable victory for New York -- against one of the best teams in baseball, they found themselves with just a 9% chance of victory after a three-run homer gave Chicago the late lead.
I've spoken in this space previously of the great sense that destiny plays a role in this beautiful game of ours -- that some higher power takes pleasure in finding a story line and making the impossible a reality. How else do you explain Game 162 in 2011? Or the 2004 ALCS? I mean, screw Kirk Gibson, sure, but how about his walk off in 1988 -- on two bad legs? Whatever entity holds sway over the baseball world, it loves a good story, even if it hates deadlines. With the Mets overcoming nigh-impossible odds to secure a must-win game, it certainly felt as if they were the team of destiny.
But oh, someone forgot to deliver that script to Ryan Braun. Hobbled by a rib cage injury he'd mostly kept to himself, the newly-minted Monopoly champ -- fresh off the signing of his historic eight year deal -- had scuffled to a .207/.296/.299 slash line in September and hadn't homered in nearly two weeks. Wearing an 0-for-4 collar, Braun strode to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. ROLL THE FOOTAGE.
Every time, man, I swear, this one gets me every time. I can't explain it, but the exact moment this ball left Braun's bat was the moment I knew that I was going to see playoff baseball in Milwaukee for the first time in my life. Braun hadn't just won the game -- he'd snatched destiny itself right from the Mets' fingers. This one may as well have traveled all the way to Queens and deposited itself into the Shea Stadium bleachers; the standings showed the teams were tied but as far as the baseball gods were concerned, this race was over.
His home runs to seal the Wild Card in 2008 and the division in 2011 came first in our countdown, but this one came first chronologically, and it began to cement the legend of the Hebrew Hammer in Wisconsin sports lore, a legacy that has since been tarnished. No matter what happens from here on out, and what's happened since, we'll always have '08 and '11. Thanks for the memories, Ryan. Now go bring us some more.