The Milwaukee Brewers have always been a small market team ever since the franchise’s conception in 1969. Being a small market team means the Brewers need to be smart with their money. Throughout the years, the Brewers have always had to piece together rosters with cheap players and every once in a while, these players perform at an exceptional level for the Brewers. Below is the list of some of the greatest one hit wonders the Brewers have ever had. This is Part II of this blog series which only includes players from 1999 through 1969. You can find Part I on creamcitycentral.com
Paul Mirabella, 1988
The Brewer glory days were starting to come to an end in the late 80s. Everybody who carried the team to the 1982 World Series was either on a different team or getting older. However, this didn’t stop veteran relief pitcher, Paul Mirabella, from having a great 1988 season. At age 34, he had the best season of his career, pitching in 38 games and having an outstanding 1.65 ERA. He actually had a better ERA than the top closer from 1988, Dennis Eckersley. Also, Mirabella threw 60.0 innings, had 33 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.083. 88’ was Mirabella’s only successful season as a pitcher in Milwaukee and eventually he retired as a member of the Brewers after the 1990 season.
Dion James, 1984
In 1984, 21-year-old, Dion James, busted onto the scene and it seemed like the Brewers would have a stud right fielder for years to come. In 1984, James played in 128 games and batted .295 with an OPS+ of 106. Along with Rick Manning and Ben Oglivie, the Brewers had an everyday outfield that they could be happy with. After the 94’ season, Dion James faltered in Milwaukee until the point where he was released in 1996. The once promising 21-year-old never capitalized on his potential with the Brewers, which is something fans post 1980s understand far too much.
Pete Ladd, 1983
After their World Series run in 1982, the Brewers lost their closer, Rollie Fingers, in 1983 due to injury. Many people expected Jim Slaton or Tom Tellmann to fill in that role but it was Pete Ladd who stepped up. In 1983, Ladd, with his incredible mustache/unibrow combo, pitched in 44 games and registered 25 saves. In 49.1 innings, he had 41 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.55. The best stat from his 1983 season was his WHIP which was a ridiculous 0.932. This number was just 0.004 points worse than Dan Quisenberry’s from that season. In case you didn’t know, Dan Quisenberry was a good closer for the Kansas City Royals. Like really good. Unfortunately, going back to Pete Ladd, when he lost his closer role when Rollie Fingers came back, he lost a step and his numbers dramatically fell off.
Larry Hisle, 1978
In 1977, the Brewers signed veteran and one time All-Star, Larry Hisle, for the 1978 season. In 1978, Hisle played out of this world for the Brewers. He hit .290 in 600 plate appearances with an OPS+ of 153. Hisle hit 34 home runs, 24 doubles, drove in 115 runs, and scored 96 runs. All of these numbers were good enough to put Larry Hisle in the MVP conversation. He ended up finishing 3rd in the voting, Jim Rice won it, but the Brewers had a budding superstar on their hands. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit Hisle and a torn rotator cuff hindered the rest of his playing career. From 1979 through 1982, Hisle never played more than 27 games in a season.
Danny Frisella, 1976
During the 1976 season, the Brewers traded Sam Mejias to the St. Louis Cardinals for Danny Frisella. Frisella was acquired to help Milwaukee’s bullpen and that’s exactly what he did. He appeared in 32 games for the Brewers the rest of that season, registered 9 saves, and had a 2.74 ERA in 49.1 innings. Frisella made a name for himself with the New York Mets in the early 1970s but retired as a Brewer after the 1976 season.
Tom Murphy, 1974
The Brewers needed a short term fix in the bullpen for the 1974 season. So, they decided to trade Bob Heise for starting pitcher, Tom Murphy. What surprised people is the fact that Tom Murphy never started a game for the Milwaukee Brewers. Instead, he was moved to the bullpen and had one of the best individual seasons a Brewer reliever has ever had. In 1974, Murphy pitched in 70 games and finished 66 of them which led the league. In these 70 games, he pitched in 123.0 innings, struck out 47 batters, and had a 1.90 ERA. He recorded 20 saves which was good for 2nd in the league only behind Terry Forster of the Chicago White Sox. Murphy also finished 10th in the league for pitching WAR. In 1975, Murphy’s magic wore off to the point where the Brewers had no problem trading him the following season. Again, another one hit wonder closer for the Brewers franchise.
Jim Lonborg, 1972
In 1972, three years after the franchise’s creation, the Brewers signed a former All-Star and Cy Young Award winner. What could go wrong? Well, in the case of Jim Lonborg, absolutely nothing. The 1967 Cy Young Award winner started in Milwaukee for one season but made is his presence known. In 1972, he started 30 games, threw 11 complete games, two shutouts, and threw 223.0 innings. Lonborg finished the season with an ERA of 2.83 which ended up being the best of his 15 year career. After the season, he was traded, along with Ken Brett, Earl Stephenson, and Ken Sanders to the Phillies in exchange for Bill Champion, John Vukovich, and Don Money.
As you can see, going all the way back to 1972, the Brewers have always had their fair share of one hit wonders. As a forever Brewer fan and a fan of small market strategies, I can’t wait to see the future one hit wonders Milwaukee acquires.