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Brewers Lore of Yore

Dan Janezick



Brewers Video

Howdy pardner! Good to see you again. Why don't you dust off yer chaps with yer ten-gallon fly swatter, set a spell, and let ol' Dusty regale you with tales of shiny nuggets extracted from the deep Blue-and-Gold mines of Brewers' lore. 

It's the early 70's, a time so long ago you can only get there by taking an Uber to a taxi to a greyhound bus to a horse and buggy. It was an era of Urban Cowboys, Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, and Evel Knievel jumping canyons on a motorcycle. It was a time of Watergate and Vietnam and smog-filled summers days that smelled like the carpet your mule slept on. A time when winters were as hard and tough as the jerky in your saddlebag and yes, we walked barefoot twenty miles to and back from school, up hill both ways, natch. 

The year was 1973, and that April, as we eagerly awaited the arrival of another baseball campaign, mother nature had other ideas. Thirteen inches of snow buried opening day, extending winter another five days; don't think the Groundhog saw that coming. Took five days to clear the mess. It was so bad that the Brewers even tried to dry the field with a helicopter. The drifts were so deep that we had to send loads of relief brats by sled to County Stadium through a snow tunnel dug from the parking lot.

I don't have to tell you pardner, but Brewer fans approach Spring with a heady optimism, but boy oh boy, that was a rough beginning. Having won but 65 games in 1972, we didn't expect much of the young franchise in its fifth year of existence, but an improving young team would satisfy us nonetheless.

As 1973 unfolded and took shape it saw our scrappy Barrelmen battle for respectability in a league dominated by the Orioles and A's dynasties and a powerful Red Sox team. The Blue and Gold, offense, anchored by George "The Boomer" Scott's underrated excellence (.306, 24 HR, 106 RBI) the steady professionalism of Don Money (.284 11 HR 64 RBI 22 SB's) and All-Star Dave May (.303, 25 HR 93 RBI) had decent speed and power but lacked the consistent hitting needed to overcome a pedestrian pitching staff that spent most games treading water. Without an established rotation (Jim Slaton was the only other pitcher to start more than 25 games) and a patchwork bullpen, the staff struggled to keep runners off base (11th in walks allowed) and finished ninth out of twelve in team ERA.    

But the unquestionable hero of that summer was a lean, mean, right handed gunslinger by the name of Jim Colborn. Hailing from the rugged hills of southwestern California and sporting a pair of mutton chops so tasty you could slather them with apple jelly, Colborn mounted the bump for a remarkable 314 innings. Starting 36 times, and appearing in 43 games overall, he's still the only, and most likely the last, Brewer to ever exceed 300 innings pitched. Now, I know you younger fellers are not too keen on individual wins these days, but back then, let me tell ya, 20 notches in yer gun belt was something to strut about. And strut Colborn did, to a 20-12 record with a 3.43 ERA, (118 ERA+) and an invitation to the only All-Star game of his career.

Unfortunately, Colborn was unable to repeat his 1973 success and three mediocre years followed. Traded to Kansas City before the 1977 season, the change of scenery revived his career, albeit briefly, as he finished 18-14, 3.62 for the Royals that year. When he no-hit the Rangers 6-0 on May 7th, it marked the highlight of his career. After the Royals won their division, Manager Whitey Herzog, preferring to start lefties against the Yankees, didn't include Jim on the postseason roster - despite his regular season success. That must have been a hard pill for Colborn to swallow as he began 1978 abysmally and finished the season 3-10 with Seattle, after which he retired, closing out a ten-year career with a final W-L of 83-88 and a 3.80 ERA.   

As one of only three 20-game winners in Brewers history, (Mike Caldwell 22-9 in 1978, Teddy Higuera 20-11 in 1986) Colborn holds a unique place in Crew lore. He also joins an exclusive club of ex-Brewer pitchers like Pete Vuckovich ("Major League," 1989) with screen cred, having appeared as a coach in Kevin Costner's 1999 movie, "For the Love of the Game." 

Well there ya have it pardner, thanks for settin' a spell and humoring this old-timer, hope to see ya next time at the watering hole, where ol' Dusty will Dig Deep for another Blue and Gold nugget. 

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Thanks!  I enjoyed the trip back in time.  BTW, I had opening day tickets to that game and I did attend when they finally got around to having the game.

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Saw one of  1973 wins - he relieved Travers who got a quick hook after walking the first 3 (or 4) batters in the 1st inning.  That’s my maybe incorrect memory- oh yeh- a walk of bottom of the 9th Johnny Briggs homer too.

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Ninth-grade me was looking forward to shelving school & going to opening day in '73. Of course Mom Nature played her sick joke on everyone & we had to wait several days. I remember quite a bit of snow still shoved out of the way of pedestrians & motorists on game day. I also remember Bernie Brewer going down his slide before the game, demonstrating to the fans what would happen when a Brewer hit a HR. As he made his descent toward the beer stein, snowballs came flying towards him, courtesy of the Orioles bullpen.

Bill Parsons started, and IIRC gave up one hit & walked about 83. Or maybe it just seemed that way due to the cold.

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