During the so-called "Dark Ages" from 1993-2004, the Brewers experienced 12 straight losing seasons. Who was your favorite player from that era, and why?
As defined above, the "Dark Ages" for the Brewers ended with the 2004 season. 2005 saw a .500 record and a solid third place finish to break the long losing streak. What was the catalyst for the rag-tag band of misfits morphing into the team that secured the first non-losing season in over a decade? The return in September of 2004 of 47 year old fan favorite Stan Ross.
During his first stint with the team, Ross was known as a great player, but terrible teammate. His me-first attitude was never more evident than when he recorded his 3,000th career base hit late in the 1995 season with the Brewers in the midst of the playoff chase. Ross immediately retired after the game, leaving the team in the lurch. The Brewers missed the playoffs that 1995 season, and the aforementioned Dark Ages began in earnest.
Between his initial retirement and return in September of 2004, Ross became a successful entrepreneur on the back of his 3,000 hits fame. Ross owned a bar, laundromat, Chinese restaurant, and several other businesses in "Wah-KEY-shaw" County, which I believe is somewhere between Waukesha and Waukegan, Illinois. Every year Ross would get closer and closer to the 75% threshold needed for his enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which was an honor he knew he deserved despite having ruffled so many feathers among the writers and reporters over the years. He had 3,000 career hits, after all, so he was a lock, right?
But wait! The Hall of Fame audited his career statistics in anticipation of Ross being voted in the following year, and found he was three hits short! Apparently a game early in his career had been suspended, and then completed at a later date. The three hits Ross collected in that game were inadvertently counted twice. He only had 2,997 career hits!!!!
Eyeing an increase in attendance, Mr. Big from "Sex In the City" decided to bring Ross back to the active roster and give him a chance to get three hits. After a montage where Ross gets back into playing shape with the help of one of the guys from the "Whazzzzzuuuuppp" beer commercial, Stan "The Man" Ross made his triumphant return to the Brewers!
The 2004 Brewers were a rudderless bunch, consistently making mental and physical errors, and buried deep in the standings. Mira Sorvino's dad was the manager, and seemed generally apathetic towards his job. Never having forgiven Ross for his abrupt retirement in 1995, he does not seem too happy about the circus side-show in his dugout. It is also interesting to note that Mr. Sorvino had remained manager of the Brewers for at least the preceding 10 years, despite the team's poor record and aforementioned propensity for errors. One would think he would've been replaced at some point during that time. But I digress.
So anyway, Ross gets two of the three hits he needed during the month he was with the team, and more importantly showed he had grown as a person by mentoring the young hotshot who was on the path of winding up like Ross in retirement .... alone. It all came down to the last game of the season, where Ross came to the plate in the 9th inning of a scoreless tie and a runner on second base. Needing just ONE HIT to not only get to 3,000 but also win the ballgame, Stan Ross puts his selfishness aside and lays down a sacrifice bunt. As Ross gets put out at first, ending his quest to get to the milestone he was seeking, the speedy runner rounded third and broke for home, narrowly beating the throw and giving the Brewers a 1-0 win!
Stan Ross later starred in a sitcom called "The Bernie Mac Show."