I filled out the entire ballot for the DHL Hometown Heroes program, and I simply selected the player that I best identified with each team either through stories I’ve heard, games I’ve seen or statistics/history I’ve looked up.
I don’t want to speak for this blog’s owner, Rob. He can tell you his own choice if he fills out the ballot.
But I need to comment specifically on who I chose for the Milwaukee Brewers, and why I chose him.
My favorite professional athlete of all time (in any sport) was my choice.
A man who played his entire major league career in Milwaukee was my choice.
A man who’s jersey # ironically is the same day as my July birthday was my choice.
Robin Yount was my choice.
I was born on July 19th in the year 1980. I was born at the height of baseball season, when the Brewers were just two seasons away from making the only World Series in franchise history.
Having been alive for a quarter-century, I have seen more than some,
but not nearly as much as most. But I have seen a ballgame or two, and
Robin Yount has always been the measuring stick that any and every
other player I’ve ever liked has been put up against. Both as a player,
and as a human being.
I was born in Texas, but my first memories are after my mother had already moved us up to Rhinelander, Wisconsin to be near her own mother after my parents divorced.
While we didn’t always have a lot of money, there was one thing that we always managed to do a couple of times each summer…make the 4 hour trek (and later 2-2.5 when we moved to Green Bay) to Milwaukee County Stadium to see the Brewers play.
Having been born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, my grandma was a White Sox fan, through and through. It was quite the time when the ChiSox came to Milwaukee. We’d try to get in at least one game against the White Sox every other year, if memory serves. In fact, the last time I saw my grandma before she passed away was for a Brewer/White Sox doubleheader…of which the pale hose won both games, something my grandma reminded us about all the way back to Green Bay. LOL
When we’d go to the games, my brother and I would race down to the field level railing as fast as our mother would let us go. We’d try to get as many autographs as we could. We also would periodically wait after games by where the team parked their cars trying to get some signatures, sometimes waiting 3 hours after a game was over. My mom never minded. She was happy her boys loved baseball.
For years we waited for Robin Yount after games, never to once see him. Years later we found out that County Stadium had underground parking and that certain players took advantage of that, lest they be mobbed when trying to leave the park. But we would always wait.
Perhaps it was destiny that made me born one day later than scheduled. I was originally due on July 18th, but honestly, who was #18 back in the day? Would it even have mattered? I wanted to play shortstop and only shortstop when I was a kid. And then, wouldn’t you know it…I wanted to play center field one day. 🙂
This year, with Robin Yount back in the dugout, my mom gave me my birthday present a couple of weeks early when my wife and I went up to Rhinelander to visit her. I got a “game-worn jersey” baseball card commemorating his 3000th hit. I got an autographed baseball card commemorating his setting of the Brewers’ team record for doubles in a season. I got an autographed Game Program from when the All-Star game was in Milwaukee in 2002. (It featured a print of an oil-painting of Yount.)
And then the ultimate came out from underneath a box set on my mother’s fireplace. In a display case that protects from UV damage, an official Major League Baseball signed on the sweet spot by Rockin’ Robin Yount, member of the Brewer Ring of Honor, member of the 3000 hit club, two-time league MVP, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer.
I would’ve been knocked down if I hadn’t been sitting. The look of joy on my mom’s face and the sheer elation on my own would’ve made for quite the scene had there been anything recording the occasion.
It was years on top of years of waiting, watching, wanting. My mom finally got me that autograph that I had wanted for so long. It was as magical as the first time I laid eyes on #19 fielding ground balls on the green grass of County Stadium.
I turn 26 years old tomorrow…but on that day I felt 6 years old again.